At times you plan for a real long time for your trip, spending too much time on research, itinerary, travel vlogs, et al. And then you end up being over prepared but all you feel is being least prepared. This is what happened with us, on our expedition to the Spiti Circuit.
It is a chapter wise explanation, journey of two brothers to the barren beauty. How the plans fail and yet you make it to be the best trip of your life.
Chapters of life, the days spent on a motorcycle on the mighty Spiti circuit!!
Chapter 1 – What we planned
The 10-day itinerary set (Chandigarh-Sarahan-Sangla-Chitkul-Reckong Peo-Nako-Kaza-Chandratal-Manali-Chandigarh), the trip was to begin from the national capital New Delhi with my cousin driving from there to Chandigarh. We were to leave for the Spiti Circuit expedition in the wee hours of the next day. As per the plan, we were to go on one bike, which in hind sight would have been a big mistake, given the fact the terrain was totally new for the both of us. Well, we got up on time. I, for one, could not sleep out of sheer excitement of venturing out to achieve one of the things listed on my bucket list. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to reach the Himalayan Expressway from where I live. The Parwanoo four-laning project is on, making the road full of muddy pot holes. And, as not expected, our bike developed a snag. It was on the sheer instinct of my cousin that we decided to head back. As he had been awake for over 18 hours, we decided to catch up on some sleep. It was 12 noon by the time we reached back home, and then he dozed off. We hit the roads once again around 5 pm, but looking for a mechanic. Minor repairs later, we were sorted for the next early morning ride. A little tweak in the itinerary and we were good to go.
Chapter 2 – We finally leave
Or so we thought! To take some weight off the bike, we lightened our rucksacks. It was 4 in the morning when we left for the hills for the second time, but less than 10 kilometers down, we realized the problem was back. So we went back home and I decided to take my bike as well (first change in the plan). So now it was two people & two bikes, the best decision we ever made for a trip. Riding alone keeps your pace fast and test your limits to the fullest. At 5 am, we were at a petrol station in Chandigarh and at eight we were at Kufri (128 km from Chandigarh) having some chocolates! Yes that was quite quick even though we took a tea break in between. The first encounter of the pristine beauty of the hills was at Solan, where the whole city was engulfed by thick clouds and we were virtually floating above it. Having done the ride till Kufri so quick, we decided not to break our journey at Sarahan, but go straight to Sangla (first change in itinerary).
Chapter 3 – Hello to Sangla
To everyone’s surprise, by 2 o’clock we were at Sangla (225 km from Kufri en route Rampur Bushahr), a busy small town with umpteen cafes and hotels. The town was bursting at its seams with tourists and locals. This was quite different from what I had heard from people who had visited the place in its golden times. I was expecting Sangla to be an isolated village of Himalayas, but alas it wasn’t to be. Finding a good hotel or homestay to fit your budget and preferences would be slightly difficult both for reasons of quality and availability. Spending some time by the banks of Baspa river is highly advisable, but don’t go too close to the river as it is known for sudden flow.
Chapter 4 – Ahhh…Chitkul!
Next day, we woke up early and left for Chitkul (24 km) – both on one bike. Luggage was left at the hotel at Sangla. We picked our cameras for the first time here and it was completely justified. We captured many scenic views and a few water falls that provided perfect photo-ops to the tourists. We had breakfast at Chitkul, spent some time there and went back towards Sangla. On the way back, we made a halt at Rakhcham (another beautiful village touched by modernity). After spending some time at Rakhcham, we collected our luggage from Sangla and started for Nako (128 km).
Chapter 5 – Journey to Nako begins & ends
So we were all set to leave for Nako. All we had to do was get the rack of our bike removed or repaired. The local mechanic was cheap and helpful, but took quite some time of ours to fix the rack. You can go straight to Nako or you could opt to stay at Kalpa or Reckong Peo. But we decided to hit straight for Nako and it turned out to be the most tiring ride of the journey. There are hardly any roads and your soul starts craving for a metalled road. But trust me, if you love riding a motorcycle you will learn a lot on this stretch. After you cross Pooh, there are hardly 40 kilometers of distance to reach Nako. And this is when you finally get a proper road which helps soothe your nerves and go full throttle. And when you enter Khab, a major highlight of this trip begins. (at least for us).
Beautiful views of Kazigs aka hair-pin bends will greet you and leave you mesmerised and wondering about the planning and construction troubles that the authority must have endured to make the area accessible for people like us. At Nako, we plonked ourselves in the first-est guest house that we saw. Next morning, we got up early for a walk to the monastery and lake. We visited the lake first, which is at the center of the village. It is a small, beautiful lake and you can get some good pictures. Then we visited the monastery which is also nice and calm but it was closed during early hours of the day. This meant that it was time to pack our bags and head for KAZA! (111 km)
Chapter 6 (A) – Two days @ Kaza
Nako to Kaza is a pretty good ride. It would be after the tough roadless ride to Nako. Captive landscapes and scenic views would just compel you to stop and absorb nature. So while reaching Kaza, you can stop by at Dhankar, for the monastery and those mysterious caves and some super excited kids. Some people even visit Kaza and then come back next day for Dhankar.
So it’s all your choice as also dependent on the situation of fuel & fatigue. There’s a helipad from where you can get some great profile pictures clicked and get breathtaking views. So after visiting and spending good amount of time at Dhankar, we finally reached Kaza. It is quite a busy city with so many options to explore, eat and unwind. We tried many cuisines over here. A few were quite horrible, if I may say so, and I will not tell you the names. You can try a variety of yummy momos, soups and other Tibetan cuisine. You can also find Punjabi food like everywhere else and Israeli food is worth giving a try.
Chapter 6 (B) – Visit to Langza & Key Monastery
So next day we visited Langza (14 km), weather was not at all sunny. In fact, it was drizzling when we reached. Langza is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (of whatever I have till date). It hardly takes an hour, a 14 kilometers drive. We reached the village and as we couldn’t find a straight road to the village, we parked our bikes near the famous statue of Lord Buddha.
It’s a huge statue that locals believe keeps an eye on the village like it’s taking care of them all. Suddenly, to our surprise it started to snow. We decided to walk in the snow towards the village and as we reached closer, we found a group foreigners helping all the villagers in building a wall. And they were all singing Christmas carols and having fun. Snow…lush green fields…Firangs singing Christmas carols while helping villagers – this one image is going to go a long way with me. We also decided to chip in with the Firangs and we found that they were visiting this part of the state under a social work program. A very informative session followed…
We asked the villagers if we would find this kinda snow towards Komik Village, but they advised us to go back to Kaza. The weather was uncertain and the roads all snowy when we headed back to Kaza to enjoy the rain from our hotel balcony. (Yes we missed Komik village 🙁 on this trip.
Later in the afternoon, we went to Kibber & Key Monastery. It is hardly any distance from Kaza. Kibber is a beautiful village planned in a way that all the houses are similar in shape and size. The only differentiation was that they were placed on different levels like building blocks.
And Key being one of the major attractions of the Spiti Circuit is worth a visit or more. On the way, we even spotted a small red fox, which we were told later was a common sight for the villagers. Being at Key Monastery at sunset or sunrise is the most advisable part of the visit.
Chapter 7 – Kaza to Kunzum La to Chandratal
The next day was planned for Chandratal. We asked our hotel guy about the road conditions and the impromptu response was ‘bakwas’. And trust me he was quite right. While driving again the best thing you will encounter is the landscape, like those you want to keep staring at. A few hours of driving brought us to Kunzum La (75 km from Kaza). At Kunzum top, there’s Stupa and a great photography point.
You feel like you are right in the center of snow clad mountains. Then the last 15 to 20 kilometers will be a true pain in the a**. Just before the camps, you will encounter a huge water fall. It is almost impossible to cross it without getting your shoes drenched in cold water. There are many options for camping, but all are 500 meters away from the lake as per rules. So you have to take a small trek towards the lake (recommended) or you can ride till the parking point. And then a five minutes walk to the moon lake!
Chapter 8 – Time at Chandratal & journey to Manali
When we reached Chandratal camps, our shoes were dripping wet and bikes all muddied but exhilaration like never before to walk towards the Chandratal lake. After parking our luggage in the tent, we started our walk to the lake. All we had to do was just follow the trail. We found a small lake which was not THE lake and then another Baralacha La trek point but not THE lake. As it was getting dark, we decided to be back at the camping site. We spent almost the entire night around an angeethi, sharing our experiences with other crazy adventurists.
Talking of craziness, we made a silly yet worth an experience of a plan. We along with two other people went for a night trek to Chandratal. The night was awesome, moon at its peak and a soul enriching experience. As per the tent owners, it is safe to trek even during the night. No sighting of wild animals, burglars, or ghosts (if you believe in them) have ever been reported by anyone.
So that was it, next morning we left the camps for Manali, which is 126 km from Batal. Now if you wonder about road conditions, for quite a while there is no sign of road. You have to drive through, stones, sand, gravel, streams, huge rocks, slush but hardly any roads. Again the distance is not much but it is the terrain that slows you down, you will cross many waterfalls on this route so be prepared & geared up. After a long and challenging drive, we reached Rohtang. I was indeed expecting a good ride but it was full of tourists and traffic as we were getting closer towards Manali. Vehicles were stuck in a jam which was almost 9kms long. It was messy, polluted and a travel shocker as you are all soaked up on so many isolated places. Breaking the journey at Manali to energise the onward journey back home, we just decided to take rest. The next day we were back in Chandigarh with truckload full of memories and the excitement of planning our next travel.
So that was it, our experience, learning, mistakes & memories of the Spiti CIRCUIT.
P.S.: Blog is based on personal experience and should not be taken as final verdict for anything. We are just learners trying explore the Himalayas. Any advise, suggestion, compliment (if any) are welcome.