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An expedition means a journey with a purpose, especially to explore new things and places. When Skoda invited us for the Kodiaq Expedition, we knew that an exciting and adventurous journey was awaiting us. We were heading to Spiti Valley!
The name 'Spiti' means 'The Middle Land'; the land between Tibet and India. And en route Spiti Valley, we crossed some of the treacherous roads in the world.
The Skoda Kodiaq was a perfect companion for this expedition. The seven-seater SUV from Skoda turned out to be a tough machine that can handle the rough stuff with utmost ease. The spacious cabin kept us comfortable all along the trip and the Kodiaq took everything we threw at it.
Here's how the journey unfolded!
Day 1: Chandigarh To Manali
The first leg of the Kodiaq Expedition took us to the Himalayan resort town — Manali. The journey began from the scorching heat of Chandigarh, where the fleet of Kodiaqs were waiting for us at the airport. Skoda only offers the fully-loaded Style TDI AT trim of the Kodiaq in India and we had all the bits and bobs to play with.
Initially, our plan was to get used to the Kodiaq's unique features and driving dynamics. The boot was spacious and it easily gobbled up all of our luggage. The loading area is also quite low for an SUV.
With all the luggage loaded up, it was time to move.
It was a 300-kilometre drive to reach Manali and it wasn't that easy due to the scorching heat. The traffic made it even worse. But the Kodiaq was an easy-to-drive SUV and manoeuvring it through the city traffic was a breeze. Finally, we managed to get out of the city and were headed to Bilaspur.
The weather drastically changed and within no time it was pouring down as we nearly reached Bilaspur. Thanks to the panoramic sunroof of the Kodiaq, we enjoyed the rain in a different way. The never-ending twisty roads were fun to drive and the premium Canton audio system kept us entertained throughout the drive.
We then made our way to the mountains as we headed towards Manali. Finally, we managed to reach the hotel by midnight. It was indeed a good escape from the heat of Chandigarh to the chilly mountains of Manali. The first day was a rather smooth drive as we were gearing up to tackle the treacherous roads, the next day.
Day 2: Manali To Chandratal
It was an early start for the day as we wanted to avoid traffic at the Rohtang Pass. We left the hotel at around six while the weather was chilly. As we climbed up the terrains, the air became thinner and we could feel it. We were advised to drink a good amount of water to avoid the side-effects of high altitude.
As we continued our journey, the lush green landscape turned into snow-capped mountains. Climbing the Rohtang Pass was an easy task with the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission of the Kodiaq. In fact, Volkswagen's DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) unit is one of the best on the market.
After crossing Rohtang, we exited the Leh-Manali highway and took a deviation at Gramphu. The roads from Gramphu were both rough and scenic at the same time. The road passed parallel to the Chenab river and as a result, there were a few water crossings. The Kodiaq's smart all-wheel-drive system handled the rough roads very well.
The Skoda Kodiaq features five driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, Individual and Snow. The Snow mode was perfect for the road conditions as we had to tackle loose ground and occasional river crossings. Our lunch stop was between the mountains of Chatru. Having lunch in the middle of nowhere was quite an experience.
After filling our tummy with some delicious food, we continued our journey towards Chandratal. From Chatru the roads turned bad to worse. In fact, there were no roads at all and it was just sharp stones and never-ending undulations.
Two Kodiaqs from the fleet suffered punctures. But the team from Skoda India were well-equipped to counter such situations. The two Kodiaqs continued their journey within no time.
After we crossed Chatru the landscape was just mesmerising. As far as our vision stretched we could see only snow-capped mountains. Though the drive was challenging, it was one hell of an experience. By evening we reached Batal where we took a tea break; quite a necessity in the chilly weather.
As the day passed, the temperature started to drop drastically and wind chills started to pass through our winter clothing. Around seven in the evening we finally reached our campsite. It was a tough day behind the wheel as it took almost 12 hours to cover just 120 kilometres.
The temperature dropped to -2 degrees and we were spending the night in Swiss tents.The cold got the better of us and we could barely sleep inside the tents. We were just waiting for the sun to shine the next morning.
However, it was an unforgettable experience gazing at the starry sky in between the mountain formations. For a moment, we weren't concerned about the cold.
Day 3: Chandratal to Kaza
The agenda for the third leg was to visit Chandratal lake and continue our journey towards Kaza. We were up and ready very early in the morning as we had spent a sleepless night. We headed towards the lake; a 20-minute drive from our campsite. To reach the lake, we had to walk for another ten minutes. And those ten minutes felt like ten hours due to the thin air. By the time we reached the lake, we were breathless.
After seeing the blue water and the picturesque background, it felt like it was worth the effort.
Situated at an altitude of 4,250 metres, the name ‘Chandratal' came from the crescent shape of the lake. Words cannot describe the beauty of the ‘Chandra' lake and we could only sit there admiring the beautiful landscape and the positivity it delivered.
Soon, we continued our journey towards Kaza and the next challenge was to cross the Kunzum pass. It was one of the riskiest drives we (and most of the other participants) have done, due to the narrow roads and steep valleys. But the view was so rewarding that we did not realise the tough part of the job.
En route to Kaza we spotted an empty piece of land and decided to have some fun with the Skoda Kodiaq. It was the most exciting part of the expedition as we managed to go decently sideways with TCS turned off. The Kodiaq was impressively nimble too, given its body proportions.
After going silly with the Kodiaq, we set off and reached our hotel in Kaza, by evening.
Day 4: Kaza
The fourth day of the Kodiaq Expedition was rather relaxing as we were exploring places in and around Kaza. We wanted to explore as much as possible and started early in the morning. The first destination on our list was Dhankar Monastery. The road leading to the monastery was very interesting with the endless hairpin bends.
Dhankar Monastery is situated at the highest location of Spiti Valley. It was once the capital of Spiti. The monastery is built on a cliff and the view from there is breathtaking. After spending some quality time at the monastery, we decided to head towards Tabo Monastery.
The monastery is located in the village of Tabo in Spiti Valley. We also decided to have our lunch at Tabo and savoured some local food. After that, we decided to visit some of the highest places in the world.
First, we drove to the world's highest post office in Hikkim, which is located at an altitude of 4,440 metres. We even posted letters to our homes to make it an unforgettable experience. The next place on our list was Komik — the world's highest village connected by road, at an altitude of 4,587 metres.
Komik also hosts the world's highest restaurant connected by road (ignore the spelling on the board though). By the time we left Komik, it was already six in the evening.
We wanted to visit the Key Monastery but it was already dark while we reached the location.
Hence, we ended up visiting the foothills of the monastery and had a look at it from a distance. This was also our final destination in Kaza.
With this, we wrapped up the Spiti Valley chapter and headed towards our hotel. The fifth and sixth day were our return journey.
Our Experience In A Nutshell
In six days we had covered over 1,000 kilometres. The Skoda Kodiaq performed extremely well in all the road conditions it went through. The cabin was well-insulated and the suspension sucked in all the deformations. The all-wheel-drive system ensured the best traction in the trickiest of situations. The engine had all the output (even at such altitudes where the air is thin) to make the Kodiaq a performer, both on-road and off-road. The Skoda Kodiaq was simply effortless!
To know more about the ‘Simply Clever' SUV, check out our review of the Skoda Kodiaq.