Snow Drive Expedition (Narkanda-Sangla-Manali)

The 11-day long 4×4 expedition itinerary will follow the route taken by European travellers like Penelope Chetwode who took this route in 1931.

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Snow Drive Expedition (10N/11D)

EXPEDITION DATES

DEC 18 – DEC 28, 2020
JAN 21 – JAN 31, 2021
FEB 05 – FEB 15, 2021
FEB 26 – MAR 08, 2021

Overview

The 11-day long 4×4 expedition itinerary will follow the route taken by European travellers like Penelope Chetwode who took this route in 1931 and wrote a book titled “Kulu: The End of the Habitable World.”

Kullu was the end of the habitable – because Lahaul Valley remained cut-off from the rest of the world for around 6 months – until Atal Tunnel was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister on October 3, 2020.

The self-drive expedition commences at Narkanda town of Shimla district and ends at Manali town of Kullu Valley. En route, we will visit some offbeat places like Baga Sarahan of outer Siraj valley, Chitkul and Sangla of Baspa Valley, Shoja of inner Seraj Valley and Udaipur of Lahaul Valley.

Snow Drive Expedition Detailed Itinerary

Day 1

Reach Narkanda

Narkanda is a quintessential small Himalayan town located on a ridge – which is why it is called Narkanda. Kanda in local dialect means a ridge or a high place. Narkanda is snuggled in a thick alpine forest of the lesser Himalayas about 60 km far from Shimla.

Relatively speaking, a few people plan to visit or know this place. For most of the tourists, it is just a halting-place between Shimla and Sarahan. On this road trip, you would realize why at least two days should be spent here.

Road Condition: Road is narrow and rugged at places. A long ascent to Baghi and icy conditions make it a perfect destination for off-roading.

Highlights: We will witness the beauty of the Dhauladhar mountain range and valleys of the lesser Himalayas.

Day 2

Narkanda – Sara Meadow – Baghi

Distance: Around 50 km

Drive Duration: Around 4 hours

Highlights: Apple orchards, driving on icy slopes, Sarah Meadows, Baghi

Road Condition: Road is in fair conditions but driving on a slope makes it tricky. Narkanda to Sara meadows stretch is a dirt road without any sign of tarmac.

After breakfast, we will stroll around the resort for a while and then hit the road towards Baghi. Our convoy will reach the Baghi before noon. Baghi – located at around 2900 m from AMSL – offers utterly amazing vantage views of Pabbar Valley of the lesser Himalayas. After some adventure and thrill on the icy roads to Baghi, we will head back and continue driving on a connecting dirt road leading to the beautiful mountain meadows of Sara.

After having packed lunch and strolling on the mountain meadow, we will head back to Narkanda for an overnight stay at the Tethys Ski Resort.

Continue driving towards Rampur Bushahr. We can pause here for sightseeing as we have plenty of time to get to Sangla, which is about 4 hours away from Rampur town. Continue on the NH5 and turn left at Karcham on the Karcham Bridge to reach the breath-taking Baspa valley. Reach the village of Sangla by early evening.

Day 3

Narkanda – Baga Sarahan

Distance: About 100 km

Drive Duration: About 5 hours

Highlights: Long descent on the icy road, driving along Satluj River, Nirmand village (one of the largest in Himachal known for fabled temples), and Baga Sarahan forest and meadows.

Road Condition: NH5 stretch from Narkanda to Duttnagar is in good condition. The connecting road from Duttnagar to Baga Sarahan via Nirmand and Bagipul is a single lane and narrow. The last leg of the drive (Bagipul to Baga Sarahan) is quite dodgy and difficult to navigate.

The whole stretch — from Bagipul to Baga Sarahan — is unmetalled and full of hairpin bends, the steep incline makes it even harder to drive on the dirt road.

To cover the long-distance, we will start the day early. There would be a long gradient till Sainj followed by an almost linear road stretch along the Satluj River till Duttnagar. From there, we will take a left turn and drive toward Nirmand village. After crossing a bridge over the Satluj river, we will enter into Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh – into the heart of outer Siraj Valley of Kullu.

Nirmand to Bagipul drive will be relatively effortless and smooth because the road is well-tarred than the last leg of the drive. Drive from Bagipul to Baga Sarahan will be memorable for its sharp incline and abrupt bends. By evening, we will reach the vast mountain meadows of Baga Sarahan. Overnight stay will be in the camps by Tethys on the Move.

Day 4

Baga Sarahan to Sangla Valley

Distance: About 150 km

Drive Duration: Approx. 6 hours

Highlights: Rampur Bushahr, Padam Palace, Taranda Dhank (Cliff), and Sangla

Road Condition: Barring a few road stretches like Karcham to Shiv Mandir and Rutrang to Sangla, the road is in good condition.

Day 4 will be one of the longest drives of the entire expedition. We will take the same route from Baga Sarahan to Nirmand to return back on National Highway 05. After crossing Rampur Bushahr ( named after erstwhile Bushahr dynasty) and driving on NH5 for about 2 hours, we will drive on an amazing stretch of the old Hindustan-Tibet (aka old HT road) – the Tranda Dhank (cliff).

The road through Tranda cliff was built during colonial times (1850s) when Lord Dalhausie was governor general of India. It is unbelievable that the road through a vertical rock face was constructed with basic tools without any modern blasting and rock cutting machines. At Karcham, we would take a right over the Karcham bridge to cross over into the Sangla Valley. By evening, we will reach Sangla.

Overnight stay will be in Banjara Camps, Sangla. Banjar camps are surrounded by towering Himalayan peaks and apple orchards. The camps are located by the murmuring waters of the Baspa river.

Day 5

Sangla – Chitkul Snow Drive

Distance: About 23 kilometers

Drive Duration: 1 hour

Highlights: Driving through a wide longitudinal valley of Baspa, apple orchards, Rakcham village, Chitkul

Road Condition: The road is in good conditions except for a small stretch near Themgrang ITBP check post.

Day 5 will be the day of joy ride. In the morning, we will explore Sangla village, visit the village temple and Budhhist monastery. After strolling in Sangla town for a while, we will head toward Chitkul village. By noon, we will witness the quaint beauty of the last village on the Indo-Tibet border, i.e., Chitkul.

In the evening, we will drive back to Sangla and halt at every instagrammable point en route. Overnight stay will be at Banjara Camps, Sangla.

Day 6

Sangla to Shoja (Tirthan Valley)

Distance: About 180 km

Drive Duration: Approx. 7 hours

Highlights: Jalori Pass, Tirthan valley, Shoja, steep ascents and descents, and numerous curves and bends

Road Condition: Good to bad and everything in between. Roads condition on NH 05 till Sainj is good. A road diverges from Sainj toward Tirthan Valley. The road is narrow, broken at stretches, and with endless curves and bends.

The drive from Sainj to Jalori is as unnerving as it is beautiful. After driving for a few kilometers along the Satluj River, we will take a right turn to move towards Jalori Pass via Luhri and Anni. This point is located about 2 kilometers before the exquisitely carved Behni Mahadev temple. Due to ongoing road widening construction work, this road is in bad condition at some places.

From Behni Mahadev temple to Ani Market, the road condition is fair. Drive from Ani to Jalori Pass will be the test of our driving skills. The road is narrow and tarred at some stretches but the gradient is quite steep.

This part of Sainj – Shoja route is well forested and remains icy during the winters. The ordeal of driving on inclined potholes and pebbles riddled road is compensated by the crisp air of the alpine forest and the beautiful views the route offers at every bend. After reaching Jalori Pass, we will take a halt and relish the splendid panoramic view that the pass offers. If time permits, we will take a detour to the beautiful Sayolsar lake and meadows.

We will soon be descending on the Jalori-Shoja downslope. In the evening, we would be camping at Shoja. Shoja is a small village located in the inner Seraj valley of Kullu. European travellers frequented the Shimla-Jalori-Shoja-Kullu route during colonial times.

Day 7

Shoja to Manali

Distance: 110 kms

Drive Duration: About 4 hours

Highlights: Jibhi waterfall, Jibhi, Banjar, Driving along the Beas river, Manali

Road Condition: Shoja to Banjar road condition is average to bad and Banjar to Manali is fair.

On day 7, we will drive on the same old Britisher route. After breakfast, we will hit the road and drive towards Aut to get to the Chandigarh-Manali Highway. After crossing the Aut tunnel, we will drive along the Beas River until we reach Manali.

In the evening we will reach Manali to explore the famous town. Overnight stay at a hotel in Manali.

Day 8

Manali to Udaipur

Distance: About 110 km

Drive Duration: Approx. 3 hours

Highlights: Vashist, Solang, Atal (Rohtang) Tunnel, Chenab River, Sissu, Ghepan, Trilokinath temple, and confluence of Chandra and Bhaga River at Tandi Road Condition: Average to fair

Day 8 of our expedition will be a mixed bag of witnessing the engineering marvel, i.e., Atal Tunnel, savouring the unspoiled beauty of Lahaul Valley, and visiting famous temples and monasteries in Udaipur.

After breakfast, we will have a briefing followed by a quick maintenance check of our mean machines. We will soon hit the road and by noon we would be driving through the Atal Tunnel. The 9 km-long Atal Tunnel is constructed at an altitude of 3000 m. It is the highest tunnel of this long at such a high altitude. Atal Tunnel has shortened the distance between Manali and Udaipur by 46 kms.

After crossing the Rohtang Tunnel, we will enter into the immensely beautiful Lahaul Valley. We will visit temples and monasteries like Trilokinath Temple, Ghepan and Mrikula Devi en route Udaipur. In the evening, we will stay in a campsite by Tethys on the Move at Udaipur.

Day 9

Udaipur local excursion

On day 9 we would explore Udaipur hamlet and nearby trails. The scenic village is located at an altitude of around 2800 m on the banks of Chandrabhaga River in Lahaul and Spiti district. Lahaul valley is a melting pot of the two prominent religions Hinduism and Buddhism. In the evening, we will stay in a campsite by Tethys on the Move at Udaipur.

Day 10

Drive back to Manali

Route: Manali-Leh Highway

Distance: About 110 km

Drive Duration: About 3 hours

On the last leg of our 11-day long drive expedition, we will head back to Manali. We would be in no hurry to reach Manali as this is the day of joyride. In the evening, we will reach Manali for an overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 11

Departure

Our self-drive expedition ends on this day and we depart to our homes with plenty of pleasant memories.

Things to Carry

Basics gear:

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Sleeping bag (-15-20 Degrees)

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Head torch

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Thermos flask

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Trekking shoes (waterproof, high ankle preferably)

Clothing:

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Fleece jackets

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Fleece jacket/woollen sweater

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Down feather/Hollofil jacket

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Wind & waterproof (jacket & pant)     1 Pair

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Thermal inners (upper and lower)        2 Pair

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Muffler/scarf/bandanna (to protect neck, ears and head)

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Trek pants (avoid shorts, denims, capris)

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Woollen socks (4 pairs)

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Poncho

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Sun cap (one that covers the neck as well)

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Woollen cap   

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Fleece/woollen gloves

Personal utilities:

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Identity proof

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Sunglasses

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Sunscreen cream

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Hand sanitizer

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Moisturiser

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Toothbrush and toothpaste

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Lip balm

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Quick dry towel

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Wash bag

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Extra camera batteries

DO’s & DON’Ts

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Do not DRINK & DRIVE.

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Himalayas are an eco-sensitive zone. You can contribute by keeping carbon footprints as low as possible.

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Always insist on Safety before Speed.

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Report to us immediately.

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Do carry canned juice.

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Do not forget to bring your own sleeping bag for nights in the remote locations.

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Always maintain a first aid kit with all the necessary medicines, adhesive bandages, thermometer, water purification tablets, antibiotics, antiseptic creams, petroleum jellies like vaseline etc.

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The change of water may cause an upset stomach.

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Do keep portable fresh drinking water with you all the time. If having water from outside, take only mineral water bottles and ensure that the seal is not broken. Even in restaurants, take bottled mineral water only and not the water served there.

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Don’t use and discard polythene/ plastics/ other hazardous material.

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In order to avoid dehydration drink fluids.

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Make it a habit to wear a cap or a scarf and apply sunscreen while roaming in the sun and cover your head and ears to protect from the cold breeze.

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Do not stay out after it gets too dark, the wildlife may surprise you.

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If your driver is driving dangerously, refuse to travel with him.

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