First solo trip to Kinnaur and Spiti!!!

#1 Mar 2nd, 2016, 19:22
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  • kved2 is offline
#1
I am one of those guys who is stuck in a typical corporate job and living the city life because I need to take care of the "paapi pet"

I plan for a 10 day annual trip without fail and visit my favorite place - Himachal Pradesh, this was the first time I did a solo trip as all these years it was always with a group of friends or family.

I had been planning this trip for some time now and decided to go alone without any strings attached just for the experience. Got inspired to visit Kinnaur after watching the move "Highway"
One thing led to the other and I managed to plan my route across Kinnaur and Spiti as well, mentioned here is my experience and journey route in a nutshell.

Day 1 - Mumbai to Chandigarh by flight, around 2 hours and 15 mins…my driver picked me up from a friend’s place and my journey began!

Day 1 - Chandigarh to Rampur via Shimla by cab – around 7.5 hours due to heavy traffic in Shimla and some bad road patches.
I checked in at around 8 pm in a fairly decent hotel at Rampur for an overnight halt and headed for Sangla early next morning…

Day 2 - Rampur to Raksham (Sangla) – around 4.5 hours; the roads started getting worse about 30 mins after leaving Rampur all the way till the Karchham Wangtu hydro project plant area.
Raksham is a small village 15-20 mins ahead of Sangla market, I decided not to stay at Sangla as it was just a busy area (especially due to the apple season in Kinnaur) with some hotels around it. I stayed at Hotel Rupin River view (Raksham) which is conveniently situated near the river and had some amazing views of the valley and mountain. Since Raksham is closer to the river, night temperatures quickly dropped to -1 to -2 with strong winds from time to time making it difficult to stay outdoors for long.

Day 3 – Raksham to Chitkul – around 40 mins by cab; I must say I was a little disappointed with Chitkul because I had read a lot about this place and also heard many people say that it is a very scenic place etc. however I found it to be quite the same as Sangla or Raksham with just the unique “last Indian village” factor working for it. Anyways since I was there, I clicked a few pics and walked around the tiny village, also managed to click the famous pic near the board that says “Hindustaan ka aakhri dhaba”, I was told that this dhaba is actually not operational for quite some time now and people just click the pic and move on, in fact it isn’t the last eating joint of India anymore as there are more eateries and tea stalls ahead in the village.

Day 3 – Chitkul to Kalpa – around 3 hours with a 20 mins breakfast break, the drive is scenic once you start ascending towards Reckong Peo and get the first up close look of the famous Kinner Kailash mountain ranges. Reckong Peo is a bustling town with a lot of locals and tourists moving around, it is also one of the major bus depots in the area which makes it more populated and noisy. I moved up towards Kalpa and stayed at Hotel Rolling Rangs which has a magnificent view of the Kinner Kailash.
My driver (Bunty) took me for a short spin to an ancient village called Roghi around which modern towns like Kalpa and Peo have supposedly developed, the drive to Roghi was quite an adventure with very narrow roads and a deadly drop should you make any mistake while driving , later on I explored Kalpa market area on foot and got to see place where the movie Highway was shot. After a good walk around the market area and narrow lanes I got to see a lot of shops selling apples, apparently it was apple season in the valley...had to buy, couldn’t resist.

Day 4 – Kalpa to Nako – around 6.5 hours; this route is seriously not for the faint hearted. I was completely blown away with the constant change in the landscape and rising altitude levels within hours. The landscape around the roads leading to Spillo, Pooh and nearby areas is truly intimidating and unwelcoming at first with hardly any sign of vegetation and huge sharp stones forming the sides of the steep mountain, it took me some time to get used to this harsh environment and start appreciating the actual beauty around me. My car tyre burst on this route due to the sharp stones on the way just a few kilometers before Pooh, luckily we had a spare and managed to fix the burst tyre in case of an emergency.
The route from Pooh to Nako is breathtaking and also a little scary - though the roads in this patch are comparatively better than the other roads but there are a lot hairpin bends that elevate you by a couple of feet with every turn in terms of the altitude surely exposing you to more amazing views and ever changing hues of the mountains. At this point of time I started getting used to the effects of change in altitude and managed to breathe just enough to compensate the lack of oxygen in this place…most important tip to counter altitude sickness is to keep having water through the day and keep a slow and consistent breathing pace.
One would get to see shrubs and tall trees once you enter Nako which is probably the only greenery you would have seen that day…I was told by my driver who was a frequent traveler in these parts that the trees are planted here by the local residents in order to generate some oxygen as it is not available naturally at this height!!!

We reached Nako lake after parking the car near the monastery, I must say it was a sight for sore eyes…I saw a lake or rather a pond to be precise after so long…it was as though my dry and tired eyes were getting hydrated simply by looking at a water body after the constant dry and barren landscape that day 

Day 4 – Nako to Tabo, around 2 hours
I was thrilled to know that this was a downhill drive into the plains; my breathing pattern was consistent and slowly was getting used to the low levels of oxygen.
I experienced absolute tranquility during this drive till Tabo, I barely saw a couple of cars passing by in these 2 hours…it was mostly our car on the road for most part of the journey going through some beautiful river side curves and tiny roads by the mountains…I reached Tabo at around 4:30 pm and checked in to Trojan Guest house, it was a cheap and comfortable place near the market.
I had just enough time to walk across to the famous Tabo monastery before sunset. I walked around a bit, clicked a few pics and settled down at my hotel room only to find out that Tabo experiences frequent power cuts and that too for the entire night at times…I ordered for some simple food at the hotel and slept early as it was quite a heavy day for me. Next morning I had breakfast at a local joint, it was quite cold probably 2-3 degrees with the sun already out; I treated myself to the typical local Spitian breakfast – porridge with pieces of fresh apple, jam/butter with some locally baked bread and tea (no milk, no sugar, just salt and tea).
The original Tabo monastery definitely has the old world charm and is quite well maintained, there is also a new monastery near the old one and it also houses the Monastic guest house which I am told is quite clean and affordable.
Since I had planned to reach Kaza that morning itself, I left Tabo by around 8:30 am…

Day 5 – Tabo to Kaza, around 2.5 hours
The roads leading to Kaza were a little better than what I had experienced the previous day; we took a little detour and visited the famous Dhankar monastery up the hill on the way to Kaza. Upon reaching the monastery, I got a view of the Dhankar village below and the beautiful Spiti river flowing against the backdrop of the majestic mountains. At this point I realized how difficult it must be for the locals to go about their day to day chores and simply survive this weather and landscape and thought that we city dwellers have it so easy!
The monastery was quite old and had huge columns of wood supporting the roof, I entered one of the prayer rooms and sat there for a minute; this was the first place where I could not hear anything at all, at first I thought it was due to the altitude that my ears were popping however I realized that it was actually so peaceful around here; I could actually faintly hear myself breathing…I had just experienced the “Sound of silence”
I continued my journey towards Kaza and reached there by noon, I had decided to stay at Hotel Deyzor which had great reviews online and also many people appreciated the uniqueness this hotel offered. I quickly check in and go down to the restaurant for some lunch. The hotel owner Karan Bedi is one of the most interesting and down to earth person I have met, he is from Chandigarh and chooses to stay in Kaza for most part of the year…I found the hotel to be quite different and funky, one could make out that the owner has put in a lot of efforts and hard work to maintain its charm and not get swayed by the commercial aspects of running a hotel. Each room had a travel quote and was designed differently than the other; the hallway also had some nice paintings and quotes. The restaurant has a corner where local Spitian artifacts are tastefully displayed and it also has a small shelf with books that the guests can pick up while at the restaurant. I believe the temperature that night was between -3 to -1 degrees, I was enjoying since I was in good company, having delicious Chicken Thukpa for dinner, reading a book with some amazing 80’s rock music playing in the background!!!

Day 6 – Around Kaza
We started at around 9:30 am - first drove up to a small village Langza which is famous for fossil excavation activities and the popular Buddha statue atop the hill…the drive to the village was quite breathtaking through the narrow hairpin bends and beautiful landscape. We happened to spot a small herd of Ibex, a type of deer found in these parts of the region. You can see local kids here running around with fossil pieces in their hands trying to show them to tourists probably in exchange for some money…they didn’t allow me to even click a pic of the fossils unless I paid them! Cute little businessmen…went around playing with those fossil pieces like they were marbles!
We continued to drive towards Komic, a small village situated high up in the mountain at 14,800 feet - it is the highest village in the world inhabited throughout the year irrespective of the harsh winters and lack of basic amenities! The monastery here is quite well maintained and the monks are quite friendly, one of them was kind enough to show me around and also offer black tea…
We then continued towards another village Hikkim that holds the distinction of having a post office at 14,567 feet, the highest in the world! Unfortunately, the roads to go to this village were being repaired that day and I didn’t want to risk the car going through huge rocks and sharp stones as I had even worse roads to go through the next day to reach Manali…however I passed through and managed to get some pics from a distance.

We then drove towards the famous Kibber village and Kye monastery, though there isn’t much to do at Kibber village; I liked the drive upto the hill and back. Upon reaching Kye monastery, the pictures of the area that I had seen a thousand times on the internet came flashing to my mind. The monastery surroundings are quite clean and there is hardly any sound. I explored the place and saw some of the prayer rooms that had old books and scripts placed neatly around the corners, overall a nice monastery – very peaceful.
After almost 30 mins of looking around at the monastery, I left for Kaza…by this time I had probably overcome my breathing problem that I was having for the past 2 days, it made me realize that suddenly I had so much more energy and I wasn’t feeling tired at all, I was breathing normally (it is a big thing to breathe normally around these parts if you are not a local or have just arrived a day ago)
I had a lot of time and nothing much to do before dinner time, as I had been to the market and visited places around Kaza in about half a day. I decided to have my favorite “press coffee” at the hotel and then move out, while I was at the restaurant Karan (the hotel owner) came by and asked me how my day was. I shared some experiences of the day and asked him if there was anything I could do in the next couple of hours, he suggested I visit the local Kaza monastery as they had some celebrations planned that day and some priests/monks from another town were visiting. I took this opportunity to grab my camera and walked across to the monastery to see what was going on. To my utter surprise, I happened to reach the monastery gates and a group of ladies broke into their traditional Spitian dance…I considered myself lucky to be able to experience this event; I hadn’t even planned to be there in the first place! I was thrilled to be the only “non local” out there at the same time was quite conscious about it too…I managed to get the dance routine on video and click some pics as well.
I walk around a bit and ensured that I soak in the sights around me as much as I can, I know it will be some time before I come back. So, I get back to the hotel to rest and started reading a book and waited till I got hungry…after having a nice long conversation at dinner with the hotel owner I bid him farewell with a promise to be back to Kaza soon…I have my dinner and sleep early for a long day ahead.

Day 7 – Kaza to Manali, around 8.5 hours with a breakfast and lunch break
I was informed earlier by Karan at Kaza that this particular route was not to be missed as it would truly show me what the word ‘remote’ means…I didn’t know what to make out of this comment – was it a word of caution or did he want me to be ready to experience something new?
We started early at 6 am since we were aware that this route would take some time, it was still quite cold outside. We travelled for around 2 hours and reached Losar to have breakfast, after a quick bite we continued onwards. The scenery on this is absolutely mesmerizing and breathtaking, though there were hardly any people on this route apart from some very small villages with 10-12 houses along the way.
I reached Kunzum top a couple of hours later and the roads leading up to the point had a little bit of snow around the corners, I was excited and hoped that I get to see snow on top as well. Upon reaching Kunzum top, I saw the snow capped mountains that I was seeing from far below were actually in front of me now…we stopped there to click some pictures and visited the only monastery there – it was customary to go around the structure before heading towards Batal…so I was told by my driver. Kunzum top is right on top of the mountain at around 15,000 feet, it was quite a sunny morning and very cold at the same time…I could not visit Chandratal lake as I was told that it requires a short trek of around 30-45 mins from a point where cars don’t go ahead, I wasn’t in the best of my physical state to trek for long without any help (my driver didn’t want to go with me as well for some reason) Anyways we continued our journey onwards and enjoyed the beautiful scenery till we reached Batal…the roads from here got pretty bad.

Most of the roads here had big stones spread across and there was water from the nearby river flowing onto the roads which swept away the concrete part of the road…making it a little difficult to drive with huge bumps all along.
We reached Rohtang pass without much problem and did it in good time too, I was told it takes around 10-11 hours to reach Manali however we passed Rohtang had lunch on the way and reached Manali in less than 9 hours!
I spent the rest of the day relaxing at a cheap hotel near the Manali market and later on explored the mall road and also visited Hadimba temple. Since I had been to Manali several times in the past, there was nothing new that I could explore apart from enjoying the food and shopping a bit.

Day 8 – Manali to Chandigarh – around 9 hours with 30 mins lunch break.
The roads on this route were heaven compared to Kinnaur and most parts of Spiti, I reached Chandigarh in the evening and relaxed at my friends house. My flight was in the afternoon next day to Bombay. I boarded the flight with a heavy heart, promising myself that I will be back soon.

"Not all who wander are lost!"
Attached Images
Near Sangla.jpg Kalpa.jpg Nako.jpg kinner kailash.jpg Tabo monastery.jpg Tabo.jpg en route kaza.jpg dhankar village.jpg dhankar monastery.jpg komic.jpg 
#2 Mar 2nd, 2016, 19:54
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  • life1style1 is offline
#2
kved2,

Welcome to Indiamike..hope you have a pleasant stay here...
A trip report in the very first post...very much out of the box...

Enjoyed reading your report...hope you upload few more images...thanks for sharing your experience...
Sair kar duniya ki galib,yeh zindagani phir kahan..

****************************** **
Some of my compilations in Flickr
#3 Mar 2nd, 2016, 20:12
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  • ananda2193 is offline
#3
Ditto to what life1style said.

More pics would be nice.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow-mindedness" Mark Twain
#4 Mar 2nd, 2016, 20:38
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  • Mohd Rashid is offline
#4
Superb! Nice write up ,i also fell in love with the Paradise(Kalpa)during my last visit
Please post more pictures along with caption
#5 Mar 3rd, 2016, 13:37
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  • kved2 is offline
#5
Hello everyone,

Thanks for your comments, kindly visit this URL for more pics - https://picasaweb.google.com/1155407...eat=directlink

Hope you like the pics!!!

Regards,
Karan
#6 Mar 3rd, 2016, 17:13
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  • life1style1 is offline
#6
Lovely images...loved all of them...thanks or sharing..
#7 Mar 8th, 2016, 08:39
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  • Hashy is offline
#7

First solo trip to Kinnaur and Spiti!!!

Brilliant trip report Karan.........very enjoyable. Thx for sharing!


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#8 Mar 11th, 2016, 17:52
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  • kved2 is offline
#8
I am glad you liked it Hashy...waiting to go back

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