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2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 10/11 – Sundernagar to Chandigarh to Nainital

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

Day 10/11 – Mon/Tue, Sep 11/12 2017 – Sundernagar to Chandigarh to Nainital


Day 10 – Route Map

Day 11 – Route Map

The last two days were somewhat uneventful.

Left Sundernagar early in the morning with the intent to reach Chandigarh by noon and then checkout some places of my childhood memories.

Early morning fog at Sundernagar

Stopped for breakfast on the way to Chandigarh. Booked a hotel in Zirakpur online. Was in the hotel by 1300. After resting for a while, went first to Sec 18, Sec 19 and later to Sec 17.

As a city these places are pretty much the same as they were 25yrs ago. Even the trees I used to play under are the same albeit with a thicker canopy.

Kudos to Chandigarh administration for keeping it that way. I also was pleasantly surprised with the traffic levels. There were no jams and traffic was constantly moving.

Spent the evening in Sec 17th plaza. Did some shopping of books and other stuff in the shops that have been there since I was a kid.

Reached back to hotel around 2230 after dinner at Singh’s chicken.

Next morning again was on the road by 0600. Made pretty good time till Karal and then somewhat slower till Shamli. Stopped for breakfast a little before Shamli.

After Shamli took the Muzaffernagar-Bijnor route, which was a non-divided highway with bad road condition. This was long and tiring.
At the foothills of Nainital, stopped for lunch at Choti-haldwani at 1530.

Climb to Nainital starts

Khurpatal

Village of Narayan Nagar

Back home after 2400KM and 11 days.

Day Stats

Day 10
Distance: 247Km
Start/End Time: 0600-1300
Expenses – Food: Rs995/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs350/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs1700/-

Day 11
Distance: 419Km
Start/End Time: 0600-1700
Expenses – Food: Rs250/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs500/-
Expenses – Stay:

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 9 – Chandratal to Sundernagar

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

Day 9 – Mon, Sep 11 2017 – Chandartal to Sundernagar

Day 9 – Route Map

It was a tough night and I barely slept at all. I didn’t feel much cold as the quilts were nice and comfortable. Maybe it was the AMS effect.

Made a mistake of waking up on my usual time. As I stepped out of the tent, it was cold, grey and drizzling.

Was in two minds as to whether go to the lake or leave for the day. And then it started snowing. Made a hasty decision to leave. Didn’t want to hand around for the rain/sleet to intensify and then get stuck.

Bad idea. Should have gone to the lake once. Pretty soon I was on the road to Batal.

Snow and Rain on the bike

Towards Batal

Reflections

The bridge at Batal. Chacha-Chachi dhabha is just on the right side of the bridge.

The dhabha was open at Batal. Stopped to warm myself up and eat some food. Then started for Grampho.

The road was as bad as I had heard or read. Early in the morning there was no other vehicular traffic. In fact I would not see a vehicle till Chhatru.

Yet the ride was fun. I wasn’t feeling as cold and the skies had cleared up. Other than a could of water crossings where I got my feet wet, there was nothing serious.

Onwards to Grampho

Roads were as bad as everyone had said.

Small hamlet of Chhatru

Few Km after Chhatru, I gave lift to a Raghav who wanted a ride till Grampho.

Along the way we stuck up a conversation. Raghav was a shepherd who grazed his sheep on the other side of Chandratal. He was now bringing his sheep down towards Manali for shearing.  His family stayed near Pathankot with the kids going to school. He spent all his summers grazing sheep in the meadows in the Chandratal area.

There were a few big water crossings after Chhatru which I managed to negotiate without asking Raghav to get off. At Grampho I bade goodbye to him.

Raghav

The road up to Rohtang was pretty messed up. Around a Km below the top, the tar road started. After that it was a breeze.

Upwards to Rohtang

Crowds at Rohtang

Rohtang was a typical tourist spot. Driving down from Rohtang to Manali, I probably crossed 10X more bikes than I had seen on the entire trip till then. Royal Enfield probably does 75% of their sales between Manali and Kerala (which is the other place I see a lot of RE).

Took a quick tea break after the Solang cutoff and then onto Manali.

Distant waterfall below Rohtang

At Manali, I choose to the old Mandi road which goes via Naggar. A while back someone had recommended that I take this road. Since I had some time, why not.

This was a good choice. While the road was narrow and had good traffic, it was more picturesque than what I remembered of the main Manali-Mandi highway.

Deodar jungle

Apples galore

After Kullu, it was a regular ride trying to cover as much distance as I could. I was hoping to get to Chandigarh by noon on the next day.

Reservoir before Mandi

Quick break for chole-kulche

By the time I reached Sundernagar, it was getting dark. So decided to stay there. Bilaspur would have been too late.

Found a decent room at Hotel Hamsafar and rested a while. Later went to the stalls near the bus stand for dinner before calling it a day.

Day Stats

Distance: 280.2Km
Start/End Time: 0615-1830
Expenses – Food: Rs340/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs500/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs510/-

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 8 – Kaza to Chandratal

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

Day 8 – Sun, Sep 10 2017 – Kaza to Chandartal

Day 8 – Route Map

The morning routine was the same. I was on the road by 0600. The morning was unusually cold. At one point I was tempted to take out the other pair of cold weather gloves from the bag, but then decided to continue. I also couldn’t find any open shop to ward myself with a cup of tea.

The terrain, though as barren as the last few days, was quite different. The road cut through a valley which was like a wide plain between two range of hills. Down below Spiti river was a constant companion.

An irrigation pond

A remote monastery

After around 20Km from Kaza, the tar on the road disappeared. Slowly i began to realize why this road from Kaza to Grampho is so infamous. But this was just the trailer. There was more fun to come.

Tar road disappears

Barren high altitude meadows

And there is still a long way to go

A larger than life view

Spiti River accompanying the road all along

A road side Chorten

Heading towards the snows

As I approached Losar, the blue skies disappeared and few drops fell from the sky. The cold increased and I was worried about the drizzle growing into a cold rain.

Taking a break at Losar was my backup plan. Having heard of the bad road condition up to Kunzum La, I wasn’t very keen to ride up to the pass under heavy rain.

Approaching Losar

At Losar, I found a few shops and took a break. By the time I finished with my tea and a packet of biscuits, the rain had stopped.

After registering at a checkpost, I started the climb to Kunzum La.

Approaching Kunzum La

A lone cyclist

Almost at Kunzum La

The climb to Kunzum La was uneventful. Bike managed quite well, while my bum did not do so well. Up at the pass it was cold and windy. I was the only one around.

Clicked a few pictures and I was on my way down to Batal

Kunzum La

The road down to Batal was in a pretty bad condition. It was also quite steep with a series of switch backs.

At Batal, I stopped at the famous Chacha-Chachi dabha. The place was crowded with a few vehicles outside and 8-10 people inside. After 2 glasses of tea and a plate of Rajma-Chawal, I was ready for Chandratal.

First meal of the day at Chacha-Chachi dhabha

Outside the Chacha-Chachi dhabha

Onward to Chandartal

The road to Chandratal was bad as expected. After to decent water crossings, I was at the campground area. The first tent setup I saw was of Jamiaca. After talking to the person, for some reason I did not feel like taking that one.

So I moved to Tenzing camp which was run by the son of Chacha-Chachi. His price was lower, so I took a single person tent.

I had started drizzling again. So after a cup of hot black tea, I dozed off. It was only 1215.

Chandartal Finally!!

I woke up around 1500 and rode up to the parking lot. It was pretty cold and somewhat miserable weather. With the clouds around, there was no chance of the famous reflections the lake was famous for.

Chenab River near Chandartal

A 10 pic panorama of Chandartal

Chandartal

Prayer flags at Chandartal

Yours truly at Chandartal

Chandartal

After hiking around the lake, I went down to the shore and sat down to talk with a group of students from Punjab. They were quite keen to take a dip in the waters and were waiting for the tourists to thin out.

Around 1700 I went back to the tents. The rain continued on and off.

View on the way back to the campgrounds

There was nothing much to do at the campground. It was cold and windy. So I went inside my tent and snuggled under a quilt.

Around 2000, I went to the common dinner tent for food. A large group of Israelis had arrived. The group of students from the lake were also there. After an hour of dinner and conversations, I headed back to sleep.

Day Stats

Distance: 115.5Km
Start/End Time: 0600-1218
Expenses – Food: Rs140/-
Expenses – Fuel: 0/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs700/- (incl food)

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium

Route Map

All Pictures

Panoramas

Day 1- Nainital to Rudraprayag

Day 2 – Rudraprayag to Purola

Day 3 – Purola to Sangla

Day 4 – Sangla to Chitkul to Nako

Day 5 – Nako to Dhankar

Day 6 – Dhankar to Kaza

Day 7 – Kaza and Around

Day 8 – Kaza to Chandertaal

Day 9 – Chandertaal to Sundernagar

Day 10/11 – Sundernagar to Chandigarh to Nainital

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 7 – Kaza and around

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

Day 7 – Sat, Sep 9 2017 – Kaza and around

Day 7 – Route Map

Today was allocated to hang around Kaza and nearby places. Not using that as an opportunity to sleep late, I was out on the road by 0550 and headed towards Key Monastery. Wanted to see the sun rise over the place.


A small kid waiting for transport outside Kaza Monastery

Bridge to Losar. Road straight goes to Key and Kibber

First rays of sun across the river. Somewhere up there is the Kunzum Pass

Key Monastery

Reaching the monastery, I realized that it was in the shadow of mountain and it would be  a long time before sunshine would reach the walls of the monastery. Deciding to head down towards the river, I found a dirt track which would take me down. However later I realized that the track ended in fields and then a steep drop down to the river.

Dirt track towards going down towards the river.

A 9 picture panorama of the Spiti river with mountains across and moon setting. Large image here.

Found one shop open in the Key village and stopped for tea. While drinking tea, I could see wide landscape across the river. It looked like I would get good views of the monastery on the other side. Subsequently I decided to ride over. Went back towards Kaza and then crossed the bridge towards Losar. After Rangrik, took a small trail to the edge of the cliffs. Key Monastery was just across the river, still in shadows.

The sun was nice and warm. Just sitting there watching the smoke from morning cooking drift out of the monastery was relaxing and exhilarating.

Road after Rangrik

A small rudimentary Chorten and Key Monastery across the river. Key Village is on the right.

A local women working in the fields.

First rays of morning on Key Monastery

Prayers with a monastery view

Returning to the Kaza I first went to the market. Walked the length and then settled in a small restaurant next to the bus stop for breakfast of parantha and omelet. Then I returned to the hotel. I washed some of my clothes and hung them out to dry in the sun. Then I took a short nap.

Waking up I lay around lazily and eventually forced myself to get ready. Leaving the hotel,  I headed towards Key Monastery.

Saw a mechanic shop on way out of Kaza. Got my air filter clean and chain lubed.

As I was driving alongside the river, I had that deep urge to take a dip in the waters. I had been wanting to do that, but forgot to get my synthetic shorts and towel. Still I drove down to the water. Looking around I found a spot away from the road and behind a clump of bushes. No one would have minded me having a skinny-dip in the river. So taking off all my clothes in I went. The water was quite comfortable and it was fun splashing around in waist deep waters.

Skinny Dipping.

Key Monastery

Entry gate to Key Monastery

After a good refreshing bath, I went to the Key Monastery. Splashing around in the water had made me hungry. So after parking I straight went to the restaurant. Saturday is a holiday for the monastery kids. So a bunch of them were hanging around. I spent a while talking to them.

Subsequently I had thopka for lunch. Feeling lazy to walk up to the monastery, I drove towards Kibber.

 

Saturday was a break from studies for the kids at the Monastery. So they were hanging around the restaurant.

Striking a pose.

A few kids walking up to the Monastery

Kibber is a small picturesque village located  high above the Spiti River Valley and a small monastery. After the key Monastery the road changes into a dirt track going though some beautiful terrain. Side roads go to Chicham and Tashigong which I skipped. Drove around the village of Kibber and then turned back.

Road to Chicham

Village of Kibber

Kibber Monastery

Chorten above Kibber Village

Key Monastery from the road returning from Kibber.

Road workers taking a lunch break.

When I returned to the hotel, the owner was siting outside. I sat down with him for a while and chit-chatted away. During the conversation we talked about local food and we decided on Thingmo and Mutton Shapta for dinner. His cook who was from outside Spiti did not know how to cook local cuisine. So he promised that he’ll have someone in his home cook for me.

After a while I took leave of him and went to Kaza market.

Last rays of sun on the hills beyond Kaza.

Kaza is more like a small village rather than a town. However the market was bustling with both locals and tourists. I parked my bike at one end and then walked along the length of the market.

In one of the by-lanes saw this nice restaurant – The Himalayan Cafe,  with a placard saying local fish. I took a seat in the open area. When I ordered fish, I was told it would take 45-50min. Didn’t want to wait. So ordered a plate of momos and coffee. After a wait of 30min it started getting cold. So I shifted inside. The ambience inside was nice. After a further wait of 10-15min the momos cafe. Was wondering whether I should have asked for the fish. But then that may have taken even longer.

The moms weren’t that great and coffee somewhat cold. I probably should have tried some local place.

Walked a little more around the market. There was no electricity. Many shops had emergency lights. Others were dark or closed.

After a while returned to the hotel.

Momo and Coffee at The Himalayan Cafe

Kaza market

Returning back to the hotel I packed my bags and then reviewed some pictures. Around 2100, I had dinner. As promised by the owner I was served Tingmo with Mutton Shapta. Excellent combination and I loved the taste of Tingmo dipped in the spicy gravy of Shapta.

Tingmo with Mutton Shapta

Milky Way

After dinner, I headed out to do some night sky photos. The moon was quite bright. Didn’t get anything interesting. Returned to hotel and went to sleep by 2300.

Day Stats

Distance: 99.9Km
Start/End Time: Random
Expenses – Food: Rs805/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs300/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs800/-

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 6 – Dhankar to Kaza

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

Day 6 – Fri, Sep 8 2017 – Dhankar Lake, Komic, Hikkim and Kaza

Day 6 – Route Map

I snoozed the alarm twice before I woke up. While I wanted to leave early, I was not in a hurry. All I had to do was to get up, brush, dress up and leave for the Dhankar Lake.

Looking at my physical shape, the guesthouse caretaker had warned me a couple of times on the trail being steep and that it will take quite long.

Three dogs who were sleeping just outside the guesthouse door, got startled as I stepped out. They then proceeded to ungrudging accompany me on the walk up to the lake.

The trail starts just outside the large gate on the main road and is well-marked. At first it is quite gradual and then gets steeper – at least it felt so maybe because I got tired.

The altitude definitely had an effect and pretty soon I was huffing and puffing, which made me stop quite often. That was good in a way as it gave me an opportunity to look behind me.

The trail rises straight on the face of the mountain overlooking the village and the valley. The sun was rising behind the mountain I was climbing, spreading golden hue on the hills opposite. The moon was setting over the hills across the valley.

Taking a break on the strenuous hike

Moonset over Spiti Valley. See here.

One of the three dogs who accompanied me to the lake.

A sprinkling of snow on the top of the peaks.

The dogs would dart ahead. Then they would wait for me to catch up with them and give a rub on the head. Then they would dart back ahead and repeat the cycle.

Around three-forth of the way up, the trail turns obscuring the views of the valley.

As I turned around a corner, a small temple showed up with a portion of dried lake bed. I wondered if the lake will be completely dried. However any worried were put to rest as the trail topped over a small rising and the lake came into view. One part of the lake was dried up while the other side had ample water. There were two temples near the lake – one very small and in a run down condition and the other larger and better maintained one. It took me around 1hr 45min to reached the lake from the monastery guesthouse.

As I stood there staring at the small lake nestled among the mountains, the dogs decided not to wait for me. They darted down to the water and jumped in. There were boards on the way advising not to get into the water and I respected that, only putting my hands in to drink some water and wash my face.

The dogs enjoying a walk in the water.

Reflections

A five picture panorama. See here for larger version.

More reflections

The small temple beside the lake. below the temple is where I took a short nap.

I took a round of the and then settled down on the banks near the temple. The dogs lay down near me, occasionally getting up to jump into the cold water. I am guessing the sun was quite hot and they would get into the water to cool themselves.

I had an apple in my bag and bit off a piece to share with the dogs. They did not like it and left it there. So I ate the rest of the apple myself. Lying there in the sun I dozed off in the lullaby of flags fluttering in the wind. Other than that there was absolute silence.

I woke up feeling cold and saw that a cloud had obscured the sun. I lay there lazily before getting up to start on the trail down.

The bigger and better maintained temple.

One of the dogs cooling off in the lake.

The trail back.

Selfie on the trail back.

It was almost 1030 by the time I reached back to the guesthouse. On way back met a a group of two being led by a guide going towards the lake.

After reaching the guesthouse, had a breakfast of bread, omelet and tea. Left Dhankar by 1200.

A 7 shot panorama of the Spiti River between Dhankar and Kaza and the towering hills across. Bigger version here.

Leaving Dhankar, I had two options. One was to take the straight road to Kaza. This road follows the Spiti river and is in pretty good condition. The other is a diversion which goes to Komic, Hikkim, Langza and then Kaza. This second route was recommended by someone on bcmtouring forum and is not well used. Someone had warned that the road may be closed or in pretty bad condition. I would later find out that the warning was quite apt.

As I headed towards Kaza, I was still undecided. Fuel was running low, so I was a little reluctant to take the alternate route. Around a Km after Lidang, the road to Demul takes off on the right. The road looked newly laid and in excellent condition. All doubts were gone and I turned up that road.

Patterns on a mountain.

Lost on the Demul Road

The road quickly rose above the valley through a series of switchbacks. Again the views of the valley below were magnificent. The road was great, so it was fun driving up.

After a few Km, a small trail cut off towards to the left. Next to it a board indicate the way to Komic. The trail was narrow and didn’t looked motor-able. While google maps showed that to be the right way, I was hesitant. I was more eager to ride on the good road which went ahead towards Demul. So ignoring the board and the maps, I went straight. Pretty soon I was at the top of the hill. Couple of Chortens stood there defying the strong winds. The road ahead went to Demul. A small trail went off somewhere to the left.

I was somewhat lost and also the shortage of fuel dawned on me. Decided to take the small trail on the left. A little far ahead was a tractor with trailer parked on the road blocking the way. It gave me confidence that the trail is motor-able.

Reaching the tractor, I found two guys sitting behind the tractor. They affirmed that the trail would lead to Komic. At the same time they warned that the road was bad. One of them then proceeded to reverse the tractor so that I had enough space to pass.

After a km of driving on the narrow trail with pointed rocks, the trail widened with rocks giving way to packed mud.

The trail to Komic.

Wild Horses on the Komic trail

As I settled down on the mud packed road, the ride became more and more fun. The vistas were pleasing and sun felt warm on my back. I was loving it.

After a while the road became worse again. Loose rocks, big and small all over. Fortunately I was wearing padded cycling shorts under the jeans otherwise my bun would have been a toast.

After a short break, I reached a small pass overlooking Komic. The monastery looked so isolated in the middle of nowhere.

Selfie on the Komic trail.

Panoramic view from the pass above Komic. A larger version of the 7-image panorama.

Another view from the pass above Komic. The small building below the curve on the road is Komic Monastery.

Komic Monastery

Yaks grazing on the hillside

Komic Monastery

At Komic, I skipped going inside the monastery. Opting to take a picture from outside, I proceeded towards Hikkim. Missing out a turn, I ended up on the road to Langza. Wanting to visit the highest post office, I turned back after realizing my mistake.

At Hikkim, one has to park their vehicle on the road and walk down to the post office. There are no markers, so one has to find their own way around. It is a small village, so I walked around till I found the post office. Surprisingly there was no one to be seen in the village.

There were two people at the post office. They didn’t have any stamps. So I couldn’t send a letter. I left after having a picture taken in front of the board.

Village of Hikkim.

Road to Langza

At the world’s highest post office, Hikkim.

Moving ahead from Hikkim, I descended towards Kaza. The views down towards the valley were picture perfect. After several hours I was seeing some vehicles on the road. The last I had seen was the tractor near the Demul Road Chorten. These were mostly tourists coming from Kaza.

Patterns in the Spiti River.

World’s highest fuel retail outlet.

Didn’t take me long to get to Kaza. First thing I did was to fill up on petrol. Subsequently I hunted for a hotel and found one at Kay Cee Lodge. Dumped my stuff in the hotel and ordered for tea/pakora. Seems to have fallen into a pattern. After reaching the hotel I look for tea/pakora. If that is not there, I fallback to Maggie.

I was planning to head out to the market after a short rest. Did not realize when I fell asleep. It was dark when I woke up. Since I was planning to stay in Kaza for one more day, I hung around the hotel talking to the owners son and the cook. Had dinner of chicken curry and roti, before turning in for the day.

Day Stats

Distance: 83.3Km
Start/End Time: 1200-1730
Expenses – Food: Rs600/-
Expenses – Fuel: Rs550/-
Expenses – Stay: Rs800/-