The Journey so far-
Day 4 – 8th October, 2011 | Kaza – Kinnaur Valley – Shimla – Delhi
We woke up around 6.30 AM, soon packed up bags, got ready and by 7.15 AM we were at the restaurant’s table for the breakfast. I was feeling well today and AMS symptoms seemed to have resided by now along with headache. In the restaurant, a family was sitting aside us abusing the people who flocked the hotel yesterday for all sough of nuisance they created. The guy was with National Geographic and appeared pretty knowledgeable about the terrain. Meanwhile, our breakfast got ready he told us that they will be heading Keylong today via Kunzam Pass as the roads were still clear despite last night snowfall. Considering this in between, we were also discussing the possibilities of going via Kunzam Pass to Manali. Some arguments here and there about why we returned and finally there were two options out of which one to choose. We go Manali via Kunzam Pass and stay overnight at Manali with comfortable ride to Delhi day after OR we go via Kinnaur – Shimla today and with a non-stop drive, reach Delhi in the morning tomorrow 😯 …
After quite fight of 15 minute including all if’s and but’s by 8.00 AM were back on road to Tabo – Kinnaur from Kaza. I was pretty excited for this challenge, as driving one of the most adventurous roads in India, that too non stop to Delhi all the way from Kaza, is quite a tough ask. Generally, people cover it in three days 😯 … But, the challenge was well accepted and the idea was simple, no stops up to Rampur where we will have meal for the day. We drive through the beautiful burning colors of Spiti Valley looked so mesmerizing that there are no words to express them…
We made good progress and soon we hit Tabo where we inquired about buying the Spitian apples as they were super delicious. People told us that we cannot get them as all the orchards are now under the control of contractors or agents and they export them directly. They asked us to come back by mid-September next year as by that time villagers have control over the crop and can give us at that time. Bargaining with contractors meant rocket high prices, so after asking one of them who quoted 4500 for 28 KGs we though coming back next year will be a better idea 😆 … The beauty was never lasting and every curve around I forced myself to stop and click but we had a mammoth task ahead of non-stop drive to Delhi which I never thought in my life 🙂 … By 11.00 AM we reached Sumdo ITBP checkpost where we registered our names again along with vehicle’s registration and bid adieus to Spiti Valley for the year 2011.
After Sumdo, Kinnaur Valley started and the roads started to deteriorate towards Chango. Ahead of Chango, we drive through the steep ascent towards Malling Nalla and the views started to turn beautiful and beautiful as well kept ascending. Again heart beats rise as we came close to Malling Nalla, a 24X7X365 landslide prone zone on Hindustan – Tibet Highway. This time it was pretty easy and with little direction suggestions from outside we were able to go through it without any glitch 🙂 …
Some facts on NH – 22 and Hindustan – Tibet Highway (read IM thread here for more info):
NH – 22 starts at Ambala and Hindustan – Tibet Highway starts at Shimla.
NH – 22 and Hindustan – Tibet Highway are not aligned together for majority of the part except the common sections are only Shimla to Rampur, Wangtu to Tapri, and Puh (turn-off) to Khab (turn-off).
Hindustan – Tibet Highway, ends at Shipki La at least from Indian side. Uncertain, about its extent into Tibet. It is like Shimla-Narkanda-Rampur-Gaura-Sarahan-Nichar-Wangtu-Tapri-Urni-Roghi-Kalpa-Pangi-Jangi-Labrang-Puh-Khab-Namgya-Shipki La- Shipki Village (Tibet)- and may be beyond.
NH – 22 ends at Kaurik (a village that do not exist any more) via Sumdo (From Sumdo the road to Tabo – Kaza is SH – 30) and then you can hike to Lepcha hamlet near the Indo – Tibet border if ITPB guys allow you to do so.
In papers we assume that legally the NH – 22 also ends at Shipki La 😀 …
By 12.15 PM, we crossed Nako village which was again a beautiful sight to cross, though of stopping by for the lunch but decided against it as none of us felt hungry at that time. We kept running almost alone on the road upto now with one or two bike / pick-ups here and there. Ka – Loops were again a pleasure to drive and we soon hit the Khab bridge without any trouble at all. We decided to buy some eatables from Puh General store but as we reached Puh we found it closed. Some highly influential person of Kinnaur region had passed-away that day in Reckong Peo and most things were closed including taxis to pay condolence to the great soul, as told by one of the locals. Nevertheless, we kept running and as we reached towards Akpa bridge after registering ourselves at Jangi ITBP post, the weather had started to turn harsh with dark clouds all over the place and extremely strong wind gushing through the roads.
Driving in Kinnaur Valley in bad weather is generally something you should always avoid but perhaps we never had the choice. It appeared snow was falling al over the Kinner Kailash range and soon it started to drizzle on the highway too. The road conditions between Akpa and Powari were in horrible state as we knew but we kept driving. After a while on the rough roads, with slight drizzle pouring down and strong wind blowing dust from the mountains, we saw a person standing and watching something up towards the hills. It appeared some casual thing to me, but as I passed by him there was a big rock right in the middle of the road and as soon as I realized the mountain aside is sliding down 😯 … PANIC SET IN… I couldn’t put reverse gear and there was no going forward too 😯 , but eventually, the reversed gear got in and in one go I reversed the car to safety location. The man standing in the middle immediately stopped two foreigners riding their cycles and hurried to push the rock in the middle of road down into the river. He asked us to leave immediately as the mountain may come down any time in this bad weather and we knew no one will come to clear the road as everything was shutdown today. In one go, I pushed the throttle and zoomed passed the landslide prone region, soon followed by that taxi driver and two foreigners. We thanked him and move ahead. One scary experience finally 😀 …
The incident meant we need to keep running even in this bad weather and I obliged by maintain some good speed no matter how the road condition was. Petrol Pump at Powari was also closed but we had enough to reach Rampur where we eventually refueled. The drizzle became heavy as we reached Jeori where I gave a pain killer to my cousin Dhruv who was having severe pain in the ear and we bought some wafers and cold drinks to help us. It was dark but we finally reached Rampur at 7.45 PM after 12 Hrs of non-stop drive from Kaza. We were happy with the progress considering lot of photography breaks which we took in between. It meant we will reach Delhi after driving overnight by about 9 AM next day. This time we stopped at other HPTDC property, Bushahar Regency at Rampur for our dinner. Dinner was good that day or perhaps we were hungry too much, ate well, had a cup of tea and on the road we were by 9 PM.
It was still raining with loud thunderstorm and lighting. At first it looked threatening but I like driving in hills at night because it is much easier owing to least traffic as well as you can see the headlight around the corner. Of course, you should try this if you have earlier experience of driving in hills at night and you are not interested in the beautiful views on offer. After offering prayers to Lord Hanuman at Rampur we were cruising alone on the road… Every one was asleep by the time we reached Narkanda but I managed to hold on. The night was cold and between Narkanda and Shimla the road conditions were bad but we need to continue. There came Theog from where till 2 KMs ahead of Kufri the road conditions were too pathetic and I had trouble descending the car near Kufri. Somehow managed without any skid and we ran by-passing Shimla in the hope to find some tea-stall open for a cup of tea. But, everything was closed. Now, I was feeling sleepy too but by that time Neeraj woke up and I asked him to drive. My sleep was short-lived as we were stopped by police near a checkpost at Shogi just ahead of Shimla for verification of documents and licenses. Well, I asked why this checking at night the police guy told 6-7 cars have been stolen from Shimla in last 3 days 😯 and I said OK. Meanwhile, he asked us from where we were coming, I said Kaza. The guys writing there and the one who asked, repeated together “Aaj kahan se aa rahe ho?? (We are asking from where are you coming, today??)”… I replied again “Kaza” and we are going to Delhi :lol:.. They immediately said OK go but take care while driving and if possible stay overnight at some hotel 😀 …
I couldn’t not fall asleep again and soon we encountered some rash strange vehicles running into us without speeding down, 3-4 headlights blinding us… Passed one, passed two, passed three and nothing was visible due to smoke they emitted. I realized that those were gypsies or participants of one of the major Himalayan rally which was about to start in few days. I perhaps thought I was wrong in admiring these chaps. (I wrote a detailed account on such spoiling sport here at: Motor Rallies | A Gimmick, Cursing Himalayan Nature) … Anyhow, after the smoke settled we moved after offering some helping verbs for them. The drive was pretty easy and soon we crossed Kalka, Zirakpur, Ambala to join NH –1 leading all the way to New Delhi. Our last stop of the trip was our usual, Neelkanth Resorts and Restaurant right after Karnal, 10-15 minutes after passing Savoy Greens. We reached there at 5.30 AM types and had a good, tasty breakfast. We started ahead towards home and after a drive for 15-20 odd KMs getting back to main road from one of the many diversions went tricky at high speed due to which I bumped the rear left wheel into a pot hole. Result was flat tyre and moreover a bent wheel rim 😯 … Thank god axle didn’t broke as the pot hole was deep and car was around 90 KMPH when it bumped into it. At first I though ale has all gone for money but god was with us. In a matter of few minutes there were three more cars getting down in similar fashion. I guess it was a known trouble point because within 5 minutes each car was offered helped by some locals for changing the tyre or getting new one etc etc. :cry:… But for us, it was moment of frustration and matter of changing the spare tyre 🙂 … I was disappointed as I could have saved it by driving slow or not taking last second shift from the diversion. But, nevertheless it had to happen, so it did. As we reached, Delhi Border at 8.00 AM types I was feeling too much sleepy and asked Neeraj again to drive us home from there. Finally, we all reached back home after 1.30 Hrs of traffic loaded driving within Delhi and eventually the dream non-stop 26 Hrs drive from Kaza – Kinnaur Valley – Delhi was a reality for me and my friends.
I hope you enjoyed this short Spiti Sprint with such long descriptive parts and I hope I didn’t let you feel any boredom 🙂
End of this travel tale!!!