nice picDay 2: June 5th - Fagu to Kalpa (215 km)
Pic: Sunrise at Fagu
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We started the day early, as we knew that this would be the longest distance we would cover in the hills on a single day throughout our trip. We also knew that the road post Rampur would start deteriorating and would be terrible after Jeori. Both IT and I were up by 05:00 hrs and had all intentions of leaving by 06:30 or latest 07:00. All we wanted was a nice hot cup of tea to get our engines started. However, the HPTDC staff put paid to our plans to start early. They only got us our tea post 07:00 and by that time, we had resigned ourselves to fate. Since we were already late, we decided to have a hearty breakfast (as we would skip lunch) and finally left Fagu at 09:15.
IT and I have been to Kalpa before a few times and really like the place including the HPTDC property there – The Kinner Kailash. This time however, it was meant to be just a stopover on our way to Spiti. We made good time to Nirath (just before Rampur) where we paid our respects to the mighty Sutlej by spending 15 minutes on her banks. The drive through Rampur was uneventful except for a stop at the IOC pump where we tanked up and checked our tyres. The most shocking observation for us on the drive so far was the temperature in Rampur – it was a whopping 40 degrees centigrade. Both IT and I let out a few words which I dare not reproduce here, and switched on the XUV’s aircon.
We had crossed Rampur on schedule, but we also knew that the 3rd-4th gear driving was behind us now and it would be more 2nd gear stuff from now on. Though, we had done this stretch many times before, we still stopped for some customary pictures now and then.
Pic: Entry to Kinnaur
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Pic: Classic 'tunnel' roads just after entering Kinnaur
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Pics: Random pics near the first JSW hydro plant on the Sutlej
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As anticipated, the roads started going to pieces after Tapri and while we were driving through dust screens and wondering what the difference was between here and Delhi with the temperatures soaring and dust everywhere, a big shock hit us. Somewhere after Wangtu we drove past a few vehicles (going in the opposite direction) with the drivers gesturing that the road ahead was closed. Our hearts were in our mouths, and though we knew what their gestures meant, we did not utter the obvious and kept driving on (secretly hoping that those drivers meant something else). Soon we saw a sight that completely deflated us – just a few meters ahead, we could clearly see that the entire mountainside had collapsed into the Sutlej and the road which we had taken so many times on our way to Sangla-Chitkul-Kalpa was no where to be found. Like the diehard mountain lovers that we are, we drove right up to the wall of mud and rocks and then stopped, still hoping that there would be some motorable track which we could not see. However, there was none. We were completely devastated. Our Spiti dream was evaporating in front of our eyes.
But every cloud has a silver lining. While looking at the mountain which seemed to be our nemesis, I spotted a truck crossing the Sutlej (from the other side to our side of the river) about 500 meters ahead. Hope is such a sweet thing!! I shouted to IT that there was another road on the other side of the river to byepass the landslide. And as our eyes back tracked from the point where we had seen the truck crossing, we could follow a thin line on the mountain across the river. We were saved! We rushed back to the XUV, slammed the doors, IT turned around and slammed the pedal to the floor. Suddenly we were up to 4th gear and rushing back, looking for a bridge to cross over and reach the road on the other side. Soon enough, we found it and byepassed the landslide, crossed the Sutlej again after 500 meters and were back on the original road. Phew!
We finally, reached Kalpa at 18:15, taking 9 hours to cover 215 km. We checked-in and ordered tea with pakoras, which we demolished in minutes as we were famished. The sun was still out but waning, our tummies satiated, we nursed a few drinks till dinner at 20:30. It was lights out by 22:00 on Day 2.
Pic: Entering Kalpa
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Tomorrow was another long day which started with me getting a few nice morning pictures at Kalpa. However, the day was to bring about the first change in our original plan…