Sunday, September 28, 2014

A visit to a plantation waterfall

30 August 2014

Few years ago I had to return back halfway without seeing this waterfall due to paucity of time. I was back again after several years. This time I was with my wife, daughter, my brother and my cousin Abhiram.

From the main road, a mud road goes down to the village. I was not sure whether the road was good enough for my car. Not inclined to take any risk. I parked the car next to the main road. My daughter, a leach hater had clearly told that she was not going to walk if she found any leach. To our luck there weren’t any; at least at the beginning of the walk. It was little surprising as the rains were pounding for the past few days.

Walking was easy as we were continuously going down the valley. After about a km we had almost reached the bottom of the valley which finally brought us to a house. The gentleman in the house informed us that we had reached the wrong place. We need to climb back a little distance and then take a deviation towards the next house.

I reached the next house to meet little unfriendly people. First they asked whether we were from the big city of “abcde”. When I said that we were from Sagar, they seemed little relieved though their faces were still tight. Then my wife and daughter appeared and the inmates of the house were convinced that we were decent people.

Rock (or a stone bridge!!) blocking the waterfall
But their unfriendly attitude continued. We were asked to pay money to reach the waterfall. Since the falls was in their plantation, we had no option. I had no problem in giving money but I did not like their attitude. Anyway, we continued walking down but now in the plantation.

After about 10 minutes we were near the waterfall. By now, the drizzling had turned into downpour. It was hard to find a place which provided nice view of the waterfalls. A big rock was blocking its view from the front. And we could not walk deeper into water due to strong currents. It was a nice waterfall though. While my daughter and my wife found a good place to sit and play with water, we wandered all around the place.

After coming back, I had a talk with the people in the house. They opened up a bit and talked freely. It seemed that they were fed up with the kind of people coming from nearby city. Broken beer bottles in their plantation supported their views.

We had climbed down nearly 700 feet and now we felt the heat while climbing up. Lot of encouraging words was required to push my daughter to climb up!! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When there was no “falls” in Jogfalls

August 2014

I have seen Jogfalls in its different forms and shape. Be it when the all of its four branches merged to a single block of water or when there was hardly any water trickling from it. Once I was the only visitor at the falls and another time I got into a massive traffic jam due to sudden influx of tourists!!

I got a chance to visit the falls this monsoon. The dam was not yet full but still considering good rains I was expecting huge crowds in Jogfalls. Contrary to my expectations, there were hardly few people in the area!! Good for us!!, I thought myself. But then there was no falls.

Empty seats!!

Fog had completely filled the area. From talks with locals, it seemed that the fog never lifted up that day. That was strange as it usually plays hide and seek with visitor but lifts off in few minutes.

Nothing to see

Local photographers at the falls had a bad day; else they used to be busy taking snaps of the tourists with falls in the background and earn their living. Not many tourists were happy taking snaps with just fog in the background!! Tourists who had come from farther places were disappointed a lot.

Authorities had blocked the way to the base of the falls. Just recently they had made nice steps to the base only to close it down. Some nut headed guy would have fallen in the water and everyone has to suffer because of his foolishness. It’s like cutting off the nose just because the man is suffering from cold. Government and its people thinking are quite crazy and funny.

Posing in front of the waterfalls
We then went to British Bungalow side. The building there was beautifully renovated but was locked. And access to the top of waterfalls was also closed. Two boring policemen were put to duty to make sure that no one ventures near water.

The fog showed some signs of lifting and “roarer” made a brief appearance on the scene. But that was it. The show was closed and it was total whiteout again.

My wife and Mother were not very happy with the visit. But I seemed to be pretty satisfied with the outcome. One does not get to experience such stuff often.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spiti diary: Chandratal Lake

14 August 2014

The weather which was good so far in our travel went bad. It was cloudy and ready to rain at any time. Rains in Himalayas are bad these days and we did not like it.

Chandratal Lake was our final destination in Spiti. From Kaza, we started back towards Manali, climbed Kunzum La and 3 km before Batal took the deviation to Chandratal. The road then passes next to Chandra River. The road was narrow though it was not steep. After travelling about 10 km, we saw the landscape widening out and tents appeared at the far end of the valley.

Road towards Chandratal
It seemed like a busy day in Chandratal and hence we first booked a tent. Before our travel, we had talked to a person who was famous in internet domain and had tents in Chandratal. But his tents were not seen at all. Apparently forest department had removed his tents for flouting the rules!! Anyway we had a tent to sleep now and had not paid money to internet guy. Nothing to worry!!

Chandratal lake
No one is allowed to stay at Chandratal. The tents I mentioned are all set up about 2 km before the lake. A good decision by the authorities, I would say.

Lake and cloudy day
We had a quick lunch and then set out to lake. Vehicles have to stop about a km before the lake. Remaining distance has to be covered by walk. Since we had to get down to the lake, the lake makes a dramatic appearance!! We were mesmerized.

First view of the lake
The lake was pristine and clear. Here I met Arun Bhat, an ardent traveler and blogger. I knew him from his blogs from long time but now I was seeing him face to face!! That was great!!

Clear water
We wanted to circle around lake but the weather turned bad during our walk. So, we returned back only to see clear sky again!! With weather turning good, I did something that I do not do often. Jump with joy and get a photograph of it.

We stayed at the lake till sunset and returned back to the tents. After dinner, we spent some time in star grazing. Slowly clouds started hovering around and we quickly got into out tents. It was followed by heavy rains.

We woke up next day with overcast conditions. Still we returned back to the lake to get lake photos with some nice reflections. The trip was coming to an end.

I had lot of questions before I planned the trip to Chandratal. I will try to answer a few of them.

Is it worth staying at Chandratal?
It depends on your interest. I felt it was a good idea as we could spend a lot of time in lake. The lake looks different in morning and evening. If we have travelled for thousands of km to see this lake, it makes no sense to hit and run.

Chandratal in morning
Where can we stay at Chandratal?
Staying next to lake is not permitted. We can either stay at tents 2 km before the lake. It costs about Rs 1000 – 1500 (with food). A cheaper option can be to stay in Dhaba at Batal. There is also a small dhaba near the tents but I do not know the price.

Is it good to stay in Chandratal during onward journey?
If you are travelling from Manali, it is not a good idea. Manali is at 7,000 feet and Chandratal at 14,200 feet is not good for acclimatization. Day trip is ok but not the stay. Even Batal is at a higher altitude for acclimatization. Few people in the tents had bad time as they suffered from AMS. They could not enjoy their trip. So, take it easy.

Any other things to do?

Trekking from Kunzum La to Chandratal Lake can be done in about 3-4 hours. Another popular trekking route is from Chandratal to Suraj Tal near Bharalacha Pass in Lahual. It takes about three days and involves serious stream crossings.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spiti diary: Sopona lake

13th August 2013

Sopona Lake was not in our list of “things to do” in Spiti. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of its name till then!! I happen to see a water body of significant size in google maps and was surprised to that very less information was available. Our driver Sumit recognized it and mentioned that he could take us to the place!! Great guy!! The plans were changed to fit this Lake in our schedule.

On Kaza-Tabo road, a small road deviates and crosses Spiti River to climb up the valley. Look at the Spiti River and the valley as we climb up.

Here is a wider view of the valley. The highway connecting Spiti and Tabo can be seen below.

Three km from main road is the village of Mane. The trek starts from this village. Villagers told that there is a clear path till the lake and would take about 3 hours to reach. We were in a dilemma whether to hire a guide or not but finally decided to walk on our own.

We were lost in the beginning of the trek itself. The labyrinth of streets in the village confused us. A woman then helped us to reach the correct trail. After the village, the trail continuously climbed the hill. After about 45 minutes, we had reached the top of the hill. The village and valley appeared much below us. Thanks to acclimatization, I was feeling much better and had fewer struggles in climbing.

Here was a deviation which confused us for a while. But considering the direction is the lake shown by the villagers we took the path going straight. A right turn here would have taken us back to the village in a different route!!

The climb was continuous though the trail widened at many places. Again, it was Krishna who was always ahead of me.

After about two hours of walking, we reached the lake. We had done it in a very good time. We had known that it was a periodical lake formed by the melting snow. It will be at its full during the start of summer and then gradually shrinks.

Some cows were grazing on the other side of the lake.

Some snow mountains nearby.

We walked along the banks of the lake to reach a waterfall coming out of it. It seemed very far and we gave up the effort.

Return was hard on our knees but few stretches while climbing down the hill gave us challenges. Due to landslides, the path had becomes very narrow and steep at some places. We had not felt it while going up. But now climbing down gave some anxious moments. But nevertheless we crossed it without much issue.

It was a satisfying day for us as we went to a place where 99% of the Spiti travellers do not visit. The place had also turned out to be great!!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Spiti diary: Dhankar Lake

12th August 2014

At Tabo, two Israeli girls joined us. They were heading to Dhankar and somehow they came to know that our destination and they decided to hitchhike.

Road towards Dhankar
A detour from Kaza-Tabo road takes to Dhankar village. At the end of the village is Dhankar monastery precariously perched on a hill overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Valley rivers.

Confluence of Spiti and Pin Valley river
It was late noon and we were hungry. We gulped down chow mein which was the only item that was available. After a quick visit to monastery, we directed our attention towards Dhankar Lake. That was the main reason for our Dhankar visit. We had made some theoretical calculations of sun direction near the lake and found that afternoon was the best time to take photos of the lake!!

Dhankar village
Locals mentioned that the lake was at the other side of the hill. It was hard to climb directly due to the steepness but walk a roundabout way to reach the lake. “An hour of walk should take you to the lake” was the words from local people. We promptly followed their direction started to climb up.

Near the lake
We gained altitude very soon and Dhankar and its monastery were way down below. The entire valley opened up as we climbed up. My speed was slower than usual. May be I was not acclimatized. For about 25 minutes we were walking completely away from the lake. That was to avoid the steep climb. Then the track turned towards the lake. After walking about 40 minutes, we reached a plain area and within few minutes Dhankar Lake was visible. We had made it in pretty good time!!

Almost near Dhankar lake. Krishna walking ahead
It is a small but pristine lake. A small gompa was constructed next to the Lake. The water was kind of greenish. Apart from a herdsman there was no one around the lake. And we spent good amount of time enjoying the beauty and taking snaps.

Dhankar lake

Dhankar lake photo taken from the top

Here is the snapshot of our trek. I tracked using my GPS device.