Neil Armstrong’s boot print. Since the day I saw it I wanted to walk on the Moon. As I grew up reality
struck but as my luck would have it, I found the Himalayas. In there I discovered Chandra Taal, the lake
of the Moon. Far tucked away, north east of Manali beyond the Rohtang into Spiti, was this crescent
shaped, turquoise coloured lake.
The barren landscape was said to resemble that of the Moon. It was also said that if you swam in the lake of the Moon you started to weigh as much you would on the Moon. So I wanted to get into the lake and walk on its bed so I could get as close to walking on the Moon as possible.
The heat had become deadly in Delhi that summer. I and my wife started thinking of the snail that we kept talking about. Next morning we filled things in a couple of rucksacks and got ready to live off and in those things for a full week. The bus made it to Manali the next day and we made it to a café called Shesh Besh. After a little bit of fishing there, we caught some beer. Then it was time to get ready to take the bus to Batal, another two fifty kilometers away. From there we would start walking for the next fourteen kilometers to reach the Moon. So we picked ourselves up along with our rucksacks and boarded the bus.
Time flew along with the rickety bus as the driver tried his best to outdo the Apollo 11 astronauts and we landed in Batal by noon. After a quick ini mini miny mo we zeroed in on a dhaba closest to the river.There we had our fill of energy for the long way ahead and then it was time to get into the snail mode.
The air was dry and the mountains barren and brown. The wind had a chill although the sun was high up above our heads doing what it did best. We picked up our sacks and looked at each other while taking deep breaths. Then with a nod and an unsure smile we started to walk. We knew this was going to be a tough terrain to crack. This was our first trek with bags weighing more than fifteen kilograms and we would start to lose light in another four hours. Instinctively, I started to lead. After about an hour, the wife took over while I started breathing through the mouth. It is really advisable not to smoke when walking up a mountain while carrying another one on your back. Slowly the sun outpaced us both and suddenly we saw ourselves losing hope and light at the same time.
Instinctively we started to look here and there for some sign of life but there was none. All of a sudden panic struck. The shadows grew taller and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere almost halfway there, far away from either side. Off came the rucksacks and out came the smokes. Panic is a peculiar thing. It gives you a sudden burst of raw energy which needs to be tamed and directed right then, if not it can launch you into deep space while you try to grapple with nothingness. After a few deep breaths we focused our energy outwards for a quick change and soaked in the scene.
The Chander river down below was hissing away like a snake. It was coming from the lake itself. It did not care about the weather. It did not care about how much light was there. It just kept going. Following it upstream we saw this patch of green about a kilometer up ahead. I was like an oasis of sorts. A trickling stream of water was making its way to the river. We could not believe our eyes lest we touched it for ourselves. Here taking cue from the river our luck started to take some turns and we made it to the green zone. Here we found a place to set up out tent and fresh water. Little did we know, later that night around two fifty sheep would guard our tent from the wind as well.
The next morning found us awake and staring at the hoard of sheep having breakfast. After chatting a few of them up we started to pack our stuff and left in a hurry. We did not want to take another chance and not make it to the lake, come what may.
We were already a day late. By now we should have landed on the moon. After about a billion deep breaths and another billion lunges we reached the lake after all. I did not waste any time and getting rid of my clothes, jumped straight into the lake. It was so cold that I just managed to take a small step and then had to take a giant leap to rush out of that freezing water. My wife could not stop laughing till she fell asleep that day. Needless to say, that small step and that giant leap will be etched in our memories forever.
Images copyrighted and credited to Niladri Bhattacharji
Written byNiladri Bhattacharji
A vagabond at heart who can’t stay put at one place for a long time. Believes we just get one chance at life hence keeps learning and moving from one thing to the other. Read English Literature in Delhi University for a while, moved on to do a post grad in marketing communications. Somehow worked in advertising for ten years then got bitten by the film making bug, now doing a full time post grad in film editing. A day dreamer, photographer, rock climber and biker. Plays around half a dozen musical instruments, writes, plans the next travel and just rambles.