At my Chandratal camp, we were assisted by a cheerful & talkative lad called Santu. It has been more than a year since I met him, & yet I have been unable to forget him. As he served us piping hot tea, he narrated his story.
Hailing from the nearby village, Santu was neither the schooling kinds nor was he keen to follow what his forefathers did. He dropped out of school after class 8 & moved to Goa to do odd jobs. Soon, his adventurous (& undoubtedly Himachali) spirit beckoned.
Santu took up camping & hiking. Through training & practice, he mastered both. Now, in the inhospitable terrain of Spiti, he leads groups on treks, & waits at the various camps. He was the youngest in his family; I am pretty sure he had his own parental & peer pressures to deal with.
Still, the boy followed his heart & is now doing something he enjoys, and something which helps him support his family too. Most importantly, something constructive!
My lesson no. 3 from Chandratal – This was the time the stone pelting had started to gain momentum in the Kashmir valley. I could not help but compare Santu to the misguided youth of the valley.
One the one hand was a boy who charted his own path while still in school, and was today making money legally. On the other were those kids who had been brainwashed so easily to put their lives in jeopardy.
Santu made me believe that our destiny is what we want it to be – either to be seen in a negative light by an entire nation or to be remembered as an inspiration by a girl sitting miles away.
Now the practical part – what to do near Chandratal?
- Well, the simplest option is to visit the Moon Lake. A day trip from Batal/ Losar/ Kaza is feasible.
- Do I recommend option 1? Not really. Camping at the Lake is far more fulfilling. If you prefer setting up your own tent, you can also hike your way to Chandratal from Batal (& pitch your tent wherever you feel tired!)
- The Baralacha La trek starts from Chandratal. So, if you are capable & willing to trek, go for it! Do remember – it’s not an easy one.
- For an absorbent soul like mine, the best way to spend time near the Lake is to soak in the sights & sounds, pay homage to the Indian Army and gape at the Chandrabhaga mountain range!
My trip extended beyond Chandratal to other parts of the Spiti Valley too, and each day brought in more learning, and yes, more memories. I humbly recommend to everyone – enjoy the journey too. Enjoy every moment, for you never know how your life may change!