Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Lahaul Valley

During one family visit to Ladakh, I came across one Israeli tourist staying in the same hotel. He had spent close to three months in cold desert of Himachal and Ladakh. He was of the opinion that Spiti and Lahaul valleys of Himachal Pradesh are more beautiful compared to Ladakh. I did not fully believe him, after being so mesmerized by the beauty of Ladakh. But after experiencing the charm of Kinnaur and Spiti valleys during the last six days, I could not agree more with my friend. Now I was eager to visit Lahual valley.

DAY SEVEN {29TH AUG. 2013}
Next morning, the bus departed for Manali sharp at 5.00 in the morning. It was still dark in the valley, so after being watchful for some time for something new and exciting, I started drowsing. We stopped after two hours for breakfast at Losar. There was also a barrier, where foreign nationals were required to get their papers and permits checked. Losar is the last inhabited village after Kaza before Kunzum La and first inhabited village after Kunzum La, when coming from Manali. Trekkers going to Chandratal from Kaza can stay here.

Breakfast halt at Losar

Breakfast halt at Losar


The uphill journey ahead was a nightmare, as far as the road condition is concerned. The road was virtually non-existent, with the bus driver having to patiently negotiate large potholes and boulders at every meter. I was perhaps dosing, when I heard some commotion in the bus. On focusing my eyes, I saw passengers animatedly pointing to one side of the bus. And there, behold, was a pair of two Ibex standing proudly on a small cliff. By the time I could think of clicking pictures and looked for my camera, they were gone. By around 11.00 in the morning, we reached Kunzum La, the highest pass in Spiti valley, situated at an altitude of 4590 mts.

Temple at Kunzum pass

Temple at Kunzum pass

We had a 15 minute break here, when everybody was praying in the monastery cum temple and people like me were clicking photographs. After Kunzum La, it was steep downhill on a fair weather road. After about 5 kms. there is a diversion towards right for trek to Chandrabhaga Lake, which I had to just forget with a heavy heart.

Glacier opposite Kumzum La

Glacier opposite Kumzum La

With every passing kilometer, the road got from bad to worst and it was undoubtedly the worst patch of the road. Due to melting glaciers, road had been washed off and strong rivulets were criss-crossing the road.

Road after Kunzum La

Road after Kunzum La

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.

Car being rescued by bus passengers

Car being rescued by bus 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.

Chhatru village with population of 20

Chhatru village with population of 20

After lunch at Chatru, we started ascending in the valley towards Gramphoo, which is junction of Manali-Kaza and Manli-Keylong- Leh road. We reached Gramphoo after 2.00 p. m. I got down from the bus here and waited more than half an hour for the next bus to Keylong. Gramphoo also is nothing but a small road junction having some dhabas {eateries}. Being located on a small ridge just below the Rohtang Pass, the breeze is very strong.

Tri-junction at Gramphoo

Tri-junction at Gramphoo

The bus journey from Gramphoo to Keylong took almost three hours. Road was good in some stretches. But journey was very scenic, with one glacier view after the other. In Keylong also, I got down at the old bus stand, where I could easily find hotel at a reasonable price.

View of glacier from Keylong

View of glacier from Keylong

DAY EIGHT {30TH AUG. 2013}
I had done some home work previous evening. So, by 9.00 a.m. I had boarded the bus for Trilokinath, famous for an old Lord Shiva temple. The distance of 60 odd kms. was covered in more 3.00 hours. The route was lined with lush green fields and fruit-laden orchards.

A prosperous village in Lahaul valley

A prosperous village in Lahaul valley

Much to my surprise, I found that Lahaul valley is very advanced in horticulture and agriculture. The number of cars parked outside houses and the quality of construction of houses, was a testimony of economic well-being of the region. Every village had drinking water, primary health centre and school. I was told by the locals that due to agriculture and tourism, Lahaul district was among affluent districts of Himachal Pradesh. To my amazement, there I found many residences grand enough to turn any highly affluent industrialist of Mumbai green with envy.

A residence enroute to Udaipur

A residence enroute to Udaipur

On the Udaipur and Trilokinath road, the frequency of the buses is very less. So, if one bus is missed, people have to sometimes wait for hours for getting the bus. I had to endure this at Udaipur bus stand.

Women in the traditional attire waiting for the bus

Women in the traditional attire waiting for the bus

Trilokinath temple is unique in the sense that it is a Hindu {Shiva} temple, but the temple is looked after {including prayers etc.} by Buddhist lamas. This is so because of a dispute long back, as to whether it was a Hindu temple or a Buddhist monastery.

Triloki Nath Temple near Udaipur

Triloki Nath Temple near Udaipur

After visiting the temple, I was having some snacks and tea in an eatery. There I saw a dish, which
I had never seen before. On enquiring, I was told by the lady managing the eatery that it was steamed intestine of sheep. It looked quite enticing, but being a vegetarian, I had to forego the thought of tasting it.

Laid back Udaipur town market

Laid back Udaipur town market

From Trilokinath, I proceeded to Udaipur town, which is 16 kms. from Trilokinath. Udaipur is a small town in the valley, which is known for an old Hindu temple of a goddess. The entire temple built of mud stones and wood. The interior of the temple is a wooden structure with a very low entrance to the main temple. One has to literally crawl to enter the temple. After more than 3 hours wait for the bus, I reached back to my hotel in Keylong after 9.30 p.m.

Old temple of Godess at Udaipur

Old temple of Godess at Udaipur

It was the last day of my trip and like all such occasions, it was truly heartbreaking. Due to some confusion, I reached the bus stand at 8.45 a. m. thinking that the bus for Manali would be departing at 9.00p.m., whereas, the actual departure time was 8.00 a. m. After a long wait for the next bus to Manali, I opted for a sharing basis taxi. By 3.00 p. m. I reached Manali, after crossing Rohtang pass {3978 mts.}. I could not view the valleys on either side of Rohtang due to heavy fog and rain.

Near Rohtang top

Near Rohtang top


DAY NINE {31ST AUG. 2013}

Manali valley was as beautiful as ever. My overnight bus for Delhi was to depart at 5.00 p.m. After booking the bus ticket, I only had time for a brief stroll on the Mall Road of Manali, which was very crowded. I also rushed to the factory outlet of the Weavers Co-operative at the upper end of Mall Road for purchase of authentic Kullu shawls. And at 5.00 p.m. I was saying good bye to Manali, hoping that there is always some new trip to some exiting place waiting in the future. It could be Uttaranchal or Ladakh once again. As has oft been repeated, it is only the body of the person which returns after such spellbinding trips, the heart is left behind in these valleys.

Delhi-Simla- Rampur-Recong Peo-Kalpa-Tabo-Kaza-Keylong-Manali-Delhi
A. Total Duration- 9 days
B. Total Approximate Cost- Rs. 11000.00 {USD 183 approx.}

28 Comments

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Very interesting post and captivating pics……

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thank you Mr. Sharma for taking all to this heavenly tour of Lahaul Valley. I was looking at pictures of Kunzum and Losar and noticed the stark difference with what we saw there in early June and what one can expect in August. Again, you have rekindled the desired to head that side.

    You seem to have quite a stamina to sustain long journeys and still be able to take another overnighter to Delhi. Bravo and wishes.

    • Anil Sharma says:

      I have traveled a lot, especially in Himalayas. I have been to Ladakh also. But trust me, Spiti and Lahaul valleys are just heavenly. Do take a trip, whenever you have time.

      Once again thanks.

  • Neeraj kumar says:

    Gud pics unexplored f for me

  • dhanesh sharma says:

    Dear sharma ji, I praise your courage in which words, I don’t know travelling for 9 days by public transport in such a small amount rs.10000 only.previously I was planning to visit leh , nub ra valley etc.but after reading your these three posts about lahaul, spiti etc.now I have changed my mind.pl.tell me is this rs.10000 including stay, food, bus ticket etc all or any expenses extra you spent in this journey. Is it possible by my tata safari sub 22 and kilometres travelled in whole journey. Again very very thanks for encouraging young as well as elders.

    .

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Thanks. The expense is all inclusive from Delhi to Delhi i. e. bus tickets, hotel tariff, food, sight seeing and taxi charges at two places. But this does include purchases of gifts etc.

      You can easily go in your Tata safari. The best time would be to go in October, because by then the melting of glaciers decreases and roads are also mended for the Himalayan Car rally. Total distance traveled by me from Chandigarh to Chandigarh, covering the three valleys, was 1600 kms. approx.

  • Dear Sharma Ji,

    What a great way to describe your courageous journey none other than to Spiti and Lahaul. You even touched the small places of attractions. That’s for sure encouraging. As through out the log you have maintained the nice way to narrate the journey. Again, Pics are good. All in all, a very good log.

    Thanks for sharing with us Sharmaji !

    My disagreement with you and your Israeli tourist friend is that Leh and Ladakh should not be compared with any other place. Because every place has its own charm, attractions and characteristics. Why only Leh and Ladakh, I will say it is not fair to compare some part of India with that of Switzerland, as we commonly do. Why it is not said, Switzerland is looked like this part of India? Why do we commonly disregard and disown the charm of our place as superior? I fail to understand.

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Anupamji,
      Thanks for your honest comments. I totally agree with you that every place is unique. In fact, every avid traveler would agree with that.
      As for the comparison- I have done it on purpose. Leh and Ladakh are very famous and everybody knows about it. But places like Kalpa, Tabo and Kaza are known to very few. The objective was to highlight the fact that Kinnaur, Spiti and Lahaul valleys are in no way less enchanting than Ladkh. I hope you would appreciate the view point.

  • MUNESH MISHRA says:

    Hi Anil Sharma ji

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    After read the post feels being into the lap of Himalaya.

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Dear Anil Ji,
    Your journey reminded me of our marathon drive in a small car around Ladhak. It was Delhi-Leh-Manali-Delhi in July 2012. I was once stuck in one such boulder underneath a stream, but as you mentioned, people (if around) always lend their helping hands graciously. I our case it was the BRO personnel who helped us in the rescue.
    Very tempting and courage-full journey, thanks a lot for sharing. Photos are always beautiful on this part of the earth.

    Keep traveling
    Ajay

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Thanks. Your experience must have been really great.

      I am reminded of one such experience which happened with me, while traveling by car with family to Badrinath. One glacier slid down between Pandukeshwar and Badrinath stretch, resulting in boulders and almost one feet deep strong water current across the road. There also, I take the car across with the help of the locals.

  • om prakash laddha says:

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  • Usha says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thanks for posting the blog with nice pictures. I always have fascination for the tranquility of the hills. I adore you that within a span of few months of surgery, you had the courage to undertake these trips, bravo! While I love trekking, travel on the mountains I also envy that women have fear of solo travellling in India (I am a lone traveller). If you can please share your views on this to help woman solo travellers. I have plans to travel across Indian hills and your posts are really inspiring.

    Please keep posting future travel blogs to Uttaranchal, Ladakh etc

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Usha ji,

      I really salute your courage for planning to travel alone across himalayas. You may judge me as old fashioned or conservative, but for your safety I would advise that you have at least one co-traveler.

      You can however travel alone with some precautions. Hire a guide for off beat remote tracks. Verify his identity and share it with someone in your circle. Let the guide know that his photo and identity has been mailed to someone. Most important, at every stage of your journey, sms someone about the commencement of the journey, its mode and its termination. Likewise, let the hotel staff know that someone close to you also knows about your stay in the hotel.

      Take all possible precautions. Best of luck.

  • Anil Sharma says:

    Laddah Saheb,
    Thanks for the encouragement. Normally whenever I travel alone, invariably it is on shoestring budget.

  • Baldev swami says:

    Dear Anil jee,
    Very well written post, and pictures are so beauitiful, I love these valley most as I have been in keylong, rekong-peo and in kullu in my early carrier. One of the my class mate is posted at Kaza in Rangrik project, so we usually starts from kullu to keylong -kaza -rekongpeo-shimla-kullu. So we enjoyed that part of life so well that we never forget those days. So by reading this post we are in that golden period of our life, so thanks once again,

    Baldev swami

  • ramta Jogi says:

    Well said… if there is a will there ll be a way..!!!

    Hats off… for your travel instinct..Inspirational blog..
    I have read a lot about leh ladkh…but first time came to know that travelling is possible through public transport in these places.. :)

  • ramta Jogi says:

    Well said… if there is a will there ll be a way..!!!

    Hats off… for your travel instinct.
    .Inspirational blog..I have read a lot about leh ladkh…but first time came to know that travelling is possible through public transport in these places.. :)

  • Ishani Banerjee says:

    I am planning to travel solo around Mid-March till end of March. (Approx 2 weeks). I want to cover Lahaul Spiti and Ladakh, if possible. Is that good enough time? I am interested to do the Chandertal trek as well.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    In Mid-march it would be really really cold so not a great time unless you have prior experience of being in such a cold place. Road to Ladakh would be closed so you would need to fly there.

  • Dr tejas chauhan says:

    hello Anil Sir
    I’m planning for self drive car travel in kinnaur and spiti with family of 4 in may 2015 for 8 days.
    my plan is to start from shimla.
    although I’m good driver but have no experience in driving on mountain roads.
    would it be advisable for me to do this journey on self driven compact SUV like Ford eco sport??
    pls do reply me as my itinerary will depend upon your answer!!
    thanx in advance…
    tejas

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Dear Dr. Chauhan – Porbably Sharma jee has not been able to look at your query. I have driven in this area and a car like Ford Eco Sport is a great car. You wont find any problems in terms of inclines or getting stuck because of the car, so going self-driven is perfect. In fact it is preferred because then you do not have to rely on public transport or taxis.

    Kinnaur would be very cold in the month of May so please prepare well and carry enough warm clothing. All the best.

  • trupti says:

    Very encouraging and proud I feel to see such adoration of our country.
    I am planning to visit the manali -rohtang-chandratal-kunzum tabo-nako-kalpa-chitkul shimla delhi.
    I have less time kindly guide me for a 4 day or 5 day trip.
    can we hire a car which would save tiime .
    I have been waiting to get to lahaul spiti what is the best to stick to with less no. of days.
    kindly advice mr. sharma.

  • vishalbhatia says:

    Hello Sharma Ji / Spiti veterans,

    I am planning a Spiti trip from Chandigarh via Shimla-Rampur-Chitkul-Kaza-Gramphoo-Manali-Delhi.
    Starting on my Santro (with wife and son) early morning 16th Oct from Chandigarh.Have to be back in Delhi on the 23rd Oct night.
    Is it doable? How about the weather/road conditions?
    Please guide. Early reply appreciated to plan better.

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