Crossing Native Settlements En Route to Spiti


Driving through these giant rock mountains you will realize that they could not have been carved by any mortal hand, only by the force of wind and water over millennia. And as you drive into Spiti either through Kinnaur or Manali, crossing native settlements you’ll learn that there is another path into the future – a path based on the co- evolution between humans and earth.


 The villages in the valley typify myriad aspects of Spitian culture with ancient monasteries dating back more than 1000 years. At first, the outsider will see only hard life, but give yourself time and you’ll see a rare kind of purity the people live with. Maybe it is the architectural perfection of the mountains that lord their beauty over this high altitude wilderness, but Spiti is a place which represents measureless freedom, and it’s impossible for you not to feel it.


This Trans-Himalayan backcountry is one of the most stunning and rugged regions on the globe and for a 4×4 enthusiast this is undoubtedly the region for driving holidays. With its unique high altitude ecosystem and an isolation that transcends the barriers of time, Spiti will leave you spell bound as you drive through it.


You might at first be strangely amused at the locals driving Maruti Altos and Hyundai Santros on a road which might seem impassable. Local tenacity notwithstanding, don’t be fooled into believing however that they could drive through the 4551m Kunzum La, or the infamous Chattru – Batal stretch for that matter, on a car engineered to drive only on asphalt.  


On an Innova, you would on average need eight to nine hours when driving from Manali; from Shimla the time would increase to about fifteen hours. On a genuine 4×4 like a Toyota Fortuner or a Mitsubishi Pajero you can lessen your time, but if driving through Shimla or Kinnaur you would definitely need to stop for a night.


Road blocks and landslides–depending from season to season–can be a common occurrence and you’ll do well to carry in your car a shovel, rope, spare tubes and a complete puncture repair kit. For those driving in slightly older cars you’ll be well advised not to only get your leaf springs checked but also get a complete check of you vehicle before you decide to head towards Spiti as car mechanics are few and far in between.


In the end, scenes such as the one above make every bone-rattle and every breakdown worth your while.


Contributed by Karanbir Bedi, passionate traveller and national record holder in adventure sports.

Puneet Sidhu
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, travel enthusiast and the author of Adrift: A junket junkie in Europe is the youngest of four siblings born into an aristocratic family of Punjab. Dogged in her resistance to conform, and with parental pressure easing sufficiently over the years, she had plenty of freedom of choice. And she chose travel.

She was born in Shimla, and spent her formative years at their home, Windsor Terrace, in Kasumpti while schooling at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Chelsea. The irrepressible wanderlust in her found her changing vocations midstream and she joined Singapore International Airlines to give wing to her passion. She has travelled extensively in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and SE Asia; simultaneously exploring the charms within India.

When she is not travelling, she is writing about it. Over the past decade or so, she has created an impressive writing repertoire for herself: as a columnist with Hindustan Times, as a book reviewer for The Tribune and as a contributor to travel magazines in India and overseas. Her work-in-progress, the documenting of colonial heritage along the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road, is an outcome of her long-standing romance with the Himalayas.
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