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! πŸ™‚ 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: