Hi, do you have a copy of Meeting the Mountains? The man at the counter gazed at me for a moment and then disappeared behind the book shelf. It was 11 in the morning when I had rushed to this bookstore called the Bookworm in Siyal, Manali. Since childhood, two things that I was the most passionate about were books and travel. This was one reason why I had journeyed all the way to Model Town to this Bookstore before leaving for my trek to Chandratal. It was a 5 days trek and I was a lot enthusiastic about it. Grabbing the book from this store I hurried to the guest house where I was supposed to join my fellow trekkers. I just managed to reach on time and scurried towards the tempo traveller with my backpack. All set?, the tour guide enquired, we all replied with our thumps up, a common hand gesture used to denote a yes.
Leaving Manali behind
Onlooking into the rare view mirror, I saw the hippie villages of Manali slowly fade away as we drove towards Jobra, our next stop. It was a 45 minutes’ drive through extremely captivating lush greenery that led us to the trail head. As we stepped downat Jobra,the thick forest brimming with pines, spruce, deodar, chestnut and maple trees, beckoned us to explore its vicinities. We furthered our journey by taking a walk through the enchanting landscape and ended up in a beautiful meadow inhibited by Gaddis. These nomadic herders had a small camp set up for themselves which served as a safe haven for them and their herd of sheep. Their life was more or less like us, we traveled across the mountains for solace and they journeyed in search of land where their sheep could graze.
Treading the trials to Chikha
Following the trails we walked further and came close to a gurgling river called the Jobra nala, which we were supposed to cross. As there was no sign of a bridge, we managed to make a human chain. I was filled with adventure and thrill as I walked against the flow of the river, taking precarious steps. Finally we all made it to the other side. I looked up and noticed that the sky had changed its color from a deep blue to light orange, the sun was about to set somewhere behind the mountains. We ascended a lovely green pasture and realized we were about to reach Chikha. There was a dramatic change in the scenery which was worth witnessing. Pastures changed to open grasslands and we hiked a gentle gradient for 2 hours and then halted to rest. I lay on the grass looking up to the ever changing sky and relaxed my tensed nerves. Once we had rested a little, we were asked to walk up a short distance to a nearby waterfall. Home to the white caped redstarts, we unpacked ourselves and got ready to set the tents for the night.
Hike to Balu ka Gheera
Next morning we woke up to the beauty of the wild and cool air brushing against our skin. We prepared ourselves for the day’s hike that would last for almost 3.5 to 4 hours. Balu-ka Gheera was the next spot that we had to land in. We filled our stomach with little food and rearranged our rucksacks. Each of us knew it is going to be a long day today. We immediately crossed the stream and started gaining height. We paced along the bubbling river and made our way forward. As the landscape kept changing rapidly, for a moment it felt like I was peeping through a pinhole camera. At first we came across boulders, which were soon replaced with meadows teeming with wild flowers. It was an adventure filled journey as we crossed a waterfall and a side river on the way to our campsite. After lots of walking and halting, we reached Balu ka Gheera which was just touching the snowline. I was totally mesmerized by the sight that unfurled in front of my eyes. We could see our camps set along a network of river channels surrounded with big mountains guarding it on all sides. The most spectacular view was that of the Hampta Pass, rising from the middle of the mountains like a bulbous giant. We relaxed in tents and slept there for the night.
Towards Hampta Pass
On the 3rd day of our Trek to Hampta Pass we started early. Around 5 o’clock in the morning we left from the camping base. It was a steep climb on scree slopes to reach a ridge and from there we continued climbing towards another ridge which led to the pass. It was a wild & wacky experience as we kept on ascending for around 4 to 5 hours. The time we reached the top, we realized that it was worth it. We were rewarded with absolutely out of the world views of Indrasan and Deotibba peaks. The ranges towards Lahaul also lookedabsolutely majestic. Taking out our cameras we clicked some of the most awe-striking views of the incredible snow cladmountains. After a brief photography sessions we had lunch. Regaining energy, we flipped over to the other side and started descending towards Shea Gahru, set beautifully amidst the mountains. We descended for 2 to 3 hours and then camped at the spot.
Morning when I woke up the place around me looked like a picture on a postcard. Everything seemed so perfect, the sky, the trees, the spectacular mountains and me. I was overtaken with enthusiasm the moment I realized that today I will get to witness the mesmerizing Chandratal. We started early around 5 am, the hike was completely downhill. The descent was tricky but we carefully managed to traverse the land as well as the river. Getting to the other side was amazing as witnessing the marvelous contrast of lush green Kullu and that of the desert of Spiti was mind blowing. We moved through a long scree and boulder section which overlooked the road leading to Spiti. We finished our trek at Chatru and from there we boarded a tempo traveller for Chandratal. It was about 2 to 2.5 hours’ drive.
Stunning as the Pangong Lake, Chandratal Lake emerged in the view as a sparkling veil spread across the foot of the mountains. The setting, the colors and the mountains in the backdrop were marvelous. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I stepped down the traveller and moved forward to catch a glimpse of this beautiful creation. The turquoise grey water running along the gigantic mountains was wildly scenic and thrilling. Being present in that spot was like discovering a different world so surreal. I sat on a boulder kept at a distance and watched the lake flow calmly. I lost myself to the beauty of the lake, the staggering views and to the blazing fields of wildflowers.
Special Thanks- I want to convey my special thanks to GIO Adventures, without them this amazing trip wouldn’t have been possible.
Trekking Tips, you must know!
Pace yourself and be positive- Being in the right frame of mind is the first and the foremost thing. High altitudes aren’t the right place to unleash your emotions. Bring yourself at peace before you head on for a trek. “Short steps, deep breaths” should be your trekking mantra.
Protect your gear- Don’t go for an expensive rucksack, pick a sturdy kitbag for your trekking gear. Kitbags are handy and can easily be replaced after constant contact with jagged rocks, thorn bushes, and can also be offloaded easily into dusty campsites.
Keep essentials at hand- Keep all your essentials not forgetting your water bottle, an umbrella, windcheater, a sunhat and a dry pair of socks. Do keep them handy.
Be courteous on the trail- Greet the locals by saying Salaam, Namaste or Julay while trekking the trails. Remember that the locals are always interested and keen in chit-chatting or sharing their experiences and knowing yours too.
Respect the environment- Avoid open fires, and do not litter the environs. Make sure that the campsite is clean and there is no garbage left behind.
First Aid-Last but not the least, don’t forget to carry your first aid box. This is extremely necessary in case of an emergency medical condition, that might arise.