Our driver had arrived promptly at 6:30 AM as discussed on
previous day. It was slightly drizzling as we loaded our luggage into the
vehicle. We were in peak monsoon but Manali this year had not yet received its
share of rains. It was good for us as rains in Himalayas come with the package
of landslides and floods.
Manali was completely devoid of crowds from plains. The
crowd mainly consisted of tourists heading towards Ladakh, Spiti and other
trekking areas who like us made Manali as a transit point.
Our destination was Kaza in Spiti, a desert valley located
in Himachal Pradesh adjoining TibetThere are two ways of reaching Spiti; one
via Manali and other from Shimla. We choose the former route as Shimla route
was more prone to landslides in monsoon.. I and Krishna had first flown to
Delhi and then took an overnight bus to Manali.
From Manali, we started towards Rohtang pass. Rohtang,
though at a lower attitude than others in the area is a tough pass to tackle. Army
is constructing a tunnel under the pass but the work is yet to be completed.
The climb to the pass starts from Manali. The traffic was low as the only
vehicles on the road were the ones heading to either Ladakh or Spiti. The usual
holidaying people do not visit Manali in monsoon.
|Scenery on the way to Rohtang pass |
The road was good and in an hour we reached Marhi at the
altitude of 11,200 feet. We had stopped at couple of places before Marhi to
take some waterfall shots.
We had our breakfast at Marhi. After Marhi the real climb to
Rohtang pass starts. Three years ago, we had a tough time to cross this
stretch. But things had improved
dramatically this time. The roads were smooth barring couple of stretches. The
troublesome “Rani nalla” was also behaving nicely. We in fact stopped a while
in Rani nalla to take some snaps.
At 9:30 AM, we were on the top of Rohtang pass. The pass
acts as a boundary for the monsoon clouds. One side of the pass is lashed with
rains while the other side receives little of it!! The terrain changes in a
matter of few hundred meters!! Amazing!!!!
|Clouds rushing towards Rohtang pass|
One who climbs up and has to come down. Rohtang is not an
exception as we started to get down on the other side. The road was very bad on
this stretch. At Gramphu, the roads splits; the right side goes to Spiti while
the main road continues to Leh.
|Winding roads on the other side of Rohtang pass|
It is a pity that Spiti road has never seen tar in its
lifetime. The road earlier was maintained by PWD but now it is in the hands of
BRO. All along the road, hundreds of BRO workers are seen cutting stones and
clearing the road. It is hard to understand why BRO can’t put machines to speed
up the process. After seeing silky smooth highways on the other side of the
border, no explanation can satisfy me about the bad condition of our border
|Waterfall on the way|
On the other hand, I would be a very happy person if there
are no roads at all!! It keeps the place clean and serene.
Enough of digression. Coming back to our trip, we were now
moving along Chandra River. The road had lot of stream crossings and
waterfalls. During early summer these streams run in flow due to melting snow causing
hardship for the vehicles plying on this road. Most of the snow was gone in
August and the streams were behaving in a nice manner.
After about 20 km
from diversion, we crossed Chandra River to reach a small village of Chhatru.
It was a good place to have some tea before proceeding further. It was here
while returning back we saw a Unimog; an ultimate four wheel vehicle with
caravan. Peter and his wife were driving from Germany!! Visit their site for
details (http://glaarkshouse.com/ )
On the way, we came across a broken vehicle. Our driver
immediately stopped down the vehicle and started helping them. Sumit, our
driver seemed to have lot of knowledge about vehicle repairs. His knowledge
about local area was also commendable. Unlike others who were driving to earn
money, Sumit was really enjoying his job. We were lucky to have him on board.
|Repairing the vehicle|
The vehicle was repaired and we proceeded further. The
valley was sparsely populated and only village we saw was Chotadara before
Batal, a major stoppage point for Kaza road. Chotadara had just couple of
buildings, one being PWD guest house.
At about 1:30PM, we were at Batal. Batal, is a small hamlet
which has a dhaba and a guest house. The climb to Kunzum pass starts here. The
dhaba is run by Tibetan couple; a very jovial people seen on this road.
|A damaged bridge near Batal|
After our lunch at Chandra Dhaba, we started with our climb
to Kunzum pass. Kunzum pass separates Lahual from Spiti valley. Chandra River,
which was our companion from Rohtang pass, fades away as we start to climb
|Climb to Kunzum pass|
There were efforts to build an alternate road but it was
doomed as the hill was unstable during rains.
|Damaged road of Kunzum La|
At 15,060 Kunzum La was the highest point we reached in our
trip. A small Temple dedicated to Kunzum mata is constructed on top of the
pass. It is a little detour from main road but almost all vehicles make it a
point to circle the Temple and continue further. Locals believe that things
will not be smooth if this tradition is not followed.
|Top of Kunzum La|
Descent from Kunzum La brought us to Spiti valley. Spiti
River would accompany us throughout the rest of the journey.
Spiti River and its tributaries have created beautiful
natural structures. Here is a glimpse of one of them.
We reached the village of Losar which was 30 km from Kunzum
La. While Sumit went to check post to register the vehicle, I had a black tea
in a nearby Tibetan restaurant. Losar is a nice halting point but being at high
altitude it is not wise to stay especially if you are coming from Manali. We
proceeded to Kaza which was still 2 – 2.5 hours away.
It was 6:30 PM when we reached Kaza. It took us about 12
hours from Manali to cover the distance of 205 km. We got a nice room at
Labels: Himalayas, Spiti, travel