Spiti Circuit Ride

It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.

-Cheryl Strayed

Hamirpur – Manali – Spiti Valley – Shimal – Hamirpur Ride : Day 1

We checked even the nuts and bolts of the bike before we left, a hard trail awaits us. The new RE Himalayan is ready to hit the curvy mountain paths and the cold desert of Spiti. We left Hamirpur around 10 in the morning to Manali, via Mandi. Our plan was to ride straight to Manali and relax there as long as possible before the next morning when we will leave for Kaza.

My face covered in dust from the long ride

We were riding for almost 5 hours, and the body started to ache. Too much pain in the back. We were about to reach Kullu. We saw a sign board showing Naggar Castle close by. Naggar was the capital of Kullu kingdom. An old castle built 400 years ago still stands there. It is now converted into a restaurant and guest house by the HP government.

Athul and me in Naggar Castle, Kullu

The view of the Beas river and klthe Kullu valley is breathtaking from the castle. It’s more of a luxurious guest house rather than a heritage building. We visited the place only because we were tired and wanted to relax. We saw a small roadside tea shop opposite to the castle. Had a cup of tea and some snacks before we left for Manali.

Naggar Castle, Kullu

The road to Manali was under construction and there was high traffic, it took us some time to reach Manali town. We didn’t have any bookings, the online rates for hotel rooms were very high. So we thought of going door to door and check the cheapest stay. We went past the Hidimba Devi temple through the pine forest, kept the bike infront of a shop and started to check each and every hotels nearby. The prices were still high and we didn’t get to bargain much. It was getting dark and we decided to move away from the town and searched for off beat hostels. Finally we found one room, but there was no parking for our bike. We kept our bike in the road side and checked in.

View from Naggar Castle

It is essential to carry some inventories when you plan to ride through a dessert, we visited a nearby spare parts shop, bought extra headlights, sparkplug, tools, puncture kit, luggage straps, and a 5 litre can to carry fuel in case of emergency. We also bought some biscuits, bread and jam to have on the way. Excited about the next day’s adventure, we filled our tummy and made our bed.

View from our guest house

I woke up early in the morning, Athul was still asleep, I didnt feel like disturbing his sleep, as the road ahead will be tiring. I went out to the small balcony of our room, listening to music and looking at the Apple trees in the yard. I ordered 2 cups of coffee and Athul was up. We left the place soon, before the sun was up.

It was freezing cold and we stopped by a fuel pump, filled the tank and the extra can I was carrying in my hand. There was a small tea shop just outside the petrol pump, we had a light breakfast, and bought a pair of cheap gloves to keep Athul’s hands warm while riding.

To cross Rohtang Pass with vehicles, you need to obtain the permit. We had already applied for it online before leaving Hamirpur. It can be easily done through the HP government website with an online payment of 50 rupees. There was a long queue at the checkpoint, we managed to pass it without waiting much, as we were on bike and most of the vehicles were four wheelers.

The rubble road to Kaza

Soon we reached the top point, The Rohtang Pass. I was here few years ago with my college friends. Things haven’t changed much. There were few biker groups parked on the road side, enjoying the view. We didn’t stop. The descent from Rohtang Pass was pretty difficult as there weres no proper roads at few points. We reached Gramphu, the junction where the road splits, towards left it’s Leh Ladakh and towards right it’s Lahaul Spiti.

Descending from Rohtang Pass

We stopped there for few minutes looked at the good tarred road towards Leh Ladakh and the broken, rough mud road towards Lahaul Spiti. We choose to take the rough route, so we prepared our mind again to hit it hard.

Kaza is 140 kilometres from Gramphu and will roughly take four hours expecting some water crossings and bad roads, we estimated. If we ride fast we could still reach Kaza by evening. It wasn’t noon yet.

After few kilometres the kind of road changed, a proper road was no where to see. We were riding through big round rocks, a river bed actually. We could trace only the tyre marks of a vehicle which went ahead of us. There were no sign boards, no villages or civilization to spot around. The only thing we could see there was a wide area around us maybe of 10 kilometre radius, and we couldn’t spot any road other than the one we were riding through. That was the only hope we had.

Tired of the water crossings, me standing puzzled, I already took of my wet pants, now wearing just a shorts in freezing cold

The road became tougher with water crossings. The first few were narrow, and we didn’t get wet. Athul rode the bike through the watercross and I crossed it on foot, carrying the luggage and fuel can jumping from one rock to another without wetting my shoes. We got company, a group of 5 from UK riding 2 RE standard 500cc and a Classic 500.
The next crossing was a bit wider with a lot of slippery rocks beneath. We waited for the Standard 500 to cross first. Within first 3 meters the bike fell into water, the rider pulled it back quickly and started it again, another 2 meters and he fell again. I rushed to help him. The freezing cold water was above my knee. The pillion rider of that bike also came to help, we pulled the bike back and helped him cross it. Athul came next, he got stuck in between, infront of a huge rock. I kept my luggage on the other side and went back to pull him. We made it to the other side.

The other 2 bikers couldn’t ride it to the other side. Water went inside the exhaust we hand to push the bikes with our hands to the other side, I was wet below my hip. With my pant drenched in water, I removed it and was just on my boxers. It was cold, but better than wearing a wet pant.
It took us almost 5 hours to cover the 50 kilometres between Gramphu and Batal crossing around 20 large and small water crossings. The temperature started to drop and there was cold wind, we were tired. All our plans to reach Kaza by evening were shattered. We were forced to stay in Batal that night.

Himalayan Yak, somewhere on the road


View this post on Instagram

Points of view. #hancock

A post shared by Alberto Tretti (@alberto.t) on