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Manali! Land of the snow God!

  • Submitted by: Carol Nettar
  • Submission Date: 02nd May 2008

Manali is famous for its snow covered peaks, Skiing and the Rohtang pass. My wife and I had decided that Manali would be our next destination after Shimla. The time was February. We decided to reserve HPTDC’s hotel in Manali for us.

We checked out from our hotel in Shimla by evening and they arranged porters to carry our luggage to the bus stand. I want to add one word of appreciation for the porters of Shimla. I saw them carry almost everything on their back from gas cylinders, rice sacks, oil cans, wood, stones, etc to an Almirah!!! And with all the heavy weight on their backs and head, they climb the thousands of steps from lower Shimla to upper Shimla. Kudos to them for their help to tourists like us!

We boarded the bus from the bus stand in lower Shimla. The bus was 2*2 deluxe. The seats were very cramped and we had a tough time squeezing ourselves in. There was very little leg room and when we tried to push back our seats, it was touching the chest of my co-passenger behind me. So we had to sit upright all through our journey. The bus left by 8:30 pm from Shimla. The journey was bone rattling and we couldn’t sleep because of the engine noise and the bumpy ride.

We reached Manali by 5 am. We had kept our window closed because of the cold wind. It was quite warm and comfortable inside the bus. But when we got out of the bus, we were shocked by the biting cold. It was freezing out there and we were chilled to the bone in an instant. The city was still asleep and all we could see were some autos. The hotel is located on the banks of the River Beas. The room was very spacious and tidy and we settled down for some much needed sleep.

That morning we woke up late and were amazed by the view we got from the window. There was snow outside our room and we could see river Beas and the mighty Himalayas covered in a blanket of snow. We then went to the city. It is called the Mall, but much smaller than the Mall in Shimla. There were lots of restaurants and the food was very good. There are not many fancy restaurants in Manali. We then went to a Buddhist temple near the Mall. It was very beautiful. We spent the rest of the day shopping and exploring the town. We booked a tour of HPTDC for the next day.

We left Manali the next day by 9am for the tour. There were 2 other couples with us and our vehicle was a Sumo. We first went to Solang valley, about 14 kilometers away. It is famous for skiing and Paragliding. On the way we saw shops renting out fur coats and gloves and boots. They warned us that if it snows there, then temperature will drop below zero. We rented the equipment and carried on. The view was simply breathtaking. There were so many mountains all around us. We crossed river Beas many times and finally reached the base point of Solang valley. From there we had to trek up the mountain to reach the valley. We were happy that we rented rubber boots, as the way up was very dirty because of the melting snow.
The valley was beautiful with slopes perfect for skiing. We saw many people trying their luck in paragliding. But we avoided it as I had heard earlier that the winds can change anytime and then it can be dangerous. We took photos wearing the traditional dress of Himachal and my wife looked very beautiful in the bridal dress once again! We spent time trekking the slopes and playing with ice. There was actually no need for the fur coats as it was not very cold. Do remember to carry sun glasses and sun cream. We could not go to Rohtang pass as the whole are was covered with 25 feet of snow. Can you imagine? 25 feet!

Our next stop was Hadimba temple. We had seen the temple in many movies and were thrilled to see it. This temple is wooden and the deity is goddess Hadimba. The temple is surrounded by thousands of deodar trees. The setting was perfect for a romantic movie song. We were told that the temple was built on top of a natural cave which has a foot-print believed to be of goddess Hadimba. We also saw rabbits and yaks there. We have to pay to be photographed with them. We were also told that they make shawls from rabbit fur. I never saw any, though!

We then visited Vashishtha temple about 3 kilometers from Manali. Vashishtha is famous for hot sulphur water springs. The locals believe that diseases will be cured if a person takes a dip in these springs. We returned to Manali in the evening and spent some time catching up with our friends on the internet. We also booked the Manikaran tour of HPTDC for the next day.

We left early in the morning for Manikaran, which is a 90 kilometer drive. Manikaran is famous for its hot water springs and a Gurudwara and two temples existing sided by side. Do we need another example for communal and religious harmony?

There were around 15 more couples with us this time. We were taken in a deluxe bus and we felt much safer. We got the first two seats right behind the driver. The roads were terrifying and there were countless hairpin curves and blind turns. Our driver was an expert and slowly I relaxed seeing his technique. The place was very beautiful with thousands and thousands of deodar trees and river Parvati was flowing with its full might. Our bus was parked a long way away from the temple due to road work.

We could see lots of small pools of boiling hot springs inside the temple. People were cooking rice in the hot water. I was told that rice cooks in 20 minutes in the hot spring water. There is a bigger bathing area inside the Gurudwara. One thing I do not like about temples is that we have to remove our shoes and I wouldn’t trust anyone with my comfy and attractive sports shoes.

We then visited Kullu valley. We saw Vaishno Devi Temple, and it lies on the national highway about 2 kilometers from Kullu town. We were told that there are a total of 368 temples in Kullu.

We then went to Naggar and visited the Roerich Art Gallery. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, and he had settled in Kullu valley at Naggar. The beauty of Kullu valley enchanted him. He bought a piece of land from the king of Mandi and named it named ’Hall Estate’. He built his residence there. Roerich spent the rest of his life in Naggar. The ground floor of his residence has now been converted in to an art gallery where his paintings of the Himalayas are displayed. This art gallery was founded in 1962 by his son, Svyetoslav Roerich. It is now renamed as Roerich Heritage Museum. This museum is a must visit place. The most striking work was a painting of actress Devika Rani. The painting felt alive.

We then visited Urusvati Himalayan Folk Art Museum, which is located in the same premises as Roerich Art Gallery. It is about 100 meters uphill trek to the museum from the art gallery. The view was amazing and the path was cobbled and there were benches on the way for people to rest. The whole area is covered by deodar trees. We could see lots of paintings, puppets with different national costumes, musical instruments, etc in the museum. The museum is definitely a national treasure.

We returned back to Manali with a heavy heart. We did not want to leave. Everything was so beautiful. We wanted to stay for some more days, but we had to explore more places. We left for Delhi by bus. Manali is one of the most beautiful places in the world.