Living my Himalayan Road trip dream - Pune-Spiti-Pune circuit

Prajakt_23

Active Member
Day 9: Its time to bid adieu to Spiti!

We woke up early since it was a long trip scheduled on that day. We wanted to check out Chandratal before moving further to Manali, Kulu and maybe Bhuntar on that same day. It was raining since early morning and looked like clouds were there to stay for the next couple of days. We continued on NH-5 all along and stopped across Key Monastery to take some photos early in the morning. The only positive experience worth mentioning was the view of the double rainbow we saw enroute.

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We then reached another police check post (mostly around Losar) where they registered our details and then we continued our journey towards the Kunzum pass.

As we started the Kunzum pass ascent, it started raining heavily. The road to the pass itself was a single lane road making it difficult to give pass to overtaking as well as vehicles coming from the opposite side. There was no visible marking of the top of the pass, but we could see Kunzum mata temple’s entry road on our right. The visibility at this point was barely a few meters. So, we decided to continue our journey towards Chandratal. From this point onwards, the road condition deteriorated severely and we were just barely navigating through smaller potholes, trying to avoid the big ones. Somehow the tempo travellers were continuing uninterrupted, without even slowing down on those roads. It continued to rain heavily and the cloud line had come even lower than normal. We had kind of made up our mind to skip Chandratal due to ongoing heavy rains. After a daunting journey for more than an hour, we finally saw a diversion towards the Chandratal on our right. But we unanimously decided to skip it to reduce the risk of another landslide or road block due to ongoing heavy rain.

We soon reached Batal and saw a few cars and tempo travelers stopping at the famous Chacha chachi dhaba. But since we had some ready made snacks available with us, we decided to continue further.

And let me say this loud and clear. If you have read somewhere that there is a motorable road between Batal and Gramphu, please dont believe it!! That's just a river bed full of boulders few small and few big. And since vehicles still keep moving through it, they have just got aligned themselves giving it a perception of presence of road. Period!

I saw a couple of unfortunate guys who were trying to navigate honda city and wagon-R on this patch. On one occasion, 4 guys were walking along all 4 corners of the wagon-R in that rain, and guiding the driver since the car was getting stuck in those boulders every now and then!!

Yes, I understand the extreme weather conditions and the topology is not in much favor of maintaining good quality roads there. But when I saw huge investments being made on maintaining roads which were barely being used, I couldn't control my feelings. This route needs some serious maintenance, and I mean it! Even after driving an automatic vehicle, my right knee started paining till we reached Chatru after continuous driving for a couple of hours through that slush and boulders. To make the matter worse, it was continuously raining all along and we even gave a safe pass to HRTC bus coming from the opposite side on that single lane route!!

I had been to Chatru once when I did the Hampta pass trek a few years back. So, I thought that the situation will improve, once we cross it. But I was wrong! The biggest problem beyond Chatru was slush and water crossings on the road. Fortunately, for most of the water crossings, they have now made smaller bridge type arrangements, helping the water to flow uninterrupted underneath it. But in some places, the ferocious water was overflowing on the road, making it tricky. After a really tiring journey, we finally connected to a tarmac road, which on our right side was going towards Atal Tunnel.

This road and the road we had been driving along since morning, were poles apart. This was a 4 lane smooth, fresh tarmac road which took us to Sissu, which is the North portal of Atal tunnel. I think it took us some 8-9 minutes to cross the beautiful Atal tunnel with a steady speed of 40 kmph.


After coming out from the south portal, we continued our journey in the rain through Solang valley. Mostly when we were around Palchan, we saw one decent restaurant advertising south indian food! We really wanted to try something else other than parathas. So, we made it a point to stop there for lunch, ordered a variety of south indian dishes and satisfied our taste buds. After topping up our diesel tank, we continued further. We had thought of crossing Manali, Kullu, Bhuntar and then try to reach Mandi or Sundar Nagar for a night stay. While crossing Kullu, we came across a wholesale apple market where we picked up 10 kgs of royal red and delicious green apples each. After crossing Bhuntar the road condition deteriorated again. This time it was tunnel construction mainly which had resulted in cement slush all across the road, resulting in very slow moving traffic in more than a couple of places. Soon, it was dark and we decided to stop near Mandi instead of reaching Sundar Nagar to avoid the risk of driving on poorly lit bad roads. We identified an ok type hotel on the highway itself and stayed there for the night. We drove for around 300 kms on that day.
 
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Prajakt_23

Active Member
Day 10: Reaching home safely, is the biggest milestone of all journeys!

When it's time to head home, I am always motivated! We started pretty early as usual and had planned to drive beyond Jaipur. We managed to drive a long distance and halted somewhere between Jaipur and Kishangarh and stayed there that night. We drove for around 750 kms on that day.

Day11:

Again we started pretty early in the morning since we wanted to cover a maximum distance on this day. Since the roads were relatively much superior in this patch, it was possible to stretch a bit beyond Udaipur. We managed to reach Surat by driving around 854 kms on this day and then stayed in a highway hotel. We lost much time searching for a decent hotel since most hotels in Surat’s vicinity on the highway are meant to be truck stops.

Day12:

We managed to start early again. But since it was raining and the road condition was bad, we managed to reach Thane by 11:30 am. After dropping my brother and his friend in Thane, I reached Pune by 1:45 pm. And that's how this beautiful, one of a kind road trip for us, concluded safely with a lot of memories and tons of photos!!

So just to sum up everything around this trip in one paragraph:
  • If you're planning for a road trip in Himalayan region in Aug / Sept, please ensure to keep some buffer days in the plan to mitigate the delays caused by unplanned elements.
  • Such road trips are best suited for SUVs than hatchbacks and sedans.
  • Be flexible about your plan, night halts, food habits and everything, since everything that you might have planned in detail, will mostly need to be changed on the fly!
  • No need to carry jerry cans for carrying additional fuel in the car since there are enough petrol pumps throughout this route. What also worked for us was, whenever we hit the half fuel mark, we were topping up the fuel tank to its full capacity on the next petrol pump.
  • If you start early on each day, you will get sufficient time for frequent photo breaks and still you will make it to your daily destination within time.
  • The flip side of it is, in many cases, few spots early in the day might not have sunlight for good photos and could result in a missed opportunities
  • Don't believe everything you read about a few remote locations. Sometimes, it's just a marketing gimmick! It also depends on your individual expectations from such locations...
  • If you are not travelling in peak season, it's best to select a hotel on the spot. You not only get a choice in selecting hotel and room after visual inspection, but you also get an opportunity to strike a decent deal. This also helps to minimize monetary loss in case your plan changes.
  • Don't plan to stay on the highway around Surat. It's all a mess to put it in simple words.
  • One needs to mitigate the risk of altitude sickness by planning gradual increase in altitude. And diamox tablets certainly help.
  • Although you might have read about Pangi to Kishtwar as one of the most ‘Deadliest roads in the world’, there are other routes as well, which are enough risky, like Karcham to Sangla and Chitkul or road around approaching Nako, Malling nallah
  • Last but not the least, If you have read somewhere that there is a motorable road between Batal and Gramphu, please don't believe it!! :-D
And while you have invested so much of time to read till this point, I hereby candidly admit that neither am I a foolproof road trip planner, nor am I a good photographer and storyteller. I just wanted to express my feelings and experiences the way I witnessed on this trip. So, I just hope that you enjoyed reading this travelogue and could feel yourself a part of it! Thank you!!
 
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AR Ardent Rambler

Well-Known Member
Day 10: Reaching home safely, is the biggest milestone of all journeys!

When it's time to head home, I am always motivated! We started pretty early as usual and had planned to drive beyond Jaipur. We managed to drive a long distance and halted somewhere between Jaipur and Kishangarh and stayed there that night. We drove for around 750 kms on that day.

Day11:

Again we started pretty early in the morning since we wanted to cover a maximum distance on this day. Since the roads were relatively much superior in this patch, it was possible to stretch a bit beyond Udaipur. We managed to reach Surat by driving around 854 kms on this day and then stayed in a highway hotel. We lost much time searching for a decent hotel since most hotels in Surat’s vicinity on the highway are meant to be truck stops.

Day12:

We managed to start early again. But since it was raining and the road condition was bad, we managed to reach Thane by 11:30 am. After dropping my brother and his friend in Thane, I reached Pune by 1:45 pm. And that's how this beautiful, one of a kind road trip for us, concluded safely with a lot of memories and tons of photos!!

So just to sum up everything around this trip in one paragraph:
  • If you're planning for a road trip in Himalayan region in Aug / Sept, please ensure to keep some buffer days in the plan to mitigate the delays caused by unplanned elements.
  • Such road trips are best suited for SUVs than hatchbacks and sedans.
  • Be flexible about your plan, night halts, food habits and everything, since everything that you might have planned in detail, will mostly need to be changed on the fly!
  • No need to carry jerry cans for carrying additional fuel in the car since there are enough petrol pumps throughout this route. What also worked for us was, whenever we hit the half fuel mark, we were topping up the fuel tank to its full capacity on the next petrol pump.
  • If you start early on each day, you will get sufficient time for frequent photo breaks and still you will make it to your daily destination within time.
  • The flip side of it is, in many cases, few spots early in the day might not have sunlight for good photos and could result in a missed opportunities
  • Don't believe everything you read about a few remote locations. Sometimes, it's just a marketing gimmick! It also depends on your individual expectations from such locations...
  • If you are not travelling in peak season, it's best to select a hotel on the spot. You not only get a choice in selecting hotel and room after visual inspection, but you also get an opportunity to strike a decent deal. This also helps to minimize monetary loss in case your plan changes.
  • Don't plan to stay on the highway around Surat. It's all a mess to put it in simple words.
  • One needs to mitigate the risk of altitude sickness by planning gradual increase in altitude. And diamox tablets certainly help.
  • Although you might have read about Pangi to Kishtwar as one of the most ‘Deadliest roads in the world’, there are other routes as well, which are enough risky, like Karcham to Sangla and Chitkul or road around approaching Nako, Malling nallah
  • Last but not the least, If you have read somewhere that there is a motorable road between Batal and Gramphu, please don't believe it!! :-D
And while you have invested so much of time to read till this point, I hereby candidly admit that neither am I a foolproof road trip planner, nor am I a good photographer and storyteller. I just wanted to express my feelings and experiences the way I witnessed on this trip. So, I just hope that you enjoyed reading this travelogue and could feel yourself a part of it! Thank you!!
Enjoyed your travelogue! Weather and road conditioning did hinder your otherwise wonderful road trip. Plan to do the Spiti circuit, solo (not by bike; most probably by public transport/shared) next October. Start from Chandigarh via Shimla. Thinking of spending more time in and around Kaza and villages. Do provide additional information on hotels and homestay.


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