The Barren Tribal Circuit

Tribal circuit is one of my best trip I had so far, more than 1000 KM X Chandigarh in 3 nights and 4 days, exploring through the whole of Himachal, passing through two major high altitude passes, exploring the changing vegetation and roving to places where you bound to feel “This is heaven and I am God”. You probably get hypnotized by the nature and feel need of nothing and feel a peace which only god can feel. All worries are left behind, in fact at that height when you look below from the edge of the cliff you will feel like there are my big worries looking so small from here!

Spiti river bed at Kaaza

Spiti river bed at Kaaza

We four

We four

Tribal circuit, as the name suggest is a circuit which captures most of the beauty of Himachal Pradesh, passing by some remote areas, and the top district adjacent to Tibbat the one Lahaul and Spiti. This is a circuit which starts from Shivalik ranges of and then exploring great Himalayas and takes you back to Shivalik ranges from a different route.

In mid June 2006, when the sun was burning Chandigarh with 40 Degree Celsius, I was alone in Chandigarh long thriving for a hideaway place somewhere in my most fascinating destination Himachal. I have taken two days leave from my office and clubbing the weekends I had four days with me to get away from the sun. I called up my likeminded friend in Delhi who was also trying to hide away from sun. Alok and Partho two of my best friend, senior and person whom I admire for their guidance they gave me whenever needed, were already planning for a trip. Third was Jeetendra S Janoti, my friend forever, what else can define the best his friendship, he just joined Alok and Partho who started from Delhi to Chandigarh in just a 15 minutes of notice for I wish him to accompany us in the trip. In 5hrs three of my friend reached Chandigarh, we decided to visit the long waiting place Khab in the edge of Himachal Pradesh, just 6KM from China. The passion to visit Khab was its proximity to China and the border Kaurik with a view of some highest peaks of Himalayan range. We initially started with a slogal ‘Khab ka Khwaab’.

The next morning we set off in Alok’s Santro Car we call that Five One Two Five as the number reads. The route was well known, via Kalka, Dharampur, Solan, Shimla, Kufri, Theog, Matiyana, Narkanda…. Ah! I would stop for a while at Narkanda, my favourate chill out destination, the nearest highest peak from Chandigarh in just 200 Km it elevates you to a height of 2700m which is just 7km from another peak at 3400m from sea level the Hatu peak. Narkanda is a place where I have visited for 9 times, staying in same hotel, visiting same Hatu peak but still I never got boared from that place, serine and calm away from all city hustle and no mall road or clumsy crowdie tourists. It was already 6pm when we reached Narkanda, we noted the temperature to be 8 degree there in the month of July. It just stopped raining there which brought the temperature further down and increased the incredible beauty and serienity of the place. We decided to move further down hill to Rampur 60Km from Narkanda, where we took the days hault. In the Himachal tourism hotel we stayed there, we got a pamphlet to Tribal Curicuit from Himachal Tourism. We studied the circuit and were glad to know that it passes by Khab, it did not took us long to decide to go for it now, it extended a one day leave for all my friends but worth investing.

Landslides

Landslides

Next morning the Khwaab of Khab slogan changed to Exploring Experimenting Tribal Circuit! We accompanied our navigator and pilot, Alok in five one two five and started driving on NH22 along with the river Sutlej without knowing the fact that now the river will be beside us for next 200km and the excitement of driving along river will soon get boring. But thanks to some bad stretches, narrow bridges, stretches of Kinnaur district, Naptha jhakri power project, some landslides and view of Kinnaur Kailash kept our exciting alive. We fueled our vehical near Recong Peo the district capital of Kinnaur. We continued to the direction of Khab and Kaurik on Hindustan Tibbat Road, passing Akpa, Moorang, Speeh, Pooh and finally the Khab.

Way to Khaab

Way to Khaab

From Recong Peo

From Recong Peo

Khab is a place where Sutlej River merges Spiti river, Sutlej brown Water River coming from China merges Spiti green river and Khab. Exactly where it merges there is a bridge and you cross the Bridge to enter the district Lahaul and Spiti. In 2004 when Himachal got natures curse as Flood this bridge was gone and whole Lahul Spiti got almost cut from transportation. Thanks to BRO who built it again. As soon as you cross the river, there is difficult drive stretch almost no road and a narrow stretch, to pick Santro over it all the passengers got down, Alok’s expert hand on wheels managed to cross the stretch and the fun continued.

The Bridge and Khab

The Bridge and Khab

After crossing khab we reached Nako, a beautiful village at the height of 3600m, this is the place where we felt like this is heaven and I am god! In the season it snows, Nako lake is frozen, even in month of March or April you may find some frozen water falls in the route of Nako. The rangers continued from Nako to Chango, Sumdo and passed by Kaurik. If you wish to see China border it is Kaurik 16 KM from Sumdo, take a stay there nearby and have the visit to the Border planned. For us, we had limited time and long circuit to cover and now the key destination for us was Kaza the district capital of Lahaul and Spiti. It was getting dark as evening was approaching, and we desided to stay at Tabo. It is a small town on the way, surrounded by Hill. Even being tiered, we were not feeling like to sleep, Beside the 100years old gumpha we got a hotel to stay. From there we could also see the old gumpha, the worship place, which are in the caves in the mountain near by which were 500years old, people from different research field from different countries visit these caves, study the painting inside.

Nako Lake

Nako Lake

Life and Nature

Life and Nature

By the way, the best thing of the day I hasn’t mention yet, with every cut and curves we witnessed the vegetation to go away and mountains to change its shape and texture, I was seeing Barren Mountain for the first time, turning out to be a cold desert! We stayed and relaxed for the 2nd Night in Tabo unknowingly that more of excitement is yet to come….

Spiti at Tabo

Spiti at Tabo

In umr se lambi sadko par....

In umr se lambi sadko par….

Early in the morning I woke up to feel the serenity and tried to capture the amazing barren nature and river spiti curve in my camera. Tabo is a small town but well connected by road, even buses operate to this place. We four packed up to proceed for Kaza, it is just about 50 Km from Tabo. Straight road going up and down approaching a huge mountain with snow peaks along with river Spiti. What the best can explain the serenity of the place. We crossed, Pin valley (16Km off the route) where wild Photographers spend months to get a click of snow leopard. By now we got used to, to not seeing any vegetation, scarce human, no traffic, and no village in a 30 to 40 km of distance. That tells, if you plan for this trip get your equipment ready, keep your contingency plan for any vehicle trouble or flat tire.

Within an hour we reached Kaza, it is a valley situated at the height of 3600m, beautiful must visit place, we started feeling the worth of the visit, simply amazing. Surrounded by high peaks, huge green river bed, amazing whether, and above all, surprising flourished town. We could even find cyber café, hospital, bus station, world’s highest retail outlet fuel station, we were not expecting it to be such advanced city in such a remote location. We also find good restaurant and stopped by for our breakfast.
The excursion from Kaza is the highest Monastery Key just about 6Km from Kaza, one of the world’s highest village Kibbar at an height of 4200m 13Km from Kaza or 7Km from Key in the same route. The drive to Kibbar was thrilling, we were at a high altitude narrow road and if you look down beside you can see Spiti River as thin as a thread. When we reached Kibber it started snowing with very small flakes. Snow in the month of June, where it is peak summer at 42 Degree Celsius just 1000Km away! It is a different kind of village, mud houses of a different shape, and houses at different heights and scattered but not many of them, no green color at all in your vicinity.

Kaaza

Kaaza

Key

Key

Kibbar

Kibbar

We wish if we had enough time to spend the complete day there. Not enough time, thus we had to continue to our circuit, we just passed by Key a pyramid shaped town, we could glimpse the Monastery due to shortage of time and moved on towards Losar the next town 60Km away from Kaza on the tribal circuit road. From Kaza to Losar there was nothing seen called life other than few cattle grazing on the green bed at the bottom of the hill.

Kibber Village

Kibber Village

Cattle

Cattle

We knew that after Losar we might not get anything to even eat for next 100KM, thus we grabbed some eats from Losar and moved on. This is the place where we last seen the pitch road, after Losar for 90KM there is virtually no road, it is just track and full of small stones. Road cannot be made at this place because this place remains under glacier for 8months during a year. Our speed throughout this route was about 20KM per Hour. Then also, we were enjoying the drive due to amazing serenity and fabulous view, adventures drive and passing Kunzum Pass, a high altitude pass at the height of 4500m from sea level. If you have time you can also plan to visit Chandra lake just 12Km from this place. After we got down from Kuzum, the rest of the road till Gramphu is best suitable for a camping, virtually no road, river in its thin flow, by the way the river is now beside us is Chandra river, green bed beside the river and surrounded by snow peaks. By the time we reached Gramphu the sun was setting off. If you continue from gramphu towards right you will reach Leh in about 400Km via khardungla, bralcha pass, sarchu…. That’s a different trip and motivation for our next trip, but this time we continued the tribal circuit and took left to climb through another serpent curve to Rohtang pass at the height of 3800m.

It got dark when we reached Rohtang, almost 8pm, in dark it was risky too to get down from that route, but no other option, to stay for the night we had to get down to Manali still 50KM to go. It was about 10:30PM in night when we managed to get an hotel in Manali to stay for the night and have our diner. The hotel again was in a beautiful location beside river Beas and with the view of Rohtang from where we came down.

Chilling 1 Degree at Kunzum

Chilling 1 Degree at Kunzum

Where is the road?

Where is the road?

How about camping here?

How about camping here?

Final and fourth day was not that amazing for us because of the reason of lost energy and the serenity got the comparison from what we had seen. No doubt, Manali is another must visit destination but now its time for us to get back, driving beside river Beas, through Kullu, Pandoh dam, Sunder nagar, Bilaspur, Ropad and finally back to Chandigarh. Again an amazing route but we were thinking and discussing of something else, to go tribal circuit again but this time with seven days in hand.
Take for you, if you plan this, plan for a comfortable and long one, stay at Narkanda, Visit Sarchu, Stay at Chango to visit Kaurik, Stay at Kaza to visit Key and Kibbar, Try to camp near Gramphu, Stay at Manali and then back. Lot more fun can be done if you have time. However, this trip would always remain in our best trip list and good memory for ever for all four of us and probably for five one two five also. ;)

To view enlarged pictures and selected pic of Kaaza album please visit : http://picasaweb.google.com/pronil.sengupta/Kaza#

23 Comments

  • Important info and thanks for posting. Adding your blog to my rss feeder. Joe

  • srijan says:

    It certainly was a loooong trip. I hope you are feeling more human, now that you here where troubles are many and doesnt look so small. Thanks for taking us on the drive. :)

  • shobhit says:

    Well….copying the link and mailing it to my office guys….So that after reading it they can realize what they are missing..Great trip man…reminded me about our “Unplanned trip to Gangotri”.Visiting L&S is always my dream…but i always want to make it with at least one week in hand.But it becomes almost impossible for all 4 of us on leave for 1 week working in same office…Anyways will try something for sure after reading this….Great man…Kuddos to u….Keep Rocking….

  • Ram says:

    Simply a beautiful write up, supported by some excellent pictures.

    Thanks for taking us to the breathtaking beauties of the Himalayas.

    Would await your next post.

  • Partho says:

    good work buddy

    • Pronil says:

      You remember the punch line, “I am god and this is heaven” it’s from you! I miss you guys….

  • nandanjha says:

    What trip. I am thinking about this round for a while, your text makes it easy to plan. Thank You.

    Put big pics (500 x 350 looks best).

  • arvindpadmanabhan says:

    Great stuff. How’s the food in these places? Can you find clean food at Tabo?

  • Pronil says:

    As far as the cleanliness concerned the places are average clean.

    Must try food at Hatu hotel Narkanda, amazing food.

    At Tabo, the hotel we stayed at offered food as good as home — daal — chaawal — sabji and raita, one of us had that and was very satisfied. 3 of us tried chicken in a nearby hotel, chicken at that place they say does not get soft even after boiling for two hours, we chewed some pieces of eraser you can say! However the place had variety of Indian veggie, Chinese etc….

    Keep a note, there is nothing between Losar to Manali 130KM, so plan accordingly. Rest you will get small dhaaba or tea stalls at least for bread omelet or fried Maggie, on mountain at such height you must try that at some secluded serene calm place… it add to its taste.

  • Misha says:

    Hey Pronil,

    Hows life??
    Good to see the details here, u hv written it beautifully…
    Cheers.. cya…

  • arvindpadmanabhan says:

    Thanks a lot. I am planning on a trip to this place quite soon. This will be useful.

    • Pronil says:

      Please do not forget to share the experience after you return from the trip, and do let me know how much did the write up actually helped you.

  • Mini Sarin says:

    After reading your post, I get this big urge to pack my bags soon and rush to the hills.
    Very nice trip indeed!

  • Alok Sharma says:

    Hey Pronil, great narration buddy…motivating me to write abt our Leh Trip…lets see when a lousy person like me happens to post it…
    Lets plan the next Kaza circuit in Apr 2010….it will be all snow then…

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Amazing trip and beautiful photographs Pronil. I wish that the photos were bigger in size and you could have spent some more time there.

    Keep writing :-)

    • Pronil says:

      Thanks Manish, yah definitly, when I putin my next blog, i will take care of this comments and put pics in larger size. BTW, if you click the picks does it not takes you to my picasa album?

      • Manish Khamesra says:

        It is not, although I have not clicked the link that you have provided in the end. Clicking on the picture opens it up again and its of the same size.

        Pronil the request is because as a reader I would like to see and feel the description ;-)

        I know you would not be motivated much but I don’t think that the value of this post is over, resizing and making it biggger would be interesting even now. But then its your decison :-)

  • ashok says:

    BOSS,

    I am on the verge of pulling my hair out.

    How did you manage to do this circuit in a Santro?

    I am going nuts & nuts at going through the Photos of the road Kumzam onwards to Grampoon. No way a Wagon R could do that circuit – is the outcome !

    I can’t buy a bigger car so I have to live with it but I WANT TO DO THIS CIRCUIT. I need to gather more details from you.

    Please do and definately do respond at [email protected] – as I need to check with you on the road conditions. Thnks

  • nandanjha says:

    Ashok – Also read, http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/08/11/shimla-to-kaza-a-road-review/ , this is in June 2009. There is another one from Kaza to Manali. might be helpful.

    Santro/WagonR are great vehicles till Kaza. Beyond that, you need a crazy guy like Pronil :-)

  • Pronil, this was a re-read for me. But travel stories are always never outdated! This one particularly, so well written that in one sitting, I can read many times :)

    In the picture captioned “Chilling at 1 deg”, are you serious that it was 1 deg? How cold you bear the cold in just you t-shirt? I would be wrapped in fleece thicker than that of a yak! :D

    lovely places and lovely pictures, thank you so much! We hope to read more from you soon!

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