Team US/Canada Roadtrip Kinnaur/Spiti Valleys pt.2
Trip Start Jul 13, 2009
83Trip End Jul 20, 2010
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Where I stayed
Wherever the Jeep dumped us for the night...
We ate lunch and got on the road for another stop at the Dankhar Gompa
We were losing daylight and still had miles of dirt roads to go before getting to the town where we wanted to sleep. We crossed the wide flood plain on a single-lane bridge and headed up a side valley known as the Parvati Valley. The jeep bounced around on the dirt roads as each corner opened up to more stunning views. Like I said before, all of the scenery on this trip truly blew our minds. We had never expected such drastic landscapes around every corner - but we were getting force-fed this stuff and loving it. We would constantly ask Rup to stop the jeep just so we could take a second to take it all in or snap a photo - simply staring out a window wasn't good enough. Just when we thought we were nearly there (only 2km to go) and we were making plans for a cold beer to toast our luck with the new jeep - Rup looks over to me in the passenger side jeep with a head wobble and a grin as I look down to his left foot prying the clutch over and over again. It seems as though we spoke too soon. We couldn't believe our luck. Another bus came up from behind us and we just all jumped in, driver including, and bussed the last 5 minutes to Mud
With our jeep stranded back on the road we decided to let the boys fix it and take a free day in Mud and just relax for a change and not go anywhere in a mechanical box on wheels. We instead walked up the valley as far as we felt and then turned around to take some much needed relaxation time in the high-altitude sun.
We finally heard from the drivers late that evening and decided to head out early to Kaza. When we reached this dusty village (the largest in the Spiti Valley) we checked ourselves into a hotel and then headed up the valley to the small town of Kibber. Kibber is one of the worlds highest towns with a road and electricity. That's all there really is to say for it - it's high up on a mountainside and nice to look at, but we decided to head down to the village of Ki. Ki hosts quite another impressive gompa. The Ki Gompa was built a few centuries back and destroyed in an earthquake and built again. It's a crumbling sort on a crazy hillside location and once again a young monk opened up a few temples where we viewed some ancient texts and murals and the bed that the Dalai Lama slept in upon his visit to the monastery
We were done for the day around 3pm and happy to lounge around and take it easy, maybe watch a World Cup match or two..
The next morning, guess who showed up? Jeevan!! Our man had "fixed" the original jeep and was ready to ride back to Manali for 12 hours... yay!!! 12 hours in a jeep that's broken down multiple times!!! To give him credit, the wheel did sound better. But sure enough, and hour down the road we had a checkpoint to show our passports. We looked back and the wheel had come off and Jeevan was underneath the vehicle. Then the rope came out again....as did the noise. We were stranded, the other jeep had gone back...we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best - we had already seen the worst we hoped.
We bumped and grinded our way up so many switchbacks until we started driving through rivers and snow banks and whatever else Mother Nature wanted to toss at us. We reached the Kum Zum La pass at around 4500m and took it all in. From here on out the drive turned into one of the most scenic spots on the planet I've ever seen. Multiple hanging waterfalls cascaded down from melting glaciers as the view of snow-capped peaks got more impressive by the minute
On the way down the pass we picked up an Indian guy in need of a ride. He had separated from his friends and needed to get down the pass. We stopped a few times to mess with the wheel, but we didn't care at this point...it just became routine. Caroline chatted the guy up on the way down and as it turns out he was meeting up with his friends and had extra room in a jeep to get us to Keylong, where we had wanted to go. The Canadians would head back to Manali with Jeevan in order to catch a bus to Dehli and say goodbye to India in the next week. Caroline and I were headed north and needed to arrange something on the way to get us there. As it turns out our luck fell into our laps. Krishnan and his group were a great bunch of people, and once assembled graciously took us in their tank of a jeep for 6 hours through even more gorgeous country all the way to Keylong. We said goodbye to the Canadians and Jeevan - in 6 hours we were eating dinner and going to bed. It all seems like a crazy dream now..., or a nightmare, or a mix of both, I don't know... It was one helluva trip through an amazing piece of India not many choose to explore. I feel lucky to have experienced it all.....even with the bad turns that it took, we've come to realize that's what you have to expect traveling in this area of the planet.
If luck is on our side, we will get a ride soon from Keylong that will take us over 3 mountain passes (2 of them over 17,000ft) over 16 hours to a town called Leh - one of the last towns of any size in the far northern reaches of India.