Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tour Diary -Trip to Spiti Valley-Day Two

Day Zero
Day One

One more night at the rest house and we were all charged up to move towards the Snow Deserts of the Spiti Valley. We all underestimated the natural beauty of the Spiti Valley and what unfolded in front of us was nothing less than a miracle, as we survived on that rough terrain on the bloody Maruti of ours. Actually taking a Maruti towards Kaza is inhuman, sadistic and brutal, for the vehicle obviously.

One more time, we found ourselves at Koksar, eating the Paranthas [परांठा] and stuffing our bags with chocolates, biscuits and water. Gramphu [ग्राम्फु] was the first place that looked like a village.

For the next 17 kilometers we kept looking at each other because things were complicated and difficult. JP decided to sit on the front seat with the driver and he became our permanent assistant. As the road was full of stones, he kept saying 'एक ऊपर , एक नीचे ', which none of us could understand, initially. All he wanted to say was to keep one side of the vehicle on the top of the stones and other on the safe side to keep things safe and smooth. However, maintaining 'एक ऊपर, एक नीचे' approach was very difficult and we kept fighting, abusing and scolding each other until we reached Chattru.

Just an example: I was driving, JP was sitting besides me and we saw a pile of stones on the road, he shouted 'ऊपर से, ऊपर से' and I took those stones directly below the vehicle. I thought he will praise me for it and he started scolding me because he meant to take the one side of car above them and not the central bisection of the stones. The car became a drum and we could hear the sonorous musical tone inside the car. :)

After 17 kilometers of swimming, pushing and walking [ there was little bit of driving too], we reached Chattru. We inquired about the road ahead and all people could do was look at our vehicle and tell us that road is OK. Next destination was Chota Dara [छोटा दड़ा] and road between Chota Dara and Chattru was horrible and it felt nothing less than sliding on pointed sharp stones in a cloth less form. We almost gave up after that, the car moved at a speed of 12KM per hour and it took 50 minutes to cover 10 kilometers. The sight of river Chandra on one side in the backdrop of the Great Himalayas was breathtaking. The word cold desert actually made sense there as all we could see was snow, water and stones. The sight of another village like place made us happy. The place was Batal [बातल] and it was going to become a semi-permanent residence for few of us in the next few days. The place had two Dhaba's [ढाबा] and both of them were nothing less than the best restaurants of the world.



.Batal Dhaba+Aunty+Tarun.

.Snow Habitat.
After staying there for a while, we decided to go towards the Holy Chandratal Lake [चंद्रताल], birth place of the Chandra River. It was just 14 kilometers away from Batal and Kaza was still 88 kilometers away from there. We decided to see the Chandratal and halt for a day at the Batal Camps/Tents.

The road towards the lake was unexpectedly well and good, good is an understatement actually. However, we got to know that few MLA's of Himachal Pradesh were visiting that place and that was the main reason behind the good condition of that road.

Road to the lake was beyond the scope of our Maruti or any Maruti for that matter, so we decided to walk the remaining 5 kilometers. However, a group of tourists asked us to join them in their Tata Sumo and we were happy again. The lake was full of policemen and सरकारी बाबु and as it was about to rain, we decided to make it fast and straight.

.Men at Work.

.This is Road.

One of the MLA's happened to be our college senior and we were happy to meet him. Actually, he spotted us and asked us about our whereabouts. Considering our condition, we looked less like tourists and more like mentally challenged people thrwon into the snow deserts. [This is what a small car can do to you in that part of country] He must have thought of helping us but he was very Eco-friendly and he asked us to join the lunch party with him, which we did not refuse ;)

While coming back, we met a foreign couple on Bullets. The lady and his man, both were on their independent Bullets and it was then the Murphy Law struck. It struck badly and the life was never same again :X

.The Holy Chandratal Lake.

Coming Soon: Murphy Law and Snow and Lack of Money and Struggle

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tour Diary-Trip to Spiti Valley-Day One

Day Zero

Ecstasy, emotions and happiness was all around because the car performed much better than our expectations, as it worked perfectly well on the not-so-perfect and 'not expected condition' of roads.

.The rest House.
We stayed in a Rest House at Dalang Maidan [दलंग मैदान] and decided to move towards Keylong early morning. The caretaker of the rest house was a cool man. His name was Nand Laal [नन्द लाल] and he helped us a lot by allowing us to stay in that rest house. The place was located on the banks of the 'Chandra River' and they were growing wheat and performed different experiments on wheat and its derivatives in their acres of land.

Early morning, we started moving towards Keylong. We all expected Keylong to be a great place and it turned out to be one great place as well. While moving towards Keylong, you reach a place called Tandi Pull [टांडी पुल] where the Chandra and Bhaga Rivers merge together and give birth to the famous Chandrabhaga River [चंद्रभागा].
..The Legendary Tandi Pul.

.Birth/Formation of Chenab.

The Chandrabhaga River then starts flowing towards Jammu and then enters into the Pakistan Region through Akhnoor Border in Jammu.[अखनूर]

On our way towards Keylong, we met three young guys going towards Keylong. The special thing about their journey was that they were all on a single bike and the bike was not a Bullet/Royal Enfield. They were riding on a 150 CC bike and they traveled 200 kilometers on that bike with only one driver among them. They were real crazy people and I thought no one could match us, as we had our Maruti with us :P

.3 On 1.


Keylong is a small town with two banks and no ATM. The place has few temples, few hotels and a great bus station. The bus station of Keylong is far better than the bus stations of other 'major towns' of Himachal Pradesh.

.Welcome to Keylong.

.Wherever you go HRTC Follows.

There in Keylong, we decided that Leh would be an atrocity for the poor Maruti and moving towards Leh would be a fatal mistake [which turned out to be one the many wrong decisions of this trip, which we realized later]. There we decided that we will go to Kaja and from there we will go to Shimla through the mysterious Kinnaur District. On our way, we got to know about the Udaipur Town and the Trilokinath Temple. [त्रिलोकीनाथ]

However, considering the heat[ yes it was hot there] and the tough road conditions, we decided to call it a day and returned towards our rest house. Trilokinath was still 20 Kilometers away and we did not feel like going there. The last petrol pump you will see in that place is located near Tandi Pul and you will have to pay two/three rupee more per liter of petrol.

There we saw a signboard pointing towards a monastery and we started climbing uphill. The name of the monastery was Tupchiling Monastery [तुपचिलिंग] and it turned out to be a beautiful place.

.Incredible India.

.Tupchiling Monastery.

Informational Content:
Do not drink and drive :P
Take a break at Tandi Pull, you will love the place.

Note: Second day was quite an uneventful day because we expected Keylong to be a snow covered region and it was not. We thought of visiting the temple and we could not. So this post consists of more pics than text.

Day Zero

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tour Diary-Trip to Spiti Valley-Day Zero

Day Zero – A Random Start
The much awaited Leh trip started on 1st July with numerous confusions and no tour plan. We had decided to go to Leh in March, then we decided to go to Mumbai and then finally, we decided to go to Manali. However, none of the plans could be materialized and we decided to go to Keylong. (केलोंग)

.Those who traveled together and never agreed with each other for a single moment.
.The Pandoh Dam.
We planned to go by bike but then, there were five people and one bike. Thereafter, there were five people and one car and lastly there were four people and an Old Warrior.
Keylong is a famous tourist spot, which is just ‘365’ kilometres away from Leh (लेह) . We thought of hitting Keylong on 2nd July itself and as it was just a random decision, I decided to call it Day Zero.

.The Rohtang Pass.
The Good:
We finally got a camera; in fact a DSLR, Nikon 3000 and for the first time in my life, I got a chance to travel ahead of the Solang Nala. The weather was pleasant, birds were chirping and I was happy ;) People were cooperative and we met a group of bikers traveling from Delhi to Leh on their bikes. A German or French or I don’t know what, was traveling alone and he did not know [proper/understandable] English that was the most adventurous part of his trip and that is why admire Europeans. They don't fear anything. Few cyclists were traveling on their hi-tech bikes [cycles] towards Leh or [China probably].
The Bad:
The worst thing that can happen to you is injury or loss because of someone else’s mistakes. The fast travelling tourists drive rash and inflict damage to other people. Blowing horn is out of the syllabus and overtaking is their inherited property. However, I (and JP + Varun as well) kept hurling abuses at them and I am an expert in driving-cum-kickboxing.
Informational Content:
The roads never looked like National Highway 21 but it is an admirable fact that the BRO and HPPWD have maintained the standards of the roads. Water, snow and rocks keep coming and the labourers and the engineers never say no. Hats Off to their good work.
Those who intend to go towards Leh from Manali-Rohtang route must ensure that they get their tanks filled at Manali itself because things become nasty after you leave Rohtang pass.The next petrol pump is at Tandi and the pump owner sets the price on his own. On 2nd July, he was selling petrol at the price that would be implemented by Government of India by December 2011, considering the current price movements.
Khoksar is a place where the road diverges to Kaja and Leh. Just opposite to the Police Chowki, there is a Super-Economical dhaba that cooks/sells delicious food. The most interesting fact is that the Dhaba Owner never charges you more than the printed rate, which is an uncommon practice in every other part of country.
At some points, the roads were like devastated oil mines of Iraq and Afghanistan. We had to get down from our ‘vehicle’ and remove the stones, sand and soil from the road to make way for ourselves.
Day Zero ends:
As we were getting late, we started looking for accommodations in the villages, 10 Kilometres before Keylong. Luckily, we sneaked into a rest house belonging to the Agricultural Department where people drank beer and enjoyed a nice and sound sleep.
And by any means, did I tell you about ‘The Warrior’?
Yes, It was a 'Maruti'
We wanted to travel/drive on our own and thus hiring a cab was totally out of question. Four people riding a bike is unhygienic, unsafe and totally immoral, so we decided to take this 1997 model with almost 85000 kilometres under its belt.
Varun+JP+Old Warrior
The Route Map:
Sundernagar-Mandi-Kullu-Manali-Marhi-Rohtang-Gramphu-Koksar[eat parantha+tea]-Sissu-Gondla-Tandi.