Rough terrain, mountains, snowfall - off to spiti

It was a long pending dream of travelling to Leh on bikes with friends. Indeed, now also it's pending but all I could say is we got a feel of it on our Spiti tour.

The Spiti tour is full of adventures, bike rides, arguments, changing decisions, testing mental and physical fitness. This was a real roller coaster ride. To give you a real feel, I have divided it into small-2 sections.

Let's begin the roller coaster.


Let me introduce you to my co-travellers: Anoop Singh and Gurwinder Singh. We were friends from our college days (Rabb nazar na lave). Anoop is an emotionally matured person and is married now. Gurwinder, posted as a Manager in PNB, loves to keep things simple and he takes things easy, thinks like a child. All three of us are different characters.

As the story unfolds, you will get to know more about us.

So, the roller coaster is finally starting. Let's go

To begin or not to begin

Earlier the dream of Leh was pending because no one in my friends circle own an SUV. But, now most of the friends own high-end cars (all thanks to the almighty). As they say 'Sab time time di gal hai'

So, we begin planning from February, separate Whatsapp group was made, we were eagerly waiting for routes to open.

We heard a news that routes will open on May 27. It's time to get serious and turn our plans into reality.

But... in reality, not everything happens the same as you planned.

As the SUV was new, we decided not to take it and relied on saying 'Old is Gold'. ALTO was finalized.

And after several discussions that Alto will not be able to make it to Leh, the trip was reduced from Leh to Spiti.

Now the equation was: on an alto to Spiti. It was still a good bet.

But, then just for some confirmation, I asked a question on Quora 'Is Alto a good choice for Spiti?' Everyone (those who answered) said no. They suggested taking a car with minimum ground clearance of 180mm (Alto was 160mm).

The next day we were about to begin our journey and I hadn't told about the Quora answers to my co-travellers.

This thing was making me uncomfortable, so I decided to make them aware that we might face difficulties on the way if Alto is taken.

I send the screenshots of Quora answers in the WhatsApp group.

After around 10 minutes, the status said read by both co-travellers, but no one replied.

After 20 minutes ... no reply...

After 30 minutes ... Still nothing ...

After 1 hour ......................................

That silence in the group was the moment of 'To begin or not to begin'.... to go ahead with the tour plans or drop the idea. To go ahead and live our dream or give it a miss. To again continue planning or let's do it...

The thought process continued the whole night and somewhere between 'no' to 'Don't know what to do' I fell asleep.

Next morning I posted a video status on WhatsApp...... of three friends, on way to Spiti, travelling in an ALTO... Yes, you read it right ... ALTO as deep inside we all knew that IT's NOW OR NEVER.

To clear some doubts, they (co-travellers) did reply in the group with random facts, motivational talks.

Started off with a bang

I was on the driving seat, we moved at a slow pace as we planned to stay in Manali for that day and proceed to Spiti the next day.

The road was mostly good, at times it becomes rough. Creating a confusion in my mind at what speed to go ahead.

The sun was set. No street lights were there. A swift desire was going ahead of us.

After crossing Kullu, The road was good and speed was around 70km/hr. There come a sharp turn and rough patch of road. Swift Desire applied sudden brakes.

I also applied braked, Alto skid...skid...skid....and......BANG.

A moment of silence.

'Oh ho' I don't know who uttered these two magical words but these were enough to break the silence.

We stopped, I was waiting for the driver of Desire to come out and be on talking terms with us.

But to our surprise, he raced away without even stopping as the impact of the collision was too little.

So, we started off with a BANG and I avoided eye contact with co-travellers for next 15-20 minutes due to a sense of guilt.

You need to take permit brother!

As we reached Manali, we were too tired, took a hotel and decided to take rest.

Next morning around 8 am, we were about to leave for our destination. On a general note, Anoop asked the person at the reception:

'How much time it will take to reach Chandra Taal lake?'

'Around 7-8 hours'

'Have you booked a taxi?' he asked


'Which car?'


'How did you managed to get the permit?'


We were expressionless..... What the hell did he just speak... We were not familiar with the word..

'Which Permit?' Gurwinder tried to intervene

'Sardar ji, aisa hai k Solang se aage jaane k liye aapko permit lena padta hai SDM office se'

(You need to take permit from SDM office if you want to go ahead of solang)

A big 'Ohh hoo' moment for us. We felt being trapped.


Tourist information

To go to Rohtang, keylong, leh, spiti you need to take permit from SDM office Manali or you can also apply online here.
It is advised to apply in advance as it is rare that you get the permit for the same day.

Pain in the Ass

We got the permit but for next day, so we were free. We decided to explore Manali.

As we were roaming, we saw a shop (TrekIndia), they rent out cycles to tourists.

Now, this is a good thing that happened to us for the day. We rented out 3 cycles (just for Rs 300 per cycle) and started towards old Manali (from mall road)

On the way to old Manali
I think it was after around 6 years that I was riding a bicycle.

Everyone was so enthusiastic, we planned to explore each and every corner of Manali and return the cycles at 7 pm (closing time of shop).

Started.... everyone peddled fast...

5 minutes after.... 'Just slow down, we got entire day' Gurwinder said

We started peddling at normal pace

After 10 minutes ..... 'Stop, stop ....Let's take a break' Said Anoop

We stopped

After 2-3 minutes everyone's breath was back to normal. We looked at each other and laughed

'Leya ta 22 panga hi aa' said anoop laughing

'Idea kida si ehh? (who gave this idea)' Gurwinder continued

'Tu hi keha si (You)' I said

After chit-chatting for another 5 minutes, we realized that it's better to peddle at a normal pace.

Slowly .... slowly ... we reached old Manali...

The place was great. We continued our journey, did some offroading and made the full use of bicycles.

offroading in old Manali

The scenic beauty was great.

Anoop got off the cycle and asked me to click a pic of him after he climbed a big rock.

Just as he sat down to give a pose for pic, within a second he got up

'Ki hoya (What happened)'

'**** Dukhn laggi (Ass started paining)' he replied making a dirty face

We didn't felt the pain before, but after he said that... we too started feeling the same

We ignored it at that time and peddled our way back to mall road...

It was evening by now (around 5 pm) and rush on mall road had increased, beautiful faces were roaming... So, we decided to give 2-3 rounds there

After 10 minutes

'Let's give back the cycles, it's paining too much' said Anoop

'Thodi der hor (just a few more minutes)'

He agreed

After 5 minutes

'Yaar bas, hor ni'

'bas thodi der hor...'

We continued

After 1 round, we saw Anoop was not there with us... Started searching for him.. he was there standing near lemon tea stall...

'What happened?'

'I'll not sit on the cycle, you take it and give it back' he kind of shouted

He refused to even sit on cycle.... that was the pain... when you ride cycle for 6 hours after 6 years.. that too in mountains...

That night we all slept in upside down position to avoid any unnecessary pain

Changing decisions

We were scheduled to check out from our hotel to Spiti the next morning. Time was around 10.30 pm and we were about to sleep when Anoop received a call from UC (the person who had booked our tents at Spiti)

'Can you meet me at Hotel ***?'

'Why? Is everything fine'

'Yes, everything is fine. A driver just came back from Spiti, I thought it's better if you interact with him.'

'Coming in 10 minutes'

We walked to the hotel. Mr UC introduced us to a driver who just came back from Spiti.

'You are planning to take an alto?' Said the driver

We nodded

'The condition of the road is very very bad... I advise you not to take Alto... '

An expression of concern appeared on our face

'Big stones are lying on road, you need to pass through water more than 100 times, there are two big Nalahs (Waterlogged area) where you can face difficulties, Alto may be jammed..' he finished it in a single breath

He had finished his dialogue but we continue to stare at his face

'I advise you to hire a taxi'

I read it somewhere that when you are in mountains, always take the advice of locals.

Left with little or no choice we booked a taxi.

The journey

After so many problems, It's finally beginning. The dream journey- from Manali to Spiti

The taxi driver arrived.

Wait! Don't imagine a usual taxi with yellow number plate and driver in uniform.

This is different my friend!

There were two persons named Dhiru and Dhiru (One 19 yr old and the other 21) arrived in an SUV.

'You both have same names?' Gurwinder asked

'We never call each other by original names in front of tourists, Dhiru is the code word' 19 yr old Dhiru replied

Ahh! there We were in between the locals.... Now the real fun begins...

Even before starting the car, he said looking at Anoop

'Bhai botal yah se hi le lena, aage koi theka nahi milega'

No, he didn't ask anyone of us if we drink or not....straight away told to buy...Well! this is just the beginning.

He started the car and after 15 minutes stopped in front of a wine shop

'Hum to old monk lenge, aap kaunsi? (We'll drink and you?)'

'BP' Gurwinder said

'Bhai rum hi le lo sahi rahegi, boht thand hogi aage'

'Nahi BP hi thik hai'

He bought the bottles and started the car

Anoop took the front seat and asked if belt is necessary

'Yeh chandigarh thodi hai bhai..' both dhiru laughed out loud

A little embarrassment for us. We got a taste of local life there.

After half an hour later....

'Dhiru peg bna' 19 years old ordered 21 yr old

They both were 1 peg down and it's just the start

and then he played punjabi song 'Patila peg la chadi da'

We looked at each other in amazement

'Our pen drive is full of Punjabi songs so that you are not bored' 21 yr old Dhiru cleared the confusion.

A homely feeling took over.

Now the equation became 'In an SUV, 5 persons, 2 wine bottles, 2 beer bottles, full volume Punjabi songs, '

The feel was great

But, the real fun was yet to begin, the journey was long and tiring. Let me tell, the road to Spiti is considered as one of the toughest roads in the world. I'm here dividing our journey in two phases:

Phase 1 -  Till Rohtang: Good roads with high traffic jam.

Phase 2 - After Rohtang: No roads, no traffic jam. You may not see a sign of life (any animal, plant or person) for many kilometres.

Phase 1 was ok. Little adventure, high traffic jam.

Phase 2 was the killer thing. As soon as we crossed Rohtang, big rocks on the road welcomed us.

Dhiru (19 year old) 'This is just the beginning. The real is yet to come.'

That line of him really pumped the adrenaline rush. If any one of us was feeling sleepy, he too got up and was curious about the journey.

After that, the speed of our vehicle was confined to 10-20 km/hour. The stretch (Rohtang to Chandrataal Lake) was a total of approximate 80km's and it took us 7-8 hours.

To give you a glimpse of what the actual road was like, we made small video clips:

This video grab shows the road from Rohtang to Chandrataal

The next video shows Toyota Innova struggles to clear big rocks

These are just a few clips that were recorded on the way. Sometimes, there were stretches where we were going kilometres and kilometres and there is no sign of any life (person, animal).

Around midnight we reached our tents. As soon as we stepped out from the car, my body started shivering. It was -8 degree.

A Big Salute to all Brave Soldiers of our country, who serve the country in such conditions

A local guy named 'PEMA' who was the care taker there; come out and said your tent is ready. Go fast and be inside the blanket, if you stand here for few more minutes, it'll cause a problem for you.

We moved to our tent. Both Dhiru slept in the car, Pema provided blankets to them.

3 old college buddies, small tent, old monk, -8 degree temperature, unforgettable memories

We slept at 3 am after discussing everything from good old college days to politics in our country.

Those moments spent with friends were priceless. Doesn't matter how much money we earn during lifetime, these were priceless moments.

Cheers to friendship 

Next morning, we wake up at 8 am, shivering we came out from our tent. The view outside has left me speechless.

Tenting location

Outside view

Pema served us bread butter with tea. As we were about to leave, it started to snow. Below is the video of snowfall.

This was the first time, I viewed snowfall

Chandrataal lake was a 3 km trek from there.

Within half an hour we reached our destination.

Chandrataal Lake

On reaching Chandrataal Lake, Calmness of nature greeted us.

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

There we spent an hour in the lap of nature and mother nature filled us eternal peace and joy of soul. That was the moment to cherish, that was the moment that filled our hearts with joy.

Time to Return

Hey reader, hope you enjoyed the roller coaster. Let's return.

It's a roller coaster my friend, so don't expect an easy return. The ending is more dramatic.

Read on...

On the way back we visited the famous Chacha Chachi Dhaba at Batal.

Anoop with the owners of Chacha Chachi Dhaba

They said to have rescued and provided shelter to 100 travellers when a natural calamity struck there in the past. Salute to these people.

Signed off with a Bang

Dhiru brothers dropped us at Manali, we took the Alto and left same day without taking a break.

The distance was about 250km's and time was around 10 pm.

We were tired and it was a possibility that we could sleep while driving.

We still took the risk and decided to leave for home.

I previously had an experience driving in such conditions, So I took the driving seat.

Gurwinder was repeatedly saying 'You can rely on me, I can drive.'

But he was a little inexperienced in mountains, so it was a better bet either to drive myself or take a hotel and sleep in Manali.

I and Anoop drove turn by turn till Ropar.

It was morning by now and Gurwinder had slept in the car.

Me looking at Gurwinder 'Are you sure you can drive?'

'100%' Gurwinder was fully confident.

I stopped the car and we exchanged seats.

It was time to put Gurwinder's driving skills to test as all the way he kept on telling us how he drove his car from a small gap in his town to a parking lot or other endless tales of his driving.

I was feeling sleepy but Anoop was awake to keep a check on Gurwinder's driving.

Gurwinder drove good as I had a good nap of 40-45 minutes.

By this time, we were about to reach Fatehgarh Sahib. Anoop expressed his desire to go to Gurudwara and pay obeisance.

Gurwinder drove inside towards the parking lot. There were 3 lanes, first we need to get parking slip after that we can park.

Of a sudden, I felt a quick acceleration and car banged into one of the posts that give parking lot slips.

A moment of silence.

'Oh ho galti nal race de hogi' I heard Gurwinder's voice

People from inside the post came out as their PC fell on the floor.

At the time, we were about to say goodbye to each other, this happened.

The impact of the collision was little and here we signed off with a BANG too.

Truly it was a roller coaster my friend. Here we arrived at the end of our ride. Thanks a lot for reading. Hope you enjoyed it. Do share your views in the comments section.

Personal note:
This was a trip of a lifetime. Thanks to Anoop and Gurwinder for making it possible.
I don't make everyone read my travel stories, if you are reading this it means you are special. Apart from reading if you are a part of any of my story, you are super special.
In future, if you want a road trip, do give me a call. Thanks



  1. Bhai kaise likh lete ho itna ....but really appreciable experience is expressed in with realistic touch .

    1. Bas bhai yeh tour hi lamba tha... Thanks for reading and appreciating


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