Ranvir dropped us all on the Batal Chandratal Road all the way till the jeep would go. The road ended suddenly in an abyss which no jeep could bridge. We all got out and happily started walking. We had approximately 14 kilometers to walk before we reached Chandratal. I was the most suspect candidate in the entire group. I was walking without carrying any weight. Everyone else carried weight and were fit as well.
I started first as they were adjusting the loads to be carried. After walking for a short distance I met a group coming from the opposite direction. I asked them how did they find the trip! And they started, “they say it is 14 km but it is much more and there are waterfalls on the road, it rained all the time …” I said, “aab tou okhli mein sar de diya hai …” (I don’t know how to translate this one, I was trying to say now that I have committed I have to keep going, in spite of the difficulties, but the Hindi idiom is much more flavorful) and I kept on walking. One of the group members warned me there was a waterfall right around the corner and he was right. There were two waterfalls on the road in all when I trekked.
I stood for a while, admiring the waterfall but then I had to cross it on foot. Now I have nice waterproof trekking shoes but as I thought there was a road to Chandratal I did not carry them. How could I guess that the road would not be open? Anyway those shoes are also only ankle high and the water was certanily more than ankle deep. Staring at it and giggling served no purpose. Soon Ramakantji (our ace trekking guide) also came alongside and I asked him the question, to which he nodded yes.
The question was, “should I remove my shoes and wade in?” to which he said yes! Now there are some advantages and some disadvantages of this strategy. The advantage is that your shoes remain dry and you can wear them after crossing the stream. The disadvantage is that you put your bare feet in freezing water. If you try to run through because your feet are trying to kill you, it is almost certain that you would slip and fall and get soaked as well.
So, you have to take measured steps in that icy cold water and get through. I managed fine. Only for a few seconds afterwards I could barely feel my feet. But once I put my shoes and walked for a while, I was totally fine. If I waded with my shoes, I would have to live with wet shoes for the rest of the trek! This picture was taken while I was coming back from Chandratal but you still get the idea, how to cross the waterfall or nala the first time you encounter it!
In every trek there comes a time when you are happy. The scenery is fabulous, you are not too tired yet and everything seems to be in harmony in the world. While I was walking next to the Chandra River, I was in that happy mood.
I even asked a man how many sheep he had in his herd, to which he told me- 600. He could manage 600 sheep alone with the help of two sheep dogs! Thinking happy thoughts, I marched on.
That happy phase is followed by an urge to take a break, eat a few chocolates and drink some water/juice. You still feel invincible, only you are human, you need a little nourishment. I was given a boiled egg, a chocolate, a banana and a juice to drink. I refused an apple and I saved the chocolate for later. And then I started walking again. This is all you get for lunch by the way, because everything is packed and is walking on someone’s back!
I was still in the happy phase but I was also curious as to how long it would take me to reach the lake eventually. It was 11.00 am and I was walking since 8.15 am.
The way thankfully was not too steep, but after one more hour I was no longer in my happy phase. I now wanted to reach somewhere. Ramakant ji had told me that just before the lake there was a steep patch to be climbed. Along the way I found 3 fixed campsites, where you can rent a tent. We had our own tents though. Gradually I reached the incline as well. By then I had crossed two fixed campsites already.
After struggling through those steep patches I was truly tired. There have been treks where I have been completely broke and miserable when I finally reached the destination. Chandratal was not that bad, but it was almost there. When we reached the third campsite we were not far off from our own camping ground. We stopped for a cup of tea and some Maggi at the tea shop within this last camp- which is called the Jamaica’s Camp, don’t ask me why.
The stick figure you see in the picture is me, trudging along the final slope to my campsite. The campsite was by the stream that flows out of Chandratal. I knew I was almost there. The stream was downhill and while climbing down, I tried to step over a big rock, landed unevenly on my left ankle, twisted it mildly, grazed my left knee and fell. I sat down on a rock in rude shock.
No one saw me falling but my ego was still dented. The injury was not bad at all. After a few minutes, I was feeling alright. I silently went down to my tent and crawled in, it was almost 3.00 pm. I decided that I would go to the lake a little later.