Return to Spiti : Experiencing the Magic Once Again

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Vargis Khan, Jun 19, 2018.

  1. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    I have been to Spiti several times and have seen most of the places there are to see in the valley. I have traveled on the circuit in the traditional way, from Shimla to Manali that is. And then I did it the other way around as well, just to see and experience Spiti in a different way.

    I have seen the lush green of the valleys of Kullu, Kinnaur, Sangla and Manali. And then I have seen the brown of the barren of Spiti.

    I have experienced Spiti on the two wheels of my Royal Enfield few times and then once on the four wheels of a friend's Safari.

    I have ridden and driven on the smooth roads of Shimla and Narkanda. And then I have struggled on the nightmare of a road between Manali and Kaza.

    I have seen that dead monk sitting in the small village of Giu; where he has remained for last 500 years.

    I have dined at that dhaba at Chitkul that reads "Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba" and I have also had maggie and chaai at "Chacha ka Dhaba" at Batal.

    I have crossed numerous water streams numerous times. I have experienced that magic called Chandratal and have circled around it.

    I have seen those waterfalls, and those famed snow walls.

    I have crossed Kunzum and I have crossed Rohtang.

    But no matter how many times you do all these things, no matter how many times you go here, Spiti is still a magic that will never get old.

    No matter how many times you have seen all of it, when someone asks you, "Do you want to go to Spiti?", Your answer will always be a YES.

    That is what Spiti does to you. That is what Spiti did to me.
     
    RUPRAS M likes this.
  2. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    I remember the first time I went to Spiti valley, the plan was actually of a different place. It was Ladakh that was on the menu that year. It was going to be my second trip to Ladakh and I was quite excited about it. And then someone made a comment that planted a seed of doubt in my head. That remark was,

    "Why do you want to go to Ladakh again? Why not explore something new?"

    This is what brought Spiti on the table. That is how I ended up exploring Spiti the first time.

    Have I gone to Ladakh again? Yes, I did indeed but that particular year, it was Spiti that I explored and fell in love with it.

    Same story repeated this year as well. My original was to actually cover Zanskar. I have been to both Ladakh and Spit a few times but have covered Zanskar only once a few years ago. With the recent boost in tourism in Ladakh, areas like Leh, Nubra and Pangong have started to get crowded so this year, I wanted to visit Zanskar valley. A place that is still not touched by the tourism mania that Ladakh is suffering from now.

    But then I read in the newspaper that our prime minister Mr. Modi was going to be visiting Kashmir and it happened to be on the same dates when I was arriving in Srinagar. In addition to it, he was going to be there to inaugurate the work for Zojila tunnel, which means that entire stretch towards Kargil was going to be heavily fortified and could even be blocked for civilians.

    I was really short on time and could not afford to waste a couple of days anywhere on the stretch due to Mr. Modi being there. So at the last minute, the plan had to be changed and I was forced to give up Zanskar.

    But then an even bigger question was of where to go? My friend who was going to be accompanying me on the trip had never been to Spiti valley and asked if we could go there.

    My answer was an immediate Yes.
     
  3. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Jamaica is a very close friend of mine and he runs a hotel in Kaza and campsite at Chandratal. So once a trip to Spiti valley was finalized, the first thing I did was to call him and asked if he was going to be in Spiti at the time of my trip. His answer was a yes and I was quite glad about it. He is a very good friend and it had been a while since I had met him.

    Even luck was favoring a trip to Spiti at that time. The road between Manali to Kaza becomes operational sometime in first week of June and then the camp sites at Chandratal become operational around Mid-June. However, this year, due to less snowfall across entire Himalayan region, Manali Kaza road was declared open towards Mid-May. Jamaica informed me that even the camp sites at Chandratal were going to be all operational by May end which was an even greater piece of news.

    So the plan was finalized and hence the preparations begun.

    I had been to Spiti on a motorcycle several times before but it was going to be the first time when I was going to be driving there. True that I once went there in a TATA Safari but I was not the one on the wheel at that time. I was one of the passengers and it was my friend who was drove his Safari all the way. This time however, it was all me. My co-passenger did not know how to drive so it meant that I was going to remain on the wheel, no matter the condition of the roads.

    Was I nervous? Definitely yes. My biggest worry was the stretch between Gramphoo and Batal and the narrow road to Chandratal. I asked Jamaica how the road was and he informed me that it was not that bad yet. Snow had not yet started to melt so there was not much life in the nallahs on the way. My biggest worry were the nallahs so when I learnt that water level in nallahs was not that high yet, it was indeed a great relief.

    There wasn't much to do in terms of preparations really . I knew the route and the place we were going to so there was nothing to research about. My Thar had gotten serviced just a couple of weeks ago so there wasn't much to worry about in that aspect as well. The only task that remained was to get one of the tires changed as it was running really low on rubber which I got done about a week before the trip.

    The itinerary prepared for the trip was something like this but it was of course just the initial plan.

    Day 1 - Delhi to Sarahan
    Day 2 - Sarahan to Chitkul
    Day 3 - Chitkul to Nako
    Day 4 - Nako to Mud Village (Pin Valley)
    Day 5 - Mud Village to Kaza
    Day 6 - Kaza
    Day 7 - Kaza to Chandratal
    Day 8 - Chandratal to Manali
    Day 9 - Manali to Delhi
    Day 10 - Buffer Day

    The actual traveling of course happened in an entirely different manner.
     
    jitenderpathania and RUPRAS M like this.
  4. ankur

    ankur New Member

    Vargis bhai, we 4 people planing for leh trip, hum Delhi se agar chalte hain, to humko total kitne Permit required hote hain inner line wagerha sab mila ke? please tell me with names....???
     
  5. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Ankur Bhai ja kaise rahe ho? Manali se ya Srinagar ki taraf se?
     
  6. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Day 1 - Delhi to Narkanda

    I do not really remember if there was ever a time when any of my trips actually started as per the plan. The first and the last day of the trip usually involves long traveling hours; so I always try to get an early start from Delhi so that we could reach our destination well in time. That however never happens and I always end up starting a couple of hours late than the actual plan.

    This time however, the exact opposite happened. I think it was the first time that I ever started the journey as per the original plan. I knew that going straight to Sarahan from Delhi will involve some long traveling hours so the idea was to start by 2 AM from Delhi. And surprisingly, at around 2 AM, we indeed left my house for our first day of the trip.

    There is not really much to write about the first day except for that it was a long and monotonous journey. We pretty much drove non-stop on NH1 and made it to Chandigarh by early morning when the sun was starting to come up. From there, we took the Himalayan expressway and started on our way to Shimla.

    It had been a while since I have been to Shimla or on the Chandigarh Shimla highway. Last I remember, it was a smooth road all the way to Shimla but surprisingly, this was not the case this year. There was road widening work going on between Chandigarh and Shimla due to which about the first 20 kilometers of the road was in a very bad state. Half of the road at several places was blocked and the traffic was really crawling.

    It took way longer than I had thought but slowly and patiently, we finally made it to Shimla. Our troubles however were far from over. The moment we got closer to Shimla, we got stuck into a traffic jam. A long line of cars lined up behind one another and hence, our speed again got back to a slow crawl.

    On a different note, this is what I really like about traveling by motorcycles. You do not get stuck anywhere. I think this was the first time when I myself got stuck in Shimla's traffic because this was the first time I was crossing it in a car. All other times, I had crossed Shimla on my Enfield and no matter how big the traffic jam was, we just rode right through it without any waiting time.

    This time however, there was no other choice but to wait in the line and move forward slowly, inch by inch. To make matters worse, in an effort to avoid the traffic, I ended up taking a wrong turn in Shimla city and drove straight into a one way road.

    After what seemed like eternity and a narrow escape with Himachal police due to the wrong turn, we finally made it out of Shimla and started on our way towards Narkanda.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
  7. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Now a couple of things happened here on the way. Ever since we started to climb up from Chandigarh, a bike was more or less riding along with us. We were not traveling together but since we were on the same route, we kept crossing that rider a few times. Somewhere along the road I realized that it was actually a girl and by the way she was dressed and had all her stuff packed, I could make out that she too was on her way to Spiti valley. I pointed out the same to my friend but we both had different opinions on it. While I was sure that the girl was on her way to Spiti valley, my friend found it a bit hard to believe that a girl would be traveling solo like this.

    Somewhere along the way, we stopped at a place to have some sugarcane juice. That girl too arrived a few moments later and stopped at the same place. My friend and I both noticed her and again the argument started on whether or not the girl was riding solo to Spiti. And then just for the sake of proving my point, and much to my friend's surprise, I walked up to the girl and asked her. Turned out that I was right and she was indeed riding towards Spiti valley from Meerut.

    We again started our journey towards Sarahan but by now, my friend had started to feel sick. All the constant turning on the winding road and the increase in altitude started to take its toll. So much that we had to give up on our idea of reaching Sarahan that day and decided to break the journey at Narkanda.

    The good section of the road between Shimla and Narkanda

    spiti-trip.JPG


    Machine for the trip. My Mahindra Thar.

    vargis-khan.JPG


    We arrived at Narkanda at about 3 PM; a full 13 hours after we started from Delhi. A journey that should not have taken us any more than 9 to 10 hours went over by almost 4 hours, much thanks to the bad road condition between Chandigarh and Shimla and then the traffic jam in Shimla.

    Another surprise however awaited us at Narkanda. Much to my surprise, it was not the same small town that I last remembered. It had been a couple of years since I was last in Narkanda and it seems everything had changed in these 2 years. What once was a tiny and peaceful hamlet now had multi storied hotels built there. I started to walk around looking for a room in several of the hotels and then finally decided on staying at The Himalaya Inn & Restaurant. The room was quite large and we paid Rs. 2000 for it.

    the-himalaya-inn-restaurant-1.JPG

    Read a detailed review of this hotel at Hotel Review: The Himalaya Inn & Restaurant

    While we were checking in, the same girl rider that we met on the road also arrived there and checked into the same hotel. Her name was Khushboo and when I told her my name, she immediately recognized me from the blog. She had been following one of the itineraries that I had suggested on my blog and she too was headed towards Chitkul the next day.

    Thus ended our first day of the trip. I had been to Narkanda about 4 times and had no wish to go visiting any of the places here. Rest of the day was just spent lazing around at the hotel doing nothing. Plan for tomorrow was to go to Chitkul and I knew that it was going to be a long journey; and that we must get an early start from Narkanda.
     
  8. ankur

    ankur New Member

    delhi to Manali. to leh
    leh to manali to delhi.
     
  9. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

  10. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Day 2: Narkanda to Chitkul

    The first time I visited Chitkul was quite by accident. As a matter of fact, it was not even part of my original itinerary for Spiti valley that year. We were staying at a hotel in Sarahan for the night and the hotel owner suggested that we must include Chitkul in our travel plan. It meant adding an entire day to our itinerary but by the way that hotel owner insisted that we should go to Chitkul quite invoked my curiosity. I added another day to our trip, went to Chitkul from Sarahan and realized that every word of praise that I heard about this place was quite true. Even I completely fell in love with this tiny village hidden up in the hills. So much I like being here that when someone asks me about my favorite hill station, I without a second thought name Chitkul.

    Our destination for second day was Chitkul and I was quite excited about it. It had been a while since I was last there and I was quite eager to see what had changed at my favorite hill station after all these years. I woke up early while rest of the Narkanda was still fast asleep. Even the main door of our hotel was still locked so there was little that I could except for sitting in our balcony and enjoy a pleasant morning breeze.

    narkanda-in-the-morning.JPG
     

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