The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (CHANDRATAL)

The extra day at Kaza went in lazing around, chilling at the cafe and strolling on the streets. Very next morning we were headed to Chandratal. We did an advance booking for the tent at Chandratal. 
(It goes till 2 degree in the night there, this gave me shiver and I made sure I bought the hand woven socks and gloves. Yes even in the month of August).

It was a very smooth drive , crossed “Losar”, another village of interest for travelers, with a beautiful background. We halted in between to have Maggie. 
The deroute from the highway is where the difficult ride began. Most of the year this area is covered in heavy snow, thus there is no way the roads can stay intact. There were steep uphill where all the passengers except the driver ofcourse had to get off . 

And after  4hr of drive we reached the camp site, which are setup 2km before the lake.

There are options or Swiss tents but as we were on budget trip we went for basic ones. 7 tents and only one WC to share with no water supply. I avoided drinkint water so I don’t have to use the loo.

Wrapping myself in woollens and my walking shoes, I was ready to take the 2km trek from the campsite to the lake. There is also a partial motorable way but I chose the difficult but the adventurous path.

The initial climb was steep and I had to stop after every 10 min to catch a breath (also because the altitude made the oxygen level low). Not that I was in a very good shape.

We met two Shepherds with their herd , they were the only source of direction to us. Both of them said the same thing “go right don’t take the left”. 

After 2 hrs of trek I could see the calm blue water stretched amongst the red/brown dry mountains. It was a serene sight, I could have sat there the whole evening introspecting. 

But soon the Serenity changed to a tourist spot coz a herd of tourist flocked there clicking selfies. Such a spoiler. Human is the one who destroys nature and the day will come when nature will destroy human. 

And we headed back. I was sweating but still freezing, my body was confused. The gushing wind made it worse. We took the motorable way back. I was so exhausted, that’s when I heard some bikers going the same direction. It was offroading. But we took the risk and climbed on the bikes. My  co-rider was a girl riding a Royal Enfield. There came a turn with a descent and she got disbalanced and we were on the road with the bike on my left leg. But I managed to escape serious wounds and planned to walk down. 

On the camp the caretaker had cooked rice, dal and some vegetables. The wind was very strong and it was freezing outside. We sat in his kitchen tent near the cooking gas and ate our food.

In the night the temperature dropped and the wind stopped. I had one quilt below and 3 quilts over me. I was unable to decide is breathing important or staying warm.

Morning sky was clear blue and it snowed at one of the peaks. I had realised that these experiences are rare but camping at this height is not my cup of tea.

Soon we started towards Manali. The road was terrible because of the rains that  it took us 8hrs to cover a 120km distance.

But I was so relaxed to be back to Manali.

The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (NAKO-TABO)

I know I haven’t written for a while, I believe that’s how daily life consumes you. But trying to relive the memories, and completing the the unfinished. 
Chitkul was a short stay but worth the tiresome journey. I was lucky enough to see a ‘Kinnauri wedding’. It’s always a joy to experience different traditions.
Since the only bus of Chitkul was busy with wedding, my driver from the evening agreed to drop me back to Kharcham from, where I was supposed to board a bus to Nako.

Waited for almost an hour and I could not even hear distant honking noise of the bus.

*Folks do not travel to Lahaul and Spiti, after Chitkul without your own conveyance. You would be stranded for hours and hours.

I hitchhiked with 2 guys from Mumbai who were driving a ‘Zoomcar‘ going to the same destination. They were my saviours and who knew we would make such good travel buddies.

4 hrs of rides and the scenery transitioned from wet green landscape to dry brown high mountains.
I could not resist clicking the picture of the board ‘you are travelling on the world most treacherous road’.

I was confused should I admire the nature or fear it. We were climbing height intermittently.

It was evening and we were there at “the windy village of Nako“, from where everything looked antsize

Nako has multiple accommodation options, ranging from INR 500-2000. They are easily available. Namely there is no major attraction but whats there to do is to understand the lifestyle of Nako people, acclimatise to the weather,  admire the structure of the houses in the village, survival stories during winters. Moreover it’s a stopover for bikers and travelers on the way to Kaza.
Ohh I forgot to mention it is at an altitude of 11000 ft/3300 m and the only phone/network  connectivity is of Bsnl. I could complete only 6 hours of sleep. The altitude was still not very comfortable for me.

The only disappointment was that the route I thought to be raw and tucked away but it was full of bikers and backpackers. I would have loved more isolation. I guess I chose the wrong time.
It was time to move towards the main town of Spiti valley- Kaza. We had planned to visit Tabo & Dhankar monastery on the way.

I was backpacking and taxis there ask for redundant amount of money for short distance, God bless the Mumbain friends.  I tagged along.

TABO

I would have loved staying overnight however couldn’t , shortage of time. But visited “the Tabo Monastery ” estb in 996. There is no light in areas where ancient artwork is done. One can use phone lights to have a glimpse of these exclusive paintings.  What I figured out was there was a lot of Egyptian art influence in the paintings.
Post the heritage walk we had a sumptuous lunch.
And we hit the road again.
DHANKAR GOMPA

This was built in a form of fortress. One can only wonder how was Dhankar Gompa created on these anthill structured mountains .

My traveler freinds were supposed to go to  Pin valley,  they were very kind to find me another ride to Kaza from the point where they took a deroute to Pin valley. The vehicle I boarded came out to be BRO (Border Roads organisation). The officer was very warm, he welcomed me to Kaza, arranged for evening tea in his office  and also made sure that his subordinate dropped me of to the hostel I booked in.It’s hard to  find such people in Metro cities.

The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (NARKANDA- CHITKUL)

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After 3 months of no travel, finally the day came when I could get on with my wishlisted trip of lahaul  and spiti circuit.
Left on the Friday evening,  took a volvo till shimla. Our badluck, it rained on Friday in delhi, so the consiquence was a major jam, which caused delay.

At 10am the volvo dropped us at the outskirts of shimla, and since I had backpacked to this place before , so knew taxi was an expensive option, instead we boarded the intracity bus and got dropped ahead of old bus stand. From there the lift to the mall road was a walkable distance. Suprisingly there wasn’t the amount of crowd I expected to be on a weekend. We quickly freshend up and had our lunch. Post that we walked through the market downhill towards the bus stop, through the long canal, amidst locals, with an 8kg backpack and on the top, it was rainning !  We had to board a bus to Narkanda , luckily got into one which was just about to leave, it was packed, no seats were available.  We had been travelling for almost 18 hrs by then, needed a seat badly , we did get it but after 2hrs of standing in a Zig Zag ride and swaying at every turn. Body and eyes were shouting for a warm bath and a comfy bed.

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After 3 hrs 30 min we were at Narkanda which has 3-4 roadside motels, exorbitantly priced. Got into one, paid 1600 per room after negotiation.

Next day was a long one, we targeted 8 am to catch a bus to ‘karcham’ . Unlike Shimla bus stand we had to wait for 1 hr for the bus. The bus journey was beautiful. The landscape became more scenic as we headed from district Shimla to kinnaur.

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But through out the way it was rainning,  which made the route, all the more riskier.

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Day 2- Travel time to reach destination (CHITKUL) was 8 hrs.
Reached karcham after 6 hrs, it is just a name on the map, you cannot  find even a chai or a cigarette shack there. Thank God we immediately got a bus to Sangla. It’s a detour of 18km from NH22 and has a very limited bus service.

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A 1.5 hr of roller coaster ride on the narrow, twisty and deconstructed  road literally got our hearts in our mouth. The Baspa river gushing on one side. On reaching we took a sigh of relief, ate some “assorted  veg Pakora and teas” to calm us. It was cold, we had to take our quilt jackets out.  Now was the delima , since it was already 5pm and we planned to reach Chitkul which is 1.5hrs further, the same day. But sangla was not a beauty and we didn’t want to waste our day. There is only one bus which is owned by the resident of sangla, so it moves as per the situation of the village. If there is a wedding the bus will go in the baraat, and will leave the travellers to figure out their own mode of transport.

Alas we got a cab, on negotiation we brought him to Rs1000 for just dropping us 24km further to sangla. In delhi ncr I ride an uber for 30 km in just Rs400, so this came as a shocker.

Good that we went to chitkul because it was worth a night stay.

Chilling breeze
3 small restaurants
Accommodation ranging  between INR 400-4000
Tibetan dogs as size of me.
A beautiful temple.
Travelers to share experiences.

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