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Kunzum La to Chandra Tal

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The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh turns into the adventure capital of India for the better half of the year. The beauty about exploring the outdoors in Himachal Pradesh is that it offers something for everyone. Most of the stunning places in these mountains are accessible by Jeep tracks.

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One such place is the stunning high altitude lake of Chandra Tal. A lake situated at approximately 13500ft above sea level and surrounded by dozens of snow capped peaks. The lake has many legends associated with it and one can feel and experience each of them as you approach the lake either from the Rohtang pass or Kunzum pass. If you ever had a dream of being in a place which you can truly call being ‘In the middle of nowhere’, this is one lake you have to see. Chandra Tal has a jeep track, which is an adventure in itself and can give the uninitiated a good first taste of what it feels like to be in the upper Himalayas. However, if you believe in taking the road less travelled then there exists a stunning 3 hour trek route from the chilling top of Kunzum pass right up to Chandra Tal & as we found out, it is a road you must take!

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Standing atop Kunzum La, we saw the jeep track snaking its way down towards Batal and then further towards our destination – Chandra Tal. Right behind us was a single walkable track going into the mountains and disappearing into the jagged peaks around us & this is what we had come here for. The mighty Himalayas welcomed us with rarefied high altitude air and some of the most stunning sights we had ever seen before. Imagine being surrounded by peaks, all of which are above 16000ft and being able to see the lake that lay at least 10 kms ahead. Every climb, every curve had something new to offer, from narrow streams to the earth crumbling below us, we had everything thrown at us in these 3 hours. This trek takes you past CB13 and CB14 which are amongst the most infamous peaks of Himachal. CB13 is still said to have debris from a plane crash that happened almost 40 years ago. One can actually imagine and feel all the legends around this place come alive as you trek past these mountains one by one.

We truly felt the remoteness of this place once we found ourselves in the middle of the trek route and it was one of the most exciting experiences one can have. One look at the lake is enough to calm every aching bone in your body and 5 minutes spent on the banks of Chandra Tal. This trek does not require an expert level of trekking experience but it surely does require one to be physically fit and prepared as you start the trek at 15,000ft are always above the height of 13,000ft.

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Chandra Tal may not be a lake that is off the beaten path but this route to Chandra Tal surely is.

Biking off the beaten path

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The mountain biking bug gets most who love the thrill of the wind-in-your-face, traverse across hill and dale. Imagine you make your way up a hill, beads of sweat beginning to drip as you heave your way up to a breath-taking view at the summit. A sharp intake of breath as you scan the descent route and you set off. Instinct kicks in as you  negotiate every stone, bush and bramble and gather speed as you reach the base.

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The right gear is one of the most important aspects in Mountain biking. When you start of, the ideal choice of bike would be an all-purpose full suspension bike (built on two frames, with suspensions at the front and back). Its rugged, sturdy frame can endure a variety of terrain, allowing for better flexibility and manoeuvrability. Alternatively a budget option of  a hardtail (a bike built on one frame with  a front suspension) would do. Pick a comfortable pair of cycling shorts with adequate cushioning and a light wind-breaker if there’s a chilly breeze. A good body-hugging hydration pack with a slim pocket for your essentials makes for the perfect uninterrupted ride. To avoid any serious injury a good helmet, pair of gloves, elbow pads and last but not least,  knee pads are all essentials in mountain biking. Practice  bike handling skills such as learning to rock on a stationary bike, or bunny hop over a small rock to enjoy a fall-free ride down  a trail or downhill descent.

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On your  first ride,  choose an easy trail through open farm lands or defined forest trails. Sometimes it’s just better to select a trail according to ones acquired skill level in Mountain biking. If there’s an intimidating ride that you’re eager to conquer then begin with relatively easier rides as you work towards improving your bike handling skills for the big ride.

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