Road trips are not to accomplish anything or set foot in some unexplored places, it is to push yourself through phases of life, explore within and being one with nature.
Hamirpur – Manali – Spiti Valley – Shimal – Hamirpur Ride : Day 2
It was around 5 in the evening when we reached Batal. Kaza is just 90 kms away and it shows hardly 2 hours ride on maps. We thought of the 50 kms ride from Gramphu to Batal which showed only 48 minutes on maps, but in reality took more than 5 hours to complete. The road was really harsh on us and all our enthusiasm went off by the time we reached Batal. It was no more a jolly ride, it was more to do with survival.
A long water crossing, the road is along this stream
Batal is a small settlement about 3800 meters above sea level with only 2 restaurants, few tents and a PWD rest house on the banks of Chandra river. The first shop here was opened by the famous couple Chacha and Chachi, who have been living here for more than 45 years now. They became famous after they helped a group of tourists from Bengal who got lost on the way to Spiti due to bad weather. This place provides a great relief to the riders traveling from Gramphu to stretch their backs before going to Kaza. And for the riders coming from Kaza a stop to relax before hitting the rough patch to Gramphu.
A small tea joint few kilometers before Batal where were relaxed from half an hour
The Chacha Chachi offers stay at 120 rupees per head for a bed, the nearby restaurant know as Kangri offers bed at 150 rupees which you can bargain. As Kangri is the first restaurant you see when you reach Batal from Manali, we crashed in there, ordered hot tea. We sat outside relaxing, eating some biscuits along with the tea.
There were another group of 28 members traveling on 15 bikes from Manali. All college students from Delhi. A tall guy with long hair called Sunny from Manali was their group coordinator. There was also another guy from Manali whose name i forgot driving an Isuzu utility jeep along with the group, in case of any emergency.
Sunny is a well experienced rider and been taking teams to Spiti and Leh for quite a long time now. We passed each other a few times on the road and as we were chilling, they too crashed at the same place. The place was almost empty when we reached and all of a sudden a large group of 30 are here. It was total chaos. All the members screaming for hot maggi, rotis, tea and what not. We slowly stood up and walked towards the bridge and watched the beautiful Chandra river flowing beneath.
The Chandra river joins the Bagha river to form Chenab river which later forms the Indus river which reaches the sea through Pakistan. These rivers can be found in Vedas and even in Roman writings from the time of Alexander. Both the Chandra and Baga rivers originates from glaciers.
The famous Chandratal lake, or the moon Lake is only 15kms from Batal. It is one of the high altitude wet lands in India at an altitude of 4300 meters. There is a motorable road now. It is still a trekking destination. People trek to Chandratal lake with base camp as Batal. Tents and dabas are available close to the lake. The motorable road reaches 2 kms below the lake. The night sky view from the lake is magnificent with the Milky way visible throughout the night.
We stood watching the river for sometime and returned to the place. We were exhausted. It was around 6pm, and if we leave for Kaza, we may reach by 8 considering good road conditions. We really had no clue about what to do. We heard that the group is staying at Bata and will leave for Kaza in the morning. We joined along. Everyone in the group had food and hit the bed early, it was only 8 at night. We didn’t even order our dinner. It was cold and windy outside. So, we stayed inside the restaurant near the fire place.
There were only 5 of us, the cook, the guy who run the restaurant, Sunny, the driver, Athul and me. Sunny and the driver were having dinner and since we were the only guys left, they initiated a casual conversation. It was getting real cold and then Sunny took the Old Monk out. We were having some rotis and subji, Sunny and the driver considered us equals, and we were discussing all sorts of hardships along the road. We were only the age of college students they took from Delhi.
First view of Batal while coming from Manali
I felt so good when they open up to us like equals, talking about their adventures, and as a matter of fact we had few adventures of our own, which came in handy to share with them. They shared the Old Monk with us to beat the cold and we kept on talking till midnight.
The restaurants and tents in Batal
The next morning we woke up around 8. It was still windy and cold. The wind was disturbingly loud at the night time. There were also 4 guys from Kerala stuck in Batal, as the oil sump of their bike broke when they rode to Chandratal lake last day. They told us that the road was in real bad condition and it’s better not to take any risk. We were also not in a mood to explore more, we felt like stuck there in the mountains. So, we decided to skip the lake and ride towards Kaza, and hopefully reach there by noon.
Sunny and his team were not yet ready, so we didn’t wait for them. We had breakfast and left early.