The Manali Kaza route is roughly 200 km and takes almost 12 hours to cover (on a good day). You cross two mountain passes – Rohtang Pass at the start and the Kunzum Pass further ahead.
There is an alternative route to the Spiti valley via Kinnaur, starting from Shimla. It’s a much longer route (distance from Shimla to Kaza is a whopping 425 km) but the roads are broader along this route. Except for some stretches of wilderness, this route via Kinnaur passes mostly through civilisation. It is an all season route. Trucks, as well as the locals, prefer this route via Kinnaur to travel to and from the Spiti valley.
On the contrary, the Manali Kaza route to Spiti is more or less a tourist attraction. Except for the last stretch just before you reach Kaza, you are crossing through some seriously high altitude wilderness (the highest point of the Manali Kaza route comes on the Kunzum Pass, over 4500 meters!). There are a few food stalls (dhabas) set up temporarily in the summer months, at Chhatru and Batal when the Manali Kaza route opens up for traffic. It is off limits in the winter once snowfall starts.
We had reached the bus stand while it was still dark, and surprisingly not cold at all for that early morning hour. The bus drove into Manali from Kullu, the starting point of this bus route. A mad mob gathered at the bus doors while the bus was still in motion. It moved with the bus as it reversed as if stuck to the bus. And before we knew it, every single person of the mob had burst into the bus and jumped into every seat possible. All of this had happened even before we could pick our bags up from the road.