The Journey so far…
- Prologue, Itinerary & Road Updates
- Preview – 17 High Mountain Passes
- Preview – 14 Magical Lakes
- Rush from Srinagar to Kargil
- Heartbreak over Kargil to Leh
- Smiles, Sleep & Steps in Leh
- Mess-up at Khardung La to Nubra Valley
- Nerves of Wari La Pass Route
- Charmness over Chang La Pass to Pangong Tso
- Anxiety over Pangong Tso – Chusul – Hanle
- Freedom around Kyon Tso 1 & Kyon Tso 2
- Shock on Nidar – Yaye Tso – Horla
- Darkness over Tso Moriri – Tso Kar Lake
- Solitude of Manali – Leh Highway
Last night, the dreams of witnessing Chandratal was all over me… Almost 4 years after, when my love affair with Travel started as death cheated me on my first ever real trip to Himalayas and this Charismatic Chandratal eluded me by a KM due to inclement weather conditions… I hope you had read that adventure story which lead to the inception of DoW about 4.5 Years back 🙂 … If not, give a read here: Exploring Chandratal | Batal to Chandratal to Batal Trek … There were two more attempts made to see this lovely Lake but all went in vein for one or the other reasons. So, this had to happen for sure, no matter what 😀
Day 10 | Sissu – Gramphu – Chattru – Batal – Chandratal – Kunzum Pass – Losar
We had moments of sorrow last night and both Rigzin, Sonam left at night only about 3 AM. Temperature at Sissu was warm but we had to travel in deep corner of Spiti Valley to see Chandratal lake, the last Lake of our trip to make the count to 14… We all woke up early as we had to leave at 7 AM for sure and all were ready too except the taxis that had to come from Keylong 😥 … Every minute wasted in the wait was feeling like a day and that’s all because of the excitement to see Chandratal Lake. Everyone was abusing the drivers as I kept myself busy in clicking pictures of the early morning mist around Hotel Triveni, Sissu The detailed review will be written soon anyways. By 7:45 AM the taxis came and by 8.15 AM we all moved towards Chandratal. Now, we had one Xylo and one Tavera along with Nabeel’s bike. All in all, 10 were left in the group for this final leg of the this Mega Epic Trip… Place was to first reach Khoksar and have breakfast. We did exactly that and had a nice breakfast at Khoksar
Then, we moved ahead and met few friends + couple of readers of DoW at Gramphu who were traveling to Ladakh. I guided them about weather conditions and road conditions before we slipped into the diversion to Spiti Valley at Gramphu The road goes from Chattru – Chota Dhara – Batal – Chandratal Lake diversion on a rocky, almost river bed kind of conditions. There is a saying that “the path to heaven goes through hell”, and this road to Spiti Valley is aptly applicable with this hard truth 🙂 … There are no roads at all, pebbles, rocks, boulders, water crossings and what not… The roads up to Chattru are still manageable but then it’s just hell that break loose… The Phone Signal goes away at Gramphu and is only restored once you reach near Losar after crossing Kunzum Pass We kept moving before the first water crossing blocked us in between and the comedy begun 😀 😀
The driver who was with us just rushed through that water crossing, jumping the car here and there, kissing the underbelly of Tavera and as he crossed to the other end, he said, "Chalo sir, dekhte hani kya toota (Let’s see sir what broke beneath, in underbelly)" 😀 😯 😀 … I was like WTF, Dude !! You are a native local driver who knows how to handle such water crossings… Never mind we moved further and guess what, again there was a bigger water crossing this time, Dorni Nalla it is called. I was a bit afraid sitting in front and the bugger again did the same as the car hit 1,2,3… places 😥 😥 … Thank god it did not break.
We got a a chance to meet the other group of Innova too this time and each of them were looking bamboozled with white faces !! I asked, “what happened guys?? Is everything all right??” and Pradeep replied "Bhai, Kaisa driver hai ye?? Paani aata hai and ye pooja karne lagta hai aankh band karke, haath jodd ke (What kind of local driver is he?? As the water crossing comes, the driver starts praying with folded hands and closed eyes…)" 😀 😯 😀 … I was again like WTF, Dude !!
Now, you can imagine in what kind of safe hands of locals we were into for this final leg of the journey 😉 … One guys hugs the boulder of his car at under belly and the other prays before pushing through the water crossings 😀 … I kept all this aside and lost in the beautiful valley around us for which there are no words to write here… Though the roads are treacherous BUT magic around you of the valley just sweeps you off your feet. It is surreal, it is magical and it keeps calling me again and again… We kept clicking pictures as the river almost came along us now and it was a purely pristine feeling inside. Words fall short to explain the beauty and isolation of this terrain, especially during late/early season.
Soon we reached Chandra Dhabha at Batal where we all enjoyed a cup of Tea together before hitting the road to Kunzum Pass and divert towards Chandratal Lake from it. I went inside Chandra Dhabha, hugged the Dorje uncle, narrated him the whole story what happened to me when I came there about 4 years back and how indebted I am for almost helping me as a saviour that day !! He smiled and said, it keeps happening here son and we all smiled 🙂 … Dorje uncle has good sense of humour and he keeps you laughing all the time with his one or other jokes. Dorje Uncle and his wife together has won many bravery awards for their gallantry efforts to save so many lives in this region due to harsh climatic conditions and people who get landlocked due to natural calamity. He helped a group of 30 odd people stuck in snowfall in August 2011 or 2012, if I remember correctly. He is truly a great asset to this region of Spiti Valley and provides all necessary help plus stuff to survive in case the need arise along with his warm smiling efforts.
We were getting late for Chandratal, so we moved ahead and soon took the diversion to Chandratal from Kunzum Pass. The driver, whole way, was continuously boasting his skills but we knew what we were into 😀 … He kept saying that he had broken 5-6 torsion roads of his Tavera and we were feeling very anxious as the trail to Chandratal is so narrow with deep gorge on one side 😉 I asked him to concentrate on road every now and then as he was taking his eyes off the road every now and then 😀 …
Suddenly on those narrow path a crank sound came, our heads crashed into windows or with each other as a sudden break was applied !! The car stopped just besides the edge of gorge and we were like "WHAT THE F*** !!" … As we got down to see what happened, the Torsion rod of Tavera was all gone !! Can you believe it?? 😯 😯 He broke that rod yet another time and I can imagine the way he was passing the gushing water crossings, hitting the under belly of the car so much, something had to happen for sure and it was just a matter of time. The edge of the gorge was so close that we had trouble getting out comfortably from the left side 😯 … Anyways, now what, was the question for all of us 😀 :D… I was thinking on the lines that yet another time Chandratal will elude me 😥 😥 … The place is jinxed I feel for me but this time I was determined enough to walk all the way to it and come back to sleep at Batal or there only. But, at any cost I had to see Chandratal, no matter what !!
The car had broke down right in the middle of the narrow path and soon another taxi having some foreigners came in from the other side. That driver seemed much more practical and knowledgeable. He removed the rod and forced the corks given with it into the slots and Bingo!! The car came back to normal position though this temporary fix will mean that more bumps, more crashing of heads into each other and very slow speed 😀 😀 … At least we were back on the ride, though a bumpy and pathetically slow ride. Finally, we crawled to the last place till where vehicles can reach on this trail to Chandratal and from there it was a short half a KM hike to Chandratal Lake. There were couple of friends I knew from Delhi, Rajiv & Harjeev, who were also present there. So, I met them first, we chatted for good time before I started moving to the lake with our group.
The excitement within doubled as we approached more and more close to this magical lake and there it was… the first sight of Charismatic Chandratal… The inner joy to see it is simply that I cannot write here in words, simply gorgeous site filled with tranquility in the air surrounding it. We spent good 1+ Hr sitting besides this lovely lake and finally the 4 year pending dream of a sight of Chandratal had come true… Though we missed the reflections this lake is famous for but nevertheless, given the circumstances I will take whatever it is and of course, missing the reflections meant another visit in future to this beautiful ornament offered by nature… You can read everything about Chandratal Lake in travel guides section at the link: Delhi to Chandratal Lake, Spiti Valley | Travel Guide … It was time to go back to Losar where we had to stay overnight after scaling the 16th Pass of the trip, Kunzum Pass at an altitude of 4590 Mtrs…
The road from the diversion up to the Kunzum Pass top and beyond till 19 KMs down to Losar was all dirt track with rocks and potholes. We reached Kunzum Top and it was a great feeling to be there after last 4+ years of traveling to such places… I loved the way it was positioned. We took the parikarma, which is mandatory for anyone passing the Kunzum Pass… I know these are rituals and beliefs of mountains but I always have faith in them and will always have, no matter how much the modernization affect my mind set… Everyone must respect them because it is these mountain gods only who protects us on our arduous journeys to mighty Himalayas as per my beliefs 🙂 … After a while we moved on towards Losar.
The lack of torsion rod in our car made the journey from bad to miserable and I was cursing myself on the decision of going all the way to Losar from Chandratal on that treacherous road which helped with nothing but dis-comfort all the way to Losar. It had been much better that we had camped at Chandratal Camp site and even witnessed the reflections next morning before going back home via Manali… or even a stay back at Batal PWD Rest House or Dorje Uncle Dhabha would have been good enough… But, a sorry decision was already taken and cannot be backed away 😥 :cry:… Anyways, after long hours of head crashing bumpy drive, we reached Losar in the evening but to some extent stay and food at Nomad Cottage was a bit relief. The boys cat the cottage cooked really nice food and Sahil was present there to have gup shups too with other local friends… By the time darkness fell, both our Drivers were hit with AMS 😯 😯 … I was like, "Man, are you kidding me!! … What the shit is happening around since morning…" … We gave them disprins/diamox, asked them to sleep tight and warm for the night. We ate a delicious dinner cooked for us and even though it was a cold night at Losar, we all slept fine together one last time in Himalayas on this Mega Epic trip to Ladakh from DoW Community…
Have you ever been in a situation where your lives were in hands of some untrained people?? Are you planning to visit Chandratal and have any queries? I will look forward to listen you in the comments section below…
The Journey ahead…