Land of Monks – Lahaul & Spiti

This part of Himachal is full of mystique. And the journey has a spiritual touch to it. The terrain is challenging with greens all the way through Shimla, Narkanda, Rampur and upto Sangla. It gets desert dry after Kalpa and until you cross over Rohtang pass and get into Manali valley. The infrastructure beyond Rampur is a bit unorganised and scrappy.

With my base being Bhopal and due to paucity of time, I avoided doing a to-fro to Delhi by Scorpio. Since this was also a family trip, we opted for an Innova cab from Delhi.

May-2008, No of days 7

Members Ashish + son and Praveen + wife and 2 daughters.

Day-1 : Delhi to Narkanda

410 km in 11 hours (6am – 5pm)

The first day as usual was an effort to get as far as possible from Delhi. The logic is to get maximum time in hills. While we were a bit skeptical with young kids but they were more then game.

Reached Narkanda and checked in at HPTDC’s tourist bungalow.

Day-2 : Narkanda to Sangla

160km, 6 hours

Started after breakfast and drove through Rampur-bushhar and Saharan. Enroute 2-3 places work was on, constructing mini dams and hydro-power units.

Reached Sangla around 3 pm and settled into a nice home stay overlooking the valley. Sangla is a wide valley with a river flowing through the middle and snow peaks on both the sides. It is full of orchards growing export quality apple, pears, apricot, plum etc.

Day-3 : Sangla to Nako

Sangla (2621m) to Chitkul (3450), 23 km

Early morning we started for Chitkul, the last motorable Indian village in Kinnaur district. We drove along Baspa river and many a ‘bataab’ valleys. From Chitkul you get an awesome view of Swargarohini peaks. There were  small but cozy cafes at the end of the road serving warm breakfast /meals. We had our fill,  both food as well as the view from one of them.

Chitkul to Nako  150 km, 7 hours

Left around 11am from Chitkul. Idea was to reach Tabo but we were stopping for enjoying the sceneries and believe you me there were multiple stops. EOD at around 6pm we had reached Nako (3625m)

It is a beautiful place on highest mountain Reo Purgyal (6816m) of HP. There is a lake, waterfall, Buddhist temples and snow peaks to be savoured from Nako.

Day-4 : Nako to Kaza

139km, 4 hours

Went for a walk around Nako in the morning and left around 10am. Beautiful landscapes through out this stretch, check out the yellow moon rocks.

In Kaza my Hindustan times visiting card came handy for us to get an Acco in a lavish PWD rest house, thx to the SDM permission. Enjoyed our stay.

Tabo and Dhankar Gompa

Both these Monasteries were on our way to Kaza. The Gompa’s and the compound with monks settlements around it are a shooter’s delight.

Dhankar Monastery (3894m) dates back to 12th century and was also a fort for spiti kingdom. You are allowed to walk around and see all the old relics etc.

Day-5 : Kibber village and Key monastery

50 km Kaza- Kibber village – Ket gompa- Kaza

This was the most relaxed day of our trip. From Kaza we drove alongside spiti river crossed Key Gompa and then ascended upto 4270m to reach Kibber village. This is world’s highest habitat with 60/70 houses.

Key Monastry’s (4166m) long shot must have attracted so many tourist from  world over. It’s 11th century old and the biggest monastery in Spiti.

Day-6 : Kaza to Manali

202km, 13 hours

This journey had a landmark Kunzum pass (4551m) which was part of the old silk route used by traders between India and China. There was literally no road throughout this stretch until after Rohtang pass. Drive was rough but the surroundings were awesome. Kids enjoyed/played with snow at the top.

Pagal Nala between Batal and Chatru

From Kunzum Pass you travel 13 kms, winding through multiple hairpin bends,  to descend down to Batal. There was a Tibetan camp providing hot meal and place to sleep. We had our lunch there. We were told that 13km trekking to Chandratal is done from there.

Batal is in a bowl shaped valley which is surrounded by snow peaks and glaciers. With three sides

closed, if it rains heavy all the water from surrounding mountains gets into the valley. And the valley narrows down as one moves towards Chhatru. With so much water gushing through a narrow exit the place becomes a pagal/khooni nala and should be avoided during monsoon or heavy rains.

We had another incidence as we started from Batal, you will find a photo with water on road and Innova standing on the other end. The driver came down to inpect the water pool, its depth and alternate if any. I guess the past 5 days drive, tough terrain and dirt road etc took its toll on him and he simply refused to drive through inconspicuous looking water pool. anyway we cajoled him and waded across comfortably.

5kms further down, as we reached the start of the narrow section, there was a road block. A bulldozer was clearing the slush on the road below previously chiseled glacier. Check out the pics. We were struck for an hour and as we drove through the 500 meter stretch, with slush and invisible potholes/rocks below, on one side (ask was to drive slow) we were worried that the vehicle’s undercarriage/engine should not get damaged and on the other hand (we wanted to rush through) being scared that the Ice wall/roof should not cave in on us.

Crossed Chhatru and Gramphu. Rohtang pass was still 4-5 kms, 5pm and it started raining. It was getting dark and we could see that the pass was completely covered with clouds. As we reached the top it grew pitch dark. The cloud/fog, light drizzle, frost on windshield and dirt road/snow made it impossible to figure out the way. Car’s head light was reflecting back on us and proving ineffective due to fog/rains. We hard stopped. After a while I decided to sit out on front left side window looking out for road. We inched slowly on my direction and crossed that 1km stretch in almost an hour.

After the pass there was no fog. Reached Vashisht (just before Manali) by 8pm. Checked into a hotel, ate bits and crashed.

Day-7 : Manali to Delhi

540km, 13 hours

That was the original plan but for the sake of kids we decided to break journey and stay in a ‘swimming pool wala hotel’ in Ludhiana.

Delhi was done the next day.

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Trust you me, this was once in a lifetime trip. Even the kids enjoyed the beauty of various places and were very inquisitive through out this trip.

Ideally you should do it in 10-15 days and at a slower pace. One should spend some more time exploring places leaving the main road. And if you are a keen photographer, you’d enjoy more if you get chance to see some of these places in different shades of light through the day.

Hope to do it again some day. May be next time with grand children’s🤞.

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