An invitation by my trekking friend Sandeep Talpade to join a self-drive adventure to Spiti Valley and Ladakh was lip smacking but just beyond the possible. I wanted my wife Deepa to experience the beauty and awe of the Himalayas but neither of us wanted to drive and a 30-day trip seemed too long. Sandeep suggested we do the Spiti – Manali leg and, make it a 11-day trip. Deepa’s brother-in-law Hemant and his son Akshay were thrilled to be a part of a 11-day adventure and importantly wanted the thrill of driving on the treacherous mountain roads. After a year and a half of being cooped up at home due to the pandemic, the path opened for an exciting adventure.
The month prior to the departure was filled with uncertainty. Each day saw us alternate between wanting to abort the trip or challenge ourselves to go ahead with it. Newspaper reports of landslides and flash floods and loss of lives increased apprehension and anxiety. Some stretch of roads, we read, were very bad and dangerous and would test the skills of the most experienced drivers. To have a professional driver was taking away the challenge and fizz of adventure that Hemant and Akshay so eagerly wanted. We decided on the last day to go ahead to Spiti Valley and Manali in our Maruti Swift, against the advice of all the pundits. We were ready to change tires, and the brake pads and clutch if necessary but the Maruti technicians who serviced the vehicle prior to the adventure said it was not necessary.
Pragmatic packing ensured we didn’t need a roof carrier. We took along a 12-v tire inflator and a puncture repair kit for contingency and some emergency ready to eat food packets. We set off for Chandigarh on 9th August 2021 at 5.15 am with anticipation of a thrilling adventure and Deepa’s un-abated anxiety. After the mandatory halt at Murtal for breakfast at Gulshan’s dhaba we reached Chandigarh and checked into Rex Fox Hotel. Lunch at Pal dhaba which was a short walk away and later that evening we met our fellow travelers.