Winter Wanderlust: Driving To Spiti And Again!

I'm at peace when I'm behind a wheel! Ever since I began out as an automotive journalist, I figured that driving or driving helps me calm my frayed nerves, soothes my thoughts. lengthy distance drive looks like meditation to me. And should you add snow-clad peaks, winding roads, smiling villagers and the occasional stray canine coming as much as you and licking your face, it's maybe the best type of remedy that you could possibly get! I used to be itching to get behind a wheel, go on an extended street journey and detach myself from workplace for every week. And bang on cue, I had the nice fortune to get in contact with one Mr. Puneet Sharma, who is without doubt one of the companions in an organization referred to as 'Journey Folks'. (Seeing all large, burly SUVs from Bengaluru impressed confidence in us. And perhaps felt just a little intimated as effectively) What Mr. Sharma supplied us, had me salivating. No, it wasn't meals. Or perhaps it was, for the soul. He was taking a bunch of off-road fanatics from Bengaluru for a winter journey to Spiti and requested us if we wish to tag alongside. I wasted little time, satisfied my boss, and requested Azam, my colleague, if he will likely be sport for an extended drive! Instantly, his eyes lit up and the very first thing that we did was hit a neighborhood sporting items retailer, equipping ourselves with good winter gear. Every week later, on a brilliant Monday morning, Azam and I left Delhi in a Volkswagen Tiguan SUV, not realizing that this street journey will change me in methods I had by no means imagined! Day 1 (Our convoy consisted of about 13 totally kitted SUVs. The Volkswagen Tiguan was the one soft-roader within the convoy) The primary day was a easy drive from Delhi to Narkanda, or so I believed! It was a distance of 400 kilometres, simply doable. Whereas the drive from Delhi until Shimla was uneventful, it was the final 70 kilometres to Narkanda which proved to be little more durable! Climbing up, the temperature shortly dipped to zero levels and it was snowing closely. What made the going more durable was that the tarmac was coated in black ice in bits and items! I inched the Tiguan ahead, with it sashaying and swaying like a drunken hippo and that is once I realised that it had a 'snow' mode. (Perhaps I'm overselling, however ours is a wonderful nation! I imply, the view right here is actually to die for) One activate the rotary knob and it made going ahead a lot simpler! Ultimately, we reached Tethys Ski Resort, the place we had been going to place up for the night time. Until the time we had been contained in the Tiguan, we did not realise how chilly it was outdoors and as we opened the doorways and exit, a blast of frigid air welcomed us, setting the nippiness in our bones. Shortly, we went to our allotted rooms and very first thing we did was to activate the room heater to most and poured two cups of piping scorching lemon tea in us! (As we touched Narkanda, our journey was blessed with heavy snowfall. It was positively an indication of fine issues to return) Over dinner, we met our host and expedition chief, Sanjeev Dogra, who briefed us over dinner on what was in retailer for us over the subsequent 5 days. We'd try to succeed in Kaza, a tiny city in coronary heart of Spiti valley. A few of the challenges on our means can be heavy snowfall, sub-zero temperatures, avalanches, bad-bad roads and excessive altitude. Cakewalk, or so I believed! Day 2 (Who would not need to get up to views like this? That is the PWD Visitor Home at Pooh) With the alarm ringing at 7am, I bought up, effervescent with pleasure, took a leisurely tub in scorching water and bought prepared for our drive to Pooh. Sure, the title is similar as Winnie the Pooh! It's small hill city, very near the Indo-China border. Snow was hardly to be discovered on this route, however it made for a fully scenic drive via the Tripeak space of Kinnaur district, Proper earlier than you hit Pooh, there's a street signal put by the BRO or Border Roads Organisation, which says, "You're driving via probably the most treacherous street on the planet". (Driving via treacherous roads within the dying gentle made for nice views however was equally harmful as effectively) It certain was treacherous, with unfastened, sharp rocks on dust roads and the street itself had been carved into the facet of mountain with unfastened rocks hanging over! We even managed to cross via ginormous mound of snow, which was nearly Four-5 tales excessive. We reached Pooh proper after it bought darkish and put up on the PWD visitor home. Whereas it was fundamental in nature, it supplied spectacular views and dinner consisted of scorching barbeque hen, by a bonfire, which we devoured by the bucketful, washed down with some extra tea. By this time, we had been attending to know the Bengaluru boys higher and had a number of discussions on off-roading and the way they kitted up their Gypsies and Thars with high-lift kits, block tread sample tyres and what nots! Day three  (The Tabo Monastery is about 1,023 years previous and is legendary for its mud portray, which we had been forbidden to take photographs of) Day three noticed our convoy of 12 SUVs making its approach to the city of Kaza, which is within the coronary heart of Spiti valley, by the Spiti River. About 12 kilometres from Pooh, you attain Khab, which is the confluence of Spiti and Sutlej Rivers. The Spiti is blue in color, drawing water from glacial melts whereas the Sutlej is greyish in color, originating in Tibet and making its approach to Punjab. Going up, the street took a flip for worse because the BRO was blasting roads additional forward. (The confluence of Spiti and Sutlej rivers at Khab is breathtakingly stunning) The convoy waited for about 15-20 minutes earlier than resuming course. The primary city that we crossed after Pooh was Nako, after which made our approach to Tabo. We briefly stopped on the Tabo monastery which is 1,023 years previous, to be exact and has quite a few fresco and stucco work carried out on mud partitions. It really takes your breath away! Paying our respects on the Tabo Gompa, we lastly crossed into correct snow territory. Nothing might put together us for the views head of Shichling. (No! Our Tiguan is not caught right here! It's merely absorbing the views and the snow) Huge flatlands with mountains on one facet and blanketed in snow made for among the greatest views I've ever seen! Phrases can barely do justice to the sheer majesty of the roads from Shichling to Kaza, which had been draped in white all all through. (Snow is maybe the trickiest terrain to drive on! However as soon as you'll be able to learn the snow/ice, it may be immensely satisfying too) The space was barely 25 kilometres however took us shut to three hours as we battled heavy snowfall and excessive altitudes. Lastly, after an extended day of driving, we reached our vacation spot, Kaza. We really made it to coronary heart of Spiti in winter! This maybe, has been one of many hardest assignments I've ever carried out, but additionally it was probably the most fulfilling too! (Kaza has the world's highest gas station and we in fact, had the privilege of filling up our Tiguan from there) The 2 and a half days that we stayed at Kaza, temperatures ranged from -Eight diploma Celsius, which was the best, to -28 diploma Celsius, which was the bottom. One must hold diesel engines idling all through the night time in order that the diesel would not freezes. And sure, utilizing diesel anti-freeze answer is just not fool-proof both. It's best to not shut the engines all through the night time. Day Four (Say good day to Bharal or the Himalayan Blue sheep. Majestic creatures, aren't they) The Sakya homestay at Kaza was tremendous cosy. Run by a gentleman named Tsering and his household, we skilled hospitality par excellence. We had been fed lip-smacking, contemporary home-cooked meals and after a tricky couple of days, indulged ourselves with the native brew referred to as 'Angoori'. The homestay additionally had two canines, a stunning German shepherd whose title was Bruno and a tiny mongrel who glided by the title of ChinChi. Inside no time, the 2 canines made mates with us rambunctious lot, asking for pets and stomach rubs. (We had been in half a thoughts to kidnap these two canines and produce them with us to Delhi. I imply take a look at them! Irresistibly cute!) The subsequent day, we bought up late, had a leisurely breakfast and determined to make our approach to the well-known Key Monastery, which is the biggest and the oldest monastery in Spiti. It's perched atop a mountain and is at an altitude of 13,668 ft. Just like the Tabo Monastery, Key additionally follows the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. After visiting Key Monastery, we went additional up until Chicham Bridge, which is the best bridge in Asia and was accomplished in 2017. Once more, it was an amazing alternative for us to click on pictures and get a style of correct Spiti winter. (Seen within the backdrop is the well-known Key Monastery, one of many greatest and the oldest in Spiti valley) It was whereas returning again to Kaza that I bought the fright of my life! On a very difficult part, the Volkswagen Tiguan misplaced grip and spun on a precariously slim street, with a wall of snow on the left and a deep drop on the best. Fortunately, the automobile spun to the left and wedged itself into the snow. Assist was instantly at hand. The boys from Bengaluru instantly wrapped a tow strap across the rear left tyre and bought the Tiguan out of the snow. Whew! That was shut! That was extra journey than I had bargained for! Day 5 (Clearing snow from mountain trails was exhausting work however enjoyable too.) After spending a few days in Kaza and frolicking across the village, we began on our means again to Pooh. On the best way Azam and I made mates with a bunch of stray canines and in addition noticed a herd of Himalayan Blue Sheep or Bharal, which is indigenous to the mountains of Spiti, Ladakh and Tibet. The males have twirled horns, making them look just like mountain goats. Barely 34 kilometres from Pooh the street was blocked by two large mounds of glacial ice. (In case you are travelling to Spiti, it's best to make use of an SUV with 4x4 and excessive floor clearance ) A mountain to the left and a steep drop to the best! The one means ahead was to clear the ice and hold going. The crew began work on it, with folks taking turns with a few shovels. Quickly, personnel from BRO joined us and the street block was cleared in lower than an hour. Quickly sufficient, all 12 autos in our convoy handed via amidst cheers. Day 6 (One of many members letting it unfastened, doing donuts along with his Gypsy. We had been tempted too, however thought higher of it) From Pooh, we made our means again to Narkanda! Upon reaching at Narkanda, the snowfall had subsided and the drive was a breeze! Our expedition leaders and host Sanjeev Dogra and Puneet Sharma threw a grand get together, full with delectable meals and drinks. The temperature was nonetheless near zero levels however the night time felt heat amidst all of the jubilation. The oldsters at 'Journey Folks' took actually excellent care of us and the crew from Bengaluru went past their means to assist us out and provides us a number of suggestions too when it got here to off-roading. The subsequent morning, it was time for us to drive again to Delhi and get again to work. (That's our total convoy in a single body! We certain did make some new and wonderful mates on this street journey) The week that we spent driving from Delhi to Kaza and again, was pure nourishment for the soul and stuffed us up with vim and vigour. For me, mountains and snow have this inexplicable therapeutic impact which is unmatched. Driving to Spiti in winter is hard, maybe among the many hardest belongings you would possibly ever do, however it's price spending each penny and taking all of the dangers. In winter, the Spiti panorama adjustments fully and is in contrast to something you may have ever seen! The Volkswagen Tiguan (The Volkswagen Tiguan carried out means past our expectations. It took the snowy terrain in its stride and carried on with out batting an eyelid) If you happen to thought that the Volkswagen Tiguan is an city, soft-roader SUV, assume once more! It won't be as hard-core as a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy or a Mahindra Thar, however it did go to Spiti and are available again with out a hitch. We didn't want snow-chains, nor did we want diesel anti-freeze. The 4Motion all-wheel drive system got here in very helpful and we actually doubt if anybody else examined the 'Snow Mode' of the Tiguan so extensively! In actual fact, our calculation says that all through our drive, we drove near 900 kilometres on snow, with the snow mode on. The Tiguan carried out effectively past our expectations. And must you personal a Tiguan, you recognize the place to go to your subsequent driving vacation! Images: Azam Siddiqui and Kingshuk Dutta