Spiti in May-June 2018

Planning and Prep
It all started with our trip to Himachal in 2014 diwali … We did a family trip to Kinnaur with both sets of parents and our then 8 year old. The trip was really slow paced and we did the standard Kinnaur circuit (shimla-Kalpa-Sangla and back via Naldera ). This was the trip that hooked us to Himachal….

Post that just 3 of us came back to Himachal in 2016 March and did the same circuit again :) This time we just did a day trip to Nako … This time the inevitable happened.. We were now committed to Himalayas :) From that day, I was pining to do Spiti .. every few months I would pore over the travel blogs and trip reports … But life intervened and 2017 went dry..we did other vacations but no trip to himachal ..:(

In 2018 both me and my husband(Amit ) were determined to make Spiti happen. We kept on talking .. talking .. Given the vacation calendar of our now 11 year old - we had to be back in Mumbai by June first week … Many including Mukesh bhai ( Apple pie Kaza) and the DoW /Indiamike experts kept on telling that May last week would make Chandratal difficult. We then stretched our calendars a bit and decided to book our travel from 25 May till 4 June .
Booked the air tickets for Mumbai -Chandigarh on 25 Morning and for Chandigarh -Mumbai on 4 June. We decided to keep the travel plans loose and kept Jalori circuit as a back up.

Now began the wait …. News kept coming that this year the snow is less and we may indeed be lucky to visit Chandratal … We kept the fingers crossed… Again came the news of late snow in Upper himachal …we started looking for Jalori Circuits… and then came a news that made us think that we will not make this trip at all …. We came to know that Chandigarh airport was closed for runway renovation… Again back to level zero .. planning starts again.. Uttaranchal was being discussed but my heart was set upon spiti.

Bless his heart, Amit put his brain to work and started working out options. Airline was ready to transfer our ticket to Delhi but that added 3-4 hours travel to our first day ….After a lot deliberation we decided to reach Delhi on the night before and then start from Delhi in the morning. With the dates now frozen, we started talking with Mukesh bhai for the plan.. After a lot of back and forth we decided to take the overnight train from Delhi to Chandigarh in the same night and reach Chandigarh early 25 Morning. This gave a chance to catch up with sleep in the train as 24 was working day for both of us .

Now the itinerary was
  • Day 0 - 24 May 2018 (Thursday) - Fly to Delhi in night , rush to train for Chandigarh
  • Day 1 - 25 May 2018 (Friday ) - Try and reach Jhakdi ,
  • Day 2 - 26 May 2018(saturday) - Jhakdi - Nako-Gue mummy & then to Tabo
  • Day 3 - 27 May 2018 (sunday) - Tabo to Gulling(near Mud) in Pin Valley
  • Day 4 - 28 May 2018(Monday) - Stay At Gulling
  • Day 5 - 29 May 2018 (Tuesday) Gulling to Kaza
  • Day 6 - 30 May 2018 (Wednesday) - Stay at Kaza
  • Day 7 - 31 May 2018 (Thursday) - Kaza to Chandratal
  • Day 8 - 1 June 2018 (Friday) Chandratal to Manali
  • Day 9 - 2 June 2018 (Saturday) Stay at Manali
  • Day 10- 3 June 2018 (Sunday) Manali to Chandigarh
  • Day 11 - 4 June 2018 (Monday) Fly back to Mumbai

Now that the plan was put in place , we were more relaxed and looking forward to the trip. Mukesh bhai had helped us book hotels and book an innova for the trip duration . The day before the flight he shared the number of driver and we were all set…..

Day 0 - Mumbai-Delhi and Onwards to Chandigarh
24 may dawned and everybody was excited …. But the bags were not packed and we both had to work … alas such is the life…. We crammed our luggage in morning and focussed on the last day of work before the glorious vacation.. That whole day working was a challenge .. but had to be done … Just before we were supposed to get in the cab for airport - I tried to weigh our bags .That seemingly simple task brought on an acidity attack… Bags were grossly overweight!! .. Again, a mad rush to readjust the bags and stuffing things randomly still one bas was overweight. With no time left we decided to rely upon airline kindness and left for the airport.

As usual the roads were crowded but there was no traffic jam …. We reached airport with ample time and went upto the airline counters with fingers crossed … But today was our lucky day.. The lady at counter weighed the luggage of 3 passengers together. When even that was also exceeding the total weight limit, we thought we would have to carry some things with us as carry on luggage. But the graceful lady agreed to allow the luggage as-is since we were just a little bit over the limit … With a thankful smile, we proceeded to the flight.

Without any further ado , we boarded flight and landed in Delhi at about 11:30 .. Rushed to railway station just to find that the train was late ..albeit only by an hour .. After a tiring wait at Delhi station the train arrived .. We managed to get in ...Put up the berths and set the alarm and then settled down to try and dream about the vacation that had just begun
Day 1 - Reaching Jhakdi
Total drive time ~11 hours including breakfast/lunch breaks
Distance covered - 230 km
Road condition - usually good
Where did we stay - Mahesh hotel Jhakdi

Today was the first official day of vacation … The train reached Chandigarh around 7 AM. The driver monu was there smiling and ontime. The innova was in good condition .. so with this auspicious beginning we started our vacation …

First order of the day was breakfast and freshening up… Asked Monu to find a suitable place… Accordingly he stopped at a resort on the way. Though slightly expensive it was absolutely clean and comfortable. Had a brilliant breakfast and the set on the way to Shimla..
Monu Bhai is originally from Shimla and he kept on pointing interesting sights. One fear he had was traffic since our president was in Shimla the same day … Fortunately the vacation gods were smiling on us and we escaped shimla with out too much of traffic

Post shimla we stopped enroute and had a full lunch - it was already getting a little cooler and the landscape was now changing to lush green

Now the journey started towards Narkanda - since we did Hatu peak in 2014 we did not plan to stop at Narkanda but were just enjoying views(and snatches of sleep ) from our car …
Post Narkanda we started to get down and excitement started … we were about to meet a longtime friend …. We came down to ground level and there she was ..our first sighting of the mighty Sutlaj….

By now it was getting evening and we were getting tired …we remembered hotel Mahesh and planned to look for it. After about 30 minutes we did come across a hotel Mahesh and it was the same one we had stayed in March 16 … But once we got in they told us about another hotel Mahesh the same family was opening .. this new hotel was not 100% ready yet but it was further 30-45 minutes and then we came across the new hotel Mahesh …

Its a “Just OK OK” hotel but it offered clean (relatively) rooms with working AC and it did the job as a night stop…

After a quick dinner we were off to bed .. now looking forward to DevBhoomi Kinnaur….
Day 2 - Jhakdi - Nako-Giu-Tabo
Total drive time ~8-10 hours including breakfast/lunch breaks
Distance covered 240-250 km
Road condition - usually good
Where did we stay - Hotel Snow leopard Kaza

Next day we woke up had a brilliant breakfast of parathas and bread butter .. we started off … Todays Target was to cover Nako , the Giu Mummy and then move on to Tabo ….

We were now getting prepared for losing connectivity and suddenly remembered , we do not have phone number of the hotel we have booked “hotel snow leopard” Tabo.. A frantic call to Aman (apple pie Kalpa/Sangla) - we were assured that “Tabo is a small place” ….. So with that assurance we started off
Now the first photo -opportunity came very early in the morning. This is the picture we have seen in a multiple Kinnaur travel updates and we too could not resist a click….

The landscape was now slowly changing again and from a lush green of shimla we were seeing dry browns of spiti… The mighty Sutlej was still besides us and we were ambling along slowly ….

At powari, the road branched off to Kalpa. We had already been to Kalpa twice so we skipped Kalpa and kept along the river. Soon we came to a place called
By lunch we were at a pretty place called spillow… The place was very tiny but the lunch was fabulous .. My daughter (Surabhi) had her first taste of Momos and now Momos are her favourite snack for life ;)
After lunch the journey continued , the vista was becoming more and more brown….we now reached a place called Khab .. This is a special place as Spiti comes and meets the Sutlej.
You can really see the brown of Sutlej and Grey of Spiti very clearly ..Its a magical spot and we spent some time here

Now the road was climbing up and weather was getting cooler. While we were all fine, my daughter got a very mild case of headache. We had a quick break at a tea shop near Nako and decided to skip Nako lake as we had seen it last time. Here we met a family who was telling all scary stories about Chandratal and that gave a moment of doubt to my husband but we decided to stick to our plans and boy we are really glad that we did so because Chandratal is simply awesome. But thats for the upcoming posts. For this day our next stop was the Geu Mummy
Till now the roads were more or less good tarred roads. At malling we had a brief introduction to things coming but it was a tiny patch we continued at Sumdo , we took the diversion for Geu… Its a small diversion and the road is beautiful ….

The mummy is of a 45 year old lama. This mummy was found in one of the eight stupas in the village which were severely damaged after the 1975 earthquake in this region. There is no preservative used on the mummy, it is naturally preserved.The freezing weather conditions in Geu seems to be one of the many reasons for this natural mummification. Though there is a bit of a concern now since it is showing signs of deterioration. The villagers want the mummy to be preserved not only because it will it bring in many tourists, the villagers worship the lama and they would like to safeguard and preserve the mummy.

There is a new temple that is built for the mummy; the mummy will soon be shifted to the new temple. Hopefully, the mummy will stay well-preserved for many more centuries.

Now evening was setting and we ask the driver to take us to Tabo but of course we could resist a couple more photo breaks

As we came near to tabo village - we understood what Aman had meant about the place being small .. It was only a small cluster of 2-3 hotels nearby the monastery. The hotel appeared to peaceful and beautiful but more detailed review had to wait till next morning
We stayed in hotel snow leopard. The rooms were large enough for 3 of us with running hot water.
After a hot dinner and warm bath we were just ready for a deep sleep !!
Day 3 From Tabo to Pin Valley
Today the plan was to go from Tabo Till Pin valley via Dhankar
Distance Travelled - Nearly 70 KM
Time taken - nearly 3-3.5 hours with leisurely photo breaks
Where did we Stay - Valley View Homestay Gulling (people know it as Tandup Homestay. Mr Tandup is the owner)

After a refreshing sleep, we woke up to a brilliant view of from the hotel. This hotel is surrounded by mountains all around…

Post a hot breakfast we started off to Gulling valley via Dhankar monastery
Since most of the big driving was done, the next few days were going to be light drives and amazing views. We were all excited to really start enjoying spiti especially since weather was also balmy, not too cold …. Spiti did not keep us waiting...the scene started unfolding almost immediately and we had to stop for a photo op .. one of the many today. One thing about Spiti to keep in mind - its a journey that matters not the destination

The road was very good and we did not feel the stress of journey as we took many many photo breaks. Soon we reached the dhankar monastery. The monastery is quite nice but like usual the views are simply stunning

After the beautiful views at Dhankar we started going down a little .. we were thrilled at the scenes we had taken in and just chatting among ourselves when we realized that, first time in this trip , we were going absolutely next to river. Now the river was at our level where we could touch if we wanted to! Please meet the majestic Spiti … Her Blue water is mesmerizing

Now we were going along with Spiti valley for a while … In few miles we came across a bridge that took us to the other side where another beauty was waiting for us .. we met the Pin river who was going to be our friend for next 2 days

Few kilometers alongside Pin rivers and we reached Tandup home stay - where we were put up for 2 nights… Post Amans suggestion , I had read up a lot on net and came across the “yello peaks” site for Spiti . The homestay looked very promising and I was excited to stay in a place which was nearly on the river bank…As soon as we reached, I found that the place had even better views than I imagined

Post the lunch , our host Mr Tandup took us down in his 4X4 to the river bed. It was incredible to be so close to the river and the wind was howling. Entire atmosphere was beyond words

We decided to take a walk after playing in the river for some time (grrrrrr the water was cold!!!!). We found the village to be very charming with little rivulets running , small patches of pea farms and snow capped mountains everywhere. It was an idyllic scene which reminded me of our trip 8-10 years back to a small swiss village

After our walk we came down to room and spent the evening in our vacation special manner - with a plate of pakoda and a deck of cards.. A visit to Mud village and ride in the Pin national park was on cards for the next day
I am planning to write a detailed writeup about Tandup home stay - but adding the card here for reference
Day 4 - Around Gulling
Distance Travelled - Not much , spent the day in Gulling and lazed around!
Today was a rest day. The plan was to visit the pin valley national park and the mud village. After a restful night our Driver Monuji was also all fresh and we started the journey for the mud village … Like other places here also there was monastery. Its very interesting to me that all over the world - the local religious places, be it temples , monasteries or churches they form a social gathering spot. Tells much about how religion and societal structure are interwoven but thats a topic for another post some other time :)
In most of these places, we did not enter the actual monastery but enjoyed the views - which were always stunning and breathtaking. I will let the pictures do the talking

With the captivating view we started back for our hotel since we had to visit the Pin Valley park in afternoon. On the way there was a bridge to cross the river and we had to get down to be near the river

After quickly dipping the fingers in the water we decided that some views are best enjoyed from warm car and moved back to our abode for the day.

Post a lip smacking lunch and a siesta we were now ready for the pin valley - of course it was not possible to spot the real king of pin valley national park - the leopard. These majestic animals are seen around Mud in dead of winters - in Jan and Feb ..
This time though we were hoping for the king of avian kingdom, the eagle. Mr Tandup had a news that an eagle had built a nest in one of the mountain ridges. With a hope that marks start of any wild life journey, we started off for the pin valley national park.
Needless to say the views were brilliant

Once there we met a friend of Mr Tandup who knew where the nest was - unfortunately it was too far off to spot the eagle. But we did meet this utterly cute fellow

After a visit with him and enjoying the scene around us we headed back .. Will again let the images do the own talking

After the enchanting drive, we came down and settled to a nice chatting session with Mr Tandup. He is a very enterprising man who does many things - he is a teacher in local school. His family also manages a large pea farm and ofcourse hosts many wanderers like us.
Our next halt was going to be at Kaza. We planned to stay there for 2 nights . After the virgin beauty of pin valley we were a bit worried that now Kaza will sound like city.
The original plan was to start from pin valley do the Hikkim Langaza Komic circuit on the way and then do Ki -Kibber the next day.
Mr Tandup told us that now Chicham bridge was open and we could go from ki-kibber directly to Losar. Now that created a gap for us.. Again we re-calibrated our plan to visit do Pin valley via Demul the next day and leave Hikkim circuit for the day after.. With that plan frozen we retired for the night.
Day 5 - Pin Valley To Kaza via Demul
Total distance Travelled -~55-60 Kms - Again with very leisure photo breaks
Time taken - about 4 hours
Road quality - more or less good
Hotel stayed - Kunfen hotel

On the day5 we got up a clear day with little wind ..it promised to be a brilliant day for relaxing drive

After the mandatory photo session we had a delicious breakfast
And then took a few clicks with Mr Tandup and his team that supported us so wonderfully for the past two days. Really the dedication and service showed by this entire team was superb. We also took few pictures of some treasures maintained in the homestay. He has kept some very old family vessels and some samples of old rock fossils found in his farm

With a heavy heart we started from Pin valley to Kaza(hotel kunfen). The plan was to reach Kaza and see Demul on the way.
Again the pretty pin river was keeping us the company..

Soon we reached the gate of the pin valley national park and got down to take a touristy picture just as a memory

Now we were looking forward to Kaza and for Demul .. The roads and views were as always excellent
Soon we started climbing up left the river below.. After 2 days of having her next to us, it was a different experience to see the river looking like a tiny stream from up above..

As the height was gaining my daughter had a little headache - this was our first sign of the dreaded AMS … Our driver suggested that we can give her Diamox but since the headache was minor - I decided to give her some crocin and then wait and watch. It proved to to be a correct strategy- She was all fine and enjoying post that
On the way to Demul we came across a group of a few very energetic ladies working on roadside work

Demul is a very nice place at a height so that you feel the mountains are next you … It was also snowing very lightly while we were there and that added to our experience. All in all we enjoyed Demul but it was not out of the world etc - if stretched for time it can be dropped

Once done with Demul , we again started to go down to reach the main road - now another view of the majestic mountains awaited us

Before we realized , we were entering a quaint town - by spiti standards it was bustling with activity and we had this view from our room

Had a lovely lunch - my kiddo was happy as she got to have her favorite butter chicken :) Post the lunch we relaxed in the room enjoying the views , room service and cards.. A good dose of family time that we look forward to for whole year…
Day 6 - Hikkim Langza
Distance Covered -~ 50 km
Time Taken - about 3 hours for the circuit
Road Quality usually good
Hotel - Continued at Kunfen

Today was meant for Hikkim and Langza - seeing the worlds highest post office and a chance of seeing the ibex.. Every one was very excited ..i.e. Every one but me.. I woke up a little unwell and wanted to rest - especially as our driver had warned us that next day was going to be a long one. Finally my husband and daughter went ahead and I rested in the room
They came back impressed with the view as usual but the elusive ibex had given them a slip ...
Sharing some picture
Day 7:part 1 - Kaza to Kunzum pass via Chicham Bridge
Last night we had gone to bed with a great anticipation since we had heard a lot about Kunzum pass. Infact this whole trip hinged upon Kunzum pass being open …. So needless to say we were all excited but just a little bit worried about my health.. Luckily I was feeling better and ready to take the whole day journey.
Todays plan was to reach Paralsol camps till night - Our driver had warned us that it would be a long day … A tiring day so we started a little early around 9 AM , In hindsight we would start even earlier in fact I have worked out a slightly different part at end of this travel saga
Since we expected a long day and the next day(chandratal to Manali ) also was going to be very long - we were carrying a lot of dry stuff to eat.
In morning we had a hot breakfast and started for the day - had a brief chat with the owner. He is a well known entity in the region and everyone speaks well about him.
Before starting I took a peep at the Kaza Monastery. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed
Now,first order of the day was to visit Ki Monastery - at the bottom we came to know that car can not go up.. We then decided to just walk around a bit and not to go inside monastery as there were a lot of steps involved. I was still not feeling 100% at this point and wanted tp take it a bit easy
Here is the view we saw

Post the quick visit we set out for the chicham bridge just about 15-20 minutes the views started to change - The mountains were becoming more and more “brown” and somehow felt more wild/more strong without even a single tree . Our driver told us that these days people are trying for agriculture here also - especially apple farms… He said that people are hoping that the trees will provide some strength to the soil reducing the avlanches. I dont know how I feel about this farming and whether it will disturb the natural ecosystem but the newly formed trees provided a stark contrast and the whole scene looks startlingly pretty.

Our ever reliable driver had found out that there was a flock of blue sheep in a nearby hill. We readily agreed to his suggestion that we take a detour to try and locate these
And wow .. it was a fantastic journey with a 360 degree view of snow capped mountains all around. We were now quite high and the snow peaks lookws just a little higher up than we were .. Himalay was showing us one more version.. It was really interesting to see so many forms of the same mighty himalayas unfolding through out our trip

After climbing the road for a while , we did find a herd of elusive blue sheep

Me and my husband are wildlife enthusiasts and enjoy wildlife safaris in India's myriad national parks. Now that we had at least one “sighting” we were happy and now looking forward to the famed Chicham bridge. Mr Tandup had praised the bridge to high heaven and we were really waiting with anticipation.
Himalaya did not let us down and our faith in Tandupji paid off .. the views were awesome.
Its a highest bridge is Asia. The river is deep down gurgling with a force that really evokes scare in your mind. It reminded me of the zion-bryce-antelope canyon trip we had done while in USA. These mountains were similar but the weather could not more different.. There the canyons are in hot arid desert .. Here its the cold desert but the mountains and the canyons made by determined rivers are strikingly similar
We were now eager for lunch but could not resist one last picture of the bridge

Thanking Mr Tandupji and our decision to come by via this road now we were now thinking of lunch and the drive to Kunzum pass … But Himachal again surprised us with some more mindblowing scenes ….

After every turn a new view, a new scene unfolded and we just had to take a picture stop. I am sure that was one key reason for the long travel time ;)

Now that we were seeing these amazing pictures we got more greedy and started to look around for a way to get down near the river… Soon we spotted some cars down in river bed and kept an eye for any way that would take us down ...And lady luck was on our side ...we soon saw a small “pag dandi” going down… Unfortunately there was a so called security team in spiffy uniforms stationed near the roadway . They tried to convince us that this area was “blocked off”. We asked to see their ids and they had none!!!!! It turned out that there was movie shooting going on deep below and they were worried about we “stealing their scenes” … The shooting any way was far off and we did not intend to disturb them. Still we had to have a small argument with them to go down … But it was absolutely worth it…

Now the we were reaaalllly hungry and started to look around for a place to have lunch … But we were in Spiti. There was nothing around and we had to make do with few of the biscuits that we were carrying with us
After about 40-45 minutes we reached the village of Losar.. It is another idyllic place. In fact I recommend cutting down 1 day from Kaza and staying here . It will also avoid the long and tiring day
Had a simple and tasty Rajma Chawal for lunch and started off for the much awaited Kunzum pass. My daughter especially was looking forward to the close snow encounter…:) The view was very quaint and sweet

The road from here on was very bad .. and soon we came across our first Nallah. But at least here the water was not on the road and Monuji - our driver promised us we would see manny of those also :)

After the Nallah the scene started to be exceedingly white and there comes the snow .. Yippie

After a quick snow play we resumed the journey … now the next destination was “Chandra Taal”
As we started to go down from the kunzum pass - we came to this often seen scene of Kunzum pass. The place where the snow banks are taller than you are …

Now that we had crossed the kunzum pass we had officially bid adieu to SPiti valley and were now enjoying the Lahaul valley…. It was fast getting dark and the road was simply not there … it was an off-roading experience in true sense
Just after a few minutes we came across our first road crossing with water actually running on it

But now it was becoming very dark and Monuji warned us that we still had distance to go and if we continued with Photo breaks we may miss Chandratal ….Nobody wanted that so we promptly packed the camera and settled down for nice family chat sessions … no more pictures till we reach Chandra Tal.
We were going to come back by most of this road the next day so packing the camera was not a big issue …
After a bone rattling journey of around 10 km -( we took full 90 minutes … ) we soon reached the Base camp -but decided to hurry up to Chandratal so that we could spend time there.
We reached the parking lot for the taal and started the small (less than a mile one way) walk to Chandratal. Monuji was coming with us to show us around… Even though the walk was not long .. the incline was also not too bad but it was tiring due to the height. Anyone with breathing issues etc should be careful and consult their doc before hand.
But the view around made the walk more than worth our while. View at chandratral was beyond words .. Sunlight and mists were hide and seek .. There was a slight drizzle of snow .. In all the atmosphere was heavnly .. Rather than try and describe in words, I will let the pictures do the talking
There is a way to go around the lake but we were tired and it was also getting dark so we decided to turn back and take rest at the camp
We had packed just one small bag which held clothes for all of us and were carrying thick jackets to ward of cold.
We came down to the camp and were pleasantly surprised at the size & cleanliness of the tents … We quickly freshened up. Brrrrrr the water was cold …. Till that time some one came to call us for a hot soup ...They had lit a indoor campfire to keep all of us warm.
The camp manager there was a very hospitable person and he kept us all entertained with the stories and also gave some tips on how to deal with the cold
Soon after a hot dinner of garlic soup , sabzi - dal and roti we were ready for bed
It was a different experience to sleep in a tent with no electricity. If we stepped out, it was a treat to watch the star filled sky which is so rare in the city
We were worried that we wont be able to sleep … but surprisingly the tent was cozy so we all drifted off….
Day 8 Chadratal to Manali
Distance Travelled - 120 KM
Time taken 8-9 hours (out of that 2+ hours were in traffic)
Road Quality - There is no road till just before Rohtang pass - post that road is good

Next day morning we woke up refreshed.. We stepped out of our tent to feel as if we had walked in middle of beautiful portrait

Everywhere we turned there were snow peaks and there was no cloud in sight … The Sky was an amazing shade of blue. We quickly got ready and came out for breakfast. There was little more light now and the peaks were gleaming as if by gold

We quickly started after the breakfast as Monuji had warned us about long day ahead..
With a last picture to capture our memories we again started on the road

Now in fact there was no road and we were going at a very slow speed but that allowed us to enjoy the scenery completely

Soon we started to see small waterfalls and Nallahs on the road. The water seemed very clear and was very cold :)

Monu ji told us that soon we will come across some big nallas that we will have to cross. We could not wait.It promised to be an adventure.. We did not have to wait long, soon we came across one going on water..

This was the road that we were going to cross

We had to get down in order to reduce the weight in the car.

Now the view started to turn a little green after the completely naked mountains from last 2-3 days

By now it was time for a quick snack and we waited at a small place just before the turn to start the drive for Rohatang pass The view from Dhaba was beyond words..

Soon we started up for Rohtang pass..The view was getting steadily greener

And soon we started to see the snow one more time

But our joy at finding white snow was short lived . Soon we came across throngs of people “playing” and “enjoying” in the snow.. The whole snow was blackened.. We were so put off by the whole scene that we decided not to stop and started the journey down
Soon we started to see the faimilar “hill station” views that we see if Kesari leaflets

But after days of being the only car on the road soon we got stuck in the curse of Manali - traffic Jam :( it took us more than 2.5 hours for the half an hour distance…
Thats why I recommend booking in the solan valley
With this I I will wind up the photo-log here
We did spend a couple of nights in Manali - but after beautiful Spiti, Manali was very offputting and we just lazed around. One highlight of our time in Manali was the rafting we did at Kullu. Those who have taste for such activities should surely try that…

It was a very nice and relaxing trip. One thing that became clear that the adage “Its journey that matters …” is very true in Himachal .. We enjoyed the most on the lonely roads when it felt that Nature was displaying its charms just for us. For miles together we would not pass a car and for me that is the essence of Himachal
Summary and hind sight
All in all this was a wonderful trip with not many mistakes. But I have noted a few tweaks that I would do and also put an updated itinerary below
Some points to keep in mind

  1. If you are going to travel with a car
    1. Its very critical to have a local driver who knows upper himachal. DO NOT GO FOR drivers from Delhi who may not be used to driving in mountains. Its better to select driver based on recommendations
    2. Ensure that driver has done an overhauling of the car recently and its in good condition
    3. Also discuss with driver beforehand about your expectations some of my key points are be low. I usually have a detailed chat session with driver before the trip
        1. flexibility to change the plan if something better comes up - its very difficult to deal with perpetually cribby driver who makes issues to go extra miles
        2. ZERO drinking in trip- not even in night after dropping us. In a strange land , I need to have 100% faith in driver
        3. No smoking /Gutkha near car - I cant bear smell.
    4. I always ensure that driver eats where we eat. I ask the dhaba/restaurant to add his bill in my own. In places like himachal, I talk with my hotel /homestay managers to ensure that he has a warm place to sleep. I have found that these drivers take care of us like a family and we should also be watchful about their comfort
  2. Have a rough idea of your plan but be open to change. In remote places, I personally prefer to have the hotel booking at least - but many people go with no accomodation booked. I am yet to reach that level :)
  3. Things to carry
    1. 2-3 sims Vodafone is useless past Kalpa, BSNL was working in lot of places
    2. power banks , it may be difficult to find charging points
    3. ALL Medications and instructions on how to take- List on DoW site is good
    4. Warm clothes of varying types (light /heavy etc) , try and carry layers that you can strip off if needed. Do a weather search before you pack
  4. Dont be fussy about food , realize we are at a remote place
  5. Always Listen to locals - if they ask you not to do something its better to refrain.
  6. Try to plan the drives from Chandigarh - it saves time in car. Our flight was to Delhi - so we took a night train and reached Chandigarh early in morning
  7. Simla and Manali will seem horrible after Spiti - If you have plans to sightsee at these places do it before
  8. As suggested by many , entering Spiti Via Shimla and Exit via Manali is easier on health
  9. For the first and last segment (till Jhakdi and After chadratal in Manali/Chandigarh) - dont do prior booking that way you can drive as much as you want and then stay for night. Infact during the lean season - you may not need booking in entire Spiti but that depends upon how adventurous you are. I prefer an in between way where I book the accommodation in smaller places but for cities where there is std and plentiful accommodation - I can book at last minute

Itinerary Suggestions
  1. Day 1 - Try and reach as far as you can - at least till Jhakdi
  2. Day 2 - Reach Tabo - Nako is good , but tabo is better and Tabo is slightly lower in height than Nako so night is more comfortable and allows for gradual acclimatization
  3. Day 3 Pin valley
  4. Day 4 Pin Valley
  5. Day 5 - Reach Kaza have lunch then do Hikkim Langza. Demul is nice but not out of world
  6. Day 6 - start from Kaza and stay at losar (this will allow to break journey)
  7. Day 7 Losar - Chandratal
  8. Day 8 - Stay for night after Rohtang Pass before Manali (some where near by Solang Valley) This will cut down the drive from chandratal to Manali do some adventure sports if interested
  9. Day 9 - If any more adventure sports to e done do that but quickly move on and reach Kullu ( do this before lunch so you avoid the bad traffic that comes post lunch) Do Rafting if you want and then If time permits move ahead - this will cut down the chandigarh drive
  10. Drive to Chandigarh