Spiti Valley – The Adventure of a Lifetime

Spiti Valley – The Adventure of a Lifetime

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A tour here is to visit a place like no other and to call it a 'holiday', is to do the experience no justice whatsoever. Even to try and get close to explaining the sheer scale of this adventure, the raw, untouched beauty of its locations and the endless fascination of its peoples and cultures, carries with it a degree of futility, but we will blunder on nonetheless… Blazing Trails have been running Himalayan tours through the Spiti Valley since 2000 and it is this experience, allied to precise organisation, that allows us to guide riders to such places. As with all our trips an experienced leader and support crew are with you every mile, providing expert guidance and mechanical or medical assistance if required. But despite our enormous local knowledge, a ride through the Himalaya is never going to be without its challenges and surprises...

 

 

Spiti 2012 3

 

While we do everything within reason to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as we can, there are challenges implicit to travelling in the world's mightiest mountains that we could not remove if we wanted to – it adds to the excitement. The environment is very much in charge here, the natural forces so great that human endeavours to tame them barely register.

The Himalaya is still growing, and at the same time collapsing – often overnight and across our route. For this reason, no itinerary is ever set in stone. So each morning your tour leader will gather information and assess conditions ahead. If our planned route is blocked, we may have to detour around, or wait until a passage can be forced. This happens and is usually overcome, but there's the possibility routes and accommodation will have to change. This is not a normal package holiday! If you're looking for the ultimate biking adventure, with the best back-up and most fitting overnight stays, then please read on…

As a participant in this tour you will fly to Delhi, before being directed aboard a comfortable train to Kalka and then on to the 'toy train' to Shimla, the historic summer capital of the British Raj and its administration. There you'll be accommodated in a comfortable hotel, introduced to 'your' bike, a 500cc Enfield Bullet (with a front disc brake fitted) and given instruction on its eccentricities. There will be a full briefing before we set off into the high mountains.

Whenever riding there will be a leader and 'outrider' guiding and trouble-spotting. A 'sweeper' rider, a support vehicle with spares and an extensively-equipped medic will travel at the rear. Roads are often rough, so we recommend you have at least two year's riding experience before taking on this challenge. You will also need a reasonable fitness level and there are certain medical conditions that preclude travelling at altitude, so check with Blazing Trails and your GP if in doubt. Weather ranges from warm in lower valleys, to conditions similar to an English autumn evening at altitude – sometimes colder and very occasionally including snow.

Travelling up in Spiti by bike brings you close to the environment and its inhabitants; close to the nature of this incredible place. 'The trip of a lifetime' is an overused expression, but not in this case, we promise.


ABOUT SPITI

The Spiti Valley is an extraordinary place. Hugging the border with Chinese-controlled Tibet, the valley lies almost entirely above 10,000ft. Located in the rain shadow of the vast Tibetan Plateau, this region is classified as desert, so there is less snow than elsewhere in the high Himalaya, allowing people to eke a living at greater altitudes.

Climbing into this area is like visiting another planet – a near-treeless world where fairytale monasteries of great antiquity cling to impossible slopes. Things may have become busier since Rudyard Kipling first clapped eyes on the place, but this is still a place less visited. Sensitive political territory, much of Spiti lies in a restricted border area requiring an 'inner-line permit', which we obtain on your behalf.

Culturally as well a geographically, Spiti is more Tibetan than Indian, more Buddhist than Hindu. There are references to the religion everywhere and dozens of fascinating monasteries set among the mountains, several of which we will visit.

Although tourism is now contributing to the area's economy, the average Spiti-dweller will live an agrarian life; herding livestock and growing barley and wheat during the very short summer: June to September. For the remainder of the year the valley is cut off by snow and it is too cold (down to -35ºC) to do much but sit indoors, weave, knit and drink the local brews.

Spiti is a world apart from modern India and to visit here by motorcycle is a privilege reserved for the adventurous few.

SPITI valley – itinerary

Day 1: Fly UK to Delhi

Leap aboard your flight to Delhi.


flight-inclusive

ShimlaDay 2: Delhi to Shimla

Land in Delhi (by 4am) following an overnight flight, to be whisked across Delhi to the train station and guided aboard an air-conditioned train (approx' five hours) to Kalka, where the plains meet the mountains. At Kalka you will board the famous narrow-gauge railway up to Shimla. Taking some five hours, the 97km train trip passes through 103 tunnels, 18 stations and over 24 bridges. Fifty years in the making, this incredible feat of engineering was completed in 1897. Arriving in Shimla in the early evening, you will be transported to your hotel for a briefing on the adventure ahead. More on Shimla.

Day 3: shimla to sarahan

Leaving Shimla, we will head toward the hill station at Narkanda, before descending into the Sutlej Valley. Turning from the main road, we will climb the valley-side to the picturesque hilltop village of Sarahan, where a characterful stay is found in an ancient Hindu temple compound. More on Sarahan.

Day 4: SARAHAN TO SANGLA

A short hop, but challenging nonetheless, thanks to uber-twisty roads with some of the wildest drop-offs you'll find anywhere. From Sarahan we drop back into the Sutlej Valley, then head east alongside the Baspa River into a valley of indescribable beauty. At Sangla you'll find special tented accommodation in fields of flowers, with mountains completing the idyllic scene and a camp fire to round off the day. More on Sangla.

 

Day 5: SANGLA TO KALPA

Spend the morning walking in the Valley, or kick back and relax. After lunch we'll be heading back down to the 'main' road by the River Sutlej and then up the other side of the valley to the hilltop town of Kalpa. Views over the nearby mountain ranges are stunning and, when the weather is clear, the perfect triangle of Mount Kinnaur Kailash, said to be the summer home of god Shiva, is visible from our hotel.

 

 

Day 6: IN KALPA

We will spend the morning just down the hill in the regional capital of Reckong Peo, sourcing the Inner-line Permits that will allow us to enter Spiti Valley. The afternoon can be spent exploring the area on foot, visiting local temples and drinking in the scenery. More on Kalpa.

Day 7: KALPA TO TABO

A big day, an epic ride, so an early start. From Kalpa, we again head up the River Sutlej, through rapidly changing geography. At Jangi Police Post the Inner-line, and another world, is entered. Soon many-hued mountains rear all around… and on along a most challenging road, to the magical scenery of Spiti itself. We spend the night at Tabo, where an ancient monastery (circa 996AD; one of the world's most important Buddhist sites) nestles in a valley of awe-inspiring grandeur. Rest is found at a surprisingly comfortable hotel, where you can reflect on what will almost certainly have been one of the most rewarding days of your life. More on Tabo.

Day 8: tabo to kibber

Spend the morning resting or exploring Tabo and its monastery, before a gentle ride along a boulder-strewn valley carrying a cobalt river. Again, assuming you have a heart in your chest, you will be reeling at the spellbinding beauty. We will visit the amazing, fairytale Ki Monastery, before ending the day in the blissful peace and quiet of Kibber, a tiny village set high on a mountainside. Kibber, once claiming to be the world's highest village at 4270m, now makes the more modest (but still questionable) claim of being the highest village with both electricity and a 'motorable' road. Whatever, the village of traditional Spitian houses and the incredible mountain views make this a lovely spot. More on Kibber.

Day 9: KIBBER TO LOSAR

In the morning we will visit one of Spiti's most enigmatic monasteries, the high-altitude (4500m) monastery at Komic, where we will have tea with the monks in one of the world's highest human settlements. Following lunch in the regional capital, Kaza, we follow the Spiti River up to the village of Losar, around 60km further up the Spiti Valley. Here we will spend the highest night of the trip lodged in a Tibetan village, in place to take on the crossing of Kunzum La the following morning.


 

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Day 10: LOSAR TO MANALI

An early start to do a 'big one'. Today we will climb dirt roads over the highest point of the tour, Kunzum Pass, at 15,000ft. We travel on through remote territory, amid icy mountains with only a few scattered villages along the way, until the famous Rohtang Pass is met. Here we ascend again to nearly 13,000ft and as we plunge down the other side, everything changes… suddenly we are out of the altitudinous desert and into a greener, lusher world of pine forests and waterfalls. At the foot of busy Rohtang is Manali, and an extensive menu.

Manaliti 2012....Day 11: IN MANALI

There is every kind of activity to be found in Manali, including good shopping. There are also several interesting Himachali villages in the area that can be visited, plus Hindu temples and hot springs. Eating, whether in our excellent hotel restaurant, or in a multitude of eateries in town, is another favoured pastime, as is relaxing at the hotel come evening with a drink in your hand – welcome back to Hindu India. More on Manali.

Day 12: MANALI TO SHOJA

Following a post-breakfast briefing, a late-ish set-off takes us down the Kullu Valley's smooth tarmac, accompanied by views of gorges and waterfalls. Turning from the main road, we will soon be spiralling up into lush, forested mountains to our overnight stop at Shoja and a relaxing fireside drink with the sunset.

Spiti 2012  3305Day 13: Shoja to shimla

Leaving Shoja, we will top the Jalori Pass (3120m) before riding down to the Sutlej Valley once more and joining the road to our start point (pillions will have to step off for the steepest sections at the top). It's a super ride back to Shimla, where we will eat a celebratory supper, having circumnaviagted one of the most beautiful areas imaginable.

Shimla 5Day 14: shimla to Delhi

Most of the day can be spent exploring the Raj-era sights of Shimla, before it's back aboard the light railway, this time in the other direction to Kalka. There you will meet the sleeper to Delhi, which will deliver you to the capital to connect with your homeward flight.

Day 15: Delhi to Home

Once back home you may try and explain what you've just done down at the pub. But even with your wad of do-no-justice photographs you will fail to convey the experiential magnitude of riding in the World's biggest place.

SPITI VALLEY – WHAT THE TOUR PRICE INCLUDES

included

  • International Flights
  • Bike with Mechanical Back-up, Spares & Repairs
  • Medical & Luggage-carrying Support
  • All Internal Transfers
  • First Tank of Fuel
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfasts
  • Four Dinners & Two Lunches

not included

  • Some Lunches & Evening Meals
  • Entry Fees
  • Fuel subsequent to first tankful

spiti valley – USEFUL INFORMATION

DOCUMENTATION

You will need a passport with valid visa, appropriate travel insurance and an international driving permit. 

CURRENCY

You should be able to get by on around £200 spending money if you don't do a lot of shopping. You may want to change a little money (about £30) at the airport, but check the rate before changing a large amount. Cash and travellers' cheques are easily changed in Manali and Shimla (where there are also cashpoints), but nowhere else on the route. 

CLIMATE

Even at high altitudes the Himalaya can be surprisingly warm in summer. But nothing can be taken for granted and although rain is rare there is always the chance of wet weather. When overcast, things can get chilly at night and at the highest points there is a remote possibility of snow. The maximum temperature is likely to be around 30ºC; the minimum 0ºC (rarely, at night).

BIKE KIT

We advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face). Please find more information on bike kit here.

LUGGAGE

While your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle, you may wish to bring a small rucksack or tankbag in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be 'soft' and not a suitcase.

FITNESS

While you don't have to be an athlete to join us on this adventure, we would not recommend this tour to those who cannot, for instance, climb a flight of stairs without puffing and blowing. Please note that there are some long days in the saddle. We reach some great altitudes on this tour, so if you have any existing medical condition, please consult your doctor and Blazing Trails before booking.

RIDING SKILLS

While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year's riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to an adventure like this. Riding in India is very different from Europe and although the speeds at which we travel are relatively low, demands on planning and observation are high. Other factors making demands on riders are the heat (and possibly cold), conditions of the road – including sections of unpaved dirt – and getting used to the bikes' reversed foot controls

HEALTH & HYGIENE

Although there is always the chance of getting a 'holiday tummy', following a few simple guidelines keeps the chances of this to a minimum. The tour will be accompanied by a medic with extensive kit to deal with any problem. If you have any pre-existing medical condition, it is essential that you consult both Blazing Trails and your physician before booking.

DON'T FORGET!

To check out our suggested packing list.

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How To Make A Booking

Holiday bookings can be made by phone, via email, or over the internet.


Contact us by any of the means above.

Upon deciding to book, please pay a deposit of £700.00 into our bonded account (or the full balance if within two months of the departure date). This can be done by credit/debit card through our website or over the phone, by bank transfer, by over-the-counter payment, or by sending a cheque to our UK representative.

Having booked with Blazing Trails, you will be sent all the necessary information on timings and meeting points. You may also like to use our website, or Facebook group, to liaise with others.

PLEASE NOTE: A maximum of one week (seven days) will be allowed for your deposit payment to reach and clear in our bonded account. Should this not happen, we can suspend your booking and may have to give your place on tour to somebody else.

 

 

Touring Map

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Tour Overview

In ten words

Challenging, inspirational, diverse and incredibly scenic ride through 'Little Tibet'

Riding Level

The condition of the roads varies annually, but there is always a challenging element to this tour. Nerve needed for big roadside drop-offs.

Tarmac: 75%; dirt 25% (varies according to winter and monsoon damage).

The Adventure

Overall: approx' 1100km

Shortest day: 40km

Longest day: 200km

3 days travelling

9 days riding

2 off-bike days


Pillion Rating

Depends on road condition, but usually tough on passengers. For a short stretch pillions are required to ride in the back-up vehicle, which is available throughout the trip.

Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation is, on the whole, pretty decent and varies greatly over the route, from the rough and experiential, to nicer places. No shortage of surprises...

Included meals: all breakfasts; 2 dinners. Food elsewhere is extremely inexpensive.

Highlights

Toy train to Shimla; Shimla's colonial past and bustling present; the ancient Hindu temple at Sarahan; camping in beautiful Sangla Valley (if we can get there); huge mountain views at Kalpa; mystical 1000-year-old monastery at Tabo; night in one of the world's highest villages; try out Tibetan-style living for a night; markets, mayhem, temples and great food in Manali; crazily-steep Jalori Pass.



Book Spiti Valley Tour now:



Departure day

Fly to

Flight Exclusive

Flight Inclusive
 01st June 2019  (Saturday) Delhi 2449 GBP
(5 places left)
3099 GBP
(5 places left)
 06th June 2020  (Saturday) Delhi 2549 GBP 3199 GBP