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The Trans-Himalayan valleys of Spiti were once difficult to gain access to. On one side was the Tibetan plateau and the high passes to the North were closed for most of the year. Our Expedition takes you from the valleys of Kinnaur to the Spiti Valley (out of bounds till very recently for the outside world). We enjoy the drive through the townships of Kinnaur.
Our Expedition starts from Kalpa as we cycle our way along the Hindustan – Tibet Road (Hindustan is another name for India in Hindi) till Puh. Near Puh, we do a sort of ‘turn around’ to enter the Spiti valley. The whole valley offers many beautiful monasteries and mountain scenery for the seekers! The awe inspiring landscape; serene and peaceful environment along with simplicity of the local culture, enables a visitor to come close to the heart of mother nature and rediscover oneself. Crossing the KunzumLa and Rohtang, we enter the beautiful green of Kullu valley.
Level of Ride: Difficult
Previous experience is not a necessity though it is definitely an advantage.
Restriction:Foreigners need Inner Line Permit, Vehicles need Rohtang permit.
All participants should report by noon today. Afternoon we have a briefing session and do a complete equipment check ending with a short spin to get a feel of the bike.
Our first day’s ride is relatively easy as we drive towards Kullu that is famous for Apples and shawls. In fact, you will see a line of juice shops and shawl factories along the way. After the Bhuntar airport, we cross over the Beas river at Aut into the Banjar Valley. The ride so far is smooth, giving you the opportunity to be comfortable with your bike. As we cross Banjar, the road gets steep as it climbs towards the Jalori Pass (3134 m). Our campsite is located amongst thick cedar forests at Shoja.
After breakfast it’s time to kickoff your motorcycle journey into Kinnaur. The day starts with a final climb up the Jalori Pass (3134m). This pass remains closed in winters for months due to heavy snowfall.
We are now on the famous Hindustan-Tibet Highway (NH-22). At Jeori, we leave the highway and ride up the winding road (final 8 Kms) to reach Sarahan, home to the legendary Bhimakali temple (said to be 800 years old), dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali, presiding deity of the rulers of former Bushahr State.
Today we start our ride early. Back-tracking till Jeori, you’ll take the NH-22 again towards Kinnaur. Riding along the fierce Sutlej river flowing angrily in the gorges below you’ll reach Karchham. At this junction, we leave the highway heading towards the border with China (Tibet) and take the off road leading to the Baspa Valley and on to the beautifull village of Sangla. This is another 18 km stretch of narrow winding road with hair-raising gorges & cliffs high above the Baspa river gushing below.
The Sangla Valley is also called Baspa Valley after the river Baspa. The valley is famous for its quality apples and trout fish found in the Baspa river. There is a small market and you can find ATMs, a petrol station, restaurants and shops.
After spending some time here, we carry on our ride to Kalpa.
We continue our ride along the Hindustan-Tibet road experiencing the change in the mountain landscape as it becomes more rocky & barren. We stop at Spello for a routine permit check. Another 35 km ride will bring you to Khab, a small village at the confluence of the Spiti & Sutlej rivers. Here we leave the Sutlej river and follow the Spiti river to reach Nako, a village situated near the small but beautiful Nako lake (3660 M). This is first of the many high altitude lakes visited by you on this tour. The location of this village is remote & infrastructure is basic.
Today’s ride will take you further up into higher mountains (& across the infamous “Maling/ Mulling Nala”, your first major water crossing) and down to Chango where you’ll enter Spiti Valley. Your first destination is Tabo where you visit the historic monastery.
The famous Tabo Monastry is more than 1000 years old and home to many precious Thanka paintings, including the Pillar of a Thousand Buddhas. The entry to the monastery complex, spread over 6300sq m, is made of earthen walls with marvellous colourful frescoes inside. The Murals, Thankas and paintings are believed to have been made in a single night by the Gods themselves. The ancient paintings depict the life of Buddha and legends from the Jataka Tales (collection of Buddhist stories especially for Children). Tabo monastery is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is also called the ‘Ajanta’ of the Himalayas
Further, on the Tabo-Kaza highway, slightly off the main road on top of a steep sided mountain ridge jutting out over the valley is Dankar (Dhankar); the ancient capital of Spiti. Visit the 16th century Dankar Monastery. The view of the monastery and fortress ruins is most spectacular as it hangs on a cliff and overlooks the confluence of Spiti and Pin River.
We get back on the main highway and ride on to Kaza. Kaza is the head-quarters of the Spiti sub-division and is the biggest market area in the Spiti valley.
After breakfast, ride to Langza 4400m; famous for its fossils and a statue of Buddha overlooking the mountain ranges. Fossils of marine creatures and plants are found in plenty under the sedimentary rocks. These fossils are around millions of years old and are mostly cephalopod (marine animals characterized by bilateral body symmetry – a prominent head and a set of arms or tentacles).
From here, we carry on to one of the most photographed monastery of Spiti, Ki 4166m/ 13668ft (also spelled as Kye or Key). It is located on top of a mountain and belongs to the Gelugpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery has an excellent collection of ancient paintings & scriptures and a school attached to it with approx.100 monks.
Then we will move farther up the valley to the picturesque village of Kibber; once considered the world’s highest village at 4250m/13,945ft.
We return to Kaza for overnight stay.
Today we ride to Chandratal 4250m, a crescent shaped lake therefore the name (Chandra means Moon). From Kaza to Losar the road is fairly rough tarmac. Losar is the last inhabited place in Spiti valley. Soon the road turns in to a dirt track and it’s a tricky ride from here till ChandraTal as we cross the high pass of KunzunLa 4551m.
Chandratal is an exquisitely beautiful & mesmerising lake ridged between a lower ridge and the main Kunzum range, the outlet being into Chandra River. One can get beautiful views of mountains including the Lalana 6265m, Papsura 6451m and Dharamasura 6446m above the Bara Shigri glacier. As you climb higher, the peaks of Lahaul range become visible including Minar 6172m, Talagiri 6279m, Tara Pahar 6227m and Mulkilla 6517m, the highest peak at the head of the Samudra Tapu Glacier.
This is the last day of our tour and we set out for Manali after breakfast. The roads here are very bad, we have to ride slowly and carefully. This ride is probably the most beautiful part of the ride, through the truly wild parts of the Himalaya.
This is the last day of our ride. We ride towards Lahaul Valley, as we cross Batal and Chattru. At the T junction at Gramphu, we leave the road heading towards Lahaul valley and climb up the winding road to the Rohtang pass 3978m. From here, the scenery starts to turn a lot greener as you head down the pass to the town of Manali. Situated along the banks of River Beas at the northern end of the Kullu valley, Manali is a popular tourist destination attracting thousands of Indian tourists in the summers who want to beat the heat of the plains.