We were drawn to Manali as it boasted great skiing, hot springs and a buzzing atmosphere. What we didn't realise was that we were 2 months too early. It was a ghost town. People were chasing us down the street just to get a hopeful sale. Accommodation prices were dirt cheap. We paid 200 rupees for a nice double room, nice view of the mountains and a hot shower! And this was without bargaining- we could have got it cheaper, but hey we are talking savings of less than a dollar!
We first stepped into Manali at 3am, sleep deprived zombies who had just survived a gruelling 10 hour bus ride sardined in a bus with local Indians, hugging our bags and trying to get any wink of sleep we could. This proved almost impossible considering people here like to show off the fact that they have a phone with a speaker that can play annoyingly loud tinny music (or in the worst case scenario as they finished their music selection they moved onto ringtones). It also didn't help that we were driving mere inches from the edge of the cliff rising and falling in altitude at any speed the driver saw fit- whether it was safe or not. There was also a seedy indian man who was offering us "cannibals". "Hey man you want joint cannibals, it's good stuff". In hindsight our reply should have been;"no thanks i'm trying to stay off meat whilst in India", but instead we politely replied no "thank you."
We were immediately poached by a frozen looking man who had been waiting up to gather any tourists from the bus stop so he could to fill his little guest house. We were impressed with his persistence and well, it was 3am so we decided to go with him and his entourage of 8 plump looking dogs.
The guest house was a place to sleep in the heart of an empty ghost town. We were probably two of ten tourists in the area. The price was 300rupees per night for a double room and there was only one room for us and another Australian we had picked up in Amritsar. So we decided to bunk in sharing the hefty $6AUD bill. The owner also owned a thali place down the street so kept close tabs on whether we had eaten or not. He was not shy to pop his head into our room and remind us maybe one time too much that we "hadn't eaten dinner yet and his place will be closed soon!"
After 2 nights sharing the bed we decided it was time to move on. We then moved to a nearby area of Manali called Vashist. This town is famous for its hot springs, buzzing backpacker atmosphere and incredible views. And the views were incredible. From the balconey of our place we could see the snow dusted mountains of the himalayas.
One of the main reasons we decided to brave the cold of Manali was because of the Rohtang pass. It is located about 2 and a half hours away from Manali, is around 4000 metres above sea level and was rumored to be where we could ski. Finally having organised ourselves after a day or two of doing nothing we set out early in the morning at 6am to Rohtang pass. The drive up the winding, never ending road had some beautiful views.
After three packs of choc chip biscuits, two games of corners, one flat tire and one nap later we arrived. We soon realised that to ski here would be a lost cause but it was still lovely to see hannah jump around in the snow, crushing it with her boots like a small child seeing snow for the first time.
After walking around the snow we headed back to the car and stopped again when we saw yaks! Very ancient looking creatures it was great to see them up close. It is also another great thing about Manali, there is alot of yak wool clothing to be had. Dan bought a yak wool vest. There was also a very cool brick igloo that looked as if it had a fire pit in the middle to keep whoever stayed there at night warm in such a freezing climate.
After Rhotang pass we still had our driver for the day and as we were not going to be skiing we decided to head for solang valley, a honeymooners retreat that has a ski lift and where paragliding is possible. The drive down was not as easy as a giant mud pit was holding up all the traffic and there was a lot of vehicles coming up the mountain and just us going down.
After our fierce suzuki hatchback braved the mud we stopped for lunch in Solang valley and after an intense two hours of playing cards and eating double lunch we decided to enquire about the paragliding. unfortunately the price we were quoted was about double that of normal so we decided to give it a miss. It is however meant to be beautiful and if you can find it for the right price ($20AUD for 7-15 minutes depending on the wind) then its well worth it.
After a long day we retired to our new accommodation in Vashest. The man that ran the place was lovely and very very relaxed.There was also a plethora of cute adorable animals, including a baby pup that Dan named scrappy doo and a baby cow.
We went down to the public hot spring baths where there was the segregated men's and women's bathing temple and an outdoor bath as well that at the time we thought was for both men and women. On our way down to relax in the 40 degree natural spa we were informed that women must stay in the segregated area even if they were fully clothed. So Hannah was left with the option to either go to the women's spa alone and be stared at by a bunch of naked indian ladies or try and see if the "mixed" spa was empty enough to go unnoticed. Upon arrival we were shocked to see a dude fest of 15 indian guys in tiny speedos bathing so we decided to give it a miss, although the next morning Dan did go down at sunrise and had a relaxing hot spa to start the day...perfect!
After completing what we came to Manali to do and with our visa rapidly sneaking up on us we were moving on. The destination; Chandigar, a modern european designed city, boasting it's civilised manor and recycled goods city park.