Bike ride to Spiti Valley

 In Sona’s Travel Diaries

2016 was a traveling year for me. In February, I went to DUBAI with my girl gang. In May, I went to LADAKH with my family for 21 days. And lastly, in July, I went on a biking trip to SPITI VALLEY with my friends. The whole year was full of excitement and fun.

A Bike riding trip was to be the very first experience for me. I always wanted to go on a bike ride through the rough and rugged terrains. I am not a rider, but I was going to be a pillion rider, and I was sure to enjoy it thoroughly.

When you go on a bike trip, you must carry bear minimum requirements of cloths and accessories. My friend had advised me about all the riding gears required, and I ensured that I took everything that was necessary and I was ready to ride.

This trip was planned through the beautiful terrain of Lahul & Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh for 13 days and covering about 1470 kms. After doing so much traveling over the years, now I am a master at packing things. I was having mixed emotions of excitement and some worries, thinking that what if I couldn’t adjust to rigors of the bike ride. But I wanted to have this experience for sure. And I was ready to take on all the challenges.

Finally, the day to begin the trip arrived. 1st August 2016. We left for Chandigarh. We were 8 of us and 6 bikes. All bikers wanted to ride their own bikes, so around 15 days before the trip, we had sent all the bikes to Chandigarh by cargo. When we reached Chandigarh, our bikes had reached already. We stayed in Chandigarh, for a night.

Ready-for-a-ride

Next day morning, after heavy breakfast, all of us were ready in our riding gears. This was my very first experience of a bike ride, so I was very much excited. I too wore all my gears. It was quite exciting to see all riders tuning their bikes, adjusting rare view mirrors, checking breaks and everything required for the safe riding. We had hired a back-up vehicle in which we put all our luggage, so that we can freely enjoy our rides.

We all offered a small prayer before leaving. We wished good luck to everyone and left for SPITI. Chandigarh was very hot and with all the riding gears, I was feeling very hot. Because of the traffic, it took us lot of time to cross Chandigarh. We took first our first break at Pinjore. We had tea, relaxed for a while and moved ahead towards FAGU, which was our first stay.

Beginning of the Ride

As we moved deeper into Himachal Pradesh, weather got cooler and comfortable. During the journey, one of our fellow rider’s bike got some problems in his bike, so we had to stop at Solan for repairing. Workshop manager said that it would take some time to repair. Solan was very beautiful at that time of the year and cooler, so we passed our time by having fun and doing chitchat.

Enjoying the break at Solan

By then, it was lunch time. Just across the road, there was a small Dhaba. We all went there and first we asked for one thali (plate) to taste. It was very tasty, so we ordered for all of us. We enjoyed our lunch, spent some time over there and came back to the workshop. By that time, bike was ready, and we moved ahead.

As we moved ahead, hilly region started. The roads were rough and rugged. Just before Simla, there were two roads and we got confused. We inquired with local people too, but there were two opinions about the route to Fagu, so finally we took one which we found better. As we went ahead, roads got worse and more rugged, and it was taking a long time to reach Fagu. But it was a beautiful road with lot of natural beauty, and water streams by the road sides.

Water Streams on the way…

Whenever we felt like stopping and taking a view of the valley and streams, we stopped and enjoyed the nature and I made it a point to capture those moments in my camera.

By evening it started to drizzle. After crossing that rough road, we came to a junction, where a major road was meeting our road, which incidentally, we had missed to take. It was a proper highway and comparatively better road. After the junction, there was a small town, Lambidhar. We took a short break for tea there and then we left for Fagu.

Evening approached, it was getting dark and we were still riding. Generally we prefer to reach a destination before it gets dark. There were no major towns. In the hilly area, day ends early. We couldn’t see many people outside the houses.

Riding along the Valley

We reached near the town of Fagu and inquired for directions for our hotel, but nobody was aware about its whereabouts. Our mobile network also was not available. In fact, we had taken a wrong route, which was going off road to somewhere else. We realised that the route taken was wrong, but didn’t know which side to go and whom to ask?

It was so dark that we couldn’t even see each others’ faces. We stopped in the middle of the road, surrounded by thick forest, but in fact there were Apple orchards all around us.

One gentleman passed by, he was amazed to see us. He realised that we had lost our way so he stopped his bike to inquire with us. We briefed him and then he called someone to inquire for the place where we were going to stay. He asked us to follow him, and after riding for a few kilometers, we reached our hotel.

Fagu

It was a nice bungalow with 7 bedrooms. Owners of the property, Mr. and Mrs. Manpreet were waiting there for us, as they knew that we would come. It was cold. We freshened up, made ourselves comfortable and had our dinner. We chatted with the hosts, it was pleasant knowing the owners of the place. They took good care of us. When we reached Fagu, it was all dark and nothing was visible. Scenery was not visible. Next day morning when we woke up, we got to see the beautiful world all around. There were Apple orchards all around Fagu . We took some nice pictures, had our breakfast and left Fagu.

Hatu Peak – Narkand

We had to reach Sarahan, our second destination. On the way to Sarahan, there were few places to visit. We stopped at Narkand. There we went to the Hatu Peak,which is about 5 km from Narkand. There is a tracking route of around 5 kms. accessible from Narkand.

Narkand Town

Hatu Peak is located at 12,000 feet above the sea level. It is the highest summit in Narkand region. The peak is surrounded by dense woods. There are Maple, Aspen and Cedar trees. At the top, there is a beautiful wooden temple of Hatu Mata, who was Mandodari, the wife of Ravana.

Hatu Mata Temple – Narkand

We spent a few hours there, enjoyed the beauty of the peak and temple. We came down to the town of Narkand and had our lunch and left for the further journey. From Narkand, Sarahan is about 100 kms far. Roads were good. We reached at Jeori, a small town on the main road. From there we had to take an internal road to Sarahan, which was 5 kms from there. We reached Sarahan by the evening.

Bhimakali Temple – Sarahan

Sarahan is a small village and is famous for Bhimakali temple. The temple is built in Indo-Tibetan style of architecture, made of stone and wood. Over all architecture of the town is very beautiful. We spent one night there and next day morning after breakfast we left for Chitkul.

Way to Chitkul

Chitkul is about 122 km from Sarahan. The most beautiful region. I loved this region the most. Weather was so comfortable. It was a nice green valley, with Sutlaj river passing through the entire valley. In this valley, the experience was entirely different. We were stopping frequently to enjoy the lovely views of the valley. The entire valley was surreal.

Sangla Valley

We reached Kharcham, where there is a confluence of Baspa and Sutlaj rivers. There is a Dam, it’s a very beautiful area.

Gushing waters at Kharcham Dam

We stopped there for a while, captured beautiful moments in our cameras and moved forward. Sangla valley is truly amazing, one must visit it. As we moved forward, there were dense woods and streams flowing everywhere. A very serene area.

Just before Chitkul, we had to prove our identity and sign in a register at Indo-Tibetan border police chowki, at Mastarang.

Mastarang Chowky

I envy those officers who were sitting there in the heaven on earth. Such a beautiful region.

Hilly Town

We reached Chitkul by afternoon. Chitkul is a very beautiful small town in Baspa Valley, on the banks of the Baspa river.

It is the first village in the Baspa Valley , and the last village near Indo-China border. The Indian roads end here.

Sangla Valley

Chitkul

We stayed here at Sama resorts, here also Mr. Manmeet and his wife Manali have a property. It was nice clean stay – more like a homestay experience. In the afternoon we left to visit the town.

There is a beautiful old temple and a wooden tower. Homes are made of slate stones and wood. Very picturesque town. Multiple Water streams were running through out the town during the summer.

Chitkul is a town with basic facilities, with many small stone and wooden houses. Almost all the houses have their own wooden storage cabins in front of their house. It has fertile land, and people store their crops in these wooden cabins. There were many mills on the streams which run on water flow.

During our visit there was a marriage in the town. Almost every person of the town was invited in the marriage. We took some pictures of villagers and they offered us some snacks. There is an old wooden tower. We walked through almost all the lanes of the town. I have never seen such a beautiful clean town elsewhere.

By the evening, we returned to our hotel where we had stayed. We had a good time at the hotel, had party with friends and then we had our dinner. Next day we visited a river which is just across our hotel. The Hotel location is very beautiful.

Lovely town of Chitkul

We walked up to the Baspa river,which was in a great force. Water color was muddy white because of the summers, as many glaciers had started melting.

Baspa River – Chitkul

We spent few hours on the banks of the river. By evening, we returned back to our hotel. We also visited near by Indo-China border post.

Last post near Indo-China border

Departing view of Chitkul…

After a two day stay, we moved ahead to Kalpa. Kalpa is around 61 kms. from Chitkul. Just before Kalpa, there is a town called Reckong Peo, which is the headquarter of Kinnaur district. We had our lunch there and moved ahead to Kalpa which was around 3 km from there.

Kalpa is a small town in Kinnaur region. It is located at the base of the snow-caped Kinnaur Kailash range. The Shivling like peak rises up to 20,000 feet. We stayed there for a night and next day left for Nako. Nako is around 100 kms. from Kalpa.

Confluence of rivers Spiti and Sutlaj

As we moved ahead, the terrain got rougher, the landscape changed. Dry grayish region started appearing. Near Khab there is a confluence of Spiti river and Sutlaj river. Here, Sutlaj enters into India from China. Both the rivers had gray muddy water. China border is very near to this place.

Now Spiti river was running by the road side. Hills were dry and there were some green patches around Spiti river. We stopped at a small place, and inquired if some food was available.

Lovely lady Meenakumari served us lovely food

The lady of the house welcomed us with a lovely sweet smile. Her name was Meena Kumari. She was selling groceries in her small house. She had a small farm behind her house. There were apple trees, walnut trees, tomato plants and plants of green peas. We had local food at her place. I captured some of those moments with her in my camera.

A small village on the banks of Spiti river

Now Spiti river was running by the road side. Hills were dry and there were some green patches around Spiti river.

Before Nako, there is a place called Leo village, on the opposite mountain. We went to see the beauty of that town by an interior road . We could see the banks of the river Spiti. Surrounding area was dry, only few parts of the hill were green and lots of Apple orchards were there. It was beautiful. We spent some time over there and moved ahead to Nako.

Leo village with backdrop of Apple orchards

Nako is the largest village in the Hangrang Valley at the height of 11,893 feet, with the back drop of Reo Purgyal, which is at the height of 22,362 feet, the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh . The village is located near Indo-China border. There is a small lake which is created on the slopes of the Reo Purgyal mountain of Srikhand range. There is a Nako Monastery there, dated to the 11th century.

Nako lake

Nako town

Nako town

We stayed there for one night and next day morning we had left for Tabo, which is around 64 km from Nako. Roads again were very much rugged.

Rough and rugged region of Spiti

We could see only blackish mountains and muddy Spiti river. There were hardly any vehicles on roads. Here the terrain was very different.

At Sumdo, we showed our permission letters to the duty officer. We had asked for permissions for visits to Kaurik and Shipki La, which are near Indo-China border. But due to sensitive reasons, they didn’t allow us to visit those places. So we reached Tabo directly.

Tabo

Tabo monastery founded in 996 AD, by the Tibetan buddhist Rinchen Zangpo, the king of western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge. A large number of frescoes are displayed on its walls. There is a collections of scroll paintings, manuscripts, well preserved statues in the Monastery. Frescoes and murals cover almost every wall.

Monastery’s old structure is still the same as before. Made of stone and mud. There is a wooden carved entrance, and as you enter, there is a big square chowk. At the other end of the chowk, there is a small room.

As we entered the room, it was very dark, with no windows and no lights. Light was only coming through the small entrance of the room. An old lady guided us using a lantern. There was a Gompa in between and all four walls were covered with beautiful frescoes. Some part of it was damaged but still colors and pictures were very much visible.

A Tibetan lady who was taking care of monastery, looked very old. There were many deep wrinkles on her face. She must have seen many decades in her life. I requested her if I could take a picture with her, but she refused. I asked her age, she counted in her mind and she tried to remember any big historical incident that happened during her birth. Then she told us that she was borne around 1916. I don’t know if that was the exact year but I am sure that she was more than 98 years old.

There were many souvenir shops around the monastery, I bought a special ancient pot, a wooden prayer wheel and Tibetan Tingsha (manjira or prayer bells). We then left for further journey.

From Tabo, we left for Dhankar Monastery, which is about 31 kms. from Tabo. Dhankar town was capital of Spiti Valley earlier. Dhang means cliff and Kar means fort. Hence, Dhankar means a fort on the cliff. It is at the height of 12,774 feet.

Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar Village

We had to ride 23km on internal roads from the main road. Many tourists also trek on this route. As we moved ahead, we saw a small town at a far distance on another hill. It was a very picturesque site. We reached Dhankar and rode through the town, and around the Dhankar Monastery.


There many home stay options were available. Then we rode down from another end of the hill, which again met the main road back towards Kaza. There is a confluence of river Pin and river Spiti, in the Pin Valley, en-route.

Pin Valley

We rode on to Kaza, which was around 34km from Dhankar. River Spiti constantly accompanied us. Kaza is a high altitude cold desert having close similarities to the neighboring Tibet and Ladakh.

We reached Kaza by late afternoon. We relaxed for a day, visited Kaza town and came back to the hotel by dark. Next day we had plans to visit surrounding of Kaza town.

We packed some sandwiches and soft drinks with us. We left to go around 60 km area of upper regions of Kaza. Roads were rough, but the scenery was amazingly beautiful. There were few towns over there and they do farming there.

Buddha statue at Langza

From far distance, we could see huge Budha statue, which is at Langza village, with the back drop of Chau Chau Kang mountain.

Chau Chau Mountain range

Langza Village

All the houses are built below this statue. Langza is situated at the height of 14,500 feet. Langza is also considered to be one of the highest village in the world with a motorable road. It is very small town with around 30 to 40 houses . Crops such as Rice and Potatoes are cultivated here. There are no options of hotel stay here but only home stays, that too with basic facilities are available.

The main attraction at Langza was to collect fossils. Fossils of marine creatures and plants are found in plenty here under sedimentary rocks. These fossils are around millions of years old.

When we reached Langza, many small children were playing there. They gathered around us and took us to their houses to sell fossils. People of the town were very welcoming. All the children got their collection of fossils and started showing us. Children were very much conscious that we should not take pictures of their collection of fossils. I bought few fossils from there. We chatted with local people and moved ahead.

Children showing me fossils

Wonderful Marine Fossils from Langza

We then reached Hikkim. This location is credited to have World’s highest post office in India. The houses in the village are clustered just below the road. It is a steep walk down to the village houses and the Post office also.

Hikkim town

 

As we reached near the town, many children gathered, I asked them for the road to Post office. One of them asked me if I would give my soft drink bottle to them, they would lead me to the post office. I promised him and children led me to the post office. It was a stiff and difficult trek to reach there. The Post office was a small house of, may be, three rooms. As we entered, on the left hand side, there was post office in a small room. I posted few letters to my family members.

Writing letters to family

It seemed that the place was also available for home stay. We spoke to the post-master, gathered some more information about the post office and the town. And then we moved ahead.

From there, our next stop was Komik village. It is situated at the height of the 15,027 feet. Komik is supposed to be the hightest village with a motorable road in Asia. This village is also believed to be the highest village in the World.

Monastery at Komic

By that time weather changed. Rain started to drizzle. It was very windy. We spent some time over there and came back to Kaza by the evening.

Road back to Kaza

We had a good party in candle light in the night, as there was no power! But we had a great time.

Next day morning, we visited Kibber village and the Key monastery. Key Monastery is the biggest monastery in Spiti Valley.

Kibber

Key Monastery

Then we rode further towards Chandra taal. It is around 89 kms from Kaza. Terrain was dry but beautiful. As the day progresses, there are more chances of streams flowing in full force.

Road to Chandra Taal

 

We crossed many streams on the roads, it was really very beautiful.

Kunzum La top

We reached Kunzum pass. It is at the height of 15,060 feet, a high mountain pass. There are Kunzum stupas and Kunzum mata temple. We spent some time over there and moved ahead.

We reached at Chandra Taal by afternoon. Chandra Taal means Lake of the Moon. The name of the lake originates from its crescent shape. It is at the height of 14,100 feet. From the camp site, vehicles can go only certain distance upto the lake and thereafter, there is around 1.5 km walk till Chandra Taal.

Chandra Taal

Camp site at Chandra Taal

The lake was very scenic. There were dry mountains all around Chandra Taal. We stayed in a tent at Chandra Taal for the night and left next day morning for Manali.

Chandra Taal to Manali is a 114 kms ride on very rugged roads. There were hardly any proper roads. Journey became tougher and more difficult. We took a break at Chhatru for tea, relaxed for a while and moved forward.

Roads to Manali!

Roads were really bad and rocky. Many water streams were crossing the roads on this route. It was difficult to ride pillion on the bike, so I had to cross streams by walking.

Stream water was very very cold, I had to remove my shoes and socks so that they don’t get soaked with water and I didn’t want to catch a cold towards the end of my wonderful journey.


We had a Jeep as a back up vehicle with us. Driver advised me to sit in the jeep while crossing the water streams. So I did the same. At one place the water was in great force, pebbles were slipping as vehicles were passing over them.


My riding partner tried to cross the stream but water was above ankle level, gushing with a great force. He had to try hard and only with the help of the vehicle driver, he could move out of that stream. It was a thrilling experience.


Again there was a big stream ahead, a biker coming from the opposite direction also struggled. My riding partner helped him to come out of the stream. On such routes, it is always advisable to have a back up vehicle while going on a ride.

Passing through constant water streams, rear brakes of the bike failed. There was no other option, but to ride till Manali with care. From Gramphu, we took the Leh-Manali highway to Manali. Rain had started, it was tough riding in rain and cold.

Rohtang Pass

As we reached Rohtang pass, there was almost zero visibility, but some how we managed to reach Manali safely, with only front brakes. That was a very long and tough day.

As soon as we reached Manali, we went to get the breaks repaired at the authorised RE workshop, where it took almost two hours to get the repairs done. By late evening we reached our hotel. After leaving Chandigarh, this was the first comfortable stay we had.

Next day morning, we left for Chandigarh. It is 309 km from Manali. Manali-Chandigarh highway is very busy highway. It was very tiresome. Constant traffic on the road. It took us 8 hours to reach Chandigarh. We stayed there one night and next day afternoon we took a flight to Mumbai, after giving our bike to the transporter.

Our bike came by transport within a week.

It was a truly memorable riding trip of Spiti Valley.

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