Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti are two remote Himalayan Valleys of Himachal Pradesh, lying on the Indo-Tibet border. These valleys have their own exquisite beauty combining a rugged landscape with enchanting snow covered peaks and massive glaciers. It is a cold desert region where the monsoon never pays a visit making it a haven for climbers and trekkers. Against the backdrop of snow peaked mountains are villages, Buddhist Monasteries rich in ancient murals and wood carvings, temples and the beautiful Chandra Taal Lake.
Kaza is the capital and regional headquarters of Spiti valley while Keylong is the district headquarters of Lahaul. Situated at very high altitudes in the Himalayas on the left bank of the River Spiti, Kaza has all modern facilities and is connected by road to Manali and Shimla. During the winter months though, these roads too are inaccessible. The route from Manali via Losar crossing Kunzum La and Rohtang La along the Chandrataal River is very beautiful. One can stay in the PWD houses or Private hotels.
Best time to visit: May to October
Languages spoken: Lahauli, English, Hindi, Bhoti
Climate: Cool summers and freezing winters
Buddhist Monastries: Key Gompa, Saskyagongmig Gompa, Dhankar Gompa, Tabo Monastery, Gungri Monastery
Natural Wonders: Pin valley, Kunzum Pass, Chandra Taal Lake, Rohtang Pass, Shigri glacier
Villages: Khoksar, Sissu, Tabo, Kaza, Kibber

Ride to Kibber

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ad astra per aspera
which literally means, “a rough road leads to the stars” and this pretty much came true for us when we started our ride from recong peo to tabo. recong peo was a let down. i am being honest in my criticism…it was a disappointing place and the only thing that was worth remembering is the sight of the mighty kinnr kailash. I am feeling blessed to have seen it.
post recong peo, we were heading towards Tabo. en route we stoppd at nako and we were simpy bowled over by the place… the place was so quite and peacful…
we had a sumptuou tibetan meal followed by a hot cup of tea. here we also fulfilled one of our long pending wishes- tieing prayer flags on our bikes..so each one of us picked up a prayer flag and tied it to our bikes. the old lady at the shop told us to write our names in the flag. we also met this vry nice kid by the name of Ajay who ofered to take us on a guided tour of the nako lake and the monastery..

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Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Lahaul Valley

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During this stretch, a car had a flat tyre in the middle of a stream. The traffic had halted and the passengers of our bus, helped in changing the wheel. We started crawling forward, for being blocked once again by the same car, which was ahead of us. This time the car got stuck in a stream having big boulders. Again the passengers and staff of the bus came to the rescue of the car. Stones were planted strategically in front of the car tyres to provide some friction and the car was literally lifted out of the stream by the passengers.
We descended to the valley at Batal and from there we moved in the valley, literally on the river bed up to Chatru, which was our mid-day meal stop. Trekkers going to Chandratal from Manali or Keylong can stay here overnight. Chatru was the smallest village I have seen in terms of population, with a population of just 20 people. In fact there are no houses here, just 3-4 eateries catering to needs of the entire spectrum of passengers.

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Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Spiti Valley

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Next morning brought a very pleasant surprise. In the morning, I was having tea in the hotel balcony, clicking pictures of the serenity of Spiti valley. One youngster arrived in the compound of the hotel on a bike. It took me a while to recognize that he was one of the two boys from Mumbai whom I had met three days ago at the time of land slide traffic hold up near Karcham. Thus far, I was thinking that the bikers must have turned back from Nako village, where the road was totally destroyed. I was curious to know, how they had crossed that stretch. He [Alok} informed me that when they reached Nako village, being a Sunday, there was no BRO labor at Nako. So, they took a night halt in Nako village and next morning, with the help of BRO labor, they lifted their bikes across the steel girder. Hats off to these adventurous souls.

In Kaza also, I had to hire a car for visiting Key monastery and Kibber village [highest altitude village in the world- accessible by road}. In these valleys, government buses to remote villages go in the evening and return early next morning. Thus, 4-5 hour trip by car would take two days by public transport. We went about 7 kms. on the highway towards Manali and then took a right turn uphill for Kye monastery. It is an old monastery some 15 kms. from Kaza and the uphill road is good. But this monastery is not considered as important as Tabo and Dhankar monasteries by the Buddhists. The monastery is in much better shape, compared to the Dhankar monastery.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 4 : Kaza to Manali

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Chattru at a height of around 13000 ft, around 17 KM from Gramphu, 32 KM from Rohtang top, and we started around 4:30 from there. Next was Gramphu on way and because of the pebbled roads another 1 hour to reach Gramphu. And lots of small as well as big waterfalls. And lots of nullahs. As we approach towards Rohtang top, greenery starts to appear and the dryness starts to disappear. Lovely view of small waterfalls in distant mountains on the opposite side, makes the journey lovely. In one such waterfall, Lekhram stopped the cab and washed it, while we enjoyed the view of the waterfall, the chilled water and the amazing view.

Once Gramphu is crossed, then starts the steep rise to Rohtang Pass. And oh man, the view is something one can never forget. Just before getting up, there is a route that joins the route we were into. This route is coming directly from Ladakh, the well know Leh-Manali highway. As one rise up, there may be numerous landslide clearances. And stoppages and long traffic snarls can eat up few hours. But all these clearances are very enjoyable.

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Road to Leh Part 2 : Manali-Keylong-Sarchu

Road to Leh Part 2 : Manali-Keylong-Sarchu

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The entry to Sarchu was amazing. After crossing the curvy path of mountains and snow, one suddenly comes across a vast plain between the high mountains but with little snow cover. There are gorges on one side where a thin stream of Yunam river flows. These gorges have very strange formations which look like pointed erections, possibly caused by wind erosion. The place is bone dry with cracks appearing in the soil with little precipitation even in severe winter when temperatures plummet below -30 degC. However, the place is very windy with wind velocities possibly approaching 40-50 Km/hr making the temperatures feel subzero despite actual temperature being about 5-10 degC. Here, no one lives permanently except a few Army settlements. Reception of cell phone is nonexistent and one really need to live like nomads. We found a camping site where we stayed in the camps. These camps serve you food and bedding and some of them also provide toilets which is indeed a luxury at this place (exposing your bum to morning frost is no fun :) ).

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The Trans Himalayan Experience

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We halted there for about an hour to tank up on fuel, breakfast and water. Soon it was time to move and we headed out to Tanglang La over the Gata Loops, which is a series of 21 hairpin bends, starting at 13780 Ft ASl and in a stretch of 17 kms, take you up by 1500 Ft to 15302 ft ASL.

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