Back on Earth: We leave Spiti and head back towards Manali
Learning from our past mistakes, we got off to an early start at 6:00 AM from Kaza. We planned to travel from Kaza back to Solang, a little hamlet just north of Manali. Manali has become a major tourist attraction and the commercialism of the place deterred us. Solang was peaceful, quiet, less commercialized and thus a great alternative to Manali.
We had breakfast at Losar. When coming, we had reached Losar in the late evening, when we were not in any great shape. This time, we looked around and observed the village. There was some farming around. A rare sight was a few cows and couple of dogs. The cows and dogs were furry like bears.
On our way further, this time we halted at Kunzam Pass. While coming, I was disappointed by Kunzam because I could hardly see anything clearly in the dim light from the moving jeep, while enduring the effects of altitude. Now, Kunzam was a different experience altogether. It was noon, and we were fine. As soon as we stepped out of the jeep, I was fascinated.
Temple of Kunzam Devi at the top of Kunzam Pass. All vehicles circle this temple before proceeding further…
The scale of the mountains and valleys was of a different order altogether. The panorama from the top of the pass was enthralling and awe-inspiring.
‘Kunzam’ means meeting place for Ibex. A chorten of stones erected ages ago marks the crest of the pass. These are structures made by stones piled on top of each other. A major attraction north of Kunzam pass is the Chandrataal Lake. A natural lake situated at 14,000 ft above sea level, it is about a kilometer in length and half a kilometer in breadth at its widest. This is a clear blue water lake, and is a 8.5 km trek from Kunzam Pass. Trekking to the lake was not in the scope of our plans, but we very much wished to have at least a glimpse of this natural wonder.
We trekked upwards the mountain slopes for some time to a point from where you could see beyond. I felt I was looking at some magical wonderland seen in dreams and fantasies. The sight seemed out of this earth. A stream of water amidst frozen ice flowed through the mountain valley into the lake, which was entirely frozen. The frozen lake was ethereal. It was a heavenly abode, untouched by man.
The gray above is the frozen Chandrataal lake…
Some more splendid views of Chandrataal…
From this point, the view of Kunzam pass from above was also magnificent. I was able to click a couple of good photographs of the Kunzam pass from this vantage point.
The two specks in the center are trucks on the road…
Soon, we were back on our way, stopping only for tea at Chhatadu, reaching Madhi for dinner. The excellent condition we were all in was a testimonial to our acclimatization. After dinner, we had hot black tea with lemon, a soothing drink in that weather.
We reached Solang and checked into Friendship Hotel, which was our lodge for the next couple of days.