Himachal Travel Report (Simla, Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul, Manali, Kullu) - Sep 2009

#1 Oct 6th, 2009, 00:56
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#1

Finally after almost 2 years of waiting and 1 failed attempt, I was able to complete the Himachal circuit successfully. I had originally planned to do this last year with all inputs from Nayan’s article (Click here for Nayan’s article). However due to multiple problems (See my previous post), I had to drop it last year.

This year, I started the planning exercise again in June after my initial discussions with our good old friend “Ramchand-ji”. I got more inputs from our friend Wayfarer (WayFarer's report) and started re-planning the whole exercise and came up with the final itinerary given below

Sep 20th – Hyderabad to New Delhi by AP Express
Sep 21st – Delhi to Chandigarh (Pick up from station)
Sep 22nd – Chandigarh to Shimla (Shimla sight-seeing)
Sep 23rd – Shimla to Sarahan
Sep 24th – Sarahan to Sangla
Sep 25th – Sangla to Kalpa
Sep 26th – Kalpa to Tabo
Sep 27th – Tabo to Kaza (Finish Dhankar and Pin on the way)
Sep 28th – Kaza (Kye & Kibber)
Sep 29th – Kaza to Chandratal (Finish Chandra Taal and stay in Bataal)
Sep 30th – Chandratal (Bataal) to Manali
Oct 1st – Manali to Chandigarh
Oct 2nd – Chandigarh to Delhi and catch the train to Hyd on 2nd evening

The above plan was vetted by Ramchand-ji and we requested him to take care of not only the transport from Delhi to Delhi but also accommodation in all the places. The initial advance payment was made. The eager wait started from June. We did get a little depressed mid-September after seeing the weather reports and the road conditions in Himachal. Finally the day before our departure from Hyderabad, I see the good news from our good friend Voyager that the road to Manali is open and Malling is expect to open soon . This pushed our excitement levels and before we realized it, we were already sitting in AP express on 20th morning in our cozy First AC cabin and were on our way to Delhi.

Ramchand-ji had already confirmed to us that Satpal-ji will be our companion for our trip (he had come for us last year also). The rest was almost a repeat of what Wayfarer had experienced. I am not going to repeat whatever Nayan and Wayfarer have already written as they have already given an excellent view of whole stretch. The beauty and the details of the place have already been described to the greatest level by Nayan and Wayfarer. Here, I am just going to jot down our experiences and a few additional points.

Sep 21st – Delhi to Chandigarh (Pick up from station)

As with Wayfarer, an Innova was arranged for pick-up and I got the details of the driver and vehicle previous night thru SMS from our friend. The vehicle was a little late in picking us up from the station, apart from this, the journey was uneventful. We stopped in Sukhdev Dhaba for a great lunch. We were booked in Hotel Diamond Plaza in Sector 22 and it was a decent place to spend a night. Did some walking around Chandigarh and retired early for the day. We were promised by Ramchand-ji that he will meet us the next day at our hotel around 10:30 in the morning.

Sep 22nd – Chandigarh to Shimla (Shimla sight-seeing)

Ramchand-ji came to pick us up from the hotel in Chandigarh and we started from Chandigarh at around 10:30 AM. After a brief, hot, sultry stop at the Rock Gardens in Chandigarh, we were on our way to Shimla. After stopping for lunch at Modern Dhaba, we reached Shimla early evening. The last time I had visited Shimla was in 1989 and I was going back there “Bees Saal Baad”. The scene was indeed scarier than the movie (Bees Saal Baad) . The place had changed so much and there was so much of construction that I was unable to recognize the place. We were booked in Hotel White. The rest is the same as what Wayfarer had mentioned, porters, walk etc. We really liked the hotel and we spent the rest of the evening walking in the Mall.

Sep 23rd – Shimla to Sarahan

We decided to spend some more time in Shimla as we decided not to visit any other place on the way to Sarahan. Ramchand met us in the morning and described to us the entire plan and he gave us the bad news that access to Chandra Taal was closed and there is no way to visit the lake probably till next summer . This was something we already anticipated after looking at the weather reports. This meant that we will now have either an extra night in Kaza or in Manali. Then came the next shocking news from him that the route between Kaza and Manali, though open, was extremely bad and was not advisable to travel . The suggestion was to return back to Shimla from Kaza. However, we decided that we will take a call on this after reaching Kaza based on the local reports. We paid an advance to Ramchand-ji and bid good-bye to him. We went back to the Mall, enjoyed a cool morning walk and returned back to the hotel around noon. Porters were called again and by 12:30, we were in the Tavera with Satpal-Ji and my dream journey started. Reached Sarahan and we were booked in the Trehan’s and we had the room in the 2nd floor which had the best view at this place. We went to the temple around 7 PM and were lucky to be at the temple for the evening aarti and it was really a good experience to be there at that time.

Sep 24th – Sarahan to Sangla

We went to the temple again in the morning and by luck we happened to be present for the morning aarti also (@ 8:30 AM) and after that we checked out. The owner of Trehan specifically asked me if my stay was fine and if there were any suggestions from my side. I thought that was really kind of him. We left Sarahan and after a very dusty ride reached Sangla. Our booking was in Prakash Guest house. After checking in, we decided to go for a walk. We were not too eager about the trout farm after reading Wayfarer’s experience. Instead we went to the temple and then on our return visited the orchard of the guest house owner and then settled down for the night. Not sure if it was an imaginary or psychological thing, but for some reason, both I and my wife felt that we had certain bouts of breathlessness during the night. It could have been our tiredness too .

Sep 25th – Sangla to Kalpa

Woke up in the morning, and we left to Chitkul. It is indeed an amazing place. We trekked down to the river and then around noon, we left back to Sarahan. This was one of the biggest mistakes that we had made – not planning for an extra day for Chitkul. This was a good season for apples and we saw boxes and boxes of apples (Royal and Golden) being loaded into trucks all along the way. We were hoping to buy a box in Sangla but could not. We had lunch at Prakash guest house and then left for Kalpa. We were lucky to get diesel at Rekong Peo and we reached Golden Apple resort at around 5 PM. Satpal-Ji then took us for a drive to the suicide point and then continued up further to the village. Here we again saw trucks being loaded with apples and we approached one of them to see if they can sell us a box. The person hesitated for some time and then told that all the boxes were numbered and said that he will pack another box of Golden apples for us. He asked us as to where we were staying and we gave him the details. He promised to drop off the box at our hotel later that evening and we returned back to the hotel. True to his word, he dropped off the box at our hotel @ 7:30 PM. Golden Apple hotel is a good place to stay and the Manager was also very courteous. We were a little apprehensive about going to sleep especially after our breathless experience in Sangla. Our imaginations were wrong and we slept peacefully that night without any episodes of breathlessness.

Sep 26th – Kalpa to Tabo

It was an interesting and a lengthy day. I finally had my chance to look at the famous Malling Nala. We reached Malling after a brief stopover to visit Nako Monastery and Lake and also stopping for lunch. The road was closed when we reached Malling and the clearing was going on. It was only a half hour wait and we were on our way. We were surprised to see Satpal crossing the stretch at a record speed. We then visited the mummy at Gheun and finally reached Trojan guest house in Tabo around 5 or so. Of all the places, I liked the service folks of this guest house the best. We went to the monastery in the evening and there was a dance performance by the local ladies that was going on at that time which was being filmed by some foreigners. My daughter was excited to see a hand water pump and was thrilled to see water come out of it. The initial idea was to make a decision in Tabo to go from Kaza to Manali or to return back to Shimla the same route. The plan was to do Pin valley and Dhankar on the way to Kaza if we were going to cross Kunzum. If not, the plan was to drop Pin valley and do Dhankar, Key and Kibber the next day and then do Kunzum on the 28th and start the return journey back to Shimla on 29th. However, we decided that we will take a risk and stick to the original plan.

Sep 27th – Tabo to Kaza (Finish Dhankar and Pin on the way)

We got up late in the morning and went to the Monastery again. After visiting it, we left Tabo and we were on our way to Dhankar Monastery. In the Monastery, we met with a British couple and we were overjoyed to learn from them that they had done the Manali – Kaza stretch the day before and there were absolutely no problems . They however mentioned that there was an accident in Kunzum the previous day involving a Toyota Qualis and a couple of people had died. We came outside and by then Satpal had also spoken to the driver of the British couple and got the news that the road was fine. He had also heard about the accident by then. However we decided that this was not something which was going to spoil our plans. Decision was taken to go to Pin valley from there. It was another beautiful day and the valley was filled with fall colors and it was absolutely fantastic. After Pin Valley, we finally reached Kaza and we proceeded towards Parasol Guest house. Wanted to go to the local market the same day but then realized that the market was closed because it was a Sunday. We however did have a good walk to the market, had some chai and then came back to the guest house.

Sep 28th – Kaza (Kye & Kibber)

Initially the plan was to do only Key and Kibber today. However, after talking to some of the other guests in the hotel, I got greedy and was tempted to go to Langza also . It was not only vetoed by Satpal and the guest house owner but also by my wife. My youngest one (girl) was 5 years old and I also decided not to tax her too much as the next day’s journey was going to be grueling. We returned back to the guest house around 2 PM (after a short 10 minute break on the river bed when the vehicle was being cleaned) and had some rest. We decided to check-out the local market again in the evening and I ended up coming back to the guest house with a lighter wallet.

Sep 29th – Kaza to Manali

It was an early start for us on this day as Satpal had already told us that we should leave as early as possible to ensure that we cross Chotta Dhara by noon. We left the guest house at 6:45 AM and when leaving the owner of the guest house told me that this was going to be the most scenic day of my entire trip. I did not realize the magnitude of this statement till I completed the day. We soon reached Losar for breakfast. Here, a mountain goat was gracious enough to pose for us for a few seconds. After a short break at Losar for breakfast (Maggie, of course…) we were soon on our way to Kunzum. Thanks to the unseasonal snow in mid September, the mountain tops were covered with snow and we could also see snow covered on both sides of the road on the upper reaches of the pass. Satpal had mentioned that about a month back there was absolutely nothing and the whole place was dry except for snow in very high altitudes. Enroute, while climbing, Satpal showed us the mangled remains of the Qualis which we had heard about in Dhankar. This was about 4 or 5 kms before Kunzum on the right hand side towards the Spiti river bed. It was indeed sad to see the wrecked body of the vehicle . After a few minutes of sorrow, we were again back to our original moods enjoying the mountains and the Spiti river deep below (I am given to understand that Kunzum is the origin for Spiti River). We reached Kunzum and spent a few minutes at the Kunzum La Devi temple on the top and then the kids spent another half hour or so playing on the snow. My 5 year old daughter soon realized that it is after all not fun to play too long in the snow. We managed to get into the car and my daughter was already in tears complaining of “Toes Burning”. Satpal was surprised to find the road descending from Kunzum a lot more drivable that he had imagined. In his words, we managed to finish the 6 hair-pin bends going to down from Kunzum in 15 – 20 minutes which usually takes about an hour or so. We reached Bataal and realized that the “Temp Accommodation” at that place had already wound up because of closure of road to Chandra Taal. The views continued to be amazing on this stretch and very soon we crossed Chotta Dhara without any problems. Satpal-ji was quite a relieved person after this. We also saw the grand Bara Shigri glacier on the way and it looked marvelous. We stopped at Chattru for lunch. This was another joint with stones / rocks stacked up on four sides to resemble a four walls and a plastic sheet on top which acted as a roof. This was another stopover point (night stay) for people going to Chandra Taal. We could see the stack of mattresses lined up in one corner. We took some courage and decided to have lunch at that place and fortunately there were no side effects for any of us later. The road till Gramphoo was fine. The worst was the Rohtang stretch (between Gramphoo and Marhi). This was the most back breaking drive . There was absolutely no snow in Rohtang and as a result the famous Traffic Jam of Rohtang was also not there. There were just 3 or 4 cars on top of the pass and we could see that the shops on top were also winding up for the season as we crossed them. We finally reached Manali around 5 PM and we went to Hotel Snow View situated right on the Mall. It was not an exaggeration when the person told me that this day’s journey would be the most scenic in my trip. It was indeed the best scenic stretch that I have ever travelled in India.

Sep 30th – Manali

After all the excitement, we were in no mood for any more sightseeing. We went upto Kullu during the day and on the way back, there was a roadside eating joint which was just beside the river. This place had tables and chairs put on the shallow water area of the river and when we sat on the chair, our feet were in water. I felt that it was indeed an innovative idea and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We spent about an hour or so there and then returned back to Manali for lunch. Immediately after the lunch on the mall, we went out for more shopping and returned back to the room (with an extra bag) and retired early.

Oct 1st – Manali to Chandigarh

We left Manali early around 7:30 AM and just when we were about to leave Manali outer limits, I received a call from the Hotel folks saying that I had left my Bluetooth headset. We went back, picked it up and started our journey to Chandigarh. The journey was uneventful except for the increasing heat as we descended down the mountains. We reached Chandigarh around 4 PM and were originally supposed to be in the same hotel. However there was some confusion with that Hotel and our booking was shifted to Hotel City Plaza in Sector 17. Ramchand-Ji himself was present at the hotel in Chandigarh to receive us. We settled the accounts with Ramchand. We were told that another vehicle would drop us to Delhi the next day.

It was time to bid farewell to Ramchand and Satpal. Thanks to these gentlemen, it was indeed a splendid trip that we had in Himachal. We thanked them and promised them that we would soon return back to avail their services. We freshened ourselves up in the room as the trip was not only long but it was hot and dusty. The hotel was bang in the center of shopping mall and as a result, my wallet got much lighter by the night.

Oct 2nd – Chandigarh to Delhi and catch the train to Hyd on 2nd evening

Our vehicle reported by 8:30 in the morning and we left the hotel at around 9:30 AM. Enroute we stopped at the Haveli in Karnal to have tea and then continued on. Initially we planned to stop for lunch at Sukhdev Dhaba. However on reaching that place we changed our mind immediately. The place was jam packed and I would not have been surprised if the police had been called in to control the mob. We stopped at Mangla dhaba and found that the food was really good. We reached New Delhi station at around 4:00 PM giving us enough time for us to catch AP express at 5:30 PM. We caught the train after the usual haggling with the porters and finally reached home in Hyderabad on 3rd night completely exhausted physically but rejuvenated mentally.

What was great about the whole trip was the picture perfect weather. The sun was shining bright on all the days (thanks to this, we all have managed to get high altitude sun burns and a tanned skin). The sky was speckles and bright blue and the fall colors in all places were superb. I could not have asked for more on this whole trip.

Now for some additional points for people who are planning for this stretch for the first time.
  • Facilities in accommodations in most of these places are bare minimum and when we say hotel, it usually means a building with about 10 rooms in it. The rooms will have the bare necessary comfort with a bathroom and a geyser. Do not expect too much in these places.
  • If you are planning to stay in Bataal, then please keep in mind that the accommodation is Bataal is nothing but a Tent or a plastic cover put on top of four walls (made of stacked up rocks or stones) and a line of mattresses that are put inside it. It is a dormitory under a tent with a mattress for each person and food cooked by the local person there. There are no Hotels or rooms there.
  • Power is a problem in many areas. Charge your batteries whenever you get the chance.
  • There were many small children that we had come across in many places. These cute kids seemed so happy when we gave them chocolates. It would be a great idea to carry some chocolates and biscuits with you on your journey. The smile on these kids faces when they receive these chocolates and biscuits is simply priceless.
  • High altitude sun burn can occur. Pls carry a sun screen lotion with you (you can also get them from the local markets in Tabo and Kaza). Pls use this if the sun is bright and shining.

The last two weeks have been mind-blowing experience for me. I would like to thank all the veterans of this forum who have provided ample information in this website without whom, I would have never made this journey. If not for this forum, I would also have been yet another person who would have asked “Spiti ???? What / Where is it ???”

Uma Shankar.

#2 Oct 6th, 2009, 09:17
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  • XDreX is offline
#2
This is too cool! Those foreigners include my girlfriend, who is there with a group of researchers from Austria. I was just searching the web for any recent news from Tabo and I came across your post. It's really cool to get such a detailed account from someone who was just at the place where she is, since we don't get to communicate much.

Hopefully some day I'll get to do the trip myself.

Cheers,
Matt

Quote:
Originally Posted by rumasan View Post
Sep 26th – Kalpa to Tabo

It was an interesting and a lengthy day. I finally had my chance to look at the famous Malling Nala. We reached Malling after a brief stopover to visit Nako Monastery and Lake and also stopping for lunch. The road was closed when we reached Malling and the clearing was going on. It was only a half hour wait and we were on our way. We were surprised to see Satpal crossing the stretch at a record speed. We then visited the mummy at Gheun and finally reached Trojan guest house in Tabo around 5 or so. Of all the places, I liked the service folks of this guest house the best. We went to the monastery in the evening and there was a dance performance by the local ladies that was going on at that time which was being filmed by some foreigners. My daughter was excited to see a hand water pump and was thrilled to see water come out of it. The initial idea was to make a decision in Tabo to go from Kaza to Manali or to return back to Shimla the same route. The plan was to do Pin valley and Dhankar on the way to Kaza if we were going to cross Kunzum. If not, the plan was to drop Pin valley and do Dhankar, Key and Kibber the next day and then do Kunzum on the 28th and start the return journey back to Shimla on 29th. However, we decided that we will take a risk and stick to the original plan.

#3 Oct 8th, 2009, 02:41
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  • nayan is offline
#3
I dont know how I missed this thread

Its great to know you had such a great trip
#4 Oct 11th, 2009, 00:18
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#4
Hi Rumasan
Nice to hear a detail trip report
I am also planning to visit Simla- saharan - sangla- kalpa - narkanda - simla from 16 oct -24 oct 2009
Can you post your input on
a)road condition , karchem to sangla
b)How is Prakash Guest House , Sangla
c)Ramchand and Satpal - few lines about their dealings and driving skills
Thanks
#5 Oct 11th, 2009, 10:03
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#5
Road from Karchcham to Sangla is quite good (some patchy sections, but no bad road), and you can reach Sangla from Karchcham in 30-45 minutes. The road from Sangla to Chitkul is excellent.
H V Kumar
#6 Oct 12th, 2009, 02:11
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#6
Thanks hvkumar for your information
Is it on basis of your very recent visit? Most inputs says road is very narrow , steep and scary from Karcham to Sangla . Some post says there is virtually no road in some strech . I am bit confused as I am to visit Sangla on 19 Oct 2009 . Can you be bit more elaborate on road condition . I am likely to travel by Tavera , Is it safe ?
Thanks
#7 Oct 12th, 2009, 02:41
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#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by pg66 View Post Thanks hvkumar for your information
Is it on basis of your very recent visit?
Yes, HVK did a meticulous planning for 7 SUVs to visit Srinagar-Ladakh (extensive) and came back through Manali side.

Their trip log links (incl. planning) are in this post of mine: manali-leh-ladakh-kargil-dras-srinagar trip

HVK!

And Tavera should be fine, we did Sangla-Chitkul-Kalpa-Nako in very bad road conditions in Nov'06 in an Alto!
Did you wear the other person's shoe today?
#8 Oct 12th, 2009, 03:04
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#8
Thanks, Indracal, for the clarification.

Yes, pg66, this is a current update (we drove that way on Sep 25-26). Nothing to be worried about. It is fantastic roads from Shimla to Rampur. It is when you near Wangtoo that the road has cracked up a bit thanks to the heavy construction equipment for the dam sites nearby. But it is more an irritant than a problem and this is in well-inhabited areas.

The road has been widened - it is almost 2-3 lanes wide - and in great condition, even in the sections with overhanging rock cliffs. After turning off NH22 at Karchcham, the road to Sangla is a decent small mountain road, a little rough, but completely safe and good for any car. From Sangla to Chitkul, the road is simply fantastic even though it is narrow.

Go ahead and enjoy the drive - you will love the Kinnaur and Baspa Valleys immensely.
#9 Oct 12th, 2009, 14:48
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#9
Thanks again hvkumar and Indracal for your very re-saauring inputs and encouragement
With such valuable information from IM I am proceeding for my tour on Oct 15 .
I shall post my experience in IM on coming back
Thanks again
#10 Oct 12th, 2009, 23:37
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#10

Photos from the Trip

I have posted some photos from my trip in the link below.

http://www.indiamike.com/photopost/s...0&ppuser=28456
#11 Oct 14th, 2009, 21:52
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#11
you pin valley photographs are mind blowing..great colours.
#12 Oct 14th, 2009, 22:10
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#12
Excellent photos.
#13 Oct 14th, 2009, 22:26
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#13
Excellent snaps...I did the same trip Shimla -> Recong Peo -> Kalpa -> Nako -> Tabo -> Kaza -> Losar -> Kunzum -> Manali

I stayed at Losar to visit Chandratal next day through Batal but unfortunately could not make it.

Few photographs here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3718216...57622434917901

Thanks.
#14 Oct 19th, 2009, 14:36
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#14
That was a great trip and the pictures are fabulous.

So you too had to miss Chandrataal this time.

Probably we need lots of luck when we make the journey again to rendezvous with the beauty of Chandrataal !!!
#15 Dec 30th, 2009, 21:03
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#15
The picture from Golden Apple is amazing, looks like the side of the mountain is exploding. Lovely.

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