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Day 9: Kaza to Manali
Last day in Spiti. We could not believe we had to say goodbye to this place so soon. We had an extra day in our plan and we could go to Pin Valley which we had skipped earlier. However, since the weather was clear that day, we decided to head on to Manali. It was around 7th October and heavy snowfall could close Kunzum pass or Rohtang Pass.
We left early at around 6 AM. It was a long journey ahead and we also wanted to cover Chandratal Lake.
It was so cold last night that a thin sheet of ice had covered our car's windshield. It didn't wash-away that easily - even after pouring water. So, we had to continue with it and wait for it to melt in the sun.
When we set Google Maps, it was taking us via Rangrik. If went via that route, we would miss the Chicham bridge. So, we added Chicham bridge as one of the stops. It added about an hour extra to our route.
As we were going along the road, the sun was rising and its golden light was falling on the snow-capped mountain peaks. It was a sight to behold for a long time!
We soon reached Chichum bridge and spent some time there. Then we continued our journey.
On our way, we could see black ice at some places on the road. It was only the start of October and it was so cold already! Imagine how cold it would get in later months.
Later as we climbed up to Kunzum Pass, we could see Spiti River bidding us goodbye. We stopped there and bid back a goodbye to it with a promise to return soon!
Soon we reached Kunzum Pass and it was perfect weather. My god, it looked so beautiful.
We were on a tight schedule and had to reach Chandratal ASAP. So, we left Kunzum Pass soon. The road was now more like no road at all. A moment later we were in the valley of Chenab River. At a certain point, the road divides for Batal and Chandratal. We headed for Chandratal. After about one and a half-hour later we were at the parking of the lake. From there it is a short half a kilometre walk to the lake.
When we got the first glimpse of the lake, we were dumbfounded by its beauty. It was huge for one thing. It's calm and crystal clear water had reflections of mountains peaks all around and it looked like a mirror from distance. The calmness around was hypnotic. We spend some good 1 hour around it.
Finally, when we left from Chandratal, it was 1.30 PM already. Strong winds had started blowing now. We knew the weather will soon turn bad. So, we left quickly from there. Later we joined the main road and reached Batal.
We took a quick stop at the Chacha Chachi Dhaba for some tea and Maggi. A lot of people were there. We asked them how much time will it take to reach Gramphoo, which according to maps, was only 50 odd kms. They said 3-4 hours. At first, we thought we had heard it wrong - 3-4 hours to cross 50km? How can that be?
Well, we soon came to know. That is probably the worst road there can be. In fact, there isn't a road at all. You are just driving over debris. Add to that those big rocks that seem ready to fall on you. And what is up with that valley? Rocks and rocks everywhere. It seems like an apocalypse has happened here. Add to that it started raining.
Luckily, we had our Duster AWD and slowly and steadily we breeze through it all. There was very deep slush in many places but we didn't get stuck anywhere.
When we reached Grumphoo and saw that smooth tarmac road, we were elated beyond measure. We were shouting in relief!
But that joy was short-lived as heavy snowfall started as we started climbing Rohtang Pass. There were detours at many places where the road was broken and full of slush. It was scary but fun as well. Our last adventure of the trip! Slowly and steadily we kept going and crossed the pass without any hassle.
We reached Manali around 9.30 PM after almost 15 hours of riding. And thus ended our wonderful and memorable trip.
In the end, I can only say that this place has occupied a special place in our heart. We will keep returning to this true heaven on earth.