Dhankar Lake Trek | Travel Blog :Credit:beardedmountainsoul
“POLLUTING THE LAKE AND IT’S ENVIRONMENT WITH LEAD TO GODS WRATH. DONT INVITE THE WRATH OF GODS” a part of a warning notice I read in the beginning of my trek to the Dhankar Lake or God’s lake, as the people of Dhankar Village say. Nestled in the upper mountain ranges of Spiti Valley, the lake rests high in the Himalayas at an altitude of over fourteen thousand feet above sea level.
The lake is located about two hours away on foot from the Dhankar village, a high altitude village sitting nearly at 3900 meters above sea level, situated between the towns of Tabo and Kaza. Most of the village is situated on the ridge or bluff of a mountain and is famous for Dhankar Monastery that sits right on the spur above the village. Apart from that, the village provides a breathtaking view of the confluence of Spiti and Pin rivers with huge, treeless mountains in the backdrop. Despite reading about the picturesque views that this village offers, the reason for my visit was the lake which is situated behind the towering mountain that backdrops the village.
I started off my trek around 10 in the morning and was greeted by a water driven prayer wheel and a warning sign at the beginning of the trail. The sign warned everyone that how they will invite the ‘wrath of gods’ if they, in any way, disrespect the lake. This includes fishing, feeding the fish, polluting the lake or bathing in it; none of which I was planning to do, especially bathing in a high altitude lake. The sun, as always in this cold desert, was beating down intensely and despite of the cold winds that had the upper hand, the heat was harsh. Around thirty minutes in the trek, I spotted a herd of Himalayan Blue Sheep or Bharal, grazing on some wild berries that grew on short bushy plants along with small patches of green scattered scarcely on the treeless mountain. The Bharals are known for their camouflage and I noticed how they blended with the dry landscape with their light complexion. These creatures are also a staple diet of snow leopards. I heard stories from couple of villagers of how this beautiful and stealthy cat sneaks into their village sometimes in the shadows of night to prey on their livestock. I wondered if I would be fortunate enough to see this most elusive Himalayan creature, although the chances were grim.
The climb was steep and I had to reach the mound or the peak of this mountain, from where I would descend to the lake, located amidst the towering mountains behind one I was climbing. I decided to climb the dry, treeless mountain face straight up to the peak instead of following the path that spiraled around. Since the mountains in this valley are treeless, it is easy to chart out your way, although climbing on scree can be difficult especially when the ascend is steep.
During most part of my climb, I saw the band of blue sheep in the vicinity. They sometimes disappeared around the mountain or over the ridge and then appeared again, nibbling on whatever they can find and then gazing at me for some time. With this continuous activity, they bought the big barren mountain to life. The climb towards the end got really steep and sometimes I had to get down on my all fours to ascend on the loose stones. The higher I climbed the surrounding landscape became more surreal and finally after scaling the mountain for about one hour, I reached the peak. I was greeted by a big cairn that was surrounded by countless prayer flags tied to wooden poles and snapped wildly in high and thin winds.
I stood there, at an altitude of nearly 4500 metres above sea level and was astounded as the whole valley was exposed to my view. The turquoise coloured Pin and Spiti rivers, walled off by a mountain at a point, embraced each other at their confluence turning into one. Tufts of white clouds kissed the towering peaks. The snow covered peaks of Manerang range, that divides Kinnaur and Spiti valley were clearly visible. Dhankar village now seem to be small cluster of houses built on open, bowl like, slopes of these high mountains overlooking the confluence of the two rivers. This is one of the most outstanding village settings you will witness.
While still on the peak, cold gale brushed fiercely against my jacket and I felt the warm sweat on my body turn cold. I decided to move on and followed the path along the ridge that descended from the other side of the mountain. The path started taking me into the belly of adjoining mountains that stood tall and their light brown colour radiated proudly in bright sunlight. After another ten minutes of descend, the beautiful lake revealed itself. The jade like water of the lake glittered in the abundant sun and its shape resembled a ghost. Just a glimpse of the lake more than repaid my arduous climb to the peak. I saw a white stupa on one end of the lake bedecked by numerous prayer flags. Unlike the rocky mountain face I climbed earlier, the light brown slopes surrounding the lake on this side had more compact soil and were scattered with small green shrubs all over. My exhilaration grew with every step as I quickly made my way down towards the lake and shortly after, I arrived on the banks of Dhankar Lake and a sense of elation overtook me. For a minute I just stood there, deeply breathing the sacred air that embraced the whole region while the wind caused endless ripples on the lake surface. Proudly isolated among high summits, this lake rests shrouded in a blanket of silence and it is walled by light brown mountains on the three sides that slope gently towards the lake with the fourth side ending in a ravine.
Walking towards the stupa on the banks of the lake, I noticed how long, dark fishes swim to the surface and then quickly disappear back to the unknown depths. The white stupa or Chorten on the other side was nearly 10 feet tall and was covered with the layers of prayer flags that were worn to wisps in high winds. The side of the stupa facing the lake had a small Buddha statue glassed safely in it that overlooked the lake. I sat down and witnessed the glory that was presented to me by these high Himalayan ranges. The blue sky, with white clouds scattered all over looked beautiful, both above and below in the reflection of pure waters. White peaks of Manerang range far away at the end of horizon looked like horns of ice that the lake wore proudly as a crown. I lay down on the banks and closed my eyes when a spell of silence took over me, and when I opened them the universe around me was still. Nothing moved except the wisps of clouds in clear sky above. The three mountains around the lake looked like some divine entities that turned into solid shapes to protect and preserve the sanctity of the lake.
According to the beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism, some places and valleys in the Himalayas are blessed by Lord Padmasambhava, an Indian Buddhist master who is considered to be the second Buddha. Spiritual and physical worlds overlap in these places resulting in an increased effectiveness of spiritual practice. The calm waters and the surrounding region of this lake undoubtedly felt blessed by such divine force. Gazing at the emerald green lake in the treeless landscape was hypnotic and at the same time calming. I looked around and saw no one. Peace and solace that one longs for back in the city. The universe around me rested, and so did my soul.
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