The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India and is the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation. Along the northern route from Manali, Himachal Pradesh or Keylong via the Rohtang Pass or Kunzum Pass respectively, the valley lies in the North Eastern section of the Indian state Himachal Pradesh, and forms part of the Lahaul and Spiti district. The sub-divisional headquarters (capital) is Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, which is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 12,500 feet (3,800 m) above mean sea level.
How to Plan a Trip to Spiti Valley is really a very broad question because there are several aspects to it; and several factors will contribute to how your final plan turns out.
1. Must visit places in Spiti valley
A well-laid itinerary in our opinion is the most important part of visiting Spiti Valley. Based on say 9 days you have in hand, you must have a carefully drafted plan on where do you want to be on which day to cover some important places to visit in spiti valley such as Kullu valley, Banjar Valley, Bhimadevi temple, Sangla valley orchards, Nako, Tabo and Dhankar monasteries, Chandratal Lake, Key Monastery, Kunzum Pass, Suraj tal Lake, Pin Valley National Park, Kibber, Baralacha pass, and Shashur, Tayul and Kardang Monasteries.
2. Ideal Route
Manali- Shoja- Sarahan- Sangla- Kalpa- Nako- Kaza- Manali
A 9 days trip can be best started from Manali. Starting the journey in the Himalayas from Manali towards Banjar Valley to Shoja, crossing Kullu Valley on the way and from Aut, you need to divert towards the Banjar Valley which is a hub of many beautiful places in Himachal.
After crossing Jibhi, Shoja is the next destination and from Shoja move towards Sarahan, a small village which is the site of the Bhimakali Temple crossing Jalori Pass which stands at 3,120 Mtrs reaching Sarahan.
From Sarahan head towards Sangla , a valley covering dense forest slopes and apple orchards en route Thach, Karcham Dam, and Shaung.
From Sangla you retrace your journey back to the Dam and then once again continue on the national highway all the way to Kalpa, a small town in the Sutlej river valley, above Recong Peo in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Leaving kalpa, ride towards Nako which is a small village near to the Indo-China Border,here you can visit Nako Monastery, dated to 1025, as well as several other Buddhist chortens.
From Nako ride towards Kaza along the Spiti River. En route stopping at Tabo to visit the Tabo and Dhankar monasteries, which stands high over the valley and is a stupendous example of local architecture. After this, move directly towards Kaza, from where you head towards the Ki Monastery (one of the world’s oldest monastery) and Kibber (world’s Second highest village) at 4205m and then ride back to Kaza. Starting the last leg of the tour from Kaza crossing two passes, Kunzum pass (4558m) and Rohtang pass (3980) en route Bathal, Chattru and Gramphu, from Gramphu climb your way to Rohtang pass and then meandering your way down to Manali where the trip ends.
3. Terrain and how to prepare for it
Beware of Rivulets, These are small water streams caused by melting snow and rainfall. Problem is that they will be flowing right through the road. Some of these rivulets are so large that they get named as “Nallahs”. There will be plenty of these to cross during monsoon, throughout the circuit but mostly on Batal – Gramphoo stretch. Malling Nallah after Nako is probably the most notorious one. These rivulets can be quite deep with large stones underneath the water and if you are not careful, you may get stuck with belly of your bike hitting the ground, may leading to oil or coolant leak.
Also the Slush and Rain, During your journey here, you will be traveling on some of the worst patches of roads you have ever seen. Badly broken dirt trails become a pool of mud as soon at it starts to rain. Be prepared to be driving through a lot of slush. It can rain anytime, anywhere and for hours at a stretch.
Most important thing however will be a good quality rain suit. You definitely do not want to be riding soaking wet with rain beating down on you in a cold atmosphere. You need to ensure that you remain dry. Your shoes or sandals/crocs too must be waterproof and if not, then carry at least two pairs. Make sure to carry enough drinking water and some dry fruits, as adequate food and water are very important aspects on this trip.
Biggest challenge comes when you are traveling to Spiti in monsoon on a motorcycle. Get plenty of plastic bags, to keep all your clothes. Then get a good waterproof bag and stuff your luggage in. Then there is also the fact that you will be going through a lot off water crossings and slush so you need to provide sufficient cover to your luggage. Final step is to buy black plastic sheets that you can get at a hardware store. Wrap your bags in the sheets before roping it around the motorcycle.
5. A thorough inspection of your bike
Before you start on the trip, get your bikes well serviced. Make a note to get the wiring checked to ensure there is no wear and tear that may cause a short circuit and the wires to burn while it rains. Make sure to check brake oil, brake pads, chain sprocket, tyres, coolant level, magnet coil, rectifier unit, battery and all electricals of the bike.
6. Things to carry (spares)
You should carry some extra spare parts for your bikes to ensure a safe and hassle free trip such as oil filter, air filter, clutch cable, spark plugs, fuses, brake wires clutch plates and throttle cable. Also carry a complete set of your bike’s tool kit along with a puncture kit and portable air pump if possible.
7. Landslides and shooting stones
Landslides are way too common around here, especially in areas around Sangla, between Reckong Peo and Puh and several other places. Sometimes, entire sections of the roads can get washed away in Monsoon. There is always a risk of roads getting blocked due to landslides and you will be stuck until it is restored. Hence, always carry dry fruits and energy bars.
Shooting stones can be big enough to cause some real damage. Chances of shooting stones will be more around areas where the entire road is filled with lose gravel. Fortunately, there will always be a sign put up warning you against a possibility of shooting stones. The road from Karchham to Chitkul, several stretches between Reckong Peo and Puh, area just before Kazigs near Nako, road from Tabo to Attargo are a few of such areas to name.
8. The Ideal bike
To be quite honest, there is really no best motorcycle as such for the Spiti Valley During Monsoon. The question should rather be whether or not your own motorcycle is good enough, no matter which one it is. Answer to this question will depend on several factors like how much luggage you are carrying, do you have a pillion, or how old your motorcycle is. With careful planning, you can bring any motorcycle to Spiti valley and you will be able to successfully complete your trip; without any hassle at all.
The most important thing to understand is that it is not the motorcycle bringing you to Spiti but rather you riding it to the valley. As long as you know your machine, can maneuver it around steep ascents, are familiar with its limitations; then just about any bike will do. You need to make sure that your motorcycle is well prepared; carefully need to choose the time of your travel and plan your itinerary accordingly. Although the most common and preferred bikes for Spiti valley ride are Royal Enfield 350cc or 500cc.
9. Buffer time to travel
Always keep one or two days in buffer. There is a high possibility that certain part of the highway may close down for a few hours; or even a couple of days because of landslide in which case you will have no choice but to go to the nearest town and wait it out. On the whole, a bike tour of Spiti needs to be extremely well planned and you must be prepared for any challenges you or your bike may face en route. A single major breakdown can hamper your entire tour. To have a ride, which is challenging and free of any worries, book your tour with Bikester and have a mesmerizing trip to Spiti Valley.
10. Fuel availability an Spiti and how to deal with it
If you’re heading to Spiti from Shimla, you’d find the last petrol station on the National highway near Rekong Peo. From there, to all the way to Kaza, which requires you to drive almost 200 Kms – if you’re not going off the main road there are no petrol stations. From Kaza, to all the way to Manali, there are no petrol stations for a distance of 200 Kms – so be mindful about it.
Carrying extra fuel tank for bikes with high fuel capacity and high milage is not required but for a Bullet and other bikes, with low mileage, and a smaller tank, you may need to carry one.
By Gaurav Bhattacharya