It is said that “A journey of thousand miles starts with a single step!” and to be honest ours was a few hundred miles, but it sure did felt like a thousand. Let me first tell a bit about how to pick the best time and prepare for this trip. The best time to visit Kaza, Spiti valley is from May to October. In winters from November to April, the temperatures here drop to subzero and the roads are closed for longer duration of time due to heavy snow fall and landslides. According to one of the locals there the conditions are such adverse that even the local population moves out of the city to a more favourable location. The roads are constructed and maintained by B.R.O (Border Road Authority). BRO (pun intended :p), they do a wonderful job even in these most difficult of terrains and conditions.
Before starting with the journey make sure you have the following items packed in your bags. These might come in handy at some point in this wonderful and adventurous journey.
- A rugged backpack with rain cover and back support
- A torch and some extra batteries
- A water bottle (1-2 liters)
- Raincoat (Full body)
- 3-4 pairs of woolen socks
- Waterproof gloves
- Waterproof and subzero jacket
- Mufflers and woolen caps
- Glare protection sunglasses
- Waterproof boots
- Extra pair of shoes
- First aid kit with mountain sickness medicines
- Some energy bars
- 2-3 Waterproof bags (small 5-10 liters)
Day 1: Manali to Batal
Our adventure started in Manali, we reached here early morning by a Volvo. We then rented the bikes from a local vendor and took off to a nearby lodge for a quick breakfast. The journey ahead is difficult and have very less resting places, so we wanted to make sure that we are ready before we begin. Our journey started at around 11 am with a full tank of fuel. The road till Rohtang pass is well made with lots of Dhabas and Restaurants, this part of the trip is as easy as it can get. The difficult stretch starts from Rohtang pass onward, but to be honest we didn’t face much difficulty crossing this once deadly but beautiful pass. This was mainly because of good weather conditions when we were traveling towards Kaza, but this was not the case when we were returning. More on this in later posts in this series.
After crossing Rohtang pass the next stop is Gramphu where you will find a few tented dhabas with limited but better tasting eating options. Gramphu is also the splitting point between Leh-Ladakh highway. After crossing Rohtang pass there is a slight right turn which is really easy to miss, make sure that you look for road sign carefully till this point. This is around 67 KM from Manali and takes around 2 hours to reach the resting point. It has some amazing Rajma/Kadhi rice you can gorge on while taking a short break.
Chhatru is the next village and is just 17 KM or 30 minute drive from Gramphu. If you decided to not stop at Gramphu you can pit stop here for supplies (Water, Food). The terrain gets more difficult from here as there are a lot of river crossings starting from this point. Some of the crossings were really easy to pass but there were a few in which our bikes stuck and the pillion rider had to get off in the river to push the bike from behind. It is recommended that you do not attempt to cross this stretch after 4 PM as the river flow can increase in the evening and if stuck, you might not find any immediate help there. It takes around 2.5 hours to cross this stretch of the road and it can become extremely difficult to cross depending on the flow of water in the river.
Batal is the next stop after Chhatru with some good overnight resting options. It is around 31 KM or around 2.5 hours away from Chhatru. It takes longer to reach here due to all the river crossings and slippery roads that one encounters on the way. Once you reach Batal, you will see some tented dhabas with temporary stone walls. The temperature can easily reach subzero levels at nights, so make sure you are packed right for these temperatures. The river side stay and serene view makes you feel like in heaven.
Recommendation: You should give a visit to Chacha-Chachi dhaba for some delicious food and two wonderful hosts (Chacha and Chachi).
We concluded our day here after some delicious food and hot ginger-lemon tea. The sleeping area was a big hall made with stone stacked walls and bedding all over the floor. It was extremely chilly at night, so much so that we required multiple thick woolen quilts to pass the night.
Stay tuned for the next day and next post in the series. If you haven’t read what motivated me to go through this trip, then I highly recommend reading the previous post.