The Great Escapade
by Dipankar Bhattacharyya
(A description of the beautiful expedition)
           Ideally any journey beyond Kullu Valley should start from Manali and we did the same in early October
2000. Our destiny were Lahul and Spiti Valley.As you initially proceed along Leh-Manali Highway you'll have to
cross the Rhotang Pass well above 13000feet. Then after a small descend you'll arrive at Gramphoo, a
narrow division of road where on your right the road will take you to the Spiti Valley beyond Kunjum La Pass
and a left turn will take you to Lahul Valley. As per our tour plan we took the left turn to reach Keylong, the
District HQ of Lahul Valley. We spent the night at Keylong itself a small but beautiful town with panoromic
vistas of snowcapped peaks jutting out toward the sky. A brief reverse journey took us to Tandi a small hamlet
where river Chandra meets river Bhaga. Here a small road breaking off from the Leh-Manali Highway took us
toward Udaypur and Trilokinath. This is located in north-west corner of Himachal Pradesh from where
excursion can be taken up towards Padam and Pir Panjal ridges. The tranquility of the two places mesmerised
us. More stunning was the road along the Chenab river. The next morning we started our journey along the
main Leh-Manali Highway toward Sarchu, the last outpost in the northernmost corner of Himachal Pradesh
bordering the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This is the high road with several high passes like Baralacha La &
Tanglang La. By the way Tanglang La is the 2nd highest motorable road in the world. Just beside Baralacha
La Pass is is the Suraj Tal Lake, a melted down glacier, which is the source of Bhaga river. Baralcha La is
16,500ft above sea level. The vast wilderness of frozen lifeless ranges will greet you, instilling a kind of awe in
you. Beyond Baralacha La is Sarchu, the flat tenting ground where people take night rest ontheir way to Leh.
The forocity of freezing air, the lifeless barren mountain with awe inspiring hue will surely captivate a visitor.
This high road remains open only for four months --- from June to mid October. For the remaining part the
road remains inaccessible. Here thin air may hinder free movement. There is practically no human habitation
in this vast area except some very small hamlet like Patsio, Zing Zing Bar, Gondla and a big army camp near
            From Keylong we began the second part of our journey toward Spiti Valley. The Chandra river gave
us company. After crossing Gramphoo the road condition became so bad that we became tensed. There was
no road indeed as boulders and huge rocks along the river bed posed fearsome challenges. The route was
even more treacherous. We crossed Chatru and Losar on our way after negotiating Kunjum La Pass which is
entry point of Spiti Valley. Till Batal Chandra river was with us. From Batal the trek route to Chandra Tal
begins. A moderately gruelling 12KM trek will take you to breathtaking Chandra Tal, at base of Chandra Tal
glacier. Back to Batal the next day we started toward Kaza, the District HQ of Spiti Valley. From Kaza we
visited Kye Goompa, Kibber Village. This is actually an extremely cold desert that gives life not much chance.
Farther eastward from Kaza lies Lingti Valley where The ancient Dhankar Goompa is located. The Goompa on
the top of high cliff looked mysterious. Here Lingti river meets Spiti river. From here one can start trekking
towards Pin-Parbati Pass. Farther east toward Indo-Chinese Border lies Tabo known for another ancient
Goompa. 40 km from Tabo lies Nako Lake, a place known for its rugged beauty. Beyond Nako lies Sumdo and
Kourik on the border and here we crossed Sutlej River. Here the road takes westward turn and will take you to
Kinnaur valley. But that was not in our travel plan. So from Nako we began our return journey toward Manali
bringing with us the memory that man-made camera will never be able to capture with all the splendor.