Travel for some is just an itinerary on a piece of paper trying to squeeze as much as possible with places scribbled on it to be ticked out. Travel on the other hand seeks a more deeper meaning, which is to seek a new experience, the experience which redefines your life and becomes a part of you with happiness somewhere hidden in the end of it. This kind of travel rejuvenates your soul, the local culture is embedded deep inside your heart and the whole trip flashes in front of your eyes whenever you hear the name of the place.
Spiti Valley which means “the middle land” is the land which lies between India and Tibet, it has heart wrenching routes which will, believe me, test your adrenaline levels. After your driving skills and patience’s are tested to the extreme lays a magnificent landscape with absolute silence and magical beauty. This trip is not for faint heart but will test the limits of an adrenaline junky as well, depleting oxygen levels, narrow roads without boundaries, landslides and no help for miles is just part of the whole package.
My trip started from Delhi at 3 AM in May 2016 and we went cruising on GT road, first check point was Gulshan ka Dhaba (Murthal) for a quick tea and then straight away at Ambala at Mc Donalds for some breakfast. I must say the trip started off on a very smoothly note but we were warned by a travel agents from Spiti valley to bring a SUV. We took our chances in our sedan car and headed to the middle land, to seek an ultimate adventure, a thrill of a lifetime, to conquer Spiti Valley (Kaza). We didn’t experience any difficulties on the way to Shimla and Kufri as the roads were in excellent condition. The trip being done in May, it was hot and till kufri and couldn’t let go of the car A/C but after that rain began to pour and it got pleasant. After driving for 15 hours we reached Jeori, about 500 Km from Delhi at 1800 hrs. We got a room for 1000 bucks and I must say it’s a small town which has a water fall and a temple as an attraction which people can glance on their journey to Kaza.
The next morning was crucial as we had to cover 260 km of treacherous road to Kaza. After leaving Jeori and about 12 Km we were stopped at a police check post and requested by the two local police men to drop them at Reckong Peo. We were reluctant at first but finally agreed to their request. Till now the roads were good with just few bad patches here and there. The police men were good and they gave us information about roads, hotels and places to visit on the way to Kaza. As we had started at 6 am in morning the police men guided us to a dhaba on the way where we could paranthas. Wongto where the road condition worsened and the speed dropped to a mere 20 km. We saw many hydro power projects on the way after crossing Powri, the phone signal also died and only BSNL network works.
There was a foreigner who was going from Shimla to Kaza on a cycle. I must say I got pretty motivated after seeing a girl being a foreigner was taking a challenge to cover this dangerous road on a cycle.
No wonder how much you plan and try to organize your travel but places like these will throw some surprise at you from out of the blue. We saw some cars halted in front of us, there were bulldozers clearing the road as BRO (Border Road Organization) had carried out some blasts so that two cars could pass. It took two hours to clear the gravel on the road and make the traffic running again. Soon we reached Akpa Bridge which was broken and had to take the slip road which leads to the old bridge. When we were in Shimla we had met a biker who was going to Chitkul, who had mentioned to us that if Akpa Bridge is closed then don’t go further. But in the midst of excitement, we happily ignored the warning and crossed the old Akpa Bridge to seek our adventure.
Any adventure is not complete until you taste some uneasiness or pushed away from your comfort zone. At this moment we were away from the plain roads and comfort of our homes, now looking on the map for our next destination travelling on gravel roads, looking out for landslides with survival on our minds. But the warnings of keeping our eyes on the road from the locals/websites/travel operators were not to be ignored. We got the taste of tiredness as we had started six in the morning, we hit a rock in Nako and front wheel rim got displaced and bend. Luckily no one was hurt and after changing the rim we were on our way. Now it was the last leg of the trip nearly 110 KM left where we wouldn’t get any mechanic not even a puncture fixer. Depleting oxygen, roads which would test patience to the extreme with no spare wheel this was our plight. The anxiety buildup was immense but the spectacular view of the mountains, embrace of cold air and the Sound of Spiti River flowing from the mountains had a soothing affect on our souls. We had reached Tabo and were dead tired and decided we should setup base here only. We looked for accommodation and got a good room in the Monastery guest house.
Next morning we had delicious breakfast, which were pancakes and half fried eggs and now there was no stopping on the way with only 50 KM until Kaza. While having breakfast we met Helen a tourist from Germany and she told us to stop at Dhankar Gompa and visit the Monastery. The roads were narrow with spell-bound silence and Spiti was a portrait of an inhabitant world due to its topography, which has a ghastly look especially during the nighttime. This heart wrenching experience indeed has a lot stored for, from the sparkling waters of Spiti River to snow covered mountains and lush green vegetation is worth an experience. Experiencing breathtaking views and calm air of Spiti we reached Kaza and found a hotel known as Deysor Hotel. We check into the hotel and wanted to explore further, so we headed to Kibber and surrounding areas. On the way we stopped at Kee Monastery which is nearly 1000 years old, the views of the monastery were staggering, with clusters of whitewashed mud-brick homes huddled amid green barley fields are just a blessing for your eyes. We reached Kibber and upon arriving the feeling was surreal, like a king conquering a new territory or Christopher Columbus would have felt when he discovered the new worlds.
It was getting dark and cold so we returned to Kaza and had a delicious meal. After the meal we met fellow travelers, a guy riding a bike from Mumbai, a group, we all exchanged our views and the difficulties we had faced during our trip to Kaza. Then we decided to do star gazing and saw some beautiful stars in the night sky with some shooting stars also.
The next morning we headed back to Delhi and were making better progress now that we were aware of the road but not to forget due to Akpa bridge been closed, people were using the old route which was and caused a traffic jam as there were trucks stuck. We were stuck there for atleast two hours. I and my friend searched for a nearby dhaba where I become the chef for the day and made omelets and paranthas as the cook was crammed with orders. After our little kitchen adventure we started as the road got unblocked and had to make it to Jeori before night fall.
After reaching Sangla it was dark and had to drive till Jeori where we stayed for the night. We got up the next morning and wished beautiful Spiti goodbye, continuing our journey back home. But I knew that this journey had changed something inside me, something deep inside my heart, it had made a conqueror, a winner, a patient guy in the end and some exquisite memories.