There are several routes to the Spiti valley from Manali – the quickest is through the Rohtang and Kunzum passes, but this usually opens up only sometime in June, so this was not an option for us. The second is a bit of a detour and through Shimla, but there are plenty of private buses and jeeps that ply this route. But somehow we’ve both wanted to avoid Shimla as far as possible, so when we found out about the third option, through the Jalori pass, we jumped at it. The distance is actually shorter than the Shimla route, but the road is pretty bad so you don’t really save much time going this way.
But what a beautiful drive it was! The road ascends through gorgeous pine forests, and we were tempted to hop off at one or two places on the way but since we’re a bit pressed for time and Spiti is quite a distance, we had to restrain ourselves. We don’t have many photos from this drive because it was impossible to get a decent shot from that bumpy bus, so here’s one of our particularly energetic and friendly conductor who was constantly jumping off the moving bus, climbing on to the roof, dangling off the side, and stopping the bus for anyone who so much as twitched their nose as we passed by.
We got a small taste of the unpredictability of roads here. Half way through the bus stopped because the road ahead was just getting laid. So we just had to hang around and wait for about an hour till it was done.
Unfortunately the drive is not all pretty. Large sections of the Kullu and Kinnaur valleys have been ravaged thanks to all the hydroelectric power plants in the area. Apparently – we didn’t know this and it seems quite crazy – the Himachal hydroelectric projects provide half of the power supply for the entire country!
(Iswar was very tickled when I took this photo – he knew it was for my “Himachal provides 50% power” line in the blog.)