Tuesday, July 03, 2007

CHANDRATAL- Lake of the Moon

I had heard a lot about this pristine lake , so what better than undertaking a trek to this high altitude Himalayan lake before joining our respective companies.
Like any other trip, there were many add-ons and drop-outs. Finally five of us were game for the challenge lying ahead of us.
Disaster struck just days before we left. Amitesh had to pack his bag with formal wear instead of woollens as he was asked to join his company in 2 days. But the trip had to go on. We were just 4 now.
We had planned to take the following route from Manali,
Manali-Rohtang pass-Gramphoo-Chhatru-Chota Dhara-Batal by road(jeep)
Trek from Batal-Chandratal-Tokpo Gongma-Tokpo Yongma-Baralacha pass
Baralacha pass- Keylong-Manali by road(jeep)

13th June 2007
Boarded Paschim express to Chandigarh from Bandra.

14th june

Reached Chandigarh at 4 pm. We then visited Rock Garden, Sukhna lake, Rose Garden and sector 17 market. It was soon 9 pm and we left for Manali in an Innova(taxi).

15th June

It was 5 am when I woke up to the sound of the gushing Beas river. The Sun had already come up .We had reached Kullu. The very sight of River Beas made me feel fresh and pure. Half an hour later we were at Manali. Altitude 6200 feet approx. I felt really good to have a sumptuous breakfast after having some less than proper food in the train (if it can be called food) , like the extremely dilute and bland puri bhaji in Ratlam( Madhya Pradesh). We then spent the day exploring Manali on foot. We sauntered through the lush greens to visit Hadimba Temple and Manu Temple.

The 2nd tragedy of the trip struck in the evening when Rahul got a call from home and he had to head back as his grandma was critically ill.
Like the Indian Cricket team, we were a depleted side by now. Less the number of people , more the loneliness and more the chances of getting bored.
But the ardour to reach the lake was still present which kept our spirits high.

16th June

Early in the morning at half past 5 we left for Batal, starting point of our trek (120 kms approx). Our guide, Premji, loaded our luggage in Bolero and off we were to surmount the mighty Rohtang pass (51kms from Manali). The drive through the narrow roads was very scenic, the peaks were lit gradually by the rising sun. We reached Marhi at 7 am. Altitude 11500 feet approx. It was time to fill our empty tummies. A hot cup of tea in the rarefied air was just what we needed.

An hour later we were atop Rohtang pass (13050 feet). Rohtang pass connects Kullu valley to Lahaul and Spiti Valley. The Border Roads Organization (BRO) had done a good job by cutting the huge chunks of ice to make the road motorable. No wonder the road to Rohtang and places ahead remains closed to vehicular traffic during winters. The walls of ice were easily 10-15 feet in height. Our hands almost instantaneously went in search for the camera.

At 8:30am we left rohtang pass. We then reached Gramphoo. We took right(eastward) leaving behind the somewhat well maintained road which connects Manali to Leh.
We now enter deeper into the Lahaul and Spiti Valley where the landscape is much barren and bleak as compared to Kullu valley.

En route to Batal

We had tea at Chhatru, a hamlet in the middle of nowhere.

We continued with our journey admiring the beauty of Mother Nature’s lunar like landscape. The muddy, turbulent and constantly murmuring river Chandra flowed below in the gorge. World’s second largest glacier ‘Bara Shigri’ was nestled somewhere inside the mountains. Only a part of it could be seen. Can anyone guess which is the world’s largest glacier?? ( it’s in India :))

By noon we reached Batal. Altitude 13120 feet approx. I’m not sure about the altitude but according to the locals it’s higher than rohtang and somewhere close to 4000 meters.
Chandra Dhaba in Batal is the only place where one can find mortals. The area surrounding it is desolated.

By the time we finished our lunch in the Dhaba, our tents were pitched.
What I read about Batal in blogs was so very true. It’s a gateway for winds. These winds bring the chill factor into account. The winds pick up in the evening and they become incredibly strong and gusty forcing everybody to crawl inside their tents. We did nothing different and soon we dozed off hoping that the tent would remain upright and not leave us with stars above :)

At Batal

17th June

Early in the morning at 5:30, Jagat Ram, our cook served us bed tea. Bed tea brought back memories of my trip to Kailash Manasarovar. We unzipped our sleeping bags reluctantly. The very concept of bed tea is to provide warmth to our bodies before stepping out in the cold climes.
The early hours of the morning was perfect with some of the peaks being kissed by the clouds and some being lit by the Sun.

We were waiting for our horses to arrive. They were the backbone of our trip. At around 7:30 am they trudged along with their master. They started rolling on the ground upon arrival probably to get rid of itching.

At 8 am, we started off with the arduous 14 km trek from Batal to Chandratal.

Premji(guide) led from the front and we all followed with our small backpacks which contained first aid kit and packed lunch.
The trail we followed was a well defined road which was about 10 feet wide with huge slopes on one side and deep ravines on the other. The road was full of small gravels and disintegrated soil. At some places gigantic rocks just stood at the edge as if it was waiting for the right time to roll down. The stones on the slopes were so loosely held that slightest of movements could have triggered a landslide.

The first few kms. were done with gr8 ease. We soon reached a junction from where one road went to Kaza and the other to Chandratal.
We then reached a point where we had to cross a small stream which flowed across the road down the hill to meet river Chandra below.

The curvy road gradually gained height and that’s when we started getting the symptoms of altitude sickness. We gasped for air and had to put in extra effort for every step. On reaching the top, we found that the road continued to meander and we couldn’t figure out the end of the road. This happened ‘N’ number of times. It seemed like eternity and this made us bleary. The only force that was driving us now was the passion to see the lake.

3 hours into the trek and there was still no sign of the lake. The wind slowly started picking up which brought in clouds and the Sun never came out thereafter. The depressingly dull weather made the trek even more strenuous as the wind was intermittently pushing us making us wobbly.
Nausea started distressing me. Hiren also started feeling a bit unsteady but we had to move on. We had to cross another stream after which I decided to have lunch. The effect of nausea was even more severe now.
The last few kms. was all uphill and we all were drained out completely and our lungs worked harder and harder to enable us to stand. By now I just couldn’t withstand the feeling of nausea and I just puked everything out. I felt much better. Minutes later we reached the top and finally……we could see the bluish waters of Chandratal.

View Chandratal on Google Earth

We had to walk down the hill and along the periphery of the lake to reach the north end of the lake, our campsite for the next 2 days. The time was 3:00 pm and I straight away went inside the tent to take some rest.
Hiren was constantly saying that we should return back to Batal next day itself and not continue further. He couldn’t withstand the cold and was afraid that going ahead could prove to be fatal in this kind of weather.
I asked him to wait for a day and give time for the body to acclimatize. We had not had rest since we left Mumbai. We had been travelling for 4 days, hardly giving our body the time to acclimatize. He agreed and we all slept off quite early that day. Late in the night, Hiren started feeling cold again. He was shivering and we had to call our guide. He then called our cook who brought the stove to make the tent warm from inside. Hiren’s feet were cold, our cook then rubbed his feet. This did a world of good and soon we all slept again.

18th june

In the morning we all were in the best of health. Inside the tent we saw a tag dangling which said “Keep all flame and heat sources away from the tent”. We all had a laugh because that was exactly what we didn’t do last night.
It was rest day at Chandratal. The weather was clear. The lake was placid and ripple free as there was absolutely no wind. This led to unbelievable reflections in the lake. The immaculate lake had all the properties of a mirror. I have never seen any water body with such gr8 reflections.

Chandratal is at an altitude of 4337 m/14225 feet above sea level. The lake is crescent- shaped. This gave it the name Chandratal or Moon Lake.
Later, we climbed a hillock near the lake from where we could see river Chandra, the CB(ChandraBhaga) range and ofcourse Chandratal. The most striking of the lot was the lake. The Sun was shining which gave the lake spectacular colours. The left half of the lake was emerald green and the right half had a tinge of blue. The tranquility of the place was nothing short of heaven.

We then returned back to our campsite to have Biryani.
Gentle breeze was now blowing around the lake. The shimmering waters made the lake look stunning. We decided to go around the lake in the afternoon when the weather was just perfect. We walked along the circumference of the lake(2.5 kms). The water was crystal clear and we could easily judge the depth of the lake. It was quite deep from the beginning itself in certain areas. When we reached the southern side of the picturesque lake we met a few trekkers. We had a gr8 time chatting with them and soon it was 4 pm.

Some more shots of the lake.

We headed back to our camp. The winds showed no mercy at all. It blew with all the strength it had. At one point we were discussing the velocity of the wind. That was it. We were arrested in the tent for the day.
By the time the winds ceased, we were in deep snooze. That night, Hiren shivered again. Once again the stove was brought in.

19th June
Early in the morning the view of the lake, with illuminated peaks in the background was awesome. That’s the kind of morning I would love to see everyday.

Coming back to the point. We were in a dilemma whether to proceed further to Baralacha pass or not. We met a shepherd who said that we were the first people this season who wished to go ahead to Baralacha and so if we went ahead, we would have to make our own path through the snow and ice.
Considering this and Hiren’s shivering problem, we decided to abort the onward journey.
At 8 am, we left the charming and enchanting lake with the hope of returning back again.
The journey back to Batal was easy as our body was well acclimatized. We did face some difficulties while walking back. Blustering winds blew against the direction in which we were walking. At some places I stopped and turned around to avoid the dust. En route to Batal we even saw vultures having a feast. Reached Batal at 1:30 pm. Hiren left for Manali the same day as he didn’t want to spend yet another shivering night. Myself and Srinath spent that day at Batal.

20th June

We waited for the HRTC(state run bus) near Chandra Dhaba. Boarded the bus to Manali at 11:30 am.

Luckily there were exactly 2 vacant seats. I had to sit on the last seat which meant that I would be tossed up and down :) The fare to Manali from Batal- 92 rs per head.Reached Manali at 5 pm after a very bumpy journey. Hiren waited for us at the same hotel. We were back to civilization.

21st June

Settled the amount with the travel agent in Manali. We then left for Naggar, 22 kms from Manali to see the Naggar castle and Roerich’s art gallery. Returned back to Manali in the evening.
As our train back to Mumbai from chandigarh was on 23rd, we planned to go to Kasauli, a quaint hill station near Chandigarh. We booked a car to Kasauli.

22nd June

At 5 am, we left for Kasauli(250 kms approx). Reached at 2 pm. Quickly checked into a hotel and enquired about the tourist spots in Kasauli. We then visited Monkey point. Locals call it Manki point, we didn’t bother to find out the reason for that :) But the point was worth visiting. The Christ Church near the mall road was unfortunately closed.

23rd June

Boarded the early morning bus( 6:30 am) to chandigarh. Fare-45 rs.
8:30am –Reached Chandigarh. Had breakfast and then a rick to the railway station.
11:30am- Paschim express back to Mumbai
Next day 3:30pm, reached home with wonderful memories of the trip especially Chandratal. Himachal Pradesh- an absolute paradise where landscaping knows no bounds.

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Blogger Ashish said...

Hey buddy thx for virtual trip to Batal-Chandratal .......

amd the fun part is i have saved my money without shivering like Hiren ....;)

once again pics are awesome !!!!

11:31 AM  
Anonymous rahul said...

nice summary of the trip man.Wish I was there too till the end

5:07 AM  
Blogger arun negi said...

my guess for the largest glacier siachen :)
well nice writeup with awesome views. Again i could actually visualise your trip to a great extent. The color of the lake was so inviting. didn't you guys take a quick dip ;)
after going through your blog I've surely added chandratal on to my to-do list. Also at that altitude where our body is completely at nature's mercy( winds,snow,ice,chill factor), i think it made sense not to proceed further. lol and don't tell me you guys slept inside with the stove burning :P could have been dangerous

6:18 AM  
Blogger srinath said...

Hey Anand (Mastermind of this trip)..i am very thankful that u invited me to join u on this trek:)...inspite of all d hurdles it truly was a very joyous and memorable trip..also a very eloquent description of our journey..looking fwd to more such exciting tours wid u in d near future:)

11:53 AM  
Anonymous divya said...

THANKS....to make me aware of one more beautiful place on earth..AWESOME work is the word...keep trekkin n explorin new places...way to go!!!!!

7:44 AM  
Blogger Saibal Barman said...

It's a good piece of travel account! Nice selection of snaps for blog. Particularly, the animate objects were selected beautifully. Great job, friend!
The Moon lake is really fascinating memory for me although I havn't yet written about it in my blog. Some snaps are only there in my orkut album.
You people, perhaps, planned a bit early for Moon Lake to Barlacha La trek. Delay by a fornight could have been better. Anyway, this leaves a scope to revisit the place. That's the encouraging part apart from what splendid experiences are already in your treasure chest.
Thanx for providing good ignition materials for all Nature lovers.
Warm wishes,

10:21 PM  
Blogger sonal said...

Mr.Anand the blog regarding chandratal has given me a very mismirising feeling...when i use to read william wordsworth,n john keats i use to imagine the nature's beauty is simply ardent! but after reading ur blog ..i think i can again feel that same wordsworth's expresssion, beauty of nature and human intelligence cannot work together but in such a stage we human bound to become insane and question of civilization becomes obligation on mother earth? anyways i always had and will have a strong affinty towards green...because it actually gives peace to soul & strength to mind for work.
keep on updating me about all your latest treks!
and this blog has again made me more intact towards nature's beauty!

2:36 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Thanks a lot friends :)

9:40 PM  
Blogger indicaspecies said...

Marhi and Rohtang are awesome . The beauty of the mountains and valleys beyond that can't be described in words. I continued my road journey this July after Rohtang to Leh via Lahaul Valley with a stopover in Sarchu tents enroute Keylong, Darcha, DeepakTal and SurajTal Lakes and the Baralacha Pass. Still to blog my experiences. It feels great to read about your wonderful trek/trips. You've put up some beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

5:44 AM  
Blogger rinchen said...


12:38 AM  

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