The most enjoyable day I have spent on earth is of mixed ecstasy of deadly fright
and unimaginable joy.
07 Oct 2011
Didn’t know at the start of the day that the above statement would hold true on a day that now has a special place in my heart. October, the 7th, I now had entered into the 7th day of my journey, still out of contact with rest of the world and the last day in the barren lands before entering to the chaos of Manali in the evening…..
It was again a early day for me as I woke up around 6.00 a.m. after spending a very cold and uncomfortable night. As i got out of the tent, to my surprise the weather had all cleared up and I was greeted to a magnificent sight of the sun rays lighting up the icy peaks giving them a golden hue. By that time Dorjee and his wife were also up and were busy cleaning the tent. I on the other hand was still unsure of going to the lake but then as Dorjee and his wife said – ” People from far off places specially come here to see Chandratal and now you have come all this way. You should go there and see. The weather looks fine, so hurry up as it would take a maximum of 3-4 hours for the visit and then you can come back here, do the breakfast and move towards Rohtang Pass and then Manali.” I guess the plan was all chalked out for me, so without causing any further delay, I woke my bike up from the sleep and made my way up to Chandratal.
I was driving all alone on that narrow path. The pace was very slow because of the rocky and the uneven track. The space was just enough for only one car to pass through. And depending on the time of the year, would make a great difference to the condition of the path. As every now and then i could see the rocks fallen in the middle of the track and the water streams running across. By 7.45 a.m i had reached the parking area of the lake as I was greeted by the board. I looked around but there were no signs of the lake. I parked my bike there and started walking on what appeared to be the track and I noticed the tyre marks going further up. So, I started my bike again and moved ahead. After 2-3 kms, I reached of what appeared to be another parking spot as the way ahead was blocked by the small wall like structure. So, I parked the bike there and began walking.
Oh! What a morning it was. Me and the mountains, it was as simple as that. I could see the fresh snow on the ground, the mountains from the last night though in a very small amount. Everything was so crystal clear and so serene and calm. I knew that there was not even a single soul around except me. Reaching early in the morning has its benefit after all. It was a beautiful 1-1.5 km walk that finally took me to an altitude of 14, 079 feet on the Samudra Tapu plateau and also the home of Chandratal (The Moon Lake)…..
My joy had no bounds. Yes! I made it. I stood there for some time, soaking in the views, getting in terms with what I was seeing and what I was feeling. The sun peeking through the clouds giving the mountains the shades of pink, brown, red, black, yellow and an emerald green to the crystal clear lake.
Tip: The lake is accessible from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass from late May to early October. The motor-able road from Batal is 14 km away from Chandratal and then a trek of 1 – 1.5 km. The road from Kunzum Pass is accessible only on foot, and it is about 8 km from Chandratal. Camping on the side of the lake is allowed.
At peace, I made my way back to the parking area and left. And as every thing was going well and I was 1-2 km away from batal, my bike slipped. It was a momentary lapse in my concentration as I looked up to see the bridge just before the tents in batal and knew that I was not far away. Going downhill, in the middle of the narrow road the mud puddle did the trick and i went down. I fell on my right side on the edge of the road, few inches more and I would have rolled over all the way down in the river. I could feel the weight of the bike on my legs and the bag which I kept on the fuel tank with my camera and everything somehow survived as well. I slowly took my legs out, got up and walked a bit. Ah! I was hurt in the knee area. And now the task was to pick the bike up on the slope standing on the loose surface. It was indeed heavy, very heavy and i could feel every muscle in my body working to pick it up. Somehow I managed and after a while I started again and reached Batal at 10.30 a.m. I took some rest, had the breakfast and then examined the bike and the bag. Everything seemed fine and then Dorjee came out and told me to hurry up and move ahead as the roads were in very bad condition and the weather was highly unpredictable.
As told, and as I later found out, the roads were in very bad condition. Much worse than what i had encountered till now. Water streams or the road, sometimes i couldn’t tell the difference and above all the weather was getting worse. It took me an hour to cover 15 km from batal to reach chota dhara and another hour to reach Chattru, 15 km approx from chota dhara. While I was closing in on chattru, I experienced the first snowfall of my life. Yes! The weather had gone all bad and it started snowing though very light in intensity but it gave me a scare. It was freezing out there and I thought of making it to chattru as quickly as possible to get a shelter in the tents. So, I increased the speed of the bike by 15-20 kmph and the next thing I knew was the rear tyre of the bike tilted a great deal, just short of falling down again but because of the speed of the bike, I somehow managed to stay put and didn’t fell down and kept on moving. By 12.30 p.m. I reached Chattru and went inside in one of the tents. There were already people sitting in as the driver’s of the sumo taxis were having lunch. I thought of spending the night in chattru but when I talked to the drivers, they told me to go till Gramphoo, 19 km from chattru and the place from where the ascent to Rohtang Pass starts. The snowfall had also stopped and I took there advise and moved ahead to gramphoo. The way though dirt track was better in comparison of what I encountered before and began cursing on 20-30 kmph and the aim was to reach gramphoo and then decide. On the way I saw a biker coming from the opposite side, I signaled him to stop and upon asking he told me that he had crossed Rohtang sometime back and it was not snowing. Cross it quickly, before anything else happens, he said. His words gave me some confidence and I decided not to wait in gramphoo and cross Rohtang as soon as possible.
I reached Gramphoo and began the ascent to Rohtang Pass. The weather had gone bad here as well, I could see the clouds covering the mountains and the visibility was dropping considerably. And as I was nearing Rohtang Pass, it started snowing. Never in my life, I had seen fresh snow and here I was on the Rohtang Pass driving ad-mist snowfall. Wonder how things work out. Just before the Rohtang Pass the condition of the road was very good. It seemed to me that it was laid just a few days back and as it started snowing, I increased the speed of the bike and when I was on the top crossing the pass, I looked at the speedometer and the speed of the bike was was 60 kmph at the top in the snowfall. As i reached on the other side after crossing rohtang, I got stuck in a traffic jam. Yes! A truck got stuck in the middle of the road and now the cars were all lined up against each other. Now i was standing there in the snowfall, the intensity of which was increasing by each passing minute and wondering of what to do next. My fingers had stopped moving, causing a lot of pain as they were now affected with frostnip, the early signs of frostbite and I was shivering uncontrollably and I then thought of abandoning my bike there and hitchhike with someone. But then again I was determined to make it on my own gave a try and somehow managed to squeeze out of the jam (bike benefits) and moved ahead. The road was in a pathetic condition with mud, slush and to top it all the numerous bends, cuts and the steepness. Every time while taking a bend I had to use my palm to press the clutch as the fingers were not moving, causing a lot of pain and using the legs constantly to balance the slipping bike constantly. Luckily, I covered those 19 km till Marhi safely. It was raining there and I decided not to stop as the intensity was low and the road was excellent. But soon after it started raining heavily, so I took a shelter in a roadside dhaba. As i got in I was shivering uncontrollably and upon seeing me the owner took me near the stove. As i sat down, he gave me some oil to rub on my fingers which i slowly did, placed them near the fire and had tea. I am alive!!! Everything got fine as I spent more and more time sitting near the fire. After spending some time as i went back to normal, I thanked the owner for his help and moved to Manali. I reached Manali by 7.30 p.m., now completely exhausted, checked in a hotel. The signal in my mobile was back and as soon as I got in the room, the mobile was ringing and on the other line was Deepika, scolding me at the top of her voice. As she calmed a bit, I told her that i had reached Manali and gave her a brief about the day that i had and there she went again. Then it took me some time to calm her a bit. And after that I checked some messages, mail and stuff and before i knew I was sleeping…..
End of Day 7 – Oct 7, 2011
Total Driving (Batal to Manali via Chandratal, Rohtang Pass) – 143 km
Start Time – 06.30 a.m, End Time – 08.00 p.m
08 Oct 2011
Needless to say, I woke up late, got ready and stepped out to eat. As I walked up to the Mall, my lungs started to reject the air I was breathing. After spending days in the pure, fresh air, I was coughing uncontrollably because of the polluted air in Manali. But I had to eat something before moving on and I was in a desperate need of a good coffee, so I searched in my mobile and straightaway went to the Johnson Cafe and had a hearty breakfast of Pancakes, Sandwich & Coffee. Once done I again went back to the hotel, packed my stuff and moved on with my journey and this time towards its end with some 560 km to go. The driving from Manali to Mohali was uneventful. The only thing that annoyed me was the stretch from Bilaspur to Kiratpur because of the movement of the trucks carrying cement and limestone from the nearby factories. So many trucks and its was so difficult to drive around them. And the situation only got better when I reached Kiratpur, driving now in the plains and on the wide, open 6 lane highway to Chandigarh/ Mohali.
The stop for the day was at my friend’s place in Mohali.
End of Day 8 – Oct 8, 2011
Total Driving (Manali to Mohali via Mandi, Swarghat, Kiratpur Sahib, Rupanagar and Kharar) – 287 km
Start Time – 12.00 p.m, End Time – 08.30 p.m
09 Oct 2011
And finally on 09/10/11, the 9th day of my trip I made my way back to Delhi…..
All thanks to my bike Avy which not even once gave me any sort of trouble during the entire trip and the puncture repair kit, spares that I carried came back the way I packed them. I on the other hand though tired was all relaxed, happy and at peace…..
End of Day 9 and the trip – Oct 9, 2011
Total Driving (Mohali to Noida via Chandigarh, Ambala, Panipat and Delhi) – 280 km
Start Time – 12.30 p.m, End Time – 06.00 p.m
In a nutshell –
Destinations – Kufri, Sangla, Chitkul, Kalpa, Tabo, Kaza, Dhankar Monastery, Ki Monastery, Kumzum La, Chandratal, Batal, Rohtang La, Manali…..
Duration – 9 Days (01-Oct-11 to 09-Oct-11)
Distance Traveled – 1751 km
Mode of transport – Avenger 220
Status – Completed…. :):):)
PS: During summers, if you wish to stay in batal while visiting Chandratal it is advisable to make an advance booking for getting a place to stay in the tent as its the peak season there and options are very limited. I have got the satellite phone number of the owner Mr. Dorjee. Interested can drop me a mail at email@example.com
**************************************** The End *****************************************