During July 2009, Amir Khan, R Mahadevan, Sharman Joshi and Karina Kapoor were in Leh.
What were they doing in Leh?
...Shooting for the movie 3idiots.
How do I know that?
...I was also there in Leh at the same time.
Yes. I was in Leh during July 2009. A trip to Leh was my old dream. A very old Dream.
...Well! I was aware of some region named Ladakh but didn't know much about it. During 1998, I got a chance to watch Dil Se Movie. Leh and surrounding area were amazingly captured in that movie. I decided then and there in the theatre that I would visit this place someday. It was 1998 and I got a chance to visit Leh during 2009, after 9 years !!
Back in Leh, one evening, I was hanging out with some Israeli folks at some bar. We were discussing topics like motorcycles to Che Guevara and Heavy Metal to the chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum. It was the last night of my trip. When I told those Israeli folks that I love travelling in mountains, one of the guys asked me about Spiti.
...Ok, I knew there was some district named Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh but that’s it. I told him the same. They all laughed at me. They told me many things about Spiti like, its a tribal belt in Himachal Pradesh which is also known as Little Tibet. The roads in Spiti are just like Leh or tougher than Leh. They all insisted me to visit Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur once. Point Taken.
We came back from Leh. Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur were echoing in my mind. After joining my routine life, the first thing I did was to search Lahaul and Spiti on google. I was shocked with the result. There was an entire world north of Shimla. A beautiful world.
I got this image after googling Spiti. How could I ignore this stunning place? I decided to Visit Spiti-Kinnaur & Lahual Region. But when?
How could I ignore this stunning place? So during 2010 I decided to Visit Spiti-Kinnaur & Lahual Region. It took me 2 years to materialize this trip. Finally, during July 2012 was able to visit This Amazing Region.
PS. Oral Permission to upload pics at Social media/ Forums were taken from Locals. All the photographs were taken after prior permission from locals.
This trip was taken during July 2012 so I won’t be able to narrate it in details. It is been 5 years, but I remember many things. I”ll try to share as much as I can.
But, this will be a photologue, where Photographs will do the talking.
Night Stay At Shimla-Kufri.
We were a group of 5 people who were travelling to Spiti. Our plan was to reach Delhi and hire a vehicle to reach Shimla. For journey after Shimla, we were in touch with a Taxi guy with his sumo. We were going to explore Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur by a hired Sumo. The plan was to start our journey from Shimla / Kufri and end it at Manali.
I don’t remember date wise details. Our night stay was planned at Kufri, Sarahan, Rakcham, Kalpa, Tabo, Kaza(two nights), Keylong( two nights) & Manali.
We hired a Tempo Traveler to reach Shimla-Kufir which was our starting point at 365+12 km from Delhi. It was a 9-hour drive and due to several Breakdowns and Traffic jams it took 14 hours to reach Kufri, but it wasn’t a boring journey. Once you enter in the Himalayas, nothing is boring.
Out night stay was planned at one of the tent accommodation at Kufri. It was raining cats and dogs. We reached Kufri at 8 PM . Had our dinner and retired to our small but comfortable tents.
Kufri is a small town located 13Km from Shimla. It used to be one the famous place for Skiing. As per owner of our tent accommodation, Skiing is now forgotten because of Potato farming.
After a nice & comfortable night stay at Kufri, We started our journey by a hired Sumo. Heavy rain and fog were limiting our visibility. We were travelling parallel to Satluj River. Our target was Sarahan Village 150Kms from Kufri.
Stop at Rampur Baisher Village.
After Kufri, our first tea stop was at Rampur Baisher Village. A small but commercially important Village. We spent some half hour here. We met some locals talked about their lifestyle.
At Rampur, We were welcomed by Snow capped mountains of Srikhand mountain Range.
At Sarahan Village.
We reached Sarahan Village at 4 PM. Sarahan is a quite small town built into the hillside with spectacular views all around at Mountain Range at 7100 feet. The town is known as the gateway of Kinnaur.
It is also well known for “Bhimakali Temple”. A beautiful multistoried structured building, a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture.
We checked in at Dharamshala of Bhimakali temple and started exploring the village. We visited some local houses, a palace and witnessed an amazing sunset on the mountains of Srikhand Mountian range.
Our night stay was at Bhimakali Dharmashala, which was on the campus of the temple. We were out of campus searching for a wine shop. We bought some Vodka and when we came back at 8 Pm, doors were closed. We had to bang that door to get the attention of caretakers. We had some vodka at Daharmashala, had amazing food and called it a day.
To the "Land of God"...
We had an amazing night stay at Bhimakali Dharamshala, Sarahan. After a late breakfast we started for our next destination.
Rakchham crossing Sangla Valley.
We were going towards Kinnaur, also known as "Land of God". It is known for its serenity and beauty of the lush green and rocky mountainscape having Satluj, Baspa and Spiti river snaking through it. the stories of Pandavas and their link with Kinnaur is a great attraction.
There was a small temple on the road to Sangla, named “Durga Temple”. Surperinslgly, there was Gujarati priest. He was very happy to see a Gujarati group at that place. He welcomed us. He was at this temple from last 11 years and well known in Sangla area as “ Barfani Baba.” We spent one hour with him, listing to his stories and shared his smoke. "baba ji ki butti"
Roads to Kinnaur was in amazing condition with some breathtaking views.
Welcome to Kinnaur...
Kinnaur is in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, having the three high mountains ranges i.e. Zanskar, the Himalayas and Dhauladhar, enclosing valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries.
The people have strong culture and beliefs generally follow the Buddhism and Hinduism, believing the Pandavas came and resided in the land while in the exile. In the ancient mythology, the people of Kinnaur are known as Kinners, the halfway between men and gods. Thousands year old monasteries still exist in the area.
We were approaching Sangla Valley. Sangla Valley is located in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the country. In Tibetan, the term Sangala means “pass of light”
We crossed one of the gateways of Kinnaur. A road carved out of a big rock. This and this kind of images attracted me to Spiti.
After some time we were at a small Sangla village.We stopped for a while and moved ahead to reach out next destination Rakchham.
At Rakchham Village...
We reached Rakchham around 3 Pm. Rakchham is a small beautiful village at a height of around 2900Mt. One interesting fact about Rakchham is the men in the village normally take care of the herd of sheep and cows whereas women tend to do farming and household chores.
We checked in at the only hotel available at this village. It was an amazing place. Rooms were clean and the owner was very co-operative. We had a long walk in the village. Met some locals, clicked them. Views from room’s balcony were amazing.
After some scotch session with the hotel owner.It was time to sleep.
After a wonderful day and amazing night stay at Rakchham, it was time to head to Chitkul.
Rakchham to Chitkul is 12 Kms. Chitkul is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibet border. The Indian road ends here. Potatoes grown at Chittkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly.
The road to Chitkul was tough but beautiful. The views on this road were breathtaking. We all were in good mood and excited to see the last Village on Indo- Tibetian Border.
We were at Chitkul village in no time. It's a small but beautiful village. We had a small walk-in village. Talked to some of the locals.
Had our brunch at one of the cafe, which was actually "Hindustan ka akhari Dhaba"
Life at Chitkul.
We had a small walk in the village and talked with locals. Some glimpse of Life at Chitkul.
We left Chitkul, our late lunch was planned at Sangla village.
We had a brief stop at Sangla. There was small school Van with locals kids. I went there played with them and clicked some of their photographs.
We reached Kalpa,
Kalpa is a small Village at a height of 2960. From Kalpa, we can get views of three peaks Roldan 5499 meter, Jarkanden ( 6473 Mt) and the Kinnaur Kailash at 6050 Mt height.
I find nothing special about this village, out Hotel, was outside of village facing Kinnaur Kailash range which was hidden behind clouds. Out night stay was at Kalpa. After checking in I went to visit a nearby apple orchard and talked with its lady owner.
As per her due to Apple and Potato framing, people in this region are very rich. Kinnaur is one of the highest per capita income region in India.
Kalpa was a dull village but our night stay was nice. We stayed at small guesthouse outside of village with the amazing view of Kinnaur Kailash Range, unfortunately, during the entire time it was behind clouds.
Early morning we started to our next destination, Our next destination was a small village named Tabo with a thousand-year-old Monastery, but before that, we were going to visit a small Lake at Nako,
The road to Nako was nice with amazing views.
One Small turn on this road and all the green mountain was behind us. The shade of mountains changed, there wasn't any vegetation on this mountains. These Mountains were dry and rocky.
There was "Lamayuru Moonland" kind of formation on the road. We stopped a while with this formation clicked some photographs and moved ahead to Nako Village.
We reached Nako village. We stopped at a small Dahaba outside of Nako village, where we met some 53 motorcycles of "RE Himalayan Odyssey". some of them were my friends. They asked me why I am not on a motorcycle and travelling by a TATA sumo.Well, I didn't have any answer for that.
After some light breakfast, we headed for Nako village. Views from Nako village was amazing but Nako lake was disappointing. It was one dirty man-made ponds, that's it. I was so disappointed with that pond, I didn't take a single photograph of that thing.
At Nako we met our first Praying wheels and "Om Mani Padme Hum" stone carvings.
We skipped our lunch & left Nako. We were going to entre Lahaul & Spiti district now. Roads were in good condition but mountains were dry and scray.
We registered ourselves at Sumdo Police CP and kept moving. We were approaching Tabo village, where we were going to stay for a night.
We reached Tabo village.
Tabo is a small town in the Lahaul and Spiti district on the banks of the Spiti River in Himachal Pradesh, India. The town lies on the road between Rekong Peo and Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti.
We checked in our small hotel and had a walk in this small village. It was a very small village with 1000 years old monastery and one newly made monastery. We visited Tabo caves.
Next Day Morning, we visited Tabo Monastery.
Tabo Monastery was founded in 996AD. With its original decoration and art images intact, it is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monastery in India and the Himalayas.
A thousand years ago Tabo served as a meeting place between two cultures, Indian and Tibetan. This is graphically illustrated in the artwork in the various temples.
We explored all the temples inside that campus.
There was one more Monastery just next to this old campus. It was a newly built Monastery. We visited that and talked with their monks.
As per them, Tabo Monastery is one of the favourites of Dalai Lama.
Tabo was a small town, there was nothing to do except visiting Tabo Monastery and Caves. We were told that some 10 Km far there are some thousand years old mummies. I wanted to go and visit that, but other friends rejected my idea.
So We were once again on road, going to Kaza, but before that, we were going to visit Dhankar Monastery. Our lunch was planned at Dhankar Village.
Roads were good with amazing views.
We reached Dhankar Village,
Dhankar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century.
We visited Dhankar Gompa (Monastery).Dhankar Gompa is a Buddhist monastery situated in the Spiti Valley of India. It stands perched at a height of 12,774 feet and falls between the towns of Kaza and Tabo.
Dhankar is a small town with this beautiful Monastery and a fort. We skipped the fort, had amazing lunch at one of the hotel at Dhankar watching Dhankar Monastery.
After a late lunch at Dhankar village, we started for Kaza.
We spotted some far village. Our driver told me that we are going to visit one of this kind of village next day.
Roads were good. We were enjoying our journey. Dry and barren mountains were beautiful. I read somewhere that Spiti is actually a desert and receive very low rain.
At one of the turns, which was going towards Pin valley, our Driver stopped and offered to take us to Pin Valley. I was ready for it, but other friends wanted to stick to the itinerary.
We didn't turn and headed to Kaza.
We reached Kaza.
The town of Kaza, is the subdivisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley in the Lahaul and Spiti. Kaza, situated along the Spiti River river at an elevation of 3,800 metres (12,500 ft) above mean sea level, is the largest township and commercial centre of the valley.
We checked in at our hotel, & had a walk in town. Its a busy town bustling with tourist and trekkers. I find a Cybercafe. I uploaded almost all of my photographs to Gdrive.
We reached Kaza around 6Pm. So we had all the time, as we were going to stay for two nights here. In the market, I tried to search for Spiti's local booze. Didn't find any. Came back to the hotel and asked owner Bishan Thakur that I want to test local drink(desi daru) of Spiti. He took me to a local bar. Don't Remember anything after that.
Next day morning we started to visit a nearby village named Kibbar,
Kibber is a tiny village high in the Spiti Valley at 4270 metres or 14,200 ft. The village has around 80 houses, unique, given that they are made of stone instead of mud or adobe brick.
It was beautiful. I read somewhere that Kibbar and Komic are some of the highest "Motorable" villages in the world. Komic was in the same region but it was out of our itinerary.
We reached Kibbar.
It's a small village with a small school, a monstery and a post office. There wasn't any dhaba or food joint (don't know about current status).
We had a walk in the village. Met some children. One of the kid asked me to visit his house. I asked why? he said, they have a baby yak. Wow, Why not Chalo, after all, who get a chance to see a baby yak?
We spent 2 hours at Kibbar Village and then headed to Key Monastery.
We had an amazing time in Kibbar village.
Parents of that kid (who invited me to see baby yak) were amazing people. They invited all of us for tea. They told us that there was a school in the village but the teacher is not regular.
We headed for Key Monastery.
It's 20km from Kaza town. There were some villages on another side of Spiti river. It was breathtaking. Those villages, their plantations, their orchards, their fields.
Welcome to Key Gompa.(Monastery)
Key Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 mt, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley.It is the biggest monastery in Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas. The successive trails of destruction and patch-up jobs have resulted in a haphazard growth of box-like structures, and so the monastery looks like a fort, with temples built on top of one another.
Key Monstery is flagship attraction of Spiti valley. Just like Thikse Monstery for Ladakh, Qutub Minar for Delhi, TajMahal for Agra, Gateway of India for Mumbai.
We Explored Key Monastery. Clicked photographs with students.
I always hate to Visit Church, Mosques, Temples or Monasteries, just because they want me to remove my shoes. I cant understand why they consider shoes Unholy. Removing those military shoes and wearing them back was a hard task.
We came back to Kaza.
My other friends went to the hotel for an afternoon nap. I went to explore Kaza Town. There was one newly built Monastery & stupas.
I had some Momos at a small local place and went back to our hotel.
One more session at that Country liquor Bar. A comfortable night at Parasol Retreat, Kaza.
Next day morning we started for Keylong. Keylong is 168 Km from Kaza but before that we were going to visit kunzum Pass and Chandra Tall.
We started early and decided to have our Breakfast at Kunzum pass. Owner of Parasol Retreat Bishan Thakur was travelling with us. He has one more hotel at Keylong where we were going to stay for next two nights.
Roads were narrow but views were breathtaking. It was one of the best days of our journey.
Thanks to Bishanbhai, he took us to a hidden lake. A small detour from the main road.
We reached Kunzum Pass.
Kunzum Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 14931 ft. Kunzam La is the gateway to the Spiti Valley from the Lahaul Valley. Though higher than the Rohtang Pass, Kunzam is safer and provides easier ascent and descent
Kunzum pass is the Starting Point of Spiti river and Chandra river both start flowing in each other's opposite side.
We had our Breakfast At Kunzum Top.
There were some locals and some taxi drivers. One of the drivers gave a bad news to Bishanbhai, that there is some issue on the Road to Chandra Tal. Bishanbhai came to us and gave us the news. He offered to help and guide us if we are ready to trek to Chandra Tal. It was trek of some 18 km. I was ready but once again my friends said no to that.
I tried to convince them, but they said no.
Chandra Tal..Oh Chandra Tall... I"ll come again to meet you.
We headed for Batal. Our Lunch was planned at Batal.
Road Kunzum to Batal was full of Glacier's tongues.
It was amazing. We stopped at many places. The road was rough and narrow. We met many local shepherds with their Sheeps and horses.
Life never stops here.
After negotiating that bad road we reached Batal Dhaba.
Chadra Dhaba, Batal and it's Chacha- Chachi are well known. After 2012 there were many incidents that people stuck at this dhaba for days and ChachiChachi helped them.
We had simple but tasty lunch there & spent two hours.
We were going to Keylong.
Our Progress was very slow. We crossed some more Glaciers.We stopped for a while at a small village named Chattru.
After Gramphu we were on my familiar Manali- Leh road. July is a busy season on Manali-Leh highway. We met many taxis and Motorcycle groups after Khoksar. Manali- Leh is always a busy road during June-July-Aug-Sept.
We reached Keylong at 5 Pm.
Keylong is at an altitude of 3,080 mt. It is cut off from the outside world from November to April, due to heavy snowfall at Rohtang Pass.Keylong is located along the Manali–Leh road, about 7 km northeast of the intersection of the Chandra Valley, the Bhaga Valley, and the Chenab Valley; on the banks of Bhaga River.
Keylong is the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti and is home to most of the government offices and facilities in Lahaul, and also hosts a regular bazaar
After Khokasr, mountains and fields again became green. The architecture style of local house was changed. It was familiar territory. I knew what to do and what to drink in Keylong. We checked in to Bishanbhai's another hotel. We were tired. My friends went to their rooms and slept.
I asked our Driver to come with me to search Lugadi in Keylong village. Lugdi is a local drink( beer ) made from rice. It is easily available at Manali. But I was not sure about Keylong. We found some, we drank some and bought some for our friends. We also bought some locally made apple beer(cider).
Problem with my friends was, they wanted to stick to preplanned itinerary religiously. As Per per our itinerary, after night stay we were going to visit some temple named Triloknath Temple at Pattan valley at Udaipur village.
I came up with a new idea. We were just 70 Kms away from mighty Baraclacha Pass. We had an entire day as our next night stay was also at the same hotel in Keylong. Instead of going to some temple, I offered them to visit BaralachLa Pass. During 2012 none of them been to Leh, none of them knew the magic of Leh- Manali road. They rejected my offer 3 & against two votes.
So we went to visit this Triloknath Dham in Pattan Valley. Trilokchand dham was a Shiva temple, which was transformed into a Buddhist shrine by Padma Sambhava. The temple continues to attract both the Hindu and the Buddhist pilgrims.
Late evening we came back to our hotel. I went to Keylong Town to buy some more Lugadi and Cider. There was a small farm just behind our Hotel. We had our Lugadi session behind the hotel with a campfire. Tomorrow morning was last day of our trip. We were going to end our trip to Manali, but before that We were going to cross most familiar Pass. Rohtang PAss.
Keylong to Manali was just 120Kms. Google baba says its just a 4-hour drive. I had a hard time conceiving my friends that it's not just a four hour drive. If we stuck in that deadly traffic of Rohtang crazy tourist. It can take us more than 12 hours. No one was listening to me. They wanted a relaxing late start from Keylong.
I asked Bishan bhai and our driver to come to my help. I wanted to start at 5 am just to avoid those Rohtang crazy tourist rush.
Finally, We decided to move at 6.45 am.
"A Big Mistake."
We started to Manali from Keylong at 7 am. Roads to Rohtang was rough but traffic less, within 2 hours we were at Rohtang top. It was 9 am. There were very few tourist at Rohtang Top.
My friends teased me by saying...
" dekha kuch bhid nahi, kaha hai tumhare "Rohtang crazy " tourist"
I and BishanBhai just smiled and said...
"age age dekho hota hai kya, yeh to sirf Rohtang Top hai.
We were total 7 guys in that Sumo. We 5 friends, Bishanbhai and Driver. I and Bishanbhai were tensed we knew what we are going to face on another side of Rohtang. The driver was relaxed, this was his daily run. Rest four friends were enjoying Rohtang top.
"jo hoga dekha jayega"
& joined them for photographs.
After one hour, at 10 am we started getting down from Rohtang Top to Manali. We met two bikers, they were struggling in mud.
We asked them...
"whats up, hows the road ahead?"
" very very bad, with a big traffic jam"
I turned to my other friends and said...
"chalo dikhata hu " Rohtang Crazy tourists"
There was indeed a big traffic jam. The road was in bad condition & caravan of IOCL tankers and military supply trucks making it worst. Motorcyclists were struggling to make way from that mud. A long queue of tourist vehicle was on both sides of road.
Finally, My friends said to me...
"Shreyas you were right, what now?"
"What now?" Nothing!!! Enjoy.. We are at Rohtang Pass."
I added ...
"I was right during entire trip, lets discuss this at my Favourite bar Khaybar Bar at Manali"
It took us 5 hours to reach Palchan Village. Palchan was just 11kms from Manali. Still, it took 2 hours to reach Manali. All of us was tired.
At 6Pm we checked in at a hotel in Manali. Bid a farewell to our driver.
The irony is, today after 5 years of this trip, I don't remember his name. Normally I keep a record of these friends who can be helpful on my next trips to The Himalayas. I only remember two things. Frist, he was from Sarahan Village, second, he was an amazing person, who became a very good friend.
We all were tired. We took an amazing bath at Hotel. One of my friends said let's order our food in room Only.
Noooo a Big Noooo!!! This Is Manali.!!!
We went to mall road. It was jam-packed with tourist. The owner of Khaybar Bar on mall road was my friend. I called up and booked a table for 5. We asked BishanBhai to join, but he had some family commitment. Bishan Thakur is from Manali.
It was time for the party, but before that, all of my friends had to face Shreyas's wrath for not listening to him. ha ha ha!!! We had an amazing time at khaybar Bar.
After some long session with Single malt, poorly made cocktails and Trout fish. We called it a day and retired to our hotel.
Our Volvo to Delhi was at 6 Pm, & our flight Delhi to Ahmedabad was at 01 pm next day. We had an entire day in Manali.
My friends asked me(finally they did) what to do?. I gave them two options. Visit temples like Hadimba temple, Manu temples and Jawahar kund or do some adventure sports?
I wanted to go to Solang valley and do paragliding, then rush to Kullu and do water-rafting. After water rafting, we can visit Naggar village for Nicholas Roerich House, stop at some Shawl factory outlet do some shopping and come back to Manali bus stand.
It was a perfect plan to pass that day in Manali. We hired one Sumo(we were 5) & went to Solang Valley.
After Paragliding at Solang Valley, we asked our driver to rush to Kullu.
We had breakfast en route Kullu. We reached Kullu and did water rafting, that longest option. I never miss a chance to do water rafting. It's always fun.
I read somewhere about a Himalaya crazy Russian named Nicholas Roerich.
Nicholas Roerich, a reputed artist had chosen Naggar as his residence when he came to India in 1929. The house has now been converted in an art gallery
We visited Roerich House. Did some shopping at one of the factory outlets at Kullu and headed back to Manali. It was time to board in our Volvo To Delhi.
Next day We reached Delhi and boarded in our flight to Ahmedabad.
End of An amazing Trip.