How it all started!
“Naveeeen, Ahemdabad airport bhi doob gayo che”, texted a friend from Ahemdabad. Gujarat was flooded, and so was the southern Rajasthan. For once I just couldn’t believe my luck- with the text went down a month’s planning and excitement to discover the Gujjuland and interior Rajasthan. I had taken a month’s leave from work and couldn’t afford to waste even a single day staying at one place. I felt trapped. It was a year back when I decided to pack up my life into a backpack and never look back. Then, I was afraid to break out of my shell, meet people and open my mind to unexpected adventures. It was a steep learning curve, I’ve learned to train my instinct and free my mind of fear of the unknown and being alone.
“Go to Spiti”, suggested another friend. I googled the place and instantly booked a bus ticket from Delhi to Manali. A friend working with a travel agency helped me making an itinerary and all the assistance. My Mom, still in a state of disbelief, wanted to know why wouldn’t I stay at home instead as I was home after a long time- 7 months. I was able to convince her somehow. Well, convincing Indian parents is a herculean task, whether you’re 25, 30 or maybe even 35 when you’re capable of making your own decisions. Strong family bonds set us Indians apart from rest of the world but times have changed. Travel is no more considered an escape from chaos or even a luxury. I feel, in the present world, it has become more important than ever to travel and its about time, parents should let their kids make mistakes and learn from them and let them float on their own – let them decide what they want to do. Travel changes the way we perceive life – the rich experiences we carry, conversations we have with fellow travellers and the new friends we make.
I boarded the bus to Manali from ISBT, Kashmere Gate in the evening. Volvo buses to Manali from Delhi are available in plenty and a ticket usually costs approx. Rs 1200-1500. You can book yourself a seat online too or over the counter at the ISBT. As, Delhi- Manali is a 12-hours long journey, it is advisable to travel overnight.
Routes : There are two routes to enter Spiti valley. One is the Delhi- Manali- Rohtang Pass- Kunzum Pass- Losar- Kaza and the other one is via Shimla- Kinnaur- Tabo- Kaza. You can make it a complete circuit by entering from one side and exiting from the other. Make sure, your body gets acclimatized properly as most of the places you would be visiting are well above 11,000 ft. For those who are short of time and want to finish the whole trip in a week’s time can take the Kunzum Pass route and return via the same route. The route is open from June to Mid October. During the monsoons, the route is landslide prone and is closed during winters. I wanted to finish the whole trip within a week, so I chose the Kunzum Pass route. The road until Gramphoo is a mix of good, bad and worse. Gramphoo to Batal, the roads are a disaster, till all the way to Losar. Losar to Kaza is an average road. If you’re travelling by your own vehicle, you require a permit to travel beyond the Rohtang Pass. This permit is issued on daily basis by the state government. You can apply for it online or can take it from the state tourism office at Manali.
Day 1 : Manali : I took a night’s halt at Manali after the long Delhi – Manali bus journey. The quaint town of Manali is full of little eateries, cafes and lovely market places. Stay in Manali is also not very expensive as hotels and lodges here offers stay with rates ranging from as low as Rs 500 upto Rs 3000 a day. Those travelling solo can stay put at Zostel, at which you can book a space for yourself online. You can plan for local sightseeing while at Manali- Hadimba Temple, Manu Temple, Old Manali, Local Monastery or go shopping at the happening Mall road.
The journey from Manali to Kaza is again- a long, tiresome one. It’s 12 hours long journey again. You can book a shared Tempo traveller/Taxi or those who are even more adventurous, can take the state transport bus, which starts from Manali bus stand at 5 am. The charges for a shared traveller/Taxi are approx. Rs 1600- Rs 2000 per person and for state transport buses are Rs 300 per person. Start early morning, so that you reach Kaza by the sunset.
Day 2 : Manali- Rohtang Pass- Kunzum Pass- Losar- Kaza
Kaza is the district headquarter of the Spiti-Lahaul district. The drive, though a bumpy one, passes through the heavenly Spiti valley. The entire region is a picture postcard of snow laden mountains and valleys. You don’t even have to make a special effort. As you travel the road, you can find natural beauty literally around every corner. On the way, you can halt at the Rohtang Pass, the amazing Kunzum Pass, and Losar. As you reach Kaza by the evening, you may plan to go out at the Kaza market which has small cafes, eateries and souvenir shops. You can hire a shared cab from here to go around places near Kaza.
Day 3 : While at Kaza
Take the road less travelled today- Kaza- Hikkim- Komik- Langza- Kaza. You can see the world’s highest post office at Hikkim, Tanggyud Monastery at Komik which is one of the highest located monasteries in Spiti, in addition to the breathtaking views of the Spiti valley and the Spiti river. The giant statue of Buddha overlooks the Langza village. You can plan to visit Key- Kibber- Gette- Tashigang in the later half of the day. While, Key houses the famous Key Monastery, Kibber has a wildlife sanctuary. Gette and Tashigang villages have mesmerizing views as well.
Day 4 : Kaza- Dhankar lake- Pin valley- Kaza
The next day you can plan Dhankar gompa, the pristine Dhankar lake and the famous Pin valley which also has a wildlife reserve called “Pin Valley National Park”. It is approximately 50 kms from Kaza. The song “Intezaar” from the movie “Paap” starring John Abraham was shot at the beautiful Pin valley. Mud is the last village in the Pin valley that you can reach by road. It acts as the trekking base for Pin Parvati Pass. The trek starts from Mud and ends here. Another attraction is the Pin and Spiti is the river confluence. You can reach Pin valley by public transport from Kaza- state transport bus starts from Kaza at around 4 pm daily which charges Rs 50 per person. You can also hire a private taxi for Rs 2000-3000 or a shared taxi would cost you around Rs 500. You can return to Kaza the same day or you can stay put at the Mud village.
Day 5 : Kaza – Chandrataal Lake
Start early, the next day to Chandrataal from Kaza. It’s a six hours journey. Try camping at Chandrataal, for its worth the money. They charge you somewhere between Rs 1000- Rs 2000 for a night. Its 500 mts trek from the campsite to the lake. Low hanging clouds kissing the top of the mountains above the pristine lake. It looks straight out of a painting. You can walk around aimlessly around the lake and click some amazing photographs. You get to interact with unknown people, travelling with families, travelling with friends and people who come solo. Everyone in one place, equally enthralled by what lay before us. For the millionth time, I knew I chose the right place.
Day 6 & 7 : Chandrataal – Manali via Rohtang Pass then bus from Manali- Delhi
Ideal Checklist before travelling to Spiti:
- Travel guide
- Photo ID
- Mobile (though there’s no network after Losar)
- Power bank
- Hand sanitizer
- Water bottle
- Lip guard, Cold cream, and Sunscreen
- Hat/ Cap
- Woollens including woollen socks and gloves and Thermals
- Trekking shoes
- First Aid kit.
What are you waiting for?! Pack your bags already!
This post has been contributed by our Guest Writer Naveen Kaushik. He works as Army Doctor and loves travelling and exploring new places.