If Spiti doesn’t leave you awestruck, you aren’t normal. It’s as simple as that. All your life you’ve heard that the Gods reside in the Himachal Himalayas - while driving across the Spiti district, you realize that this unbelievably scenic land had to be the obvious choice for celestial residence. It is now possible to drive to Chandra Tal, which makes things ideal for those who want the camping experience without the ardour of a trek. From Chandra Tal, we’ve driven to Kaza across the majestic Kunzum La and the high-altitude plateau after Losar. We’ve passed through magnificent gorges and huge canyons that look straight out of Mackenna’s Gold. The road is broken and bumpy and you need to exercise caution at the wheel most of the time, but the splendid vistas more than make up for the journey. Using Kaza as a base, we’ve visited interesting places, including Tashi Gang, the world’s highest road-connected village and the seemingly precariously perched 1,300-year-old Dankar Gompa.
Driving there - Manali - Rohtang - Gramphu - Chattru - Chotta Dara - Batal - Chandra Tal - Kunzum La - Losar - Kaza. We’ve mapped the route from Manali onwards. While the road is easy to follow, the surfaces aren’t very accommodating. There are streams to be crossed, boulder patches to be negotiated and herds of sheep to be tackled. Drive to enjoy the land you’ll be passing through rather than keeping to a timetable. Tank up to the brim at the Sood and Company Petrol Pump in Manali. This BPCL fuel station stocks all premium fuels and accepts credit cards. You’ll be doing about 210km in mostly the first and second gear, so if your car doesn’t have a 200km range in these conditions, then do carry spare fuel. Also carry an extra spare wheel. Be warned that if you’re running tubeless tyres, there is no place you can repair a puncture. It is advisable to carry two spare tubes which can be fitted into the 'flat' tyres as a last resort. Manali to Chandra Tal: 130km.
The tripmeter has been set on the east bank of the Beas at the main bridge across the river. So, if you’re facing the road to Rohtang, the river will be on your left. (The figures indicated in brackets by each direction is the height in metres at that point.)
ON THE ROAD
This should be ‘on the dirt’ actually because that’s the surface you’ll be driving on for most of the time. The views are fascinating and the road bumpy. Remember to start early from Manali. The road to Rohtang gets very crowded as hordes of holiday-makers head to the pass for a picnic. This translates into serpentine jams on the winding mountain road and the start-and-stop routine spells doom for the clutch. And a strong clutch is something you will definitely need on the roads ahead. While there is enough room at most places to let oncoming vehicles to pass side-by-side, there might be times when you’ll need to back up to a wider place. Remember that the 12km ‘road’ to Chandra Tal is hardly more than a wide walking track on which the Innova we drove just about fit. There was absolutely no room on either side. We were fortunate to meet the one car we passed in the opposite direction at the only place where the road widens onto a broad plain. The last kilometre to the lake has narrow hairpin corners where you might need to back up to get around. It is advisable to ask one of the passengers to step out and guide you as the road shoulders are crumbly and the drops long.
Issue: 165 | May 2013
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