Day 13: 21 August 2013: Part 1: Keylong to Batal

We woke up late knowing very well that we have to travel less today. Finished with the daily rituals, we realize that today was Rakshabandhan, and all of us had carried Rakhis from our sisters. We make a couple of phone calls to home as now the next network availability would be at Kaza, we help each other tie the Rakhis on the wrists and then we go for the breakfast.

Bhatia saab had given us option yesterday that if we want to leave early, he can get the breakfast packed too as it was complimentary with the rooms. We have ample time today and not rushing, hence we’ll have the breakfast at the Hotel Chandrabhaga itself.



Having done the breakfast, we loiter around a bit. We talk about cleaning the car, but then decide against it – the car should look like it has been on a long trip to Ladakh and Spiti! 🙂 So we write YAYAWARS on the thick layer of dust accumulated



Finally, we hit the road around 1140 hrs.

Coming out of Keylong town..



Pristine rivulets and beautiful vistas are giving us company, and so is River Bhaga..



Soon we approach Tandi bridge…



… and witness the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers, henceforth known as Chandrabhaga.



Now we would be driving along Chandra river till we reach Chandratal (almost). Multicoloured mountain on the way…



We see multiple rivulets merging in the Chandra river



Beautiful hamlets situated amongst the green mountains, towering peaks, ice capped peaks, glaciers, and glaciers giving rise to waterfalls… we see them all…


Can you notice a chorten in a cave?

Can you notice a chorten in a cave?



Soon we approach Sissu…


Sissu Lake

Sissu Lake



The roads are fully metaled and drive is a pleasure with outstanding landscape…



Glaciers are melting and to see that, you don’t need to zoom, it’s evident on the road itself!



Suddenly, the valley opens a bit and we can see Chandra river giving us company, with many streams merging into it. The fields have peas growing..



Lost in the nature, soon we reach Koksar and cross the bridge…



One beautiful about this part of Himachal (or shall I say Lahaul & Spiti) is that every 100 meters, you see a water fall or a stream coming down the montains and at times flowing on the road…



The roads have gone worse, the metal has vanished and it’s all slush and muck, the reason of course are the streams coming on the road. And we are quickly gaining altitude.. Gramphu / Gramphoo is near it seems…



Indeed it is Gramphoo



At Gramphoo, we take the left fork going towards Kaza. Very soon, we see that the streams have ably taken down the road. BRO, however, is on the job and they make a way quickly…



Multiple small streams are flowing on the road and we are enjoying making splash, at times driving carefully…



However, there is a majestic waterfall ahead which is result of glacial melt. We can see that clearly. A Maruti Alto is standing with couple of people walking around…



We drive nearer and notice that this is not so simple water crossing.. the water is flowing with all its might for around 150 meters of the road (or shall I call it a track), which appears damaged. Some horses are also there near the waterfall. One person is coming back after taking stock of the situation. I ask him if it is manageable. He says “You’ll have to try.. at least you have bigger wheel base..”

Can you see the horses?

Can you see the horses?


I decide to take stock of the situation myself and so I get down and walk ahead in the water. The current of water is good, but not enough to sweep away the Cheetah..



More than the fear of being swept away, it is the underbelly hits that I’m worried about. One mis-adventure and we’ll be stuck. So I keenly observe the placement of stones on the track and wave Cheena to drive and follow my directions.



With a little bit of difficulty, we manage to pass with one underbelly hit. After parking the Cheetah, we all come back to enjoy the waterfall and then we notice its majesty…



Taking a look back, we get better idea of the devastating effect it can have. The guys in Alto are still waiting, probably they’d turn back…



We drive ahead and pass by some chortens…



And the waterfalls at every 100 meters (at times even at lesser distance) continue…



Gradually, we lose altitude and the valley also opens up. We would now be driving almost at the level of river…



The road has vanished. At times, we are driving on just tracks over pebbles, similar to the Merak to Chusul drive



We cross Chandra River over a bridge and reach Chhatru.


Oh Yes! Now that we are in Himachal Pradesh, the “La” of Ladakh have been replaced by “Jot”



We do not stop here as the time is just 1520 and since we are in valley, we are a bit conscious about losing the daylight. So we drive ahead, cross many rivulets through bridges, meet many horses…



Road conditions notwithstanding, the vistas are beautiful.. very similar to that of Ladakh.. similar various coloured mountains, snow-clad peaks, just that these are a bit green and as in Ladakh, a river is giving us company…



At times, it feels like we are driving in the riverbed itself, with small pebbles underneath and big rocks all around..



Basking in the natural beauty and soaking it as much as we can, we reach Chhota Dara / Chhota Dhara



And then, we actually drive through the river bed..



Oh yes! Actually it is the river bed indeed!!



Gradually, the mountains are losing the greenery and becoming barren, much like Ladakh. Whoa! This is the reason Spiti is also called Mini-Ladakh!!



With occasional waterfalls and water crossings, the landscape continues, and so does the drive on the riverbed…



The Sun plays hide-n-seek with the clouds here too!



From a distance, we notice some small buildings / hutments. And finally we see the board for Chandra Dhaba. This is Batal. Although the time reads 1645, I have to meet Chacha.. have heard a lot about him and I can’t wait to meet him. So we stop here and start clicking pics. Little did we foresee the future that we would get more than ample time to do this…


The Dhaba

The Dhaba


A PWD Rest House has come up at Batal. Good for travelers!

For the record, this is the nearest dhaba from Chandratal where you can get accommodation and food. The Dhaba has also got a satellite phone which can be used to contact the world. All in all, oasis in desert.



We get inside and have maggi and tea as we hadn’t eaten anything since we left Keylong. While it is being prepared, I talk to Chacha and tell him that I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. Chacha is always smiling and points to couple of laminated certificates and newspapers that are hung on the wall. Oh My God!! Chacha and Chachi are Godfrey Philips Bravery Awardees!!! And the name is Dorje Bodh. This is why people call him by various names – Batal Chacha, Dorje Chacha, Dorje etc. We get ourselves clicked with him – it’s and honour to be in the same frame! And then we read the story of how the couple have saved over 106 people when they got stuck in snow. Great souls!!

Batal Chacha and Me

Batal Chacha and Me


The certificates

The certificates


Next: Batal to Chandratal


Total Distance covered: Approx 100 kms

Driving Directions from Keylong to Batal: From Hotel Chandrabhaga at Keylong, drive straight ahead towards Manali. Just ahead of the town, take the left fork at the tri-junction to remain on Manali highway. Drive straight ahead and do not take any cut to remain on the Manali highway and reach Tandi. Keep straight (an acute right turn goes towards Kishtwar and Sach pass) to cross the bridge over Chandra river and pass by Sissu further ahead. Couple of kilometers ahead at the tri-junction, take the left fork to go towards Koksar and Gramphoo. The right fork goes to the opening of Rohtang Tunnel which is likely to be completed sometime in future. Driving ahead, take the right fork at Koksar to remain on the highway and keep straight to reach Gramphoo. At gramphoo junction, keep straight (towards left) to go towards Kaza, the right fork goes to Rohtang and then Manali. Shortly after crossing the waterfall, there will be no road, just tracks. Keep following the tracks, cross as many bridges as they come and arrive at Batal as there is no other road between Gramphoo and Batal.

Google Map directions for Keylong to Batal travel:

Day 1 : 09 August 2013 : Start from Noida/Delhi to Murthal

Here’s the driving direction plan we intended to follow:
Day1 – 09 Aug: Start from Delhi
Day2 – 10 Aug: Reach Srinagar
Day3 – 11 Aug: Srinagar – Kargil/Sankoo
Day4 – 12 Aug: Kargil/Sankoo – Penzi La – Sankoo/Panikhar
Day5 – 13 Aug: Sankoo/Panikhar – Leh
Day6 – 14 Aug: Leh local, Permits
Day7 – 15 Aug: Leh – Turtuk
Day8 – 16 Aug: Turtuk – Hunder – Deskit
Day9 – 17 Aug: Deskit – Pangong Tso
Day10 – 18 Aug: Pangong Tso – Mitpal Tso – Tso Moriri
Day11 – 19 Aug: Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Sarchu/Keylong
Day12 – 20 Aug: Sarchu/Keylong – Batal – Chandratal
Day13 – 21 Aug: Chandratal (Full Moon Day)
Day14 – 22 Aug: Chandratal – Kaza – Nako
Day15 – 23 Aug: Nako – Chail
Day16 – 24 Aug: Chail – Delhi/Noida

As per plan, started at 1400 from home at Noida. Dropped wifey and li’l daughter at Terminal D1 at 15:20 and bade bye (people still ask me how do I managed to do this!). Reached Dwarka Sector 12 by 1600 hrs where the Yayawars had to group. Called Tony and they just reached from their shopping spree at CP, Avi got a new shoe! A Wifey called at 18:30 to intimate that she has reached her hometown – Patna. Went to McD to have some burgers.

McD Burger



Let me take this opportunity to introduce the Yayawars.



From left to right, 1. Your’s Truely, 2. Cheena, 3. Tony, 4. Avi – a motley groupe with age ranging from 23 to 39 years! Youngest being Avi – an Mechanical Engineering student and the oldest being your’s truely – a typical IT guy with a hige tyre around the waiste  The rule was, the elders have to order and the order passed in a typical “sarkaari office” fashion to the youngest. So you know who ended up doing all the physical work. Also, whoever would do any mistake, it was the youngest who had to immediately say “Sorry!”.

After Cheena reached around 21:30, we started packing bags and loading them on the carrier. Everything was arranged as per HVK’s checklist, or so I was told (the checklist has an important part to play in the story, be tuned). The spare tyre occupied most of the space on the carrier and apart from that, only the gas cylinder, jerry cans, sleeping bags and tents were tied on the carrier. Rest of the lugguage had to be dumped in the last row, which seemed like a full family going on a 2 months trip.





Within a group of 4 persons, we were carrying 8 cameras!!


Started from Dwarka sharp at 23:45. The odometer reading was taken. The idea was to reach Jammu, take Mughal Road to Srinagar and reach as far as possible.

Odometer Reading


No traffic on the way and soon we crossed the Singhu border. Stopped at Sukhdev dhaba, Murthal for emptying the ever-charging bladders and then proceeded forward.

Total Distance covered: Approx 61 Kms

Driving Directions from Delhi to Murthal: Drive towards Dwarka Mor and take right towards Nawada / Uttam Nagar. Cross Uttam Nagar and take left on the Outer Ring Road after Janakpuri West. Keep on the Outer Ring road and take left from Mukarba Chowk going past Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar on GT Road passing Alipur. Cross Singhu border and you’re now in Haryana, NH1. Cross Sonipat and reach Murthal. Sukhdev dhaba is on left of the road.


P.S.: Apologies for the bad picture quality – phone camera in action.