For the earlier part, click here
The following day, we got up around 06:00 hrs for our next destination, Chandratal Lake. It was a morning of mixed feelings for all of us as we were about to leave Spiti Valley. On one side, the excitement of being at Chandratal was a booster and on the other, the heaviness we were feeling on leaving Spiti was quite visible on all of our faces. Slowly we all got ready & left Deyzor around 07:30 hrs for Chandratal.
It is always advisable to start early in the Himalayas if you driving on your own. The sooner you start the lesser chance of you getting in stuck in any of the Nallahs. A late start though not necessarily mean you shall be stuck in the Nallahs, but the ever increasing water in these Nallahs is sure to give you a tough time driving.
We decided not to have breakfast at Kaza as we wanted to avoid any unwanted situations on the road and decided to have our breakfast at Losar. To add to our worries, the weather from the morning itself was in the mood of showers and considering the roads to Chandratal were Hellish, we were a bit cautious. We reached Losar around 09:30 hrs where we had breakfast of Paratha & Omlette at a local food joint. The roads from Losar were pretty uneven & gave us a clear picture of how it shall be in Chandratal. Following our breakfast, we decided not to take any breaks untill we reach Kunzom Pass as the roads were getting more precarious & the entire stretch of this section of the road was landslide prone. An Innova carrying a couple & a Tempo Traveler carrying the bunch of vomiting girls from Hikkim also decided to travel along with us as it was a safe option of traveling together in such roads as possibility of finding any help in such locations is not possible unless another vehicle approaches.
We reached Kunzom Pass around 11:00 hrs and man was it cold!!!! We experienced chilly weather throughout Spiti Trip, but Kunzom Top was something else. With sub zero temperarues, driving became difficult and I had to put on my gloves for better insulation. Kunzom Pass is located at an altitude of 14500 ft and named after a Kunzom Mata Shrine located at the pass. The whole of the Pass lies in between an expansive meadow. Kunzom Top gave us a spectacular view of the Bada Shigri & the Chota Shigri and it felt quite divine seeing two glaciers of this magnitude up close in front of our eyes. We halted at Kunzom Top for around 15 mnts and after paying our Homage to Kunzom Mata and clicking some shots, were again on the road towards Chadratal Lake.
If roads from Kaza to Losar were a nightmare, the roads from Kunzom Pass to Chandratal were straight out of Dante's Seven Rungs of Hell!!! Narrow, uneven, full of boulders & nallahs gushing gallons of water at break neck speeds through the roads, manouvering my vehicle in such roads definitely required all my attention & skills. Even a moment of distraction would have been suicidal. At some points, we literally had to get down of our vehicles to cross some Nallahs as it was impossible to judge the road and moving forward with a full loaded vehicle may prove to be fatal. To add to our woes, rain started to trickle down making the weather more chilly & driving further difficult. At some points, in case a vehicle was approaching from the opposite side, we basically had to climb over boulders to make pass for the vehicle as it was impossible for two vehicles to cross the roads simultaneously. Finally around 13:00 hrs, we reached our camp site for Chandratal Lake & heaved a sigh of relief. On reaching the camp site, I dragged on a Sutta like it was the last on earth to calm myself down and the numbing effect of nicotine did its work. It was a drive that I shall always cherish & gave me enough confidence of riding in any terrain of the world. Honsetly, if someone can manipulate roads to Chandratal, they can drive in any terrains nature has to offer.
We booked ourselves for Alpine Tents and on reaching the Site, the jolly old fellows served us some tea & snacks which we gorged on happily as we were faminshed. We asked them to prepare our lunch ASAP as we didn't want to stay idle in the camp site & were quite excited to get the first glimpse of the Chandratal Lake. The lunch they prepared was pretty basic comprising of Dal, Chaval, Gobi Aloo and Rajma. Though it sounds pretty ordinary, it was tasty and we had a sumptious lunch to our fill. Finally around 14:30 hrs, we were ready and left for Chandratal Lake. On enquiring with the camp guys, we got to know that we can drive our vehicle up to max a kilometre of the Lake but the roads were pathetic & they were a bit apprehensive as we were all newbies at driving in such terrains. Still the adrenaline rush of seeing the lake and a renewed confidence at being successfully able to drive on roads from Kunzom to Camp Site, we were pretty confident and decided to ride rather than take the 4 odd kms hike up to the lake from the Camp Site. Also due to the rains, the weather was freezing and the temperature was dipping quite fast and we didn't want to risk ourselves getting wet on the hike walking 4 kms. So with the name of the Omnipotent, we hopped on to our cars and rode towards the Lake.
The roads from the Camp Site to the Lake were the same as before, and to add to our miseries were much more steep and narrow. At some points, the roads led to certain hair pin bends at almost a 45-50 degree incline. Providing pass for any other vehicle coming from the opposite side at such bends was a near impossibility, but thankfully, on our onward journey, we were fortunate enough that no vehicles were returning back from the Lake side. The nightmare in the name of the drive ended at around 15:45 hrs when we finally reached the Lake parking zone from where it was a kilometre hike up to the lake. I would like to mention that there is no provision for water or any food item at Chandratal Lake, so it is better adviced to carry any provisions that you may need while you are in the Lake. In our case, we carried with us a flask full of tea, a pack of biscuit and a pack of dried fruit along with two bottles of water.
After a relatively moderate hike of a kilometre, we finally got our first glimpse of the magnificient Chandratal Lake. Wasn't it a sight to behold!!!! Nestled in between the mountains, lies this Gem of the Himalayas which was calm, serene & regal in its own terms. Words can't explain the beauty of such a wonder and no matter how lucidly I try to describe, it shall by no means be able to justify the beauty of this Lake. Our excitement got the better of us on seeing the Lake and we decided to run down the last part of the hike up to the Lake, a decision that we regret as by the time we reached the Lake, we were out of breath and took a few minutes to recuperate from the lack of oxygen.
Chandratal Lake or the Moon Lake, as the name suggests, is the source of the Chandra River which merges with the Bhaga River from the Suraj Tal Lake(near Baralacha La) giving rise to the Chandrabhaga River or as we all know, The Chenub!!! The lake is supposedly fed by the Glacial waters and some even claim the water to the lake is fed from the lake bed. It may surprise you that Chandratal Lake is one of the official locations in India where UFO activities have been sighted by an ISRO Team. Whatver the truth maybe, whether the mysteries are just food for gossip or hold any substantiality, we may never know. The only fundamental truth that holds good is this Lake is pure heaven & no mortal should give up on an experience as sublime & divine as this.
We stayed a good 2-3 hours in the Lake basking in the Sun which was jovially playing hide & seek with us among the clouds. The blue waters of the Lake, the chilly breeze blowing across my face, the complete silence & calmness surrounding the landscape, those 2-3 hours were my moments of complete Zen. We dipped our feets on the icy cold waters, sat on the banks and sipped our hot tea & munched on the biscuits & the dry fruits. We consider ourselves exceptionally lucky that when we visited, the Lake was devoid of any tourists and we had the entire lake to our disposal. No disturbance, no irritating Selfie crazed tourists, no mollycoddlying couples, just us and the Lake!!!! Around 18:00 hrs, we decided to return back to our camp site as it was becoming unbearably chilly & the skies going darker with rain clouds. While coming back, we took a slightly longer trail to return to the Parking Site rather than the one we took to reach the lake. While the earlier trail was around 1 km hike upto the Lake, the one we took was almost 3 kms hike upto the parking site. It was a decision that we all agree was a good one, as we got to see the surrounding landscape of the Chandratal Lake more vividly. This trail can be taken by climbing the hill adjoining the lake and from the top of that hill, walking left up to the Parking Site. This trail is marked by two ponds which served as the watering hole for the mountain deers, snow leopards and Himalayan Ibex of that region. Finally around 18:30 hrs, we reached the parking site from where we again drudged along those God Forsaken roads to reach our camping sites to retire for the night.
While in the afternoon, the campsite was empty, by the time we reached our camp site from the lake around 19:40 hrs, it was hustling & busting with activity with a few other tourists having reached in the time we were off to Chandratal. It was fun sitting with the others and gossiping and sharing our travel stories. As the temperature was dipping really fast and it was getting too chilly, we were rueing our decision not to have brought along a bottle of Rum or Whiskey alongwith us. Aaaahhh!!! Thy Golden Elixir!! Why Thou Hast abandoned Me????!!!!!! What we didn't realize, that we were expressing our "regrets" way too loud to be audible by others. Amused and maybe pitied at our condition, a Good Samaritan Traveler who reached in the evening and shared the same campsite as us offered us a half of Old Monk he was carrying "Extra". Our joys knew no bound!!! Thanking the Jolly Good Fellow, thanking our Rahu, Ketu, Nakshatra and all, we all retired to our Tent and had a gala time boozing and revisiting the past few days that has been nothing short of spectacular for all of us. Finally we had our dinner around 21:30 hrs and retired for the night for our final journey from Chandratal to Manali the next day.
The following morning was something else. We were all a bit hung over & the weather was icy cold. We got up around 06:30 hrs. Forget bodily ablutions, even brushing was a tough job as the water was icy cold. We somehow managed to finish our regular stuffs, freshened up & packed our stuffs all set to leave for Manali & bid adieu to this Chapter of my travel. Having a breakfast of bread & butter with a cup of tea, we left towards Batal again manouevring those roads we treaded through yesterday.
The Manali-Kaza Highway was non existent. I mean literally there was no road for us to drive on. If once we were driving over gravel, the next moment we were driving over a full fledged Nallah and the very next moment we were driving over a river bed. The only positive was the scenary. The fact that we were driving through one of the most ominous yet majestic part of the Himalayas made our driving predicament bearable and the thrills of manoeuvring our ride on such roads was something I am proud of.
On reaching Batal, we stopped at the Famous Chacha Chaachi Dhaba for a piping hot bowl of Masala Maggi prepared by Chacha himself. For those of you who don't know, Chacha Chaachi are two gems who have been Harbinger of Life on many occasions for tourists left stranded due to volatile weather of landslides. When all hopes are dim, stranded travelers are sheltered by Chacha Chaachi at their makeshaft Dhaba and taken care of unless help comes. For almost two decades, they have been doing so and anyone who visits Spiti through Manali-Kaza Route makes a stop at their Dhaba to meet these two "Pearls of India." We had a nice chat with them in their cosy little Dhaba and got some pictures too. Finally bidding adieu to them, we once again hit the road for our ride to Manali. With a few photo breaks and road assist breaks, we finally reached Khoksar by 12:30 hrs where we had our lunch of delicious Rajma Chaval & once again Masala Maggi!!!! Finally by 13:30 hrs, we reached Rohtang Top where we halted for a while to bid one final goodbye to the land of the Gods we just left.
Like every good thing has to come to an end, our Road Trip to Spiti valley also ended on a high but also leaving us with a heavy heart that we had to quit that part of the world. Still with memories that I shall always keep fresh, a promise I made to myself that I shall be back again and a heartfelt Thank You to all the lovely folks of Himachal, I finally bade adieu to The Middle Land-SPITI VALLEY!!!!