Stark difference in landscape on the two sides of Hampta pass left us utterly astonished and amused. It was as if we were jumping from one heaven to another, albeit of all different hues and colours. On one side, which we had just climbed through, was all dense green, all humid, all waterfalls, and on the other side, welcoming us was the rocky and barren land, dark clouds, and snow peaks in distance. Such was the magic of Hampta Pass Crossover moment!!
The thought of the this trek crossed our( my wife & me ) mind, when we were thinking of making best use of 15th Aug long weekend, and Hampta came out to be one of the best monsoon treks. We decided that we would celebrate India’s Freedom @14100 feet J. An overnight bus to Manali, exchange of greetings with trek Leader, and other trekkers, and 1 hour drive to Jobra, and we were all set to start the day 1 trek. Initial half an hour trail is full of pine and deodar trees. The land here is mucky, which makes walking little bit difficult. Then the sight suddenly changes into open meadows with 360 degree view of virgin green and a beautiful diamond white think stream of water running towards you from far away from a slant. This is the first of the many instances when you fall in love with the nature on this trek. Later, the locals told that this stream is known as Rani Nalla.
Next 1.5 hour trek is an easy walk alongside the river, and then you reach the campsite for day 1 at Chika, just besides the gushing stream of white water. Some of us also helped in putting up the tents, before savouring tea and delicious Pakoras. This is also the time when all trekkers got acquainted with each other. It started raining, and it gave us a reason to move to our tents and rest for a while. When the rain stopped, many of us spent time sitting on the rocks besides the river -- the river flowed at decent pace, producing beautiful musical sounds, and kind of creating harmony with the stillness all around. Isn’t it one of those dream evenings? Dinner was served at 7:30. We bunkered into our tents again for a good night sleep, however the raindrops kept knocking on the walls of tent for couple of hours.
Next morning, after breakfast, we traversed some of the way back alongside Rani River before we crossed a hanging wooden bridge to move to other side. It was an easy to moderate climb today, full of waterfalls, monsoon flowers, boulders, and bees humming into your ears in between -- one of the great things about trekking towards end of monsoon is that almost all of the snow on the top has already been melted, which makes the waterfalls wider and musical. Today was also the day where we came across a number of narrow bridges, crossing which is quite an experience.
It kept on raining on and off throughout the day, and so we got a chance to use our rain coats today. Another highlight of the day was the river crossing, which was a first time for us. It was thigh-deep gushing stream of water, coming down from steep slopes and flowing straight into the abyss. We tied our shoes to our necks, bags etc., held our hands together to create a chain, and crossed the chilled stream of water somehow -- a couple of us lost balance while crossing the stream but others helped picking them up. It was one hell of an experience.
After 4-5 hours of trek, we reached Balu(sand) Ka Gera campsite, which is huge, and with plenty of water around. Just as we completed our lunch, it started raining very heavily. Most of took shelter in a big warm tent-shop which was already there at the campsite. Before it got dark, we spent 3 hours there in the tent, chatting with all the trek members, cracking jokes, pulling each other’s’ legs, eating biscuits, and singing songs. Once the rain stopped, it was clear sky with nearly full moon, and wind flowing at full force.
Third day was the summit day, and more challenging than the previous 2 days, as the gradient was more, wind was colder, and path full of boulders. However, waterfalls and water streams were abundant today as well. After a steep climb of about 4-5 hours, few breaks in between, and having our packed lunch on way, we managed to reach the topmost point the Trek - Hampta Pass. It was 15th Aug today @). This is a narrow pass at 4300 meters which takes you from Kullu Valley to Lahul Valley. We spent half an hour at pass, clicking photographs with the Indian Flag with us. It was all a feeling of ecstasy at its least.
From here, we had to make a descent towards Spiti land. The view to this side was raw at its best -- full of rocks, dark clouds, snow peaks in distance, and barren flat land visible miles away. We climbed down fast, and trekked for 2.5 hours before we reached at the Campsite of Sheagoru -- this was the most beautiful campsite among all. Just besides the river, very open and large landscape with no trees in view, giant peaks in all around in all directions, and some specific flowers particular to this barren land.
Next day was last trek day, and it started with crossing another river, much wider but less deeper than the previous one. River crossing is much more exciting than it actually looks from outside.
Then, we kept climbing down for about 4-5 hours -- mostly barren. Today was the day of taking a glimpse of the beauty of Spiti -- vast landscapes, with tiny serpent water streams in between. This much of vastness gives you a zero feeling, if you know what I mean. It makes you feel very tiny and insignificant, and yet it makes you feel that there is a reason you are here, it gives answer to the questions that you never asked, and you come out feeling more grateful, more knowledgeable, with more self-worth.
We reached Chattru campsite at 13:30, and from there we drove towards Chandratal lake - one of the high points of Spiti. This drive was one of the most beautiful drives I had ever had - all alongside the Chandra River, distant snow peaks and giant mountains all around, rocky and dusty land, clear blue sky, bright shining Sun. We stopped at Batal for a late lunch -- a very hospitable couple runs this famous Chandra Dhaba here. We had very delicious Kadhi Chawal with homemade spicy chutteny.
It was another 1 hour drive from there, and then a 20-25 minutes’ walk, before we could reach Chandratal. As we reached at this high altitude alpine lake, we could not stop gasping wide in amazement at the sheer beauty of her. Almighty would have come down here some thousands of years back and carved this moon shaped lake and filled it with this holy water. On three sides, this blue water lake is setup on the backdrop of barren mountains, and from the fourth side, a rocky bed kisses its crystal clear water. We sat there for some time trying to absorb in the beauty, then took a walk around this lake -- these were the moments of clarity, of numbness, and of the happiness. Himalayas are an addiction, they change you, and you come back wanting a little more of them every time.