Raw Himachal: Follow the Mighy Rivers

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January 4th 2011
Published: January 4th 2011
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Raw Himalchal: Follow the Mighty Rivers

We both are travel- and adventure-freaks. Driving is Aakash's passion. When we bought the Maruti Swift (diesel), we were so happy with the vehicle's performance and power that we decided to undertake a road trip to Ladakh. But since Aakash had already been on a road trip to Ladakh, we altered the itinerary and fixed Spiti Valley as the primary destination of our road trip. We completed the trip successfully in 18 days , covering about 6300 km. Our route was: Pune - Ahmedabad - Udaipur - Delhi - Chandigarh - Shimla - Sarahan - Sangla - Tabo - Kaza - Kunzum Pass - Keylong - Sarchu - Leh - Kargil - Sri Nagar - Jammu - Pathankot - Jalandhar - Delhi - Udaipur - Pune.

Out of the approx. 6300 km., I could only drive about 1000 km., where the road was good. Aakash took the responsibility for the remaining 5300 km. On this route, we traveled through 7 Indian states: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

Day 1: Pune- Udaipur We started our journey at 4.30 am from Pune and reached Udaipur by 7 pm via Mumbai and Ahmerdabad. The first day itself was a great motivation for the rest of trip as we covered almost 1000 kms in a little more than 12 hours. In Udaipur, we met one of my very goods friends: a smart and handsome Rajasthani guy, who works with a renowned travel company as travel guide.
Hotel Paras Mahal: a very nice hotel, good food and major advantage: it is located quite close to the highway that proceeds to Delhi. So if you are on a road trip and want to halt in Udaipur for a night, then this is the right hotel for you, so that you don't have to wrestle with the city traffic.

Day 2: Udaipur - Ambala: this was quite a tiring day becoz of the heavy traffic and as the road was too bad around Ajmer and we took almost 15 hours to reach Ambala. We had lunch in the car itself. We were carrying a car kettle. This is a good device, if you are planning a long road trip. You can boil water in this handy kettle and use it to make tea/coffee or even cup noodles. In Ambala, we stayed at a very small hotel located right at the center of the market , which my brother had found online. The hotel was reasonably priced and very clean.

Day 3: Ambala - Shimla - Sarahan: we left Ambala around 10.00 am and had Parathas for breakfast at a typical Punjabi Dhaba. The journey from Chandigarh to Shimla took almost 4 hours. In Shimla, we visited the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation's office, which greets you right at the entry point of the city. The HPTDC staff members were very helpful and suggested us some good hotels in Kinnaur. We had planned to have lunch in Shimla, but didn't actually feel like it as the city was flooded with tourists. So we proceeded to Kufri and had great Chinese food in a small hotel. The road was good and we reached Sarahan by evening via Rampur.
HPTDC's Hotel Sri Khand: great views of the Sri Khand Mahadev range from almost all rooms, reasonably good food , pleasant staff and a great place to start your journey through the rawness of the Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts.

Day 4: Sarahan - Sangla - Chitkul: stared off early in the morning. The manager of the Sri Khand Hotel suggested a great hotel called the Rupin River View in the small town of Chitkul, a little further down the road after Sangla. Reached Chitkul by 2 pm. This patch of the road is where the real adventure starts. This is, according to me, some of most remote regions of India offering unmatched rawness of nature. There are 2 to 3 major hydro-electric projects on the Sutluj, which you pass during your journey to Sangla/Chitkul.
Hotel Rupin River View: reasonable prices, heater and hot water available for a negligible extra price, great food. The owner of this hotel was an interesting person and we had great time chatting with him. He also gave some helpful tips for our road trip along this route.

Day 5: Chitkul - Nako - Tabo: this was one of the most tiring days of the entire trip as we covered almost 150 - 200 kms. and that is too much in a region like this, dominated by mighty rivers and deep gorges. The weather was a depressing factor right from Chitkul to Kaza. Though this is a desert area, it received heavy rainfall this year. So the weather was unpredictable, cloudy and DEPRESSING. Khab is the point where two main rivers of this area meet: Sutluj and Spiti. Hereafter, the road goes along the Spiti and the valley narrows further. After Khab, you enter a beautiful patch, where you gain a lot of height, but don't feel it. At Sumdo, one can visit the Indo-Tibet border, but the procedure of obtaining a permit for it takes too long. So we canceled the plan and proceeded to Tabo.
Tabo: Hotel Dewachan Retreat: nice and clean hotel; we did not eat here. We has all the meals at a small hotel/camp run by Mr. Rana ; this is located right next to the helipad. This place is where you can eat almost everything that you can think of.

Day 6: Tabo - Kaza: this is a very small distance of just 56 kms. The views along the road are beautiful. Hereafter the Spiti Valley widens a lot and is no longer scary. But road patch between Shichling and Dhankar was too dangerous as there were small as well as big pieces of rock falling from the mountain ranges on the right side of the road and on the left side, Spiti was roaring at an unimaginable speed. We visited the Dhankar mmonastery on the way : one of the most important monasteries of the region.
Hotel Sakya Abode: great clean rooms, great views around the hotel, good food and very very very...helpful people. .
This is where the climax of the trip started. We purchase diesel from the world's highest fuel station and also visited the world's highest ATM .
On reaching Kaza, the people gave us THE news: the Kunzum Pass, through which we were supposed to proceed towards Ladakh, was closed for almost a week due to heavy snowfall [this was both a good as well as a bad news: why good? we made some very good friends as we were stuck in Kaza for 3 days and got the chance the explore the town and the area around it a lot as there was nothing else to do. Why bad? coz, we didn't know when the road was gonna open and when and whether we could continue our journey.]

Day 7: Kaza - Kee - Kibber - Kaza: explored the area arouns Kaza. Visited the Kee monastery as well as the Kibber Village, which was until recently the highest motorable village of the world.

Day 8: Pin Valley: had nothing to do, so hired a local vehicle and visited Pin Valley up to the Sagnam village. This was a lucky day as in the night, we got the news that the Kunzum Pass had been cleared.

Day 9. Kaza - Tandi via the Kunzum La. We won't forget this day ever. We had never been in such extreme conditions. Snow all around, no proper roads, we had to find the road through the Chandra river basin! But salute to our Maruti Swift. it is such a tough vehicle. We tested it in the worst conditions one can ever imagine for a city car.

The journey after this was good, but also disappointing in some parts. Though we traveled on the world's second-highest motorable road , we were not at all excited as the condition of the road was too bad. We reached Leh and stayed there for another two days. We no longer had the enthu to get the inner line permit and visit Nubra Valley and travel on the highest motorable road of the world . We were more worried about how we were supposed the get back home as the road, which we had taken to Leh was no longer advisable for the car and we were not sure whether to opt for the other option, which goes via Sri Nagar as there were severe riots in Sri Nagar and we did not want to get stuck once again. But then we met a group from Pune, who were on a biking tour of Ladakh. We left Leh with them and finally reached Pune after 5 days traveling via Sri Nagar, Jammu, Delhi and Udaipur.

Overall, this was the wildest and craziest journey of our lives. It also gave me the inspiration to quit my job and materialize the plan of starting my own travel company.

Sylvan Holidays will be conducting a Raw Himalchal Tour from 28th May to 6th June 2011. If anyone is interested is undertaking this adventurous journey, please contact me.


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