Day 11: August 18, 2010, Wednesday

Chandra Tal to Sissu

Today was trek-day and we had slept off by 9:30 pm last night- so I was up bright and early at 5:45 am! While Bijoor san could escape up to the mountains to answer nature's call, I decided to jump in one of the potty-tents 'cos it was getting tougher to hold it all in! I survived! Very soon everyone was up too and we left quite early and hearing different accounts, finally took the route on the left of the mountain facing us. The climb started steep and gradually increased but we were mostly dying due to lack of oxygen! Even our resident fleet-foot KJo was struggling- considering he was wearing all the warm gear he thought he would need!

While Bijoor san, a experienced trekker, carried on walking, Dev was following him and never stopped it seemed. The rest of us kept stopping every 50 metres to catch our breath and our climb was slow, to say the least. We made it fun for us eventually by switching on music on my phone, taking funny pictures of each other and just trying to yell out to the two in the front- who were a few mountains away very soon! I believe that this is the way to trek- it was slow but more fun! Due to shortage of water (despite my repeated requests for everyone to stock up!) Kjo was trying to make do with stream water- water we didnt really feel was the cleanest- the rest tried to fight the thirst. Beni was doing much better though- his back pain did not seem to be there anymore and neither was the tingling in his calf- maybe the bad roads yesterday were good for his back! I was beginning to suspect alcohol to be his real tormentor- and his not having it for more than 24 hours must be doing his a lot of good!

At one point we thought that the lake was only a myth till we finally came across it- its water reflected the green all around it and it did not seem very deep either. We walked around it and caught up with Bijoor san and Dev (who was busy taking photos from on top of the rocks). We saw horses, sheep and dogs- one dog even came up to us and lay on Suku's feet! We started to walk back to our camp from the other side of the lake and passed a few private camps. It was interesting to see that fat middle-aged ladies had been able to trek all the way to the lake!!

Midway, we came across 'Govind's cafe', a small dhaba/restaurant stall with chairs- and decided to have breakfast there. Most of us piled on Maggi and Omlette sandwiches with a cold drink- however, Dev got a fungus covered bread so he had to do only with the egg! As we walked back, Beni decided to answer nature in between rocks by the river. I and Bijoor san got to the  camp first and started to pack up. I, Bijoor san, Beni and Suku lft first (at about noon) were ahead through the two water crossings till we lost Suku behind somewhere. We got to Batal and saw water and immediately stocked up and I gulped down a whole bottle right there! We waited for about 5 or 10 minutes- not seeing anyone behind, we decided to continue. Asking the shopkeeper about the roads ahead, he said that its all streams and more streams! Great!

The roads were the worst ever and it seemed like it was a dried out river bed because there were rocks all over the place- as if someone took the time to put them there! However, the views were gorgeous to compensate for the harrowing time we had on them! Just like the shopkeeper had told us, we encountered one stream after the other- so much that by the end of the 4th or 5th I lost count and stopped counting too! After the first few crossings, I and Beni decided to wait for the others- we had even managed to cross Bijoor san on a water crossing. The sun was beating down hard so I took advantage of that and took out my socks and shoes to dry them out- Beni did the same since water found its way inside his shoes too! Yes, the water crossings were maddening and getting deeper and longer. Bijoor san, concerned about his bike dying, carried on forward while we waited...for about half an hour! We left only Beni could see some specks in the mountains far away which we assumed were the other guys.

Drying shoes as we wait

Carrying on, we came across pink flowers, horses and even more horrible water crossings! The rocks at these crossings were getting bigger and rounder till we got to one crossing where some of the the rocks were bigger than footballs and very rounded. We had heard about these ones so we were sort of prepared. There was a driver of a Innova cab on the other side who had come up to it and seeing how he would drive over it while his  concerned passengers- a couple- looked on. I can only imagine their faces when they saw two bikes (me leading Beni) cross it without even thinking for too long! Again, I think we were just getting too used to the water crossings without getting too complacent though. This  crossing was followed by a road that was full of boulders and the bikes, without the weight of the saddlebags, jumped up and down and I had to use my legs and thighs to stay upright- we got out of it without a scratch thankfully! We also noticed the scenery was changing gradually.

At one point, I even ran into Beni's bike on a cliff who braked a second time very suddenly- I would have stopped but for the loose sand underneath- a truck was coming down the slope which had led to these events. My left index finger got a bit bruised under the nail but the glove had taken most of the force- it pained for a few miles but all was forgotten soon enough.

It seemed like we were chasing Bijoor san who seemed to have flown when he left us! We even skipped Chhatru where there seemed to be a number of restaurants on the road- mainly because we wanted to cross all the water crossings before Gramphoo before they got worse. We soon came upon green mountains again and the biggest water crossings of the trip! The rocks were huge but not rounded- they were sometimes sharp and jutting out of the bed- hit the underbellies of my and Beni's bike- at the first major one, close to Gramphoo, we saw Bijoor san around the bend. But we stopped to dry off our shoes- I even left my socks to signal the others that we had been there! I put on new socks- however, they got wet at the next crossing just two bends later! We however made it to roads that had tar and stone on it and boy were we glad. The views were superb and seeing green mountains was... refreshing! More horses, more flowers, more trees. We finally came up to the fork where one road goes to Rohtang and the other goes to Keylong. We saw Bijoor san sitting in a dhaba just at that  crossing and we joined him.

The first major crossing enroute to Gramphoo

Also at the dhaba were a group of foreigners riding enfields as part of some tour from Manali- they were traveling with a mechanic too and we shared tales of the roads ahead of each other- while we made them wait to cross to Kaza till tomorrow, they warned us of mud at Rohtang. I had a huge lunch of, yes, rice and dal and aloo matar! We even saw the British kids get off a bus to hop to another one that would come later. It was about 4pm when we got there while the others reached at only about 5-5:15!! Suku had apparently got a flat and it had been fixed with the Gulf tire sealant that Kjo was carrying and they had also stopped at Chhatru for lunch.

Taking the advice of a local, we went to the village of Sissu, finding no decent accommodation at Khoksar, the nearest village to Gramphoo. Riding to the next village of Sissu was absolutely wonderful- wide sweeping metalled roads- with no saddle bags I was tempted to put my knee down but the backpack made sure that I wasnt carried away much. We made it to Sissu in good time and even found a "home stay" at a Mr Ram Lal (correct me guys, if I am wrong). Dev and Kjo decided to move next door as they did not like their room. We all met for dinner though and finally sat in the cab to find a hotel. After a bit of back and forth, we finally ate at a small dhaba where the people made us rice and dal and even omlettes. The others (excluding KJo) had some Royal Stag and I was betting that Beni's pain would come back tomorrow!

We face the last major hurdle in the Rohtang tomorrow- and considering that we always think that the worst is over, it gets more interesting the next day. So we can only expect the unexpected tomorrow!

Total distance covered=  73 kms approx. + 6 kms approx on foot!
Total cost= Rs 550
[Breakfast= 100 + Water= 60 + Lunch=  100 + Dinner= 90 + Stay= 200 ]

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