“Nature's heart beats strong amid the hills.”
― Richard Monckton Milnes
What started off as a regular family trip to Kasauli during Diwali with an itinerary largely involving lazying in the big arm chair in one corner of the hotel room took a major U-turn. This U-turn can be blamed on the conversation i had with the driver who got us from the Kalka station to Kasauli,he told me it took only 6 hours to get to Manali from there by road. I've always been a fan of the hills and snowcapped mountains entice me even more. The driver's sentence triggered an insatiable thirst to see snow and to miss out on manali at such close quarters would be an unforgivable sin in the eyes of my inner travel fanatic.
And thus after a day's sightseeing in Kasauli,we were on the road to Manali and no regrets there, because the road was exquisite. With the Bias river accompanying us on the side , it was the most beautiful road trip i'd ever been on. Upon reaching Manali, one can find many economical hotels to reside in. Since ours was an impromptu plan we decided to go to the central area in Manali,the Mal road and hoisted ourselves in a comfortable hotel there. Being November, the temperature was freezing for an inhabitant of Mumbai, but curling up in the blanket in a room without a fan was a memorable experience. The next morning I woke up to the majestic sight of a snowcapped mountain top peeking from the hotel room window. The best morning anyone could ask for! We set out early to explore and decided to conquer the infamous Rohtang Pass first.
About an hour long drive from the heart of the city, this pass remains closed due to heavy snow during the months of December through April.Since the pass is covered in snow, one requires to be clad in insulated suits,gloves and snow boots available on rent in many shops lining the beginning of the Rohtang road.Since these are rented suits ,one may find the hygiene a tad bit questionable but these suits are worn on top of normal clothes and to enjoy the snow at the pass it is a necessity. The road to Rohtang is snaky and extremely narrow but indisputably breathtaking.Upon reaching the top, from the base, ponies ferry the visitors to the pass since cars cannot go there. Once at the heart of the pass, one can indulge in skiing , the instructor and gear for which needs to have accompanied you from the suit rental shop. A lot of photographers are present there and can graciously click and deliver photos to your hotel room. Chai waalas at the pass are a blessing when your hands start to become cold and you need something piping hot to drink.
On the way back to base, the same ponies ferry you down. One must try the maggi sold at the many shops here,it somehow tastes wonderful. If you are fond of animals, the furry, soft mountain rabbit is a delight to play with.
On the way down from Rohtang,many paragliding hoardings can be seen. The driver being a local would know which stall is the most reliable. Once you have selected the stall, they usually charge 1200/- INR per person for an in air time of about 15-20 minutes. The most thrilling part about this is the way you are required to literally run off the edge of the mountain. Once you have done that, you'll be soaring in the air with the Himalayas right behind you. Its the most surreal experience and though the temperature is numbing and pressure is high,the view from above is magical. The best part is, that a number of photographers and videographers take photos and videos while one is in the air. You can buy the printed photos and video burned onto a CD for a bargained price and have memories for a lifetime.
One must visit the Mal road market in the evening to get a whiff of the culture and disposition of the blissful town of Manali.
At Kullu, one can also indulge in River Rafting, but at the time i went, I was advised against it as the water was too cold and the boats were overturning. But this has been bucketlisted for the next visit.
1)Hire an experienced driver to take you through to Rohtang
2)Do hire the insulated suits for a fulfilling experience at the pass
3)At the pass, there are many hawkers claiming to sell saffron at really cheap rates and they might make you smell it and it will smell like saffron obviously,but do not buy it, its not saffron.
4)Do take a fair opinion from the driver regarding which paragliding stall is most reliable.
5)It is better to keep in mind that the journey from kasauli to manali may take more time during the night.
Most importantly, Click a lot of pictures,its worth it!
Happy Manali to you !