I must have been 13 years old when I first read about Lahaul – Spiti and the picturesque Chandratal lake. There it was on a travel magazine, a double cover spread, capturing the majestic beauty of the semi-frozen lake and the snow-capped mountains in peak winter. Me, the young untraveled soul at that time, couldn’t fathom that such a beautiful place could exist in our country! I believe it subconsciously spurred my innate desire to travel. Although I used to dream of all the places I read about in my history textbooks and desired to see them one day, but if ever there was a turning point or the point where I could look back and say, there, there is the picture that ignited my wanderlust, it was ‘that’ picture without a doubt. I have always wondered about the lasting impact the picture had on me. Perhaps, it was the first time I could see a place in full glory versus having to imagine and visualise a place I had read about. It was for there for me to see, to plug myself there and experience it in a way I couldn’t visualise any other place. I made note in my travel lists, determined to experience it in person one day. ‘That’ picture is still deeply etched in my memory and I can close my eyes and recall every square mm of it in vivid detail even decades later.
As I trekked down to Chandratal lake, my heart was pounding hard. Would I be able to see it from the very same spot as the picture captured? Would the lake – the stirrer of my passion, an indelible part of my memories, the embodiment of my travel dreams, the haunter of my travel soul – would it live up to my expectations? The very first sight of the lake blew the wind out of me. It was there, the north star of my wanderlust, a veritable photocopy of ‘that’ picture etched in my mind, albeit a sunkissed landscape instead of the original frozen, white landscape. It was the same vantage point from where the photographer would have captured ‘that’ picture! Viola! I was indeed there, not in my imagination but living and breathing that picture for real. The calmness & the serenity of the lake, the pristine blue skies, the turquoise blue waters, the cool wind, the backdrop of snow capped mountains. It was just picture perfect!
As I trekked along the lakeside, I began to feel a bit unsettled. What if I hadn’t seen that picture decades ago, would have I been plagued by wanderlust? Would have I loved to travel? Now that my thirsty soul had been quenched, would it end my lust for travel? There were of course no answers, but the calmness of the lake was only matched by a deep sense of gratitude and contentment. For all the places I have been able to travel to, exploring them and immersing myself into that place, to have learnt and opened up my mind to different types of people and perspectives, to who I am because I travelled.
The only regret I have is I couldn’t save ‘that’ picture – the igniter of my wanderlust.
How to get to Chandratal Lake:
Chandratal Lake is accessed via road from Manali at app 140kms and from Kaza at app 80kms.
Where to stay:
Moonlake camps at Chandratal base camp.