Took my Tata Hexa on an adventurous solo road trip to Spiti
The roads were all good till Kaza barring the one in Pin Valley which was gravel, but easily manageable by even sedans barring a patch or two.
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The summers of 2022 were a big unleash after a 2 Year COVID blockade. We (My family) had already made a trip to Uttarakhand and my wife along with the kiddo wanted to spend some time with her parents in June’s first week and I never had a second thought to encash the opportunity. I set off for Jibhi from Rajdhani on my 2019 HEXA XTA.
To avoid the bad bad Delhi traffic, I set off early morning and crossed Narkanda at around 1600h as I prefer to drive at mediocre speeds on the winding mountain roads firstly to tackle frontal traffic and secondly to enjoy the majestic views. I halted at some place just short of Kumarsain. Had a good night’s sleep just opposite Delhi where the heat was just killing me.
The next morning when I was about to cross Kumarsain; the T-Junction, onto the left of which was the road Jhalori Pass & the straight one went the gateway to Kinnaur Valley, I halted for a mandated hot cup of tea. There was still a lurk in my heart to go straight as I still had not been to Spiti Valley and my mind said take left as you had planned. As always, my heart defeated my mind and I decided to head to Spiti.
The only doubt that had was “Is my SILVERSTONE (as I call my Hexa) capable of taking the abuse?” But I moved on. I drove through Chitkul, Kalpa, topped up at Reckong Peo, went till the last motorable village of Pin Valley i.e. Mud, did my top up again at Kaza after visiting all the nearby attractions and finally moved towards Chandratal. The roads were all good till Kaza barring the one in Pin Valley which was gravel, but easily manageable by even sedans barring a patch or two. But I knew the real challenge would be once I left Kaza for Chandratal and the track beyond Batal as I did keep an ambitious goal of going to Chandratal and then hitting Manali on the same day.
I cranked early morning at 0430 and I was on the base of Kumzum La by 0700. I started the climb and this was going to be the real test of character of my SILVERSTONE. I reached on top with comfort and nowhere I could sense that she found any difficulty to negotiate a bad patch. As I moved towards Chandratal there was a water crossing with around 2-2.5 feet water level and there was none on any of its banks but shifting to Manual mode, I took the dare and she responded aptly. I reached the camping site before Chandratal well in time and the Police guy praised my car for its road presence. I was running against time as I wanted to negotiate all major water crossings before late afternoon to mitigate the rising water levels as my SILVERSTONE is two-wheel powered. Pumped up by the Police man’s remarks, I pulled the throttle a bit, as took the next hairpin bend, a sharp ground-embedded stone pierced the FR tyre and there was a huge sound of leaking air from the tyre.
Luckily or Unluckily, there was space to park it keeping the other lane open. Those who’ve travelled on such isolated roads would know why I used the word UNLUCKY. I had the puncture kit with me along with the tyre inflator, but the hole was large. I decided to put on the Stepney. I tried to remove the punctured tyre, but it was jammed and was not ready to come out. Vehicles and bikes crossed by me but none stopped. What if I have to stay here, I thought. I didn’t have a sleeping bag or anything to eat. Finally, after almost two hours of struggle, an Innova Taxi stopped and the driver helped me, he even injured his thumb in the process, but we succeeded. My only cause of worry was that I had completely overshot the timelines that I had set to cross the water bodies en route. It was already 1200. One option was to stay at Chandratal camps but I decided otherwise and moved on, as I was alone and this much risk was meant to be taken to term the trip as ADVENTUROUS.
I reached Batal at approximately 2 pm. Had a hot cup of tea and asked the local vendor whether it would be feasible to move ahead now. He blatantly told a big NO for 4×2 vehicles. Now was the last decision dilemma as to “Do I move ahead or stay here” as no more vehicles were moving ahead. Having faith in my SILVERSTONE, I decided to move again. This time my heart was beating at double the pace. The condition of the track was really bad, now was the real test of its character. I was inching forward as I didn’t have any spare shoes for her now. She crossed each water body like the previous one and finally once I reached Gramphu in the evening, the sun was already set. It also started to pour down a bit, although a drizzle only, and lose rocks started tumbling down from the mountainside onto the track. This was the most difficult situation. The adventures were not ready to end only. They must be saying “First you chose us now we’ve chosen you”. But God was kind that I hit Gramphu (the blacktop road head) without any mishap.
I finally hit Manali after dusk and stayed in Kullu for that night.
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