A Race with Time on Deathway of Kinnaur Valley

10

The Journey so far…

Finally, we woke up to a clear sky in Kaza after two days and it was the day to travel over the deathway of Kinnaur Valley roads, back home. Yes, you read it right that I called it a deathway as it was no less than that for us on this very day 😀 😀

Aaah… That;s the road sunken at Pangi Nalla
Aaah... That;s the road sunken at Pangi Nalla
Day 8 | Kaza – Tabo – Nako – Powari – Jeori (Kinnaur)

We woke up early and by 6.30 AM were all set to leave from Kaza to make it all the way up to Rampur. It was a bright, clear day as I was about to walk up to Tsering bhai house to bid him farewell one last time on the trip. Tsering bhai had warned us the night before not to shoot water from the car tank in the morning to clean wind screen as it will freeze but unfortunately Sany forgot and pushed the lever. As soon as the water hit the windscreen it just froze making visibility very poor 😥 😥 … Now, nothing can be done because as soon as you put the hot water, the chances of breaking the wind screen gets more higher. So, I rushed to Tsering bhai to seek any help, if possible. He carried some warm water with him and joined us to contemplate the situation. We put that warm water very slowly to get at least some visibility to drive. Once we had that, we thought better to melt it naturally than to take the risk of cracking the windshield… Wow, what a practical learning, does your books taught you that?? :confused: :confused: … So, believe now that Travel is the biggest Teacher mankind has got 😀 😀

Then, we had another situation with one of the Thar with Harsh and group that refused to crank up in the morning. They kept trying but there was some issue in the supply line. Tsering bhai asked us to leave and assured he will take care of it and even get the mechanic, if required. We hugged Tsering bhai, thanked him for all he had done for us for the past 5-6 days, shook hands with Harsh and went on Kaza to Kinnaur Valley road. It was 10 minutes to 7 AM and sun was not completely out, so all the water present on the road was still frozen. As we drive over those thick ice sheets a cracking noise used to come but those ice craters were so hard that they did not break even after running the duster over them 😯 😯 … We had decided that before snow starts melting we had to cross that Mane Daang and Schichiling Daang region as they were the most vulnerable to shooting stones that increases with melting snow. So, forget about the pictures today, a day going to be long enough and a race with time over deathway.

Soon came the Schichiling daang, the prayers started coming out as we could see the dust puffing out of the ground at places, nothing but a shooting stone passed. Aah !! we are lucky, soon I was like “STOOP STOOOOP SANY” and he puts break and then “RUSH RUSHHH SANY” and he puts the accelerator… Wow, heart was beating like anything as my head was fixed right up on the whole stretch to dodge a shooting stone with a 50 feet drop on the other side into the Spiti river… Can you ask more of an adventure?? There were couple of extremely close calls where the stone either missed us or we missed it before or after it ran into the river… The experience was no different on the Mane Daang too where we literally saw stone just shooting like a bullet couple of times in front of us as we drove cautiously dodging one and the other after a while…. Thank god that we safely reached at Tabo and we could actually take a sigh of relief as first hurdle was over. There was no plan to have food up there and we decided to continue further.

The Frozen view of Manirang Pass Range in Spiti Valley
The Frozen view of Manirang Pass Range in Spiti Valley
Frozen Spiti River and the road leading into Pin Valley
Frozen Spiti River and the road leading into Pin Valley
Bulldozer clearing a mud slide
Bulldozer clearing a mud slide
The views as you see in Kinnaur near Nako – Maling Road
The views as you see in Kinnaur near Nako - Maling Road

The views as you see in Kinnaur near Nako - Maling Road

The views as you see in Kinnaur near Nako - Maling Road

Now, it was that shooting stone section of Sumdo that was left and rest it was nothing but all landslide prone zone 😀 😀 … So, you exit the shooting stone zone to enter into a much easy, you say, landslide prone zone 😆 😆 … I was wondering am I on a Highway or Deathway?? This can’t be true 😀 😀 … Anyways, we rushed through that section of Sumdo and it appeared that as it snowed in Spiti for last two days, it rained up there in Kinnaur because there was total mess of slush as we crossed into Kinnaur from Spiti after Sumdo. The ground kissed the underbelly of duster couple of times in slush, may be it got higher jump. Then what, a landslide waiting to be cleared just after crossing the Maling Nalla. Maling Nalla was all fine but there was a landslide ahead of it which BRO was clearing. We gave lift to a Nepali guy who used to work in Chango and also ran a vegetable shack there too. He kept entertaining with his stories for next hour as we passed that landslide zone and crossed Nako. We had plans to have food at Puh at the same Golu dhabha run by an auntyji who served us tasty food last time we were there. Since, we were ignoring pictures to be taken to rush through this whole highway, I could not resist taking some from the running car. It all saved a lot of time and helped running fast to reach as close to home as possible.

The landslide ahead of Malling Nalla in Kinnaur
The landslide ahead of Maling Nalla in Kinnaur
Thats Malling Nalla for you
Thats Malling Nalla for you
Snow Clad peaks near Malling Nalla
Snow Clad peaks near Malling Nalla
As we crossed the landslide point
As we crossed the landslide point
Snow Clad Mountains ahead of Nako in Kinnaur
Snow Clad Mountains ahead of Nako in Kinnaur

Snow Clad Mountains ahead of Nako in Kinnaur
A parting view of Leo Village – Hangrang Valley in Kinnaur
A parting view of Leo Village - Hangrang Valley in Kinnaur
Khab – The confluence of Spiti River and Sutluj River
Khab - The confluence of Spiti River and Sutluj River
Paranthas at Puh – Finally something to eat in the day
Paranthas at Puh - Finally something to eat in the day
The bad roads of Kinnaur
The bad roads of Kinnaur

The bad roads of Kinnaur

The bad roads of Kinnaur

The bad roads of Kinnaur

After having food at Puh, we resumed the drive only to encounter another landslide though bulldozer was in action for a while and had cleared half of it. There was an amazing setting of stones ready to fall and beneath that a car was parked on that landslide point. I asked the owner to move around and he replied “Sir, kahan kahan bachoge, kise pata jis road par khadde hain vo hi chali jaye in pathron se pehle?? (Sir, where all will you get saved, who knows the ground we are standing on goes away before those stones hanging above me you are talking about??) 😯 😯” Oh man, that was scary but such was the lives of locals up there 🙁 🙁 … The real daredevils who got no choice but to be one of them !! Touched by it, we moved further and inquired about the road at Pangi Nalla with couple of trucks coming from the other side. They said, it got open today after couple of days and we again thanked god. Then, another minor landslide we encountered just before the Pangi Nalla, it took 20-25 minutes to get cleared and we entered the death zone of Pangi Nalla !! There was a huge bee line of vehicles up there waiting on both sides to get the road cleared. However, I could not see any respite there !!

That looks like Kinner Kailash range as we near Jangi
That looks like Kinner Kailash range as we near Jangi
Oops the landslide again, welcome to Kinnaur 😀
Oops the landslide again, welcome to Kinnaur
Glacial Streams meeting into mighty Sutluj river
Glacial Streams meeting into mighty Sutluj river
Somehow hanging up there, ready for the fall
Somehow hanging up there, ready for the fall
Landslide is clearing up
Landslide is clearing up
The slush filled roads continues in Kinnaur
The slush filled roads continues in Kinnaur

The slush filled roads continues in Kinnaur

The road had sunken, partially gone and they wanted us to drive over it and I was literally like WTF 😯 😯 !! The dozer was struggling to pull a huge boulder down to widen the road and make way for the vehicles to pass on that day. However, it struggled a lot and hence, senior executives decided to blast it away. Initially, I took it casually and then seeing fear among the public we were also running for the safe place to park the car because many a times such blasting can trigger loose rocks to fall down or other landslides in vulnerable places and we were right in the middle of most vulnerable stretch in Kinnaur… Everyone was praying and once it was lit up, all started running and we were more than 200-300 mtrs away and still everyone was screaming and shouting “run back, run back…” We ran almost 500 Mtrs back as the road on the back side was also blocked due to landslide again which we cleared few hours before, so kind of trapped between two landslides 😀 😀 … It was already 3 Hrs at that very point and sunlight was fading. Then, there was a huge noise of blast “BOOOMMM…” and it echoed to give jitters down my whole body and it was not over yet !! Everyone was still praying, wishing it does not trigger any landslide or rocks from above, some were looking up, some were looking down but with folded hands… Man !! Every ounce of that moment was shit scary and still give me fear thinking the way things were running up there as I write these moments. There was this driver uncle of an HRTC bus (Reckong Peo to Kaza) who was amused & shocked by the wish of ours seeing the white Spiti Valley at this time without any business… All he replied that “This is a deathway sons, we are forced to run over it, risk our lives for the happy living of our families and you kids… You are just too insane to be here at this time of the year risking all your happy lives to see these dead leaf & life less mountains !!” … His thoughts took me into the memories of my wife and kiddo and their well being as every other local person in that group echoed the same words what this driver uncle said. Anyways, we were there, still alive and as the day light was about to go away, the BRO did that amazing job of widening that road and letting the vehicles pass through !! Without seeing anything we just rushed through it…

Closer View… That;s the road sunken at Pangi Nalla
Closer View... That;s the road sunken at Pangi Nalla
The Run through the fixed road…

We had a choice of sleeping at Kalpa but that would mean a very very long drive back to home from Kalpa next day. So, we decided against it and kept running towards Rampur. As we crossed Powari, hell broke loose again on the roads ahead especially the Shongtong bridge diversion… It was almost knee deep slush but Sany kept his patience and with the story of one manza getting stuck in slush, then smashed by the falling rocks leading to death of couple of people a day before, it was all more scary in the dark for all of us 😀 😀 … Adventure continued for us for good couple of hours in slush stretches where underbelly kissed, scratched few times but eventually we made out of it, all ALIVE… After all the rough drive of whole day we decided to halt back again at Jeori PWD Rest House where we stayed on Day 1. We called up Pritam ji and with a smile he obliged but asked us to carry food from Basamati Dhabha just after we cross Kinnaur Dwar (Door) … It is quite famous dhabha for its Rajma rice but unfortunately only Chole and Kari was available that day. Anyways, I was having severe headache due to cylindrical powered lenses and changing them with powered shades. I got hold of whatever possible and we finally reached Jeori PWD Rest House. Immediately checked-in to the same rooms and after dinner crashed into beds like anything for a good night sleep after such a toiling, adventurous and full of adventure, day in life…

The Slush roads of Kinnaur…

Day 9 | Jeori – Rampur – Narkanda – Shimla – Delhi

Next morning it was super pleasant and finally I could take a bath after so many days. It appeared too hot up there in Jeori as compared to what we went through all these days in the past. That bath was quite rejuvenating and we rolled in for the final leg of our journey back home. Paying the same amount to Pritam ji, we started cruising on towards Rampur. After couple of hours and crossing Rampur, we stopped at a Dhabha / Sweet shop to have bun butter with tea. I got to see Jalebis or rather Imratis, which I could not resist to order. After quick bite we were back on the way to Panchkulla to drop Shikha at Sany’s brother’s home where we had that delicious breakfast to start all this adventure on the first day 🙂 🙂 … Nothing unusual happened on this drive except spotting so many vultures feeding over a carcass. Also, just for a moment there was a time when we all lost our breath as a little mistake of overtaking a dead slow truck on a turn may have got crashed into the speeding Volvo coming from the other side near Solan had that Volvo not stopped and saved us. Except that, we just cruised all the way down to Panchkulla, dropped Shikha, had tea at Sany’s brother’s house and resumed the final leg back to Delhi from Panchkulla.

The Scavengers on NH-22 | Vultures having a treat
The Scavengers on NH-22 | Vultures having a treat

The Scavengers on NH-22 | Vultures having a treat

The Scavengers on NH-22 | Vultures having a treat

Aashish and his brother also joined us at Zirakpur as they were going back to Delhi/NCR from their home up there. So, it was both the mods and the admin of DoW Community together finally on one short ride on NH-1 having loads of chats about what we went through on White Spiti trip and what went back in community and of course the plans ahead. It was quite a cheering fun, we stopped for couple of beers and then our favourite Hari dhabha for paranthas at Murthal. Finally, dropped Aashish and his brother at Rohini where they boarded the metro to Noida and Sany dropped me near Vikas Puri modd where my father, wifey and kiddo were eagerly waiting for my return as I drove back home.

It was just an out of the world experience of white frozen Spiti Valley in March and an adventure which can be easily matched to any other toughest of adventures one can live in his life. I am thankful that the Himalayas showed me mercy yet another time and allowed me a safe passage after showcasing its amazing breathtaking beauty. Cannot thank Tsering bhai and motu bhai enough for all their warm hospitality up there in Spiti Valley at Sakya Abode, brothers from heaven who treated us like their family and took so good care of us in such extreme weather. I hope you enjoyed reading this travel tale like anything & I am glad that I finished it well before this year end 😀 😀

End of Snow White Spiti Valley Travel Tale.

Have you ever driven in to such deadly road conditions? Or are you planning a drive to Spiti Valley over it sometime soon and have any queries? Do share, in either comments section below or in Itinerary Advice Forum of DoW Community with all other devils 🙂 🙂

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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

10 Comments

  1. Hi we are bikers and will be riding from Chandigarh to shoja to spilti valley upto ladhak .. We start our journey on 21st July.. Is this a right one to travel??

    • Irfan, should be OK time to visit but in case rains come over or monsoon hits the region then Kinnaur will give you tough time. After crossing Kinnaur you will enter the rain shadow region of spiti valley

  2. Dheeraj ji this 19th nov Iwas at NAKO but experience was horrible.The temp was low and no pwer was there at my hotel Named moonlake guest house . My elder girl of 13 but mentally challenged was filling very cold some how i arranged hot water bag a can comfort her. So i called up at my hotel at Kaza but they also said that they can not arrange room heater .and running watwr is freezed in pipe line. I also have my 72 year old father in law with me so cant take risk to proceed to kaza and get down to Kalpa. Hope for next time. Can u suggest the best time to go kaza and complete via manali
    regards

    • Apart this we enjoyed fully Himachal tour most i liked is Sarhan, Narkanda.Moreover the people of Himachal amazed me for their polite words and behavior

    • Nirban, that is unfortunate to know. Good to know that you guys are safe and sound. You should visit anytime between June to September barring months of rains in between.

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