After all the commotion with the filling station running out of fuel and having to stop in Kaza for longer than planned we were finally ready to hit the road and continue on with our journey. Every day so far we had left whichever area we were in by 11am to travel on to the next place but we left Kaza quite late in the day by the time Sanjay managed to get some fuel. With this and the turn in the weather combined we would have to alter our plans slightly again. We were due to go camping near Chandertall Lake tonight but we made the decision to skip this unfortunately as we were running out of time left in Spiti. Plus Sanjay had been up all night waiting in line for fuel – bless him. It would not be fair or safe to continue driving for so long.
We drove roughly 60km from Kaza and headed to a small village called Losar, which sadly marked the end of Spiti Valley. Losar is located very near to the Indo-Tibetan border and is also an exit/entry point for Spiti Valley. In my earlier blog posts about our journey to Spiti, I briefly talked about the Inner Line Permit which is 100% mandatory. Here in Losar would be our “checking out” of Spiti Valley, where we went to a little police check point and handed over our passports and permits for checking.
This little unexplored village sits at an altitude of approx. 13,500 ft above sea level and houses a population of approximately 250 people. Thankfully, by this point we had very much become accustomed to being so high up and we were lucky to not get sick (only a bit dizzy from time to time). Losar is supposedly the last liveable place until you reach Tibet/China and there is nothing around it for miles and miles, although many tourists pass through and stay here due to it being so close to Chandertall Lake.
We decided that we all would benefit from an early night and that we’d get up at 5am to leave for Manali (our final destination) and travel via Chandertall Lake. Our accommodation was a tiny little guesthouse that was old and charming called Samsong Hotel. You can read about it here in my accommodation review.
We had heard alot about Chandertall – also spelt Chandertal, Chandrataal, Chandra Tal – literally translating to “Moon (Chandra) Lake (Taal)” and it didn’t disappoint! At 14,000 ft in the Himalayas, the lake is a crescent shape of natural azure coloured water which changes colour like a mood ring depending on the sky! The lake has many mythological stories surrounding it and its existence and it is only accessible in the Summer (June – September) as it remains frozen for the rest of the year. The night view of the Milky Way is supposed to be absolutely exquisite here as there is no light pollution, but due to changing plans we were unable to witness this. One day, I would love to go back and stargaze like there’s no tomorrow! It’s one of my favourite things to do and I am completely obsessed (or ruled by) the Moon! Unfortunately, while we were here the weather wasn’t too great like I said previously and there were lots of low clouds over the lake but it was still an enthralling and enchanting sight.
The route to Chandertall was pretty sketchy and scary to be honest. I think because a lot of rain had fallen, it just completely ruined the roads and made the drive a bit more challenging for Sanjay… Nothing that he could not manage though and believe me, it got ALOT worse!!
At the lake we took time to chill out and watch SO much wildlife – it was amazing. We witnessed many different birds that I had previously learnt about in Sanjay’s Spiti and Lahaul Bird Guide, making it easier for me to spot and identify them. We also saw lots of tiny little red-faced mice running about the rocks, each one following the other – they are adorable! Whilst in Dhankar I picked up a book about wildlife in Spiti and Lahaul and read about these little cute creatures called Marmots… To me, they looked like fluffy wild guinea pigs (which I love) crossed with a beaver. Well… we managed to see plenty of these cute little things too! At first, we just caught a glimpse of a furry yellow-bellied creature running about on the rocks but when we looked closer we could see dozens of them all scurrying around and play-fighting with one another. It was so great to watch!
After a couple of hours of chilling and casually walking we headed back to the jeep to continue on with the deceivingly long 125km drive to Manali. Even though this distance may seem short, please be advised it will still take at least 6-9 hours to reach Manali as the roads are mental and it depends on the weather, which affects the terrain and roads.
Excuse my language, but THIS is where it got f***ing terrifying and treacherous!!! It’s one of those “you had to be there moments” for a good few hours and I only wish I could show you all the things we saw along the way! It was GNARLY and I am just so thankful we had such an experienced driver for this stretch of the journey! So, I will try to explain just a snippet of what we experienced… Firstly, the roads were like an obstacle course! There were cars, trucks and probably close to a hundred motorbikes in total all traveling the same route… The roads are narrow anyway and usually only allow for one vehicle at a time but now they were inches deep with sticky mud aswell. The rain was pouring down the sides of the mountains and we ended up driving through countless waterfalls… I don’t mean just a trickle of water… Literally, driving through waterfalls!
At one point there was a traffic jam in one of the most unlikely places EVER! We were heading up towards Rohtang Pass on the way to Manali, (we were still a long way from there at this point but I literally have no idea where we were) but yeah there was a hill, which was basically a river at this point and we were stuck behind a few motorbikes and a small little tin-shed of a van blocking the route for everyone else. The motorcyclists were struggling to keep upright on their bikes due to the force of the water and the formation of the rocks beneath them and this van was totally incapable of getting up this hill without the help from locals, motorcyclists and Sanjay. Sanjay was the hero of the day here… There were SO many problems and challenging circumstances literally one after another and each time he was the guy that saved the day! Driving us around, changing flat tyres of other cars, pushing bikes and cars through waterfalls, offering lifts to motorcyclists that had to say goodbye to their rides…
It was so inspiring to witness and we were in awe of Sanjay! He knows these routes SO well and he drives around these valleys and mountainsides all year round, it is as if he has an extra sixth sense just for Spiti Valley and he understands EVERY aspect of the place. You can watch some of the video below to get a better understanding of what was taking place! I couldn’t stop laughing at one point because there was so much chaos with cars, motorbikes, people and theeeen a huge herd of sheep and goats with their shepherds came strolling past and went down the same route that everyone else was trying to get up! A few km later we found ourselves at a BIG drive through waterfall and we just knew that this little tin-shed van from earlier would not make it any further in their journey. It was just not possible! People were having to get out of their cars, motorcycles etc to help push them out of all the waterfalls and treacherous roads but now it was every man for themselves, as it just got too crazy!
Anyway, after all of this kafuffle we were headed to Rohtang Pass, approximately 13,050 ft in altitude and as soon as we got close the weather turned even worse here. There were SO many tourists (mainly Indian) all in their hired out snowsuits and I kid you not, you could not see more than 10ft infront of you as the clouds were so low and dense. It was really dark and quite eerie actually. We stopped for a couple of photos and a quick pee before continuing our journey… It seemed like foreverrrr to get to Manali. It was already turning to night…
By 8.30pm we arrived in Manali. We had been up and about since 5.30am and poor Sanjay had been driving this whole time with all these challenges aswell as having lack of sleep over the past few days due to the filling station in Kaza running out of fuel. We were exhausted after this day of madness and exquisite sights and we were so glad to finally reach our accommodation for the night, Joshi Homestay, Manali.
To avoid this blog post becomijng too long and too much babble I will write all about Manali seperately! Manali is a definite place to visit – I loved it!