2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 2 – Rudraprayag to Purola

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

Day 2 – Mon, Sep 4 2017

Day 2 route map

From today on-wards, it was going to be new territory. The route I had traversed on the previous day was something I had been on previously. Today was about traversing Gharwal.

Was up by 0500 and on the road by 0600. First task was to get some fuel which I got as soon I left Rudraprayag behind.

The second was to decide on the route for the day.  The goal was to get as close to the Himanchal border as possible. That would mean getting to Tiuni or Purola or Barkot. I also wanted to avoid the recommended route (via New Tehri) which while would have better roads, but would also mean longer distance, more traffic and probably less scenic.

After filling up the tank, I sat down on a ledge overlooking Alaknanda and opened up Google maps to explore the route options. A few minutes of indecisiveness and I settled on the lesser known routes. This would mean cutting across the river and taking the back-roads of the Tehri reservoir.

At the end of the day my camera and eyes would thank me for taking the route while my bum would curse the choice.

View of Alaknanda from ledge where I sat planning the day’s route.

River Alaknanda takes a perfect U-turn as it descends down towards Srinagar. Further down at Devprayag it’ll join Bhagirathi to become Ganga. A 8 picture panorama shot vertically taken a few km down the confluence of Alaknanga and Mandakini.

Town of Srinagar, Gharwal spread across a wide valley.

The road to Srinagar was wide and excellent. After Srinagar, the plan was to turn away from the river and cut across the hills to Tehri Reservoir and then follow the banks of the reservoir to Dharasu Bend.

At Maletha, I left the main road and took and arterial road which would cut across the mountains to Molnau on the reservoir.

Before that I decided to take a breakfast break. I shared my breakfast table with a babaji, waiting for the bus, and got into a conversation. I was surprised to find the babaji quite well-traveled across India, from the temples of south to a few in the far north-east, mostly on train, bus and a good distance by foot.

Breakfast of bun-omlete and tea at Maletha

A babaji for good company and conversation over breakfast.

The route, though lightly marked in Google maps, was in excellent condition. The jungles were excellent and small picturesque villages were spread across the mountains.

First view of the Tehri Reservoir. I would spend most of the day in traversing the banks of the reservoir.

A little after Molnau, at Kail Bagi, I took another lightly marked route which crossed the river. The route would completely bypass Tehri Dam and new Tehri. In terms of distance it would be shorter, though I guess it took me lot longer.

There was a board which said, “Small vehicles only”. Should have been a hint to me on the road conditions to encounter.

The bridge at Kail Bagi

On top of the Kail Bagi bridge. Met a student who was took this picture.

Tehri Reservoir and the town of New Tehri on top of the hill.

Terraces farms spread all throughout the route.

The road was in general in poor condition, though in patches the tar was well laid.

Another view of the reservoir with a half complete bridge.

One of the many streams that flow down to join Bhagirithi. The small road is visible on the left.

One of the many small bridge that were crossed on the way.

An 8 picture panorama of around the back-roads of Tehri reservoir. The reservoir is visible on the far right while terraced fields are there in the middle. My bike is on the left side. See here for a full screen image.

On one side of the Tehri Reservoir an elaborate network of infrastructure has been built with roads, power transmission lines, small townships and everything else a growing population needs. On the other side are the back-roads just wide enough to carry a small jeep, nondescript villages, terraced fields and untouched nature. Being solo on a bike gives the flexibility to explore these unknown lands.

In general the means to cross the reservoir are few. On the route I gave lift to 4 people dropping them from one point to other. Given the narrow road, there was no bus transport. Villagers were dependent on private jeeps to ferry them around. Even those were few and far between.

One of the few bridges to cross the reservoir.

At places the road is cut through the mountain leaving rock towers like these. Though this is nothing compared to the dangerously cut roads I would find in Himanchal.

Another half constructed bridge. All the four people I gave a ride to, complained about broken promises around providing connectivity to the other side of the reservoir.

It was almost 1330 when reached Dharasu bend. Took a small break for tea and a packet of cake. The place was full of buses and jeeps loaded with pilgrims going to Gangotri. Apparently the road to Uttarkashi was blocked and everyone was waiting at Dharasu Bend.

The back roads of Tehri had taken a lot of time. By now I was not expecting to reach Tiuni for the night. Purola or Barkot would be the place for night stay.

Beautiful river valley on the Dharasu Bend – Wan road.

Road curving thorough the Pine jungle.

Picturesque Valley from a view-point above Wan village.

The road from Dharasu Bend on-wards was a revelation. After the initial few bad patches, the road is well laid and traversed the western slopes of a beautiful pine jungle. A beautiful river caressed by terraced fields flows down below in the valley.

The road first rises up the hills and then after Wan village, descends on the other side into the Yamuna valley towards Barkot.

It was past 1600 when I reached Barkot. I had already decided to head on to Purola. After Barkot I stopped at a small water fall. Next to the waterfall was a small Aata-chakki and tea shop run by two young boys.

Over tea, has a chat with the boys. Unemployment is a big challenge in the hills. Both of them had tried to enroll in the army and weren’t successful. None wanted to work in the family fields. So one was doing further studies at nearby ITI and other was running the tea shop.

Small cascade

Tea shop and the two boys

After Barkot, the road follows the Yamuna river and then crosses over to rise up the mountains. Again the road follows a tributary of Yamuna at a height with a beautiful green valley below.

Green valley below Purola.

River and valley below the village of Khalari in Purola Valley

It was almost 1730 by the time I reached Purola. It is a small town with one main street and shops all round it. It had been a tiring day and I had no interest in bargaining for a room. Picked up the biggest hotel on the main road, which was Hotel Classic Hill View and took a room there.

Ordered two cups of tea and pakoras which took a long time to come. The food wasn’t good, so I decided to step out into the town for food.

Walking down the main road was nice as it stretched my leg and for a change did not stress the bum. After walking around for a little while, I went in a small dhabha next to the bus stand for dinner. Had an excellent meal of unlimited roti, dal, sabzi and salad for 60 bucks.

Walked back leisurely to the hotel to call it a day.

Dinner

Day Stats

Distance: 266.6Km
Start/End Time: 0600-1730
Expenses – Food: Rs295/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs400/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs1000/-

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 1 – Nainital to Rudraprayag

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

Prologue

Several years ago when Google Earth was newly released, I was armchair exploring the hills of Kumaon and Garhwal. At that time I saw a route leading from Garhwal to Himanchal and then to Spiti. The ideas of driving down that route was carefully archived in some corners of the mind and life moved on. Over time other trips happened, but never got a chance to drive from Uttarakhand to Himanchal without getting down into the plains.

The Leh trip in 2015 gave me confidence to go solo. So finally last year I made up my mind to commit to this trip. However, a role change at work in 2016 didn’t leave me with any free time. And that brought me to 2017. I was really committed to making this trip this year.

Put in my vacation plans and booked the ticket. Once that was done, I was amazed at the casualness of my planning. Perhaps the many solo trips I have done over the years gave me more confidence or maybe it was mere carelessness. In the kit was my regular biking stuff and rain gear. In fact later I would realize that I was under prepared for the cold and should have packed better for the wind chill.

The only other planning I did was to ask around bcmtouring forums for a rough itinerary. The folks there are extremely helpful and over the years those forums have become my go to place for travel advice.

On Sep 1st took a flight to Delhi and then the night train to Nainital. Other than a flight cancellation and some crazy traffic in Delhi which almost made me miss my train, getting to Nainital was uneventful. Thanks to the heroic driving (some would call it crazy) of the Ola driver I caught the train just in time.

Sep 2nd was a cold and rainy day in Nainital. While driving in the rain is not exactly appetizing, I didn’t have much choice.

Day 1 – Sun, Sep 3 2017

Day 1 route map

Fortunately the clouds parted in the morning. All packing had been done on the night before and all I had to do was load the bike. I was promptly on my way around 0600.

Leaving early would be my routine on every day though out the trip. It allowed me to ride slower and still cover good amount of distance. Plus there is significantly less traffic in the morning.

Early morning start

Nainital lake as I head towards Bhowali

Early morning sun illuminates the rain drenched pine foliage

The route I had planned to take was Nainital-Almora-Someshwar-Kausani-Gwaldam-Karanprayag and overnight at Rudraprayag if possible. On realizing that the Khairna-Almora road was blocked due to a land slide, I turned towards Ranikhet.

The hills were lush green owning to the good monsoon. The roads were in great condition and I had a great time cruising along.

A JCB clearing the road off a fallen tree on the Ranikhet road

A small village cradled in the lap of Himalayan greenery

Faintly visible Himalayas from Ranikhet. The tall peak is Nanda Devi.

After Ranikhet, I had the option of taking the Dwarhat-Gairsain route to Karagprayag or the slightly longer Gwaldam road which would have me join my original route at Someshwar. I decided to take the Gagas-Binta-Someshwar-Gwaldam route hoping for a clear view of Trishul. To my disappointment, by the time I reached Gwaldam, the sky was overcast and there was no view of the snow-capped peaks.

However, I was glad that I took that route for it took me though some beautiful valleys of Kumaon. Post monsoons, the paddy is turning slightly brown in preparation for cultivation. Rivers and streams are full of water gurgling down the hills.

Blue skies, green field and well laid road. Perfect drive.

Two women tend to their field, preparing for cultivation.

A small river flows down a well cultivate valley to join Kosi River at Someshwar.

Paddy fields near Someshwar.

Someshwar valley stretched below Kausani.

Pine jungles below Kausani.

Cluster of 1000 year old Shiv temples at Baijnath

Selfie amidst a Pine jungle near Gwaldam

Mutton-Roti or Shikar-roti, as it is called in the hills, at Gwaldam

It was almost noon when I reached Gwaldam.The road condition deteriorated a few Km before Gwaldam. The bad condition would continue after too.

Decided to take a break and also have lunch. Gwaldam at the border of Garhwal and Kumaon has lots of small eateries. Sat down for an excellent lunch of mutton curry and tandoori rotis.

By the time I started again, the skies were dark. Within a fifteen minutes of starting, a slight drizzle started and it soon turned into a downpour. Couple of minutes of driving in the rain and I took shelter in a small shack. The place was also being used by road construction workers for shelter from the rain and to keep their stock.

After waiting for 30min, the rain slowed down and I started again.

After Gwaldam, the road condition had deteriorated. Now with the heavy rain, the pot holes was full of water and going was slow. The road conditions did not improve till Rudraprayag.

Pindar River before joining Tharali in Garhwal

A roadside seasonal waterfall before Karanprayag.

After Tharali, the road follows Pinder river till it joins Alaknanda at Karanprayag.

Confluence of Alaknanda and Pinder river at Karanprayag. Pinder is coming from right and Alaknanda from the left.

A small lush green settlement on the banks of Alaknanda River which takes a wide turn to flow down towards its confluence with Mandakani River.

It was still early when I reached Karanprayag. Decided to move on till Rudraprayag. The road from Karanprayag to Rudraprayag was in excellent condition and quite wide for the hills. Before 1700, I had reached Rudraprayag. Near Sangam, asked a traffic police for hotel options and he directed me towards the direction of Srinagar. There were several options on that road and I picked up Tulsi Hotel after a quick negotiation.

View from room balcony looking towards Srinagar. The road in the middle is the road to Srinagar.

I ordered two cups of tea and a plate of pakora. After resting for a while, had a bath and then I headed towards the Sangam. At the sangam, there is a Narad temple with steps leading down to the river. Went there and hung around for a while. Water was cold and there were not many people around.

Narad temple on the sangam of Mandakini and Alaknanda river. On the left is Mandakini and on the right is Alaknanda.

An old style manual ropeway to cross the Mandakini river.

Exact confluence of the two rivers.

Dinner

After spending some time listening to the sound of rivers flowing, I came back near the bus stand. Found a busy dhabha for dinner. A good dinner of roti, dal-makhani and alu-matar, and I headed back to the hotel.

Day Stats

Distance: 277.9Km
Start/End Time: 0600-1645
Expenses – Food: Rs505/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs0/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs700/-

Gallery

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – All Pics

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

A massive collection of 400+ pictures from my recent Spiti ride. Just switch on the slideshow and sit back to enjoy.

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Panoramas

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

These images are  2400px wide. Click on each image for a full screen experience.

A set of panoramas from the recent Spiti Ride. To cover for not carrying a wide angle lens (widest I had was 28mm), I resorted to taking multiple shots and then merging off cameras.


Monsoons is a time of revival; everything comes alive. Post monsoons is probably the best time to travel in the Kumaon hills. A small lush green settlement on the banks of Alaknanda River which takes a wide turn to flow down towards its confluence with Mandakani River.  A 7 picture panorama shot vertically, taken a few Km after Karanprayag.


River Alaknanda takes a perfect U turn as it descends down towards Srinagar. Further down at Devprayag it’ll join Bhagirathi to become Ganga.  A 8 picture panorama shot vertically taken a few km down the confluence of Alaknanga and Mandakini


On one side of the Tehri Reservoir an elaborate network of infrastructure has been built with roads, power transmission lines, small townships and everything else a growing population needs. On the other side are the back-roads just wide enough to carry a small jeep, nondescript villages, terraced fields and untouched nature. Being solo on a bike gives the flexibility to explore these unknown lands. An 8 picture panorama of around the back-roads of Tehri reservoir. The reservoir is visible on the far right while terraced fields are there in the middle. My bike is on the left side.


As one moves deeper into the Spiti Valley, traversing towards Tabo and Kaza, the landscape gets bleaker and beaker. The mountains are all rocks and stones except for deep in the valleys where some cultivation is found. An 8 picture panorama above is taken from a ledge off the road showing the vast stretch of mountains across the Spiti river.


I liked Dhankar more than any other place in the Spiti Valley. The village is remotely located high above the valley with some sweeping views of the river below. The old monastery is a lovely place located precariously on a cliff, commanding excellent views of the landscape below. An 8 picture panorama of the view from Dhankar Fort.  On the left, the yellow building is the new monastery. Opposite that is the trail that goes up to Dhankar Lake. Reaching out towards the center from the right  is  the Spiti river. The cliffs on the extreme right house the fort and the old monastery.


The trail that leads to Dhankar Lake has panoramic views of the village of Dhankar with its new and old monastery. For 3/4th of the distance the trail rises steeply with open views of the valley below. In the early morning, 5 shot panorama above, the entire valley is still deep in shadows while the peaks to the to the West receive their first  rays of sun. The moon can also be seen setting on the left.


Surroundings reflect in the high altitude Dhankar Lake near Dhankar Fort in Spiti valley, Himanchal Pradesh.

A thousand feet climb on the hill opposite the Dhankar Monastery and one finds himself in solitude on the banks of this small lake. One one side rise the towering mountains capped with snow and on the other a steep drop to the Spiti Valley. I had woken up early for the early morning walk to the lake from the Monastery (where I was staying) before any other soul stirred. The three dogs who got startled as I open the door, ungrudging accompanied me on the walk up to the lake. The lake itself was devoid of any human presence except a small temple and a notice board. While the water levels were quite low, the surroundings reflected well on the calm water.

Above is a 5 part panorama looking South-East from the banks of the lake.


The usual road from Dhankar to Kaza follows the Spiti river closely. It is probably the most important road in the valley, connecting major towns and villages. However, for the adventurous souls there are alternate roads available which are no more than mud tracks. These rise above the river and provide a top down view on the river and the hills towering across.

A 7 shot panorama of the Spiti River between Dhankar and Kaza and the towering hills across. On the left the some fields and tar road can be seen next to the river.


One of the perks of riding solo is the freedom to turn down an unknown road/trail/direction on a whim. As I drove down from Dhankar to Kaza, the fuel on my bike was dipping low. Yet I had in mind a route a fellow traveler had mentioned off the diversion to Demul. I was in two minds on taking that route since I left Dhankar. Yet as I paused at junction where the road turned right towards Demul, I completely forgot that the fuel was low and the road was more of a trail than a road. The beautiful surrounding was all that preoccupied my mind. For the next few hours I did not see any signs of habitation till the trail topped a pass over Komic.

The first panorama above is a 6 shot image looking South East. The road I followed is on the left; Off to the right is a small dry stream bed which probably irrigated the meadow in the center, with small patches of grass for cattle or runaway horses.

The 2nd panorama above is an 8 shot image looking North East from the pass above Komic. Just above the seat of the bike is the Komic Monastery. Towards the center is the village of Hikkim with the highest operational post office.


The Key Monastery overlooks a vast span on Spiti Valley with the villages of Rangrik and Sumling across the river. I had ridden out early to watch the sun rise on the monastery. However the monastery is located in such a way that the sun rises among the mountains behind the monastery. The sunlight barely reaches the monastery walls much later in the morning.  The two panoramas above are the view of Spiti Valley from below the key Monastery.

First is a 7 image panorama with the slightly snow dusted mountains with the Kunzum pass somewhere in between.

The second is a 9 image panorama of the flat-topped mountain just across the river which is split into its various veins. The light reflected off the dry mountains shower a golden hue on the waters below.


Barren mountains reflect on irrigation pond near Sumling in the Spiti Valley. As I took a quick break to adjust one of my bags straps, I saw this small pond with absolutely still waters reflecting the mountains across the road. While the pond was small, the vastness of the landscape it reflected required a very wide perspective to shoot resulting in a 6 picture panorama.


Much has been written about the Chandratal for me to add anything new. While I was at the lake, the sky was overcast and wind was blowing preventing the surroundings from reflecting in the water. The lake still is mesmerizing. The first two panoramas above are taken from the top of a hillock on the west of the lake, while the other three from the lake shores.


2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – aPaD

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

First set of pictures from a solo 2400Km ride to Spiti. Picked up a picture for each of the 11 days I was on the road.

Day 1: Nainital to Rudraprayag – The picture is from the Gagas Valley – a little below Ranikhet. The hills are lush green after the rain and crop

 

Day 2: Rudraprayag to Purola – An 8 picture panorama of around the backroads of Tehri reservoir. The reservoir is visible on the far right while terraced fields are there in the middle. My bike is on the left side.

 

Day 3: Purola to Sangla – A stream flows down the valley and before joining the Tons River near Mori, Uttrakhand. The road from Purola to Tiuni (border of Uttarakhand and Himanchal Pradesh) first descends through a beautiful Pine jungle to Mori and then follows the Tons river to Tiuni.

 

Day 4: Sangla to Nako – Road cut through a rock overhang near Sangla. The road builders in Himanchal are pretty fond of cutting through the rock and leaving suck over hangs all over the place.

 

Day 5: Nako to Dhankar – Dhankar Monastery overlooking the Spiti River Valley.

 

Day 6: Dhankar to Kaza – A whim, a fancy and one turns down an unknown trail only to discover vista unseen. A small road tops a pass over the high altitude village of Komic

 

Day 7: Kaza to Key/Kibber to Kaza – Moon sets over the hills across the Spiti River as the road to Key Monastery stretches ahead.

 

Day 8: Kaza to Chandertal – The Lake of the moon stretches down a low depression amidst the hills.

 

Day 9: Chandertal to Sundernagar – Snow capped peaks look down on the Chenab River next to a lonely stretch of road on the Batal-Grampho stretch

 

Day 10: Sundernagar to Chandigarh – Fog envelops the morning as I start from Sundernagar for a short ride to Chandigarh

 

Day 11: Chandigarh to Nainital – Beginning of the climb up to Nainital  from Kaladhungi. Almost home after 11 days and 2400Km on the road.