Having completed the Chandratal mission, I had to be back to Leh route. So, it had to be the same route back till Gramphoo. But in place like Himalayas, riding on a same route gives you different feeling every time. Chandratal indeed was an accomplishment, a sort of dream coming true. But still, Leh was my destiny.
Gramphoo to Keylong is a straight forward route. But owing to widening or repair of roads, it has gone tough at many places, sort of dangerous at times.
There are numerous landslide zones on the whole route and, at many places either roads are being widening or repaired to prevent landslides. This is a vicious circle, as widening causes further adverse impact on hills and the ecosystem. Well, for riders and drivers, they are immediate challenge as well.
Clouds were chasing me as soon as I had left Batal. They finally caught me up by the time I reached Khoksar. But since my final destination for the day, Keylong was not far away, hence instead of driving in rains, I decided to take a tea and maggi break.
Roads are largely good after Khoksar till Keylong, except for some rough patches.
Before Keylong there are two another beautiful stopovers- one at Sissu which is now soon to get a water park close to Chandra River on the roadside.
And then there is Tandi, which is actually confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers which convert into Chandrabhaga or Chenab river and flow towards Kashmir. Tandi is 7 kilometres before Keylong and is also the last filling station before Leh. That’s the place where all vehicles will fill their tanks to reach Leh securely.
But overall an enjoyable ride, nevertheless. So lets go on this virtual ride to Keylong enroute Leh. You can watch the video of this ride from Chandratal to Keylong on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-
Chandratal to Gramphoo: 65 kms, Time taken 4 hours 40 minutes.
Gramphoo to Khoksar: 5 Kms
Khoksar ro Keylong: 47 kms, Time taken just about 2 hours.
Total distance covered: 117 kms.
We will now move to more challenging and more beautiful ride ahead. Keep tuned in!!
Please feel free to share the post, but not so free to copy and paste!!
We are on a virtual ride to Lahaul & Spiti valley. Every rider or driver or adventurer enthusiast going to Leh or Kaza is very much keen to know about the road conditions on these arguably two of the most fascinating road journeys in the world.
Its a journey, everybody would like to embark upon. So, here is a first hand experience of the trip, which I have broken down into different segments, or we may say shorter distances to give a more detailed overview of the trip.
In the earlier parts of the journey, we have travelled from Manali to Gramphoo, then Gramphoo to Chatru and Chatru to Batal. Now after spending some time with Chacha-Chachi of Chandra Dhaba at Batal, we move towards Chandratal. Once we cross river Chandra after Batal, there is an uphill drive.
After a couple of kilometres, there is a diversion. Road uphill goest o Kunzum pass and then to Kaza. While road straight goes to Chandratal. Its is a pretty straight forward route after that along the Chandra river in the vast expanse of the valley.
Its a beautiful journey but road condition is pretty much the same as has been from Chatru to Batal. Its a bumpy ride to say the least with a couple of running streams to cross. Flow of water in the streams will depend on the timing of the journey. Enjoyable journey upto the camping area near Chandratal lake. These streams look quite easy ones but pebbles below the water sometime make it tricky to maintain the balance of the luggage loaded bike. SO one has to be extremely careful.
In my last post on this trip, I had mentioned that how tough the terrain is and how hostile weather can be here. With the interiors of valley difficult to reach, it makes the rescue operations in any event of crisis very challenging. Hence there is also a helipad and control station after Batal on way to Chandratal. But this one is across the Chandra river on other side.
You can watch the video of this road journey on clicking the link below:
Big flat valley provides an ample space for camping. First couple of camps actually are half a kilometre before the main camping site. Main camping site is right on the base of the uphill route towards Chandratal Lake.
Camping at an altitude of around 4200 metres is a fascinating experience.
Till some years back, camping site near Chandratal Lake had just one camp. Now there are many camps and more than 150 tents for adventurers to stay. They are run by different local operators though.
Tents are good, clean, cosy and with various size options. Operators also provide meals and breakfast. Most of the prices of the tents include stay with meals (generally breakfast and dinner).
You can watch the video of this camping site on clicking the link below:
This place is culmination for many treks as well as base camp for many expeditions to nearby peaks. Adventurers mostly come here to see Chandratal Lake. Many bikers will just visit the lake and then move ahead towards Kaza or Manali. I stayed here overnight in Tenzin camp and made two visits to lake- one in the afternoon and another in early next morning. If you stay here overnight, than you can also enjoy beautiful sunrise here in the morning, like this one-
Both these peaks are favourite among mountaineers seeking an experience of 6000 metre climb. These expeditions are also done from the Batal.
Having covered Chandratal Lake, now we will turn back on the same way upto Gramphoo and from there turn towards Keylong on way to Leh.
I was heading towards Chandratal lake. I had no intention to go towards Kaza as I had already travelled to Kaza some time back. From Chatru I had a very tough ride to Batal. As I said earlier, Batal is a very important stopover. Once you cross the river Chandra at Batal and move uphill, there is a diversion. One road further up takes you to Kunzum top and then to Kaza in Spiti valley. Another road takes you deep inside the Chandra valley towards Chandratal. We will travel that distance next time. This time we are just talking about Batal.
Batal is located at farther end of a wide fat valley. Valley narrows at this point and then again widens up towards Chandratal after a few kilometres. It also gets important as there is tough climb upto Kunzum pass after here. Chandratal is also further 14 kilometres from here. Hence it makes a good resting point and have some food and fun. But it is also a good place to stay overnight.
Batal now has a few dhabas. Some time back there was only one- Chandra Dhaba. Actually Batal has now got associated closely with Chandra Dhaba, both of them have acquired a sort of legendary status. Chandra Dhaba, more so because of its owners Dorje Bodh and his wife Hishe Chhomo.
44 years is not a small period and this ever-loved couple fondly called as Chacha-chachi has been running Chandra Dhaba for last 44 years at one of the most difficult terrains in the world in most hostile conditions, weather and poor connectivity. Its not a mean business. They do it for the love of their work and this place. They have been providing adventurers- bikers, drivers, passengers, trekkers, et.al. with food and shelter for all this long in their very humble and jovial way. But not just this, they have also been helping and rescuing the travellers and adventures caught in sudden weather, snowfalls, landslides or any other emergencies.
This extraordinary couple is now part of many adventure folklores for decades and deservingly enough, have also been recognised with many awards, including Godfrey Philips bravery award. You can also a watch a video of a candid chat with Chacha Dorje Bodh by clicking on the link below-
Now few more dhabas have come round, although Chandra Dhaba still retains its premier status. In this region, all dhabas also double up as night shelters for the travellers. They are very handy for all those, who have to make emergency halts because of either getting late or adverse weather conditions. Travellers also make scheduled halts at these dhabas when they don’t want to carry tents with them.
These dhabas are descent place to stay. Mostly there will be beds inside the dhaba on one side, like a dormitory. Dhaba owners will be providing the sleeping bags and blankets. Since the dhaba and the kitchen will also be inside in the same area, therefore it will be cozy and warm in the night, while it would be freezing cold outside. Dhabas provide the breakfast and meals.
For all those, who love extreme adventure, there is plenty of place around to pitch tents and enjoy starry nights. Besides, there is also a PWD rest house in Batal, just opposite the Chandra Dhaba, and also some igloo shaped fibreglass fabricated forest huts.
Buses going from Manali or Keylong to Kaza also stop here for some time. Truckers with essential supplies of the region will always make a halt here. Actually earlier, when there was no road connectivity to Chandratal then, people will make Batal as the base and then trek to Chandratal. Even today, whenever that road is blocked, or just for adventure, people will trek for 14 kms from Batal to Chandratal. There are people who will take a bus from Manali, get down at Batal, trek to Chandratal and come back, and then they will either take another bus to Kaza or back to Manali.
Batal is at an altitude of 3910 metres and it is located in a very hostile terrain. This place remains inhabited for almost six months from April end to October end. Rest of the time it remind inaccessible and even reaching through helicopters might be tough task during winters. Even during so-called summer months of adventure season, occasionally there might be heavy snowfall leading to road blockades. One should always be prepared physically and mentally for any eventuality.
But once you are here the beauty of the nature only steels the resolve to go further.
In the last episode of Himalayan Rides, we (me and my readers) travelled from Gramphoo to Chatru on way to Chandratal. Now we are travelling from Chatru to Batal. Batal is a very important stopover. Once you move ahead of Batal there is a diversion. A road uphill takes you to Kunzum pass and then to Kaza in Spiti valley and another one moves deep inside the Chandra valley towards Chandratal.
Its a very small stretch in terms of the total ride but still I thought to devote a full post to this, as this one was very important in letting me know what to expect on the way ahead and what I need to do to keep myself better prepared.
Batal is just 31 kilometres from Chatru. Chhota Dara is 17 kms from Chatru and Batal is another 14 kms from there. But this 31 kms journey is no pushover, as it tests your riding skills. The route might not be too tough for four wheelers but it is tough one for bikes, specially the stretch from Chatru to Chhota Dara as at many places you have to ride through boulders and stones. This stretch can take a heavy toll on your vehicles, so keep them fit for it. There are few running streams to be crossed and one or two of them can be tricky for the first timers, more so if you don’t want to put your feet into the water.
Chota Dara: On paper this is a village, but there are only stones and stones around. A PWD pesthouse is there. Then there is also a Spiti Valley Dhaba on the way, which can provide you with some tents to stay and also breakfast and meals.
I had a bit of uneasy experience on water crossing on the stretch. Actually, it was the first tricky one of the trip. I had brought a pair of water and snow proof shoes with me. But in the morning when I was packing the things at Chatru, I found that the sole of my both the shoes have not just only ripped off, but broken into pieces beyond any kind of repair. I actually tried to use the puncture solution to fix it but it only worsened. There was no alternative other than to how them. With heavy heart, I discarded them to dustbin. They had come to me all the way from Geneva, Switzerland.
But now there was an immediate problem for me. Till Chatru, I had not required to cross any stream, hence I didn’t fell any requirement for waterproof shoes and I carried on in my sports shoes. Now, if I required them then I can get a new pair only at Keylong. Till then I had to make sure that I don’t let my sports shoes get wet.
And, I had a testing time just immediately. After I crossed Chota Dara, there was a stream flowing down from the mountains, crossing the road over to Chandra River. It was a tricky one as it was spread wide and it was tough for me to gauge the depth. Though, I was sure that it was not too deep but I had to ensure that I cross it smoothly so that I don’t have to touch me feet anywhere in between. Since I was bit weary of the stones and pebbles under the water, I was bit indecisive for more than a minute on which side to cross the stream. Luckily for me, a truck came from the behind and as it crossed the stream, I got an idea of the actual depth and concentration of stones, making it easier for me to follow and cross, that I finally did. Was I going to be equally lucky everytime till Keylong? Only time will tell.
You can also see the video of this journey and my experience of crossing the stream by clicking below-
But it is definitely thoroughly enjoying as we pass through the beautiful Chandra Valley with snow-capped mountains all around from Indrasan, Deo Tibba, Ali Khan Tibba, White Sail, Papsura peaks and ranges. There is also a trek from Manikaran that brings to Chota Dara by crossing the Sara Umga pass. Stunning beauty around was actually reward for the tough ride.
You can cover this stretch of 31 kms in about three hours, depending on your riding skills as well as on time you give yourself to enjoy the surroundings. Early morning departure from Chatru will give you good time at Batal to eat and enjoy.
From Gramphoo one road leads to Keylong and then towards Leh and another one towards Kunzum Pass and then to Kaza. There is also stark difference between roads on the two sides. Keylong-Leh road is the sort of expressway compared to this one. Road from Gramphoo to Chatru passes through narrow valley along the Chandra river. However once you cross the Chatru village, Chandra valley widens up.
While moving towards Chatru there are a couple of water falls on the road. They don’t pose any problems for the four wheelers and these ones are not even tricky for two-wheelers as well. But you never know when it is raining heavily, they might pose some difficulties. It is better to be careful as situations will be different in different months and it can always change very rapidly.
Route from Gramphoo to Chatru is comparatively enjoyable because of roads, landscape and bit of inhabitation. Actually one can also say that because of some what better road, this stretch gives you an opportunity to enjoy the surroundings.
Widening and work on roads is a constant process here. Also the whole area is being connected through OFC network, hence you will always find either BRO or other PWD teams on work at short distances.
Networks: In the above image, you can see bulldozers camped at a distance. This spot is around eight kilometres before from Chatru. It is said that while going from Gramphoo to Chatru, this is the last spot where you might be able to connect to a mobile network (that too just BSNL). As soon as you move ahead of this point, you will not find any networks on your mobiles upto Chandratal or Kunzum pass.
Once we reach Chatru, we cross on the Chandra river to the other side.
Chatru is next village from Gramphoo towards Kunzum Pass. Located at an altitude of 3300 metres, Chatru is 17 kms from Gramphoo and in the perspective this stretch from Gramphoo to Chatru has the better roads in comparison to other stretches towards Batal, Chandratal and Kunzum pass.
Actually it is tough to call Chatru even a village. There had never been a permanent village here. It was a base for nomadic tribes and shepherds. Chatru is also an important base as normally this is where Hampta Pass trek will end, if one does not include Chandratal in it. On the other side of river there is a plenty of grounds for camping. Just along the bridge are two restaurants. They have been here for many decades now. Actually for commuters these two restaurants (another one is coming near by) are what Chatru is all about.
Night Shelter: As with whole of this route in Spiti or Lahaul valley, dhabas also double up for night shelter
In the above image, you can see the Chandra dhaba with a tent. Front portion of the tent works as store and kitchen and on the other end are beds for commuters to stay. They provide bed and blankets.
Another dhaba is the Prem dhaba that you can see in the image above. This has got more space. On the right is the kitchen and the eating area, while what we see right in front (where you can see my bike parked) is a pucca garage with many beds inside. This shelter prevents better from cold of the night. Besides these two (or may be three this year) dhabas, Chatru also has a PWD rest house where tourists can stay subject to availability of rooms. This PWD rest house is around three-quarter of a kilometre further ahead on a uphill diversion from the main road. Rest house has two sets, but doesn’t have a water supply or electricity. Actually, owner of Prem Dhaba is also the caretaker of this PWD rest house. Normally travellers will prefer (even he too will prefer) to stay at Prem Dhaba only, as it has more space, food, running water and some solar light. Secondly PWD rest house is off the route, while these two dhabas are right on the road.
Satellite connect: Since I had no prior information about (non) availability of networks here or the above mentioned spot with last signals of connectivity, I was desperate to get in touch after I reached Chatru. Also, because I had lost half day due to NGT permit issue requirement at Gulaba, my schedule was in haywire. I reached Chatru in evening tired. Originally I had planned to end the day at Chandratal. Hence I asked the owner of Prem Dhaba about any chance of connectivity. It was he who told me about the spot some seven kilometres back. I was in no mood to ride back to make a call and then come back here. It was than he told me about a satellite phone uphill in the village.
There was a agro unit uphill, which actually formed the core of Chatru village. I went to PWD rest house, parked my bike there and jumped a few walls to reach to take a path towards some houses and a shed inside the fields. There was a agro unit which produced different crops here in the valley- peas, potatoes and few others and then packed and transported them to other areas. That unit had a satellite phone in its premises, services of which they also lend to commuters for a charge. I was able to make a call back home from there and actually at such height in these conditions it cost me just negligible to make a comfortable call. I might not be able to recollect precisely, but I made call for less than thirty rupees from there.
My search for the satellite phone also gave me a bit of insight about this place. This valley is said to have one of the best quality of peas and potatoes produced in the entire region. The owner of the agro unit (his is the only private owner of such unit in whole valley) had more than 100 acres of land. He had a fairly descent set-up with a big house for himself (with water and solar lights) as well as place for his staff (of more than 50) to stay, and a power generating unit for his unit to process and pack the agri produce. That was an interesting story in itself.
Malwa Utsav started last night at Indore’s Lalbagh palace. There are still five more days to go and you can certainly catch some action. So has India’s most awaited yearly pilgrimage- Char Dham Yatra, which commenced on 28th April with opening of doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. But there are host of other events which can prompt you to some quick travel plans. With soaring temperatures, hill stations like Mount Abu and Ooty try to chill out with their annual festivals. Then there are a few church festivals also in Kerala, besides the all famous Thrissur Pooram. Here are some quick ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Time to pack!
Malwa Festival, Indore
Celebrated with great enthusiasm, Malwa Utsav is one of the biggest and most spectacular events of Madhya Pradesh. The festival restores the age old culture and the tradition of India through its various classical dance performances and traditional music. Performers and entertainers from different parts of India charm the cities of Indore and Ujjain for a remarkable five day celebration of art, music, dance, drama and culture. Festival is organised at Lalbagh Palace in Indore. One can say that the festival is a storehouse to the culture, spirit and the essence of the state. There is a huge gathering of locals and tourists coming from all parts of India and across the globe. Well-known artists, excellent performances, colourful ambience and a mélange of various programs form the prime highlights of the festival. In-addition, the festival also exhibits a rich display of art and craft workshops and one can savour the delectable cuisines of different variety. This year more than 400 artists from 19 states will take part in the festival. This year the festival is being held under shadow of plastic ban imposed in Madhya Pradesh from 1st May and also new phenomenon of cashless transactions for the small shopkeepers.
When: 2nd-8th May, 2017
Where: Lalbagh Palace, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
The grandest of all Kerala temple festivals this is more than two hundred years old. The Thrissur Pooram features a procession of around 30 colourfully decorated elephants and ensemble of 250 musicians. Other attractions include drum concerts, ornamental parasol displays, and fireworks. The festival is a huge cultural event that runs through the night with exuberant celebrations. Special viewing areas are provided for foreigners at the festival. The temple is a classical example of the Kerala style of architecture and has many murals and pieces of art. Majestic looking elephants adorned with ornate golden nettipattoms on their foreheads, the captivating beats of the thunderous music of the panchavadyam (five traditional instruments), spectacular fireworks, teeming millions intoxicated with the festive spirit – its all this and more that makes the world-famous Thrissur Pooram an unforgettable experience for any tourist.Had been in news recently for its treatment with elephants with issue even landing in court. Still, a festival worth a visit.
When: May 5, 2017
Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.
Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers
Every May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 121st flower show will be celebrated on May 19th 2017, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the month of may in botanical garden Ooty. In this festival large varieties of flowers are displayed and organised activities like floral arrangements, vegetable carvings, flower rangoli etc. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 19-21, is particularly stunning. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 59th fruit show at Sim’s park in Coonoor will be on May 27-28. Vegetable show will be on 6-7th May, Rose show on 13-14th May and Spice show on 12-14th May 2017. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing and trekking. There is also a Dog show at South of India Kennel Club (SIKC). Ooty Botanical Gardens covers an area of 22 hectares.It is a treasure house of temperate flora, consisting of flowering trees, beautiful shrubs, colourful lilies, bulbous planets, enchanting orchids, curious cacti and succulents, pleasing pteridophytes, breath taking glass house plans and charming annuals with bright colours.
When: 6th-28th May 2017
Where: Ooty, Coonoor and surrounding areas.
Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima as it falls on the full moon day, celebrates the birthday of Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Actually Buddha Purnima is day of his birth, his enlightenment and his death as well, making it a very rare day. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Across all monasteries in India including major Buddhist pilgrim centres like Dharamshala, Sarnath and Bodhgaya and predominantly Buddhist regions such as Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh as well. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organised under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).
When: May 10, 2017
Dhungri Fair, Manali
Hadimba temple is one of the most famous sight-seeing destinations at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. This mythological goddess from epic Mahabharata has this only temple to her credit in India. This temple is revered by locals and other ‘gods’ of the nearby villages alike. Every year her birth anniversary celebrations are held for three days in summers as per hindu calendar. More than a dozen ‘gods’ from the valley come here in procession to take part in the celebrations. Many events are held which make it a big cultural event. There is lot of dancing, singing, and sports activities. Whole of Manali will anxiously wait for this festival as they believe that after this festival normally tourist season will start peaking at this hill station. Many tourists from all over the world take part in this festival.
When: May 14 to 16, 2017.
Where: Hadimba Temple, Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Summer festival at Mount Abu
The only hill station of the Aravali ranges welcomes tourists for the summer with a festival. The summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. Mt. Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar and gather at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan and Gujarat states. The grand finale of the festival display dazzling fireworks. This two day colorful festival is organized by the Rajasthan Tourism, Municipal Board, Mount Abu & District Administration. Both the days of festival are interesting because of various competitions that take place the whole day. Skating Race, skater’s Show, CRPF Band Show, Boat Race, Horse Race, Tug of War, Panihari Matka Race and Deepdan add to the excitement of the celebration.
When: 9th-10th May 2017
Moatsu at Nagaland
Moatsu Festival is celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. Moatsu is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The Moatsu festival provides the Aos a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (Wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. This tribal festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival with full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from 1st to 3rd of May. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it. Men & women putting on the complete best attire and the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.
When: 1st-3rd May 2017
Perunnal at Edathua Church
Nestled on the banks of River Pamba is the Edathua Church, a massive church that resembles the churches of medieval Europe. Established in 1810, the church is dedicated to St. George and is famous for the annual perunnal or feast which starts on the 27th of April and concludes on the 7th of May. During the perunnal, the statue of the saint, decked in gold, is taken out on a procession and is placed on the dais in the centre of the Basilica. The devotees turn up in hordes from far and wide to join in this procession and offer their prayers. Cultural performances are held on all days and a spectacular display of fireworks form an integral part of the festive occasion. Edathua Perunnal is actually one of three church festivals that takes place in Kerala during these days.
Others are, Palayur Church Festival (6-7 May 2017 at St. Thomas Church, Chavakkad in Thrissur) and Puthupally Perunnal at St George Orthodox Church, Puthuppally in Kottayam District. Among these two the St. Thomas Church at Palayur near Chavakkad is believed to be one among the seven churches established by St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ. The annual festival at the church lasts for two days and is attended by thousands. With vibrant pageants, orchestra, and fireworks, the festival resembles the Hindu festivals held in and around Thrissur. Established in 52 AD and with a history spanning two millennia, the church is definitely worth a visit.
When: April 27-May 7, 2017
Where: St. George’s Church, Edathua, Alappuzha. Cochin International Airport is about 85 km from Alappuzha.
Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra
The most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra is going to begun in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break on 6th May. The doors of Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims three days earlier on 3rd May this year. With all the four shrines located above 10,000 feet in Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the temple doors remain closed in October-November owing to low temperatures and heavy snowfall, and are reopened in April-May. The pilgrimage season of six months witnesses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists travelling to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh for an onward journey to the four shrines, making it the economic backbone of Garhwal region. However, there was a dip in footfall in 2013 following the natural calamity in the region. According to government figures, while the number of tourists visiting the state in 2012 and 2014 stood at 2.84 crore and 2.26 crore respectively, the figures stood at 2.09 crore in 2013.
When: 28th April 2017 onwards
Sipi Fair, SIpur, Mashobra
One of the unheard festivals in the list and bit weird too, but great occasion to understand the local culture and flavour. Two kilometre from Mashobra, a Shimla suburb lies Sipur which is known for its centuries old Sipi Fair. The fair is named after Seep, a local deity. The legend has it that the temple existed here prior to the deity’s visit to this place. According to the locals the place commands profound religious and mystical significance. No one spends the night here. The depth of the faith can be gauged from the fact that the visitors even dust their clothes before returning to the homes so that even a minute particle of the dust, a property of Seep deity , is not carried away. The tradition to visit the Sipi Fair is centuries old. It also finds special mention in the periodicals published during British regime .The place earlier belonged to the erstwhile Koti state. The star attraction of this fair is deity’s visit from the nearby hamlet Deothi .The deity pays as much as three visits to this place throughout the year.The venue also become a makeshift market during the fair when the stalls of goods are decorated to attract the visitors.
Although the number of bikers to Ladakh is constantly increasing every year, but even then biking to this terrain is no mean business. It is physically challenging and psychologically draining. The human & the machine, both need to be best of fitness. This journey can be divided in different parts. Although few bikers would try to do it the other way by taking off from Srinagar to Leh and then returning from Manali side, but still Manali-Leh is the most favoured route; and, there are various reason for this to be.
First part of the journey is from Manali to uphill Rohtang La and to downhill Gramphoo on the other side. Rohtang La at 13050 feet is the first mountain pass en route Leh.
Between Manali and Marhi, you may find some little waterfalls emerging out of melting snow and many tourists enjoying them, but bikers rarely get interested in them.
You will find many shops on the way renting out woollens, jackets, gloves and shoes to tourists going to Rohtang and wishing to play some games on snow. Though there is nothing for bikers in it, but it might still remind few of us to check, whether they have rain covers to protect from intermittent rains and shoes to steer them through some running streams on roads.
Soon you reach to intersection which dissects road to two directions, one to Rohtang (towards the right in the image below) and another to Solang (one going straight in image below).
Thereafter starts the steady climb. Its gradual till the top and enjoyable.
Rohtang is a favourite excursion for all tourists coming to Manali. This has often resulted in an unabated mess at the pass. With things going out of control, NGT (National Green Tribunal) has stepped in. It has made some strict regulations, permits are necessary and green tax has been imposed.
Check post is at Gulaba, which is roughly 24 kms from Manali. After this point, you can’t move ahead to Rohtang without a permit. But for bikers, permits are not issued here, it has to be obtained from Manali itself. Permit is issued for a fees of Rs 100 and you need a photo id card, PUCC for your vehicle, vehicle registration papers and valid driving license. Permits are separate for Lahaul valley (towards Leh) and Spiti valley (towards Kunjum and Kaza). Route has to be mentioned in application form. Permit for four wheelers can be obtained either from Manali or from Gulaba check post. Bikers going to Leh should be very careful about obtaining the permit, other wise one can loose precious time, energy and petrol, as I accidentally did. I missed the permit, was not allowed to go past Gulaba, had to go back to Manali to get permit. I lost almost four hours in the process and as a result could not reach my planned destination of the day.
From Gulaba we move towards Marhi. Manali-Rohtang is a scenic route of 52 kms and roads are perfect atleast till Marhi.
Marhi is an ideal point to have seem break before serious climb to Rohtang starts. You can even see the top from here. There are number of food joints here and lot of things to kill your time. People wary of cold, weather and thin air at Rohtang, like to spend more time in Marhi.
After that roads start to deteriorate as we approach close to pass. AT many places, road is also being widened. Lot of construction activity makes riding challenging. Lets see what happens when the roads open this year.
Stretch from Marhi to Rohtang is also known for its traffic jams, prompting authorities to regulate movement of traffic. Narrow roads, high cliffs, bigger vehicles, potholes, streams, all these some times compound the chaos and for bikers it is a challenge to go past this mess.
It feels quite satisfying once we reach the Rohtang top, as it is first of the great passes on way to Leh.
Its quite an atmosphere here with people all around, having fun.
Way to Rohtang is just prelude to the actual tough journey ahead. But it is still a major milestone.
After Rohtang only the locals going ahead or the adventures move ahead. Picnickers normally return from here.
Gramphoo is 15 kms downhill from Rohtang top. Road from Rohtang top till 4-5 kms was good in condition but next ten odd kilometres to Gramphoo were terrible last year (2016) due to widening of road and large scale repair work.
One also needs to understand that road conditions on these two stretches is lot dependent on weather as well as month of travel. Early in the season (June) roads will be worse than what one will find towards the end (September-October). Month of travel will also decide the amount of snow and running water (nallahs) one might find on roads. Thats the reason, September end is considered to be one of the safest time to ride or drive on these roads.
Gramphoo is the place where roads to Lahaul valley and Spiti valley bifurcate. Those going to Leh continue to move straight towards Keylong. And those going to either Kunjum Pass and Kaza or towards Chandratal lake take right turn at Gramphoo along the Chandra River. My final destination was Leh, but I also wanted to cover Chandratal lake, hence I took the road to Spiti valley.
Want to see a video of the route. Please click to the link below-