“What can go wrong will go wrong” is what the Murphy’s law states. Well, if you are a Christopher Nolan fan and have seen Interstellar, then you might say that the actual quote is “What can happen will happen”. But, during my visit of Spiti, the previous version applies better. When planning Spiti, I knew that it was a difficult and offbeat terrain. So, I had my doubts about it being the perfect trip and boy was I right!
Let me share my misadventures with you. The reasons why my trip to Spiti valley was not perfect. What I expected to go wrong mostly did!
It was a sunny morning and the sun rays were quickly dispersing the clouds stuck within the valley. We had reached Kullu and were to stay a night at this beautiful homestay. Having done my research, it was apparently a better idea to stay close to Kullu than Manali. The Bus for Spiti starts from Kullu and then reaches Manali, leaving a few seats vacant. Also, the chances of getting a confirmed ticket for Spiti is higher from Kullu as Manali is a comparatively more popular spot.
I settled in the homestay with my friends. At
Rs 720 per night the homestay looked like a great option. Mind you, this rate is for all 5 of us! It was indeed the cheapest accommodation I have ever stayed in!
Our Homestay & the view from there. The owner was a kind farmer named Kundan. We found this on Airbnb.
Perched atop a hillock, the homestay offered bountiful views and delicious homecooked meals. While savoring the local cuisine, I asked Kundan, the homestay owner, if the Spiti bus still leaves at 4 AM as I read in other blogs, or the timings have changed.
“Well, I am sure there are many more buses now” He said. “I think buses for Spiti leave every hour till 10 AM as we have been seeing an increase in number of tourists opting for Spiti.” Now that’s fair. Given the speed at which folks are discovering newer destinations to travel to, I had no reason to doubt him. Moreover, his advice was allowing us a couple of hours extra for sleep the next day. So, Yay!
Therefore, instead of waking up at 3 AM to catch the 4 AM bus, we slept peacefully till 6 AM. We got up and left to catch the 3rd last bus for Spiti according to our host. But, when we reached the Kullu bus stop, the bus at 4 AM had obviously left. Upon inquiring, we were welcomed with a frown by the ticket counter personnel. “There is only one bus for Spiti” He said. At the same time, many taxi drivers behind us grinned.
Well, we had already missed our bus.
“Let’s try to reach Manali asap and hope that the Spiti bus is still lingering around”. I told my friends. Generally, it waits for a while at Manali bus stop as it needs to pick up passengers from there also. Also, there might be more buses for Spiti from Manali, as our host told. But, behind all these hopes of catching the Spiti bus, I knew it was too hopeful.
So ya, we missed the bus to Spiti and that was what went wrong on our first day.
2. What if we don’t reach Spiti today?
I didn’t plan to catch the bus from Manali. It seemed like a distant probability. But I did hope to reach Spiti the same day we were supposed to. Ideally, you should cross Manali by 7 AM to reach Spiti before sunset due to the bad road, but it was already 10 AM.
So, we reached Manali and there were no buses for Spiti. We went and talked to the taxi drivers around and expressed our hopes along with skepticism about reaching Spiti by evening. Two out of some 25 drivers supported my hope and agreed to take us to Spiti before end of day. While the other drivers agreed with my skepticism. We went with the cheaper one out of the two positive drivers.
Now he instilled a lot of confidence in us that we will reach Spiti around 7 PM. Based on his confidence I was glad that we wouldn’t waste one day and see the next day’s sunrise in Spiti. I got my hopes up and skepticism in check.
But, what can go wrong will go wrong. Despite our driver showing brilliant driving skills, we didn’t reach Spiti that night.
Now, on the road from Manali to Spiti, there are a lot of streams that cross the road. These streams essentially emanate from the waterfalls which are created from melting snow caps. The streams are called
‘Nalas’ and they keep eroding the roads. The water level gradually rises as the day passes. The Sun melts snow caps throughout the day and it becomes difficult to cross these ‘Nalas’.
A bike struggling to pass one such stream
Finally other tourists and drivers helped him to pass the stream
We reached the 2nd last stream before Kaza by 6 PM. Kaza is a town in Spiti where we had our accommodation booked. Now this 2nd last stream is known as ‘
Pagal Nala‘ by the locals and drivers. When we reached this stream it was very evident why it was referred as ‘Pagal’ which translates to ‘mad’. The water level was furious and a lot of cars were getting stuck while returning from Spiti. We waited and waited for these cars to pass. The tumultuous Spiti river flowed right along the road, roaring as it crashed with the massive boulders. Gradually, our wait became a whole night long! Strapped in our warm clothes, devoid of food & water, we spent the entire night in our car. So ya, we didn’t reach Spit that day and that, my friend, was what went wrong.
3. What if our driver runs away?
So Spiti is not like your regular tourist destinations. Manali, for example, has an abundance of taxis waiting to chauffeur you around the mountains. You can also negotiate well and get a good deal for local sightseeing. But, in Spiti, the drivers are sparse. The ones who were looking for clients were charging an exorbitant fee. Our driver was willing to charge Rs 2,500 for one day of local sightseeing, while the other taxi drivers, charged Rs 3,500. It sounded too good to be true, but the money being saved was substantial. So, we decided to go for it.
Our driver turned up on the first day, against all my doubts. He showed us around, without creating any nuisance. We visited Kibber & Chichum village on the first day.
The bridge connecting Kibber & Chichum. There used to be a ropeway instead before this bridge was built.
A Short hike around Chichum village, the best Spiti experience for me.
On the 2nd day he showed his true colors.
We called him at 8 AM in the morning and by the time my friends and I got ready, it was 11 AM. I saw him leaving our hostel as we were having breakfast. I thought he was going for lunch. But, little did I know that his lunch was going to last forever. We tried finding him. Our echoes of ‘Thapa’, our driver’s name, filled the streets of Kaza. But, after wasting two hours, we didn’t find him. We went to get some other taxi. But, with half of the day already gone, we didn’t find any. So, we ended up just chilling at the hostel, looking at the sky and the road, in case Thapa comes back!
On the 3rd day, Thapa didn’t appear at all! Not even to take his money for the first day of local sightseeing. We paid Rs 3,500 to another taxi and went sightseeing. We also asked this new driver to take us to Manali via Chandratal. Till the time we left Spiti, we didn’t see Thapa. He just disappeared in the thin air of Spiti. Did he get new passengers and return to Manali? Or just bought a land in Kaza and started farming? We would never know!
4. What if the mountains make the trip difficult?
There are two ways to reach Spiti valley. One is via Manali while the other starts from Shimla. The best way to plan Spiti is to opt for one route while going and return using the other route. We planned to go from Manali and return to Shimla as the latter roads are better and while returning, it would be a good choice to travel via good road. But, the gargantuan mountains didn’t like our plan and the Shimla route got blocked due to a massive landslide. We ended up returning via the Manali route itself.
The Manali route which we took both ways. We passed the scenic Rohtang Pass.
5. What if my friends act up?
Mountains is not for everybody. When you reach the mountains, you leave the city luxuries behind. Especially when the terrain is as tough as Spiti. A lot of stuff in mountains create a psychological impact on a human mind. The thin air, no multicuisine fine dine, not much to pamper yourself but nature and situations you don’t account for or aren’t in your control. Of course, there are a lot of luxurious stays where these things might be taken care of. But, if I talk about a mid-budget trip, you can’t ask for supreme comfort. That’s the beauty of mountains, isn’t it?
But, some people start acting up in difficult situations. The mountains don’t suit them. Add in a difficult situation like spending a night locked up in a car and that’s it! The entire trip is affected adversely.
So, there were issues, objections, arguments and small fights during the entire trip. At the end of the day, things got sorted. But, a new argument awaited the next day. Anyways, after our Spiti trip ended, it took around one month for our friendship equations to stabilize.
These 5 would be my top misadventures during the Spiti trip. I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog on this till now as it portrays a bit of negativity about Spiti. That the drivers are not professional, the terrain is not the best or you shouldn’t visit Spiti with friends. But, finally I am sharing my information as I am not running a travel website which strives to get clicks by portraying everything as amazing. I am running a travel blog, capturing my experiences, as is, without adding the filters and censors. Well, that’s one of the things I love about writing for myself on my own blog.
Have you been to Spiti? How was your experience? Did you face any hiccups? Share your thoughts with me in the comment section.