After walking for 14 kilometers or so, I was happy to crawl into my tent which others had kindly pitched. Dilip and I were sharing the tent. What I didn’t like though, was the rain. It had been falling incessantly since we started trekking. Only rain in Spiti means light tip tip drops. You will not get really wet but it can be mighty annoying. It is also annoying because the clouds cover all the view. I mean here I was so close to Chandratal Lake and yet I was not running down to it because of the weather! I told Vishal, “Chandratal is a myth!”
After walking for such a long time, I didn’t take much time to doze off. I was snug in my sleeping bag, I was out of the rain and wind and I was so tired. Thankfully my ankle and knee were not giving any major trouble after the fall. I woke up only when Ramakant ji gave us some tea in the tent! I was even more annoyed that the rain was still falling without a break. After the tea, I managed to doze off once again.
This time I woke up when it was trying to get dark. Vishal gave us soup and pop corns to eat. They were the best pop corns I ever had. Dilip and I were on a cribbing spree about the weather. I mean here I was after walking 14 kilometers, only to get cooped in my tent and listen to rain, rain and some more rain! I was telling Dilip that I spent more time looking at the roof of the tent that I did at the Chandratal Lake!
Before the pop corns arrived I was also telling Dilip that the only thing that remained now was to spill over the small quantity of tea left at the bottom of the glasses inside the tent. He offered to take the glasses out, stumbled near the outer flap of the tent but thankfully spilled the leftover tea on the grass. He is 6 foot plus and then it was his turn to cribb out the height of the tent. I agreed it felt like murgi ka darba (hen’s coop) with nowhere to run and the only place to hide from the rains.
Darkness fell and the weather was such that no one went to the lake. Sometime later we had dinner and turned in for the night. I was hoping for better weather in the morning.
The next morning was not too great weather wise. It was a short walk to the lake after I finished drinking a cup of tea. But even in that cloudy grey weather Chandratal looked majestic. I really truly want to go back the next year later in the season, I would be praying for clear skies! As I said, I spent more time inside the tent than by the lake but even then it was worth walking all those kilometers. I would do it again without thinking twice, if the road is closed.
I feel truly blessed to be able to walk up to the lake and a glimpse of it. I visited Spiti in 2007 but I could not go to the Chandratal Lake then. I went back to the region after 7 long years. It would be 10 years since I have not been to Ladakh. I have to set the other count right and soon! And I hope I would never wait for another 7 years to go back to Spiti. Being back in the plains gives me low altitude sickness.
White Rann Camp was my most expensive hotel in my entire Gujarat trip. It was a tented accommodation close to the Great Rann of Kutch, it cost me 6,500 rupees (roughly 100 dollars). I do not usually stay in 100 dollar accommodations. And if I pay 100 dollars I expect a lot. At the first look I was not too impressed with the place mainly because of various stains I could find of the quilts, tent and in the dining area. It was not excessive but I thought places that charge 6500 rupees should be clean.
The tent was big and spacious. I think it is meant to be used on a sharing basis as it had three beds. I was all alone in it. It also had a blower. I seriously underestimated the cold this time when I packed for Kutch. It used to get quite chilly in the evenings, so I really needed that blower. There was a rack to keep the luggage comfortably and they provided two mineral water bottles per tent. If the quilts were minus a few dirty patches I would have liked the it much more. The outdoor green carpet in the common area tried to keep the dust down as best as it could.
The bathroom was clean and functional. I would not expect too much fancyness anyway in such a remote location. But the toiletries for the money charged felt very basic. The hot water was available only at certain hours. Once again in a remote location, I was fine with it.
Their food however was very good. They served Gujarati dishes like Kadhi, Kichdi etc. I had lunch, dinner and morning breakfast there and every meal was good. Meals were included in the price. Once again they would have got much higher marks if the table clothes in the dining hall were clean.
But in the end what tilted my opinion in their favor was there serving staff. They were two young lads from Darjeeling (originally Nepal) and they took such good care of me at every meal that I was quite willing to forgive various stains that I saw in a few places places. After all what are a few stains in the larger scheme of things?
If I had to do this trip again I might stay at Bhuj rather than closer to the Rann. The 80 km distance is quite short for the good roads that they have there. That way with the money I saved, I could have shopped more. I think they had some sort of an arrangement (arrangement in the Indian way) for cultural events. But I was content after spending my time at the Rann seeing the sunset and moon rise!
Hail Himalayas is a phrase that any mountain lover will identify with. But it is also an adventure camp near Shimla. I spent the last weekend of 2013 with them (on invitation) and I had a great time. On the Chail road as soon as we took the detour to nowhere I knew it was going to be a great trip. They have tented huts at the adventure camp.
Now you may ask me if I froze to death in December near Shilma? No, I did not, because my tent had a blower, the bathroom had hot water and there was a tea maker in the room as well. What more one could ask for? Have a look at the video that I made of Hail Himalayas.
It was a trip where I went to see sunrise, did a small trek and enjoyed the bonfire, because it was really cold. This was also the trip when I got blue skies in the mountains, finally in 2013. The starry nights were amazing too. Now that I am back in favor with the mountain gods, I hope the luck will continue in 2014 as well.
I so like the places which are away from the civilization. I can also do without many comforts. For example when I trek in Nepal, I manage with cold water. For me it is a luxury to have a tea house to stay at and not in dome tents that we would pitch ourselves. I know not everyone is willing to go to great lengths and yet many may yearn for the wilderness experience. In that case Hail Himalayas is a perfect choice. Here you may rough it out during the day but you get back to a tent with attached bathroom and hot water. The room has a comfortable double bed. I would say if you wish to test waters about trekking, do a day trek with them. If you like it, you may try a more adventurous trek later. They offer other activities like rappelling, valley crossing etc within the camp.
As I just arrived yesterday night and then straight went to work, the detailed posts will follow. In the meanwhile enjoy the video.