Himachal Pradesh – Into the Thin Air of Spiti Part-2

19th June:

The morning was brilliant again and I didn’t wait anymore but sharp at 6 started the 3 km hike towards Dhankar Lake. Some parts are stiff but mostly moderate hike and reached at lake by 1.5 hours. It was a calm morning and lake was awesome with mirrors of surrounding ranges specially manerang. I just sat there for an hour and the feeling was hard to express in words. Early morning Dhankar lake is an awesome experience. I came back by 9.00am and took a shower, had a good breakfast and started by 10.00am towards Kaza. Straight away proceeded towards Langza once the Scorpio got it fuel tank filled up. Langza and Komic were 2 awesome places with Chau Chau kang Langda in its backdrop, both places had monasteries where as Komic Monastery had an extra attraction of a stuffed Snow Leopard there. I thought of spotting some fossils in Langza but didn’t find any, heard from locals it might be available near water streams in the forest, most likely maximum were picked up and sold already. There is another village called Hikkim and there are roads connecting each of them. We took from Kaza the main road and took left fork towards Langza as mentioned by a Kaza local.From Langza again one road goes Komic directly and we took this to reach there, while coming back we tried to experiment a little and took the road to Hikkim from Komic and after Hikkim there is a fork, right side goes towards Langza and left goes towards Kaza directly. We took right and got stuck in Mud slush for half an hour, finally retraced and took the left towards Kaza and soon discovered why the local asked us to take Langza route. The road was extremely narrow and full of loose gravels that is difficult to grip, Scorpio faced skidding in couple of places and once we escaped by an inch from a straight fall to Spiti Valley. After some time found a dozer is removing stones and we kept waiting for almost 15 mins before it gave us an extremely narrow space to pass, Vinkal’s driving skill saved our day and when we took first hairpin after that, we realized the dozer we just passed, throwing the stones on our road from top. We shouted a lot to stop, honked a lot, all in vain and then we had nothing to do but to pass the stretch as stones are coming from top and it was steep and full of loose gravel to back track. Now the worst, Vinkal told we need to remove few boulders from road those could damage the car, he was at steering, it’s only me who need to do the job as he had to drive fast the moment I pushed the stones. It was most horrific moments of my life, stones are coming from top, I was pushing stones with all my energy to make way for the Scorpio and Vinkal is honking if the dozer shows some mercy to us, don’t know exactly how long it was but seems to be never ending, finally crossed the stretch unhurt. Came back to Kaza and meet Lotey and the best thing that could happen then was exactly what he told, Kunzum opened 2 days back and first lot of cars crossed Barlacha on that day itself. Along with that the bad news was Chandratal link road was still closed and none knows even in Kaza when it could open. I asked if I could try a trek from Kunzum Pass as that is shorter and more scenic. He discouraged me very clearly as he was expecting lots of snow in that route. We didn’t want to stay at Kaza and asked him if anything is available in his hotel at Rangrik (Spiti Sarai). He offered us a complete suite with 2 rooms and 3 beds for 1000. It’s the best deal we got in whole trip and undoubtedly the best place we stayed among all 17 days. The hotel location was superb out of all hustles and bustles of Kaza and the food was extremely good. Voyager once wrote, it’s best value for money in the valley and he was 100% correct.

Dhankar Lake:

20112_Dhankar Lake 20121_Dhankar Lake

Dhankar Monastery on the confluence of Spiti and Pin:

20142_Dhankar Monastry on the confluence of Spiti and Pin

Dhankar Monastery Old at back and New one at Front:

20152_Dhankar Monastry Old at back and New one at Front

Kaza from Top:

20186_Kaja from Top

The Cutie at Langza:

20220_The Cutie

The Buddha at Langza:

20224_The Buddha at Langza

Kye Monastery from Rangrik Hotel Spiti Sarai:

20290_Kye Monastry from Rangrik Hotel Spiti Sarai

20th June:

The food was so good in Spiti Sarai, we planned for the lunch here too and planned to visit Kye/Kibber/Tashigang in morning after placing the order for lunch. Kye Monastery is in a lovely location and can be seen from the hotel itself in the backdrop of colored mountains. The views from Kye towards valley is amazing. We moved towards Kibber and clearly could see Chichim and Kibber in same frame, Parilungbi River flowing in between. This region starting from Chichim, across Parilungbi river Kibber, Gete, Tashigang and then across Shilla Nalla Langza, Komic is called pasture country, having an appearance of a plateau high above the valley with meadows and sharp cliffs falling sharply to main valley and striking appearance of two left bank tributaries of Spiti, Parilungbi and Shilla flowing through narrow gorges. From Kibber the famous Parang La pass trek starts towards Tso-Moriri in Ladakh. Chicham is not motorable from this end but having road connectivity from other side, a place called Kiato. (Towards Losar from Kaza) From Gete, walk till the start of the trail going down to Kye Monastery and you would be rewarded with an awesome valley view having Kaza and Rangrik in same frame. The road from Gete to Tashigang is very bad with lots of places full of mud where you can get stuck easily. In such a place, we stopped our vehicle and started walking forward through a well marked dirt road. We walk for almost one and half hour and the result was amazing, we could see Langza far away across Shilla Gorge and then got the best view of Chau Chau Kang Nalda at right and Kanamo at left. Both are brilliant with all white views and lots of fresh snow in June. If one can stay a night at Tashigang (not sure if any accommodation is available there as only couple of houses I could see within my 360 degree views from there), I think it would be worth experience as the place is awesome with brilliant views of all high peaks and colorful panorama of pastureland. I would be back here for sure. While returning we found a Sumo got stuck in mud that left at least 40 mins before us from Tashigang in it way back to Kaza. Driver was busy with all sorts of tricks and almost opened the whole toolbox and seems to have already tried all means. The passengers seems to be young couple who were quite scared as the rear right wheel was very badly stuck. Vinkal joined the fray and when nothing worked, he asked all of us to come down from our car and gone into the back seat of Sumo. When all of us cramped in back, rear wheel ultimately got some grip and yes it was able to come out of the ditch. Next was our turn and we put some stones, pebbles to make it much easier and came out without any hassles. When we reached Kaza it was almost 2.00pm (the walk in Tashigang helped us to offshoot the estimated lunch time we told in hotel but again it was worth), enjoyed the nice lunch, quickly pack ourselves to start off for Losar. This is another memorable stretch from Rangrik to Losar and each of the villages enroute are awesome with some very scenic canyon drive. Pangmo flat was awesome in this journey along with hoodoos formation near Kiato. We reached Losar and stayed at PWD GH, which was undoubtedly the best place to stay here. We experienced an awesome sunset and sunrise from Losar, it’s very windy place but simply out of the world because of the location.

Spiti Valley from Kye Monastery:

20327_Spiti Valley from Kye Monastery

Kye Monastery:

20434_Kye Monastery

Pangmo Village:

20467_Pangmo Village

Losar Evening:

20502_Losar Evening

21st June:

After an extremely comfortable stay in Losar, where we had room heaters, geysers, enough blankets and a very comfortable room with a nice dinner, we started next morning towards Kunzum. Vista got changed dramatically as we entered the snow zone with all white everywhere. Unlike Rohtang it was very clean and clearly quite a lonely pass to enjoy. In the temporary Tent of PWD on Kunzum top, I found the famous signpost where it was showing “Chandratal 14.5 km and Jeepable 13.5km”. They removed the signpost even from Batal link road and that is quite an indication they are in no hurry to open the road this year. I had nothing much to do as the other trek route from pass that almost goes down all the way to lake after a small climb in pass, was full of snow. The PWD local fellows also advised me not to trek the route all alone and asked me to checkout the Batal route. But Batal route is close to 14km and trekking both way in one day from there would be almost impossible with my fitness level. Accommodation for family there in Batal was another problem and of course I could see weather is going to get bad from 25th onwards and before that I needed to be back in Manali after covering Lahaul, so I decided to skip Chandratal and taken a decision on spot to comeback for this divine lake again sometimes soon. The descent from Kunzum towards Batal was worse than ascent from Losar and very soon, I could see the Chandra River down below and the famous link road to Chandratal that was blocked at least 4/5 places with snow as long as I could see from top. Reached Batal and heard the harrowing story of those school kids who got stuck there for 10 days from Batal dhaba owners. Even a German Cyclist was killed due to Avalanche on the fateful days of 7th to 9th June with huge unseasonal snowfall in the region. Batal itself had 4 ft snow then and the original road is completely abandoned now and PWD made way for a new road just beside the Chandra river for first 6 km from Batal to Chotadhara. Going through some arduous stretches with scary water crossing, high snow walls, glacial zone of Bara Sigri, some nice meadows the road goes towards Chotadhara, Chatru and finally Gramphoo for almost 60 km. It’s just making way for humans rather than calling it a road. I understood why only high ground clearance cars are advisable here when I crossed the section. Weather was brilliant all across and when we reached Gramphoo and hit Manali Leh road, still we couldn’t believe we are so close to Chandra Valley, Same Chandra River was still flowing with us but hats off to BRO for making an excellent wide road in such a difficult terrain. Actually you would feel any road brilliant just after covering Batal Gramphoo stretch. In Khoksar we took lunch and met the cordial PWD asst engineer to get the stay warrant for stay at Sissu and Gondhla on 22nd and 23rd. Due to VIP Visit we got it in reverse order than what we wanted and as a result had to travel 50km more. Soon came across Pagal Nallah of Sissu and it’s really Pagal specially in late afternoon. Lahaul valley is much greener than Spiti and farming is more noticeable across the valley. Reached Tandi by 5.00pm and the road was excellent except a 10km stretch between Sissu and Gondhla. Made the fuel tank full and discovered all hotels of Keylong were full with almost zero availability. It’s full of bikers and tourists who were stuck there for days as Barlacha was opened just a day before. Lotey again came into our rescue as we didn’t hesitate to call him straightaway to Kaza. We got a nice room in Hotel Dekyd for 1200 just because of his contact and the hotel was very nice.

Losar Morning:

20538_Losar Morning

Approaching Kunzum:

30034_Approaching Kunzum

Kunzum Top:

30035_Kunzum Top

Chandra River and on the right in white Batal Chandratal Link Road:

30056_Chandra River and on the right in white Batal Chandratal Link Road

Ice Walls Continues:

30097_Ice Walls Continues

Quite Chilling:

30164_Quite Chilling

Journey Continues through Greener Lahaul:

30293_Journey through Green Vista close to Tandi

Gondhla on the way:

30289_Gondhla on the way

Valley Turns Greener:

30292_Valley Turns Greener

Journey through Green Vista close to Tandi:

30293_Journey through Green Vista close to Tandi

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