Chandrataal – Altitude – 4290 meters.
Chandrataal derives its name from “Chandra” because of its moon-like shape. It is a high altitude lake located in the Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.
How to reach Chandrataal – Either from Kaza-Kunzum Pass route or from Rohtang-Battal route. I would strongly advise to take the Kaza-Kunzum way as you gain altitude slowly and get acclimatized to the conditions. Manali to Chandrataal is only 124 km, a reason many prefer taking that route. But this route from Rohtang goes through the Gramphoo-Batal stretch which is basically just a dirt road that turns into muddy slush and can be a nightmare to pass through. Chandrataal from Kaza is much more scenic and less of a torment to travel.
A week on road, living in homestays, snaking our way through the cold dessert Spiti (Komic details here), we reached Chandrataal. The high point of the trip that I had imagined and longed for months.
Making our way down the treacherous muddy road from Kunzum Pass to Chandrataal, we first headed towards Battal to meet the couple fondly called as Chacha-Chachi, who have been running a dhaba in the middle of nowhere for the last 45 years and feeding the travellers a simple and wholesome meal of rajma-chawal
They serve food and arrange accommodations for the backpackers till winter renders the entire area inaccessible for nearly eight months.
We were still between our meals when it started raining and the weather turned for worst in minutes. Our driver Pawan, was worried that we might have to skip Chandrataal. He was concerned that the rain or snow will turn the muddy roads into slush and the no network zone could prolong our stay longer than we had planned, which at such high altitudes wasn’t safe.
But the weather God’s anger seemed to have subsided by the time we finished off our meal and the thundering heaven gave way to a drizzle. Eventually, the sun rays managed to rupture through the dense cover of clouds and fog.
From Battal, Chandrataal is 14 km of bumpy ride which one can either cover via a vehicle or use the sturdy pair of legs and hike your way through. It took us more than an hour of bouncing and wobbling to cover the rugged stretch of 14kms but we successfully managed to cop our way to the Chandrataal – Moon Lake.
The dirt road leading to Chandrataal
On reaching our campsite we quickly sorted out our accommodation/tents for the night and let for Chandrataal.
What a serene, pure, untouched and pristine nature can do your senses, cannot be comprehended. Still, I can try to word a few overwhelming emotions. The flawless and undiluted beauty of this place makes every physically tired and emotionally exhausted cell in your body swell with happiness.
Happiness that doesn’t come from your comfortable life, your emotional fulfilment, from the likes, comments and influence of your social network and life and not even from a purpose fulfilled.
But, a feeling of immense contentment and optimism that came from staring into ochre mountain peaks covered in snow.
The shifting reflections of the landscape in the crystal clear water gives you a hope that you will never be sad again and life will be as simple and beautiful as the view.
Not only does the simplicity of the place gives you hope but also makes you wish that your conscience could be as unclouded.
Did I just find my Oasis?
As soon as the long shadows started inching in as the shapeshifters, we headed back to our camps.
Temperatures started plummeting down the moment sunrays retreated back to its den. Back at the tents, Sonam, our caretaker for the night quickly fixed a simple meal for all of us. The dining tent had a tandoor, unlike the other sleeping ones. The heat from the tandoor, some local alcohol from Kinnaur, a single light source powered by solar power and Sonam’s stories of the mountains, the fairies that visit Chandrataal at night and people getting lost in the terrain, made for some interesting session of storytelling.
The dipping temperatures made even the tandoor heat dissipate into the thin chilly air. About time we packed up and dragged our tired bodies to our tents. while everyone wrapped up in the blankets and quilts, I decided to stay out and take a few shots of the starry sky and the milky way. From the day we left the city and entered into the clear sky of the mountains we witnessed the Milky Way spread its magic and form an arc above our heads every single night.
I could stand in the bone-chilling cold for barely 15 minutes and packed up my camera and hushed into the thin warmth of the tents.
Milky Way – River of Heaven
Mountains make everyone an early riser. I woke up at 5:30 am to catch the suns first rays kiss the snow peaks. Stepping out of the tents, the fresh snow crystals crunched under my boots and the view around was 360 degrees of breathtaking snow-clad peaks.
A few hurried steps in the landscape will make you feel the lack of oxygen in the crisp cold air. The only way of substituting the lack of oxygen is water, H2O. Drink as much water as you can and keep yourself hydrated.
Seeing the rays glisten atop the snow peaks, we decided to make another round to Chandrataal, to witness the reflection bouncing off the clear lake. And, the effort was worth every breath.
If last evening was a peak of contentment the morning sun glow of the lake was like Driven Snow.
Now, who would want to bid adieu to serenity like this and return back to the anxiety of city life, but alas!
A chain reaction of lifelong association with the mountains
Time, we packed our belongings and headed back to the materialistic life.
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