When screen times and suffusion of digital interactions were not on top of the mind, holidays were made of leafy trails and bright sunny skies. On a recent trip to Uttarakhand, my mind went into a nostalgic loop of memories - muddy hands digging through dirt, climbing trees in hot summer afternoons and endless hours of playing hide and seek with siblings and friends. I was heading to the lower Himalayan region for an outdoor boost and had planned to visit Chopta and Jayalgarh. Even though it was a solo trip as a guest of Great Indian Outdoors, I could already re-live the times that had spent with cousins, neighbours and friends during school. Just rolling down the window of the car and letting the wind rush through my hair, was ample to transport me to the old carefree times.
“Oh, you are going to Auli? You will love it. It’s stunning.” I heard this effusive statement so many times prior to my trip that I was already looking forward to visiting this paradise, weeks before I set out. The only hitch was that people were recommending the hill-station for a wintery rendezvous. And here I was, visiting at the end of winters. Given that it’s a much celebrated mountain destination, I knew that it couldn’t be bad, skiing or no skiing.
Summer holidays in the hills with my family was a staple while growing up. The two months off from school would mean a bus to the apple-orchard covered hills of Shimla, walking the mall in Mussoorie and the, then cooler riverside locations off Rishikesh. It cemented a long gestating love for the mountains and adventure holidays. Of course, when I was younger, adventure lay only in hikes and long walks. Till date, I try and opt for the less sedate trips to be in touch with the outdoors. So when I got a chance to experience rafting in the lower Himalayas, it seemed like an excellent way to detox from the city and re-live the feeling of summer holidays.
Have you ever seen a place that made you feel as if you’re a part of a picture postcard? I did when I crossed the Hampta pass and visited Chandra Taal.
If Hindi is not your first language, then let me tell you that the name Chandta Taal means “Moon Lake”, and it is so because the lake is crescent shaped. It is located in the barren Spiti part of Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Some call it “poor man’s Ladakh”, but I call it surreal, because this part of Himachal is like no other. It is barren, yet cold; strange, yet beautiful and most of all has an air of mystery.