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Lahaul and Spiti Drive – 2017

7 July, 17

“Gorgeous mountains, flawless cold desert valley, captivating culture, contagious warmth, beauty exuding from every quarter… Spiti… is a journey to Soul discovery!!”

We are back after concluding our third expedition to Lahaul and Spiti. Summer time is a drive to Spiti time for us. You can even say that Summers and Spiti are synonymous to us now! We consider Spiti valley a blessing for us, as it was the first fixed departure expedition that we led when we started Adventures Overland and currently it’s the only self-drive expedition that we do in India.

The expedition started on a great note as the group got to enjoy the perfect essence of Himalayan culture by attending a wedding with almost around 700 people in attendance in the same hotel as the one we were staying in Narkanda. Thanks to the host of the wedding, because of whom we got to sample some of the best local delicacies at the very first day of the drive.

Next day we had a surprise planned for all the participants. While en-route to Sangla, we stopped at Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant, which is a 1,000 megawatts (1,300,000 hp) run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station on the Sutlej River in Kinnaur district. Our team procured special permissions for all the participants to visit the hydropower plant and see how the plant captures the energy of falling water to generate electricity.

By now, if you know us, you would know that we love picnic, mudding, hiking, star gazing, dancing on the streets or any other crazy adventures we can come up with. The next day we went trekking together for 12 KM through the woods of Sangla valley to enjoy the beauty of nature and bond with each other over with an old school style picnic with pre-cooked meal. Somethings never go out of style and picnic is definitely one of them.

On the 4th day of the expedition, we drove to Chitkul, the last inhabited village on the Indo-Tibet border. On the banks of Baspa river, nested in the lap of high mountains, Chitkul has its own charm. The group even got photo op at “The Last Dhaba of India”.

The next day we drove from Sangla – Nako – Tabo, crossing one of the most arduous, treacherous road, which pumped the adrenaline in the group. While few cars got hit by small stones, but we managed to pass through the carved road on rocky patches of mountain with positive spirit to reach our destination for the day – Tabo. As anticipated, the weather was amazing and the setting was perfect for enjoying some star-gazing session with the group. None of the participants had previously visited Spiti valley and was enjoying this sojourn.

On the 6th day, crossing bumpy roads we started our drive from Tabo to Kaza. The scenery, as is usually the case when driving on mountain roads, was dramatic. After a few twists and turns, we arrived at the hilltop Dankhar Monastery. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence, Dhankar means fort on a cliff. Dhankar Monastery was strategically built at the highest location in Spiti Valley (3894 mts). Post our visit to the monastery, we continued our drive to Kaza, the administrative centre of Spiti. En-route the participants offered extra snacks to the road workers who brave the high altitude. We even offered lift to people who were hitch-hiking their way and exchanged travel experiences, which made the drive even more enjoyable.

We took a day out to explore the villages around Kaza, which are believed to be the highest in the world. We drove to Komic, which is one of the highest motorable villages in the world and offered us a scenic view of snow laden peaks. Next up, we visited Hikkim, which houses the highest post office in the world, from where all the participant send postcards back home. We even visited the Key Gompa which is located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level. We were lucky enough to witness an ongoing festival and saw Chham (mask dance) by monks which are very popular and an integral part of festivities here.

The next day we drove our way back to Manali, while navigating many small streams. One that was particularly difficult to cross was ‘Chotta Dhara’. The distance of around 200 KM took us around 14-15 hours. The highlight of the day was when the group reached Kunzum Pass, which offers spectacular views of Bara-Sigri, the second longest glacier in the world. We all did our prayers at the Kunzum Devi Temple and payed respect to the goddess before continuing our drive to our final destination – Manali.

We can never get bored of this place. Soon we’ll lose count of how many times we have been to Spiti Valley but we’re in love with this stark high-altitude alpine land!