We learnt a lot on this adventure to Spiti Valley and Manali.
Was August the best time to go particularly as we had rains, flash floods and landslides leading up to the adventure? Sure, it is an adventure and one can expect disruptions and changes of plans. We were almost prevented from going to Spiti Valley after a major landslide, that took 13 precious lives a day before we were to cross the site of the tragedy. Traffic resumed in a regulated manner and we could drive past the site cautiously and go on with our adventure. Sandeep and the others had back up plans in case we couldn’t go ahead. All this is part and parcel of a Himalayan adventure and we need to take it in our stride. As it turned out the weather was very good and we had no major problems enroute. If you are planning a tip in August go ahead with it.
The weather was good as I said. No rains and not too cold either. We had carried layers of clothing to cope with warm and cold conditions. Warm inner wear, a light sweater and a fleece jacket and a warm jacket were more than adequate for us. A windcheater would be good but we didn’t need it. The coldest temperatures were at night at Nako and Kaza where it dropped to 7 degrees. Day temperatures were around 20 degrees. A sun hat and a warm cap for the head are necessary as well.
We carried all the contingency medicines including paracetamol, anti-loose motion tablets, broad spectrum antibiotics to cope with illnesses and Diamox for prevention of high altitude sickness. As a precaution we took a tablet of Diamox for a couple of days before reaching high altitudes. Most of us were in good health throughout the adventure. Three of us developed mild symptoms due to high altitude at Kaza but this was sorted out with Paracetamol. Staying hydrated is most important. We ensured that we had adequate supplies of mineral water all through the journey. Along the way you can get water and other requirements at most places so it is not a concern. Our highest points of stay overnight were Nako and Kaza at about 3600kms. During the day we visited paces that reached altitudes of about 4500 kms.
We had no problems locating a decent place to stay at all our night halts. No prior bookings gave us the flexibility to change our plans at any time if it became necessary.
At several places in the Spiti Valley connectivity was poor. I managed most of the way with an additional Jio sim along with an Airtel sim.
Food along the way or at places of stay was never a problem.
The all important decision was which car to take along. We finally choose the Maruti Swift against all advice only because it was the most convenient and cost effective for us. The roads were reasonably good at several places and very good, thanks to the Border Roads Organisation at some places. It was awful on the Losar – Kumjun La – Gramphu stretch and dirt tracks for most of the way to Chitkul after we turned off the national highway. The roads leading to places of interest at Kaza were off the highway and bumpy poor quality roads. The Maruti Swift is certainly not the appropriate car and we were just lucky that we got away with it unscathed. The Innova Crysta that our fellow travelers used was a very good option. An SUV or 4- wheel drive with good ground clearance should be the vehicle of choice.
The stretch from Rekong Peo to Nako and on to Kaza had no petrol stations on the way. We filled our tanks at Rekong Peo and then again at Kaza as there were no further petrol stations till Manali. We had no problem of lack of petrol at any stage.
We took along a small 12-v operated tire inflator which was most useful. We also carried a puncture repair kit but had no need for it. Ready to eat emergency food packets is good to carry although we had no need for it on this trip. An electric kettle was most useful and is a must on such travel.
I toyed with the thought of carrying a D-SLR camera but finally settled for a mobile phone camera as my primary camera. This was more than adequate and I may never consider a D-SLR in future. My nephew had loaned me an iPhone 12 which I simply loved. I’m a convert now but ruing the high cost of the phone.
Finally take along oodles of high spirits, a willingness to take the rough with the smooth and an open mind for adventure and you will love this adventure.