Are you Serene or Sanguine?
At once, you are massive
Silent, Somber, Still, and Serene.
Lost in myself…
I turn around and see –
You are green, vibrant, and dynamic.
Streams gushing, rocks rolling,
Rivers flowing, Flowers blooming –
Blue, red, yellow
And all other hues…
The tale began on a crisp July morning, the air laced with the promise of adventure, as we bid Delhi farewell. With a convoy of 13 cars, we set out, the sun just breaking the horizon, pausing briefly at Haveli for breakfast. The road beckoned, unfurling a 450 km path leading us to the idyllic town of Narkanda in Himachal Pradesh. As the day waned, we were embraced by the Tethys Resort, nestled amidst tranquil apple orchards. The warm folks there treated us to stories of the region’s rich history around a crackling bonfire and a buffet that delighted the senses.
On the following day, our convoy meandered towards Sangla, through the enchanting Kinnaur Valley. An exciting visit awaited us at India’s largest private-sector hydroelectric plant, the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant, standing tall on the Sutlej River. After this informative tour, we headed to Banjara Camps, our luxurious abode for the next two nights, adding a touch of glamor to our adventure.
Having had our fill of the breathtaking Sangla Valley, we drove further to Chitkul, India’s last village on the ancient Hindustan – Tibet route. Nestled by a rippling stream, we enjoyed a charming picnic lunch amidst the unspoiled embrace of nature. Day four was a paradise for driving enthusiasts, commencing at the break of dawn to capture the tranquil beauty of Kalpa. The towering Kinnaur Kailash Peak bore witness to our drive along the World’s Most Treacherous Road. En route, we paused to capture the daring spirit next to the sign declaring it so.
Amidst this adventure, we made our way to Tabo, India’s oldest monastery, dating back to 996 A.D, standing proudly. Lama Ji, our affectionate guide, regaled us with tales of Buddhism and enlightenment as we explored this ancient mud structure. The journey continued to the Dhankar Monastery, perched at a daunting height of 3,894 meters in the Spiti Valley, its epicenter hosting a four-sided meditating statue of Lord Buddha. As the day unfolded, we made our way to Kaza, the largest township in Spiti, surrounded by awe-inspiring valleys.
Venturing through the villages surrounding Kaza, frozen in time and amongst the world’s highest, we marveled at their beauty. Our itinerary included a visit to the Key Monastery, majestically positioned atop a cliff, and a stop at Langza to admire the fairly new Buddha statue, seemingly keeping vigil over the pristine valley. Hikkim, home to the highest post office in the world, greeted us, allowing us to send postcards to loved ones. Komic, the highest motorable village in the world, added another feather to our cap of accomplishments.
Day seven brought forth another exhilarating stretch for driving enthusiasts as we set out at dawn, conquering 205 km to Manali. The Kunzum and Rohtang Passes stood in our path, weaving a tapestry of challenging terrains and unparalleled beauty. Gliding across rivers, glaciers, and undulating tracks, we changed punctured tires, and battled walls of snow, all while the landscape shifted its hues, offering a captivating backdrop to our adventure.
After a grueling yet spirit-lifting 15-hour drive the previous day, the penultimate day granted a well-deserved break. Participants explored Manali, indulging in shopping, sightseeing, and cafe-hopping in Old Manali. The journey culminated with a grand farewell dinner, where certificates were awarded for successfully completing one of India’s most challenging road trips. Amidst laughter and camaraderie, promises of future reunions were made, marking a sweet parting of ways.
As the sun rose the next morning, we set our compasses back to Delhi in two groups, cherishing the memories and the sweetest of partings the road had to offer. The journey was more than an expedition; it was an odyssey of shared moments and tales etched in the annals of our wanderlust-filled hearts.
As told to Adventures Overland by Raji Suresh.
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