So this trip was long due since I started my traveling in 2017. SPITI, the name itself is so interesting, just imagine how interesting the place would be. It was the month of August and TCS did really well in Q1 of 2018, which in turn got us the 100% variable salary, meaning some extra pay for the month of August. As soon as my salary was credited I opened two things, MakeMyTrip and Calendar, I searched for a long weekend and found one on 2nd oct and booked flights to Delhi. There was no plan as such at this stage to go to Spiti. I just knew that Delhi will open gates for many places in North India, so it was an optimal choice. But the excitement was just blooming in and due to that instead of booking a late night flight, I hurriedly book an afternoon flight which cost me an extra holiday.
So since it was a Thursday afternoon flight, I started from home by catching a local train followed by metro towards the airport terminal, as you know, traveling cheap is the #1 agenda on my travel list.
Still I was unsure as to what the plan will be after I reach Delhi, I even posted on Facebook for some suggestions. I did my research and found out that the Manali - Kaza road was closed due to heavy snowfall but the alternate route from Shimla to Kaza was still open. I made a couple of calls and confirmed on the road conditions and got a green signal. My Jet Airways flight took me to Delhi at 1700 hrs.
So as soon as I reached Terminal 3 in Delhi, I headed to the metro station. There is a underground Airport Express line which will connect you to entire Delhi. I figured out that hiring a motorcycle from Chandigarh would make more sense than hiring it from Delhi. With this thought I reached the Kashmiri Gate ISBT in next 45mins with minimal expenditure of ₹80 which otherwise would have costed me ₹600-₹700 via Ola/Uber.
I knew that buses to Chandigarh run 24x7 from this interstate bus terminal. I boarded a nice semi ac bus for ₹320 and reached Chandigarh at 2200hrs. Meanwhile in the bus i figured out that wicked rides were providing Royal Enfield Standard 350cc in Chandigarh at sector 43 for a rate of ₹1000/day, which was a good deal. I quickly booked it. There is one small restaurant inside Chandigarh bus stop which serves some awesome Aloo Parathas for ₹25, I just ordered 3 that day and after having it I felt as if I will never be hungry for next 2 decades.
That butter melting on those thick parathas made me forget my long journey from Mumbai to Chandigarh. After that I asked an auto driver to drop me to some hotel near sector 43 and I managed to find one decent hotel, don’t be mistaken by assuming ‘Hotel Decent’ of Jab we Met. I bought a room for myself at ₹400 only, yes that's it. Good enough for a solo traveler. I managed to get a good sleep because I knew that next day was gonna be a big day for me
And so it started with the alarm at 0730am. I managed to get ready by 0815 and rushed for the motorcycle vendor while filming the busy streets of Chandigarh for my YouTube channel. The vendor kept me waiting for 15 mins and finally appeared rubbing his eyes as if he had slept 30 mins before. He upgraded by motorcycle from Standard to Thunderbird, that was a generous offer and I very happy with it.
After some oiling and necessary checks I hit the roads with that 350cc monster at 0930am. It was my first ride with the Thunderbird so I was equally excited for riding it to Spiti Valley. After fueling up my tank from Chandigarh itself I started with my first milestone which was Shimla. As per Google Maps it was showing 3hrs 50mins, so definitely this was not going to be the first hault. I had to cover a lot of ground on day one so that I could spend more time in that beautiful valley. As I crossed 20kms from Chandigarh, the temperature began to drop and I knew this was going to be hell of a roadtrip. I had my winter gears with me, meaning, that jacket and hand gloves, thats it.
Such were the landscapes throughout the journey towards Shimla. Due to heavy traffic on Shimla Solan highway, I reached Shimla by 1400hrs. The temperature here was 20 degrees. So this was just the beginning.
In Shimla I figured out that Rampur would be best place to call off Day 1, which was 4 hrs more from Shimla. The road towards Narkanda is sheer beauty. That coniferous trees all along the road builds up your excitement.
As soon as I reached Narkanda, it stared drizzling a bit, so to be on a safer side I put my raincoat over my jacket, Yeah thats the rare things which one would do, but call it a need of an hour, I had to survive both the weathers and ride as well. I crossed Narkanda at 1600hrs and the landscapes were getting better and better.
This looks similar to the Foster Town of Twilight movie. Too good. I sat on the road for few minutes and enjoyed this beautiful weather. This is were solo traveling helps, do whatever you want, no one is questioning you. After moving down from Narkanda the drizzle turned into heavy rains and the temperature started to drop. Few minutes ahead there was a huge landslide.
I was lucky enough to film it and not be a part of it. There were long queues in both the directions, but motorcycles have their own advantages. I managed to slip in between those fallen rocks and reached Rampur by 1900hrs, it was dark by that time. Its a good place along river Sutlej. Luckily i got the room with river view at ₹700.
I had dinner in a local restaurant and spoke with few local people to know about the road conditions towards Kaza. Everyone suggested me to start as early as possible which made me ask Siri to wake me up at 0530am so that I can start by 0600.
As per plan I started my engine at 0600 and decided to hault in Nako which was 6 hrs ride as per Google Maps. The first sight of the white mountains appeared at 0800hrs.
The road started to get challenging, with every turn there were some fantabulous and surreal views. Little did I know that this green color would go off for next 3 days.
I skipped Sangla and Chitkul because I wanted to go to Spiti within my long weekend. You will find the last working petrol pump near Reckong Peo and after that the next petrol pump would be Kaza, which is 5hrs ride from Reckong Peo. So I would suggest to fuel up your tank at this place.
As soon as I crossed Reckong Peo, the green color started fading away and brown color started emerging. The roads were full of stone and rocks and so were the mountains. After I crossed Pooh, the real Spiti Valley began.
Too beautiful isn’t it? I was riding my bike at 50kmph and was enjoying that mesmerising weather. It was more of an meditation than riding.
During my ride, I met with two travel enthusiasts in their late 30s, they were riding the XUV and had all the necessary equipments right from tent to gas stoves to onions and much more. A complete independent roadtrip as they said. They were traveling to Kaza as well. Feels so good to meet such lively people.
I reached Nako by 1500hrs. I booked a lovely homestay here in ₹700 by the name ‘Sonam homestay’. It was run by a very sweet couple in the center of Nako. I would highly recommend this place.
After relaxing a bit, I started on foot exploration of this beautiful Nako Village. It is located at an altitude of 4200m above sea level, so it’s definitely cold plus its so quite here that you hear people talking even from 100m. Thats the level of calmness this place will provide.
I visited the small Nako lake and spent my evening on the gompa which was the top most point in this village. Sunset happened at 1700hrs itself as the place was between the huge Himalayas. The panaromic view from the temple will definitely make you think that why do i even stay in a metropolitan city. This is the place to be.
I went to a local restaurant thinking that I wont have many options in homestay but I was so wrong. The couple who were in their early 50s were very generous. Since there was no electricity, I sat with the aunty discussing my travel route and stuff. Meanwhile they offered me their local food for free. I was so amazed by their gesture.
It really made my day. They didn’t had much to offer, but whatever they gave was priceless. That emotion and smile on their faces just made me feel special that day. I was happy with the fact that such beautiful souls still exists.
Next day was going to be more of a sightseeing day than driving. So I just said goodnight to Siri and slept under the stars with that heavy blanket.
I started at 0830 with my first visit to the adjacent monastery. I could very well see the the roads which were cutting the mountains and making their way towards Kaza.
I was excited to get on with the ride, after giving a warm goodbye hug to the sweet hosts, I started my journey. The temperature now had dropped to 5 degrees and was expecting to go down. I had my gloves along with 2 tshirts, a sweat shirt and a jacket.
After 2 police checkposts and crossing three villages I reached Gue, a small village which is not even displayed on Google Maps. Gue has got a monastery which have some 500 year old mummy. The road towards this village is quite tough, you cannot afford to lose your concentration even for a second. Its not even a road, just the rocks all over, thats it. You will hardly find any people in this village, initially it looked to me as a ghost town, but the surrounding were so beautiful that I didn’t mind spending time here.
The place is situated in middle of Himalayas. Once you get on the top floor of this monastery you will get the super view of the village. After spending an hour or so, I headed to my next destination which was Tabo.
Tabo has India’s oldest Monastery. To reach here you need to cross a small river which is on the road itself. This makes the ride even more exciting. Tabo village is similar to Nako. Monastery is even more beautiful. The people here are really helpful and will assist you with whatever small help you need.
I spent some good two hours in here and explored each and every corner of this small yet lovely village. Kaza is 2 more hrs from this place. The roads beside the sutlej rivee makes it even more happening.
I was hungry enough and instead of ordering some fancy food I had the most trusted Aloo Parathas in the nearbuy restaurant. By the time clock had already crossed 1600, so I decided to rest in the hostel that day and read some book.
After that I aloo paratha I headed to my hostel.
This was a pretty relaxing day for me than the previous 2 days. I just drove some 100kms only and experienced the scenic Spiti Valley, but the best was yet to come.
Today’s plan was to roam in and around Kaza (Spiti Valley). So i started by 0830 am, the altitude will suddenly go from 4200m to 4900m within 30 mins So you can imagine the tips and curves of this road.
The altitude gets higher and higher
First stop was Langza, yes the one with the Buddha Statue. Its a very small town with lets say just 15 odd houses only, looks amazing from the far end of the mountain. I reached here within 1 hr from Kaza, the roads are way too scenic.
Temperature now is under zero degrees.
After spending 30 mins I headed for the next destination which said that it had the highest restaurant in the world, Komik. The place just has a monastery and a restaurant and 1 or 2 houses, thats it.
Spiti is indeed a land of Monasteries.
The restaurant really serves some excellent Omelette Kulcha. I had 2 of them at a go and once you drink water you can feel it going to your tummy. Super Cold. The place also serves some extraordinary momos.
After that fantastic breakfast it was time to post a postcard from the world highest operating post office, which is in Hikkim. This one too is a very small village with near about 20 houses. The postman is very down to earth and explains you how the post office works here. I purchased one postcard for ₹30 and sent it to my brother in USA. He said it will get delivered in 45 days.
That feeling is just priceless!
I also got one personalized post card which says that the stamp is from the highest post office in the world. AWESOME. Now it was time to head to the highest motorable village in the world, Kibber Village. Its at an altitude of some 4900m. It took me 1 hr from Hikkim to reach Kibber, meanwhile the sky was getting clearer which offered some beautiful landscapes. By the time the temperature had dropped to -16 degrees. Freaking Cold.
There is not much to see in the village, but they have a proper photography spot near the entrance. Many people don’t even bother to enter the village. Locals are quite friendly here, you will have a nice time. 20 mins down the road you will also get to see the highest suspension bridge of Asia, The Chicham Bridge. It falls on the way from Kibber to Chicham village.
Its an wonderful suspension bridge
Below one I clicked for informative purpose.
Once you stand on the middle of the bridge and look down, you are definitely going to get goosebumps. The valley below is real deep and scary. But experience is everything. By the time it was already 1600 hrs and one last place was yet to be explored, the famous Key Monastery. The signature monastery of Spiti Valley.
As soon as you get down from Chicham, within 20 mins you will reach Key Monastery. That day there was some big gathering in the monastery so had to experience a lot of rush and to get a good panaromic view of this monastery, I went on to the adjacent mountain to click this beautiful picture of the monastery.
The ride was crazy af, but totally worth the efforts. And before it was too late, I managed to reach Kaza by 1830 hrs. I went in the Himalayan Cafe, they are the most famous cafe in Kaza market and they definitely serve some extraordinary momos here.
Last dinner in Spiti couldn’t have been better than this. And this was it from day 5. This was the prime day of the trip, I almost experienced everything. Next two were going to be tough because I knew that I had 20 hrs of driving still with me.
I woke up at 0630 and kicked off by 0715, it was already -10 degrees then, but i had to start early to reach Rampur before sunset and i did reach Rampur by 6 pm. Similarly next day it was 10 more hours of ride and I reached Chandigarh.
Many people told me on Day 1 that you don't have proper biking gears for Spiti and going solo is madness. But this is who I am and this is what I do, never settle unless you experience it. I learned a lot from this trip, right from being calm in tough situations to tackle problems with patience. This surely will be the first trip my kids will know about.
Entire trip costed me around 12k for 6 days, quite cheap!
I hope you liked it, YouTube video coming soon! Stay tuned for 'Travel with Pankaj'