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Chandratal: The crescent shaped jewel of Spiti valley


It was the last day of the trek and we had a pretty sharp descent to our final base camp at Chatru, a small green village in the otherwise barren Spiti valley. We reached by noon and I was pretty burnt out. There was a last bit where we had to cross a patch of old snow which had a sharp fall to a fast flowing river and I needed the help of our guide to cross it. As I was crossing this rather treacherous patch, the mules were on their way and mules never stop when they are on a run, so I had only moments to move out of their path, even as the guide tactfully guided me to safety.

Once we reached the camp, we quickly had lunch and were soon in a ramshackle Sumo towards Chandratal lake. The journey would take us a few hours. The road was pretty bad, non-existent at points and I sat at the back and experienced what was a very bumpy ride, my head hitting the car roof often and the entire bit not helped by the fact that my limbs were aching anyway.

But slowly the scene changed and though the road conditions did not improve, we found ourselves in a landscape that was vastly different from what you will see at lower altitudes. I had been in such a landscape when I was in Ladakh visiting high altitude passes and the Pangong Lake and also when I had visited Gurudongmar lake in North Sikkim.

The cold desert: Such a landscape, is not pretty in the sense you would call a place pretty. It is vast, vaster than what one can possibly imagine, large stretches of barren land with little or no vegetation, strewn with rocks , a scene straight out of some post-modern apocalypse, but still eerily beautiful. In our case there was a river, gushing and angry, at a sheer drop, accompanying us all along and we could hear its roar over and above the mechanical sounds of car bumping on the road. This is not the kind of mountains you drew as a kid or what you would find in a painting, a kind that was beautiful in its barrenness.

The crescent-shaped lake:  After the gruelling ride we reached our destination. The cars stopped at a place from which the lake was a gentle climb about a few hundred meters away. The walk was full of anticipation, as the lake lay beyond a couple of slopes and was not visible till you climbed up over a hump and then stopped in admiration. What lay at the end of a short descent was a lake, its blue waters hemmed by mountains, like a jewel placed bang in the middle of  a barren landscape, something you would not have believed could exist there if you were not actually seeing it.

We took loads of pictures, posed in different ways, shot videos and selfies. But somehow I wanted to be away from it all. I moved out of the crowd and chatter, sat on the edge of the lake, as the gentle waves lapped at my feet, a feeling of calmness and serenity unparalleled by no other. I could sit there for hours, doing nothing soaking in the tranquillity, feeling the gentle breeze,  unwinding , deleting all the cobwebs that months of city life form in your brain , just letting things be, musing, dreaming, in a state where I felt at peace with myself and with nature. Think of it as a mental spa, which cleanses your mind, so that you can come back and deal with life once again, fresh and full of energy.

It is kind of funny but in such moments your beloved comes to your mind and you can almost imagine her sitting next to you, holding your hand and sharing the beautiful moment even as she is in a bustling metropolis more than 2,000 kms away.  And you make a mental note of coming back there with her soon.

The journey back was also memorable because our vehicle decided to almost skid off the road and perch itself on the edge of the gorge, the front wheels twisting like a badly broken limb.  The fall down to the riverbed below could be fatal and even if we survived, it would have been pretty painful because we would have been a twisted mass of limbs trapped in a car, with help not anywhere near.  But we survived and waited in the cold as it took almost a couple of hours for the car to get fixed and when we reached Chatru around midnight , the dinner tasted really good as we were starving and then we crashed into our tents, tired but happy.







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