Friday 15th October - We move on to Kullu tomorrow and booked the tickets at
the HPTC booking office in the main chowk. Rs260 each departing at 7am from
morning has been a bit hectic. We have decided to make a major change to our
travel plans and head to Africa after India instead of south to the Maldives. A
big change whih requires a lot of research. I have been before and loved every
part of it. We are both so excited about the idea. For
now we have to continue with our travels in India. So much yet to see.
thing we have found is that much of the clothing we have bought doesn't last
long before it rips, so we the clothes repaired at a tailor, who did a proper
restaurant for a pasta lunch and we enjoyed it that much we returned there in
the evening for another awesome meal
Saturday 16th October - Up at 5am to head for the bus. From the main Chowk the
bus arrived at about 5:45am. Our bus to Kullu was to depart from the main bus
stand in Dharamshala. An annoying scam happened. The conductor insisted that
the bus was NOT going to Dharamshala and we must get off and get a taxi. An
argument broke out as we know for a fact that the bus definitely did. ALL buses
go to the dharamshala bus stand. We asked the locals and they agreed and told
us to just stay on the bus and keep quiet. Sure enough the bus left at 6:15am
and went to the main bus stand. That partiular conductor must have had an
arrangement to get commission from the taxi driver to try and get us to go with
him. We took his details and reported him later in the day.
bus to Kullu departed at 7:15am. The scenery along the Kullu valley is
stunning. The mountains towering overhead for some of it. A 15 minute break at
Palampur bus stand at 8:30am. Another in the busy junction town of Mandi plus
others in between. The scenery is incredible in parts as the Beas river carves
its way through the mountains. White rocks smoothed with the erosion of
thousands of years of fast flowing water. At one stretch we went through a
tunnel through the mountain. It seemed to go on for ages. Not sure how long it
was? We emerged into a chaotic town with traffic battling to pass and horns
honking as if it made a difference to the grid-lock. Picked up a couple of
interesting snacks while there. A potato hotdog, and a fried spinach bhaji. Not
healthy, but interesting.
reached Kullu at about 3:30pm. It is a chaotic place. On the way in it is
evident that one of the main businesses is in shawls. Reebok signs seemed
prominent too, with large signs pointing to 'Reebok Industries' and Reebok
shops. Not sure if it is the real Reebok?
is the beginning of the Hindu Dussedra festival, which is celebrated in Kullu
with the largest and noisiest in the whole of India apparently. Troupes of pilgrims
carrying their idols lined the way. The central Maiden area was taken over with the beginnings of a fair ground,
campsite and parade area. It was full of activity when we passed, but it seemed
far from ready as the festival lasts for 10 days. There isn't much
accommodation here and it would be really noisy, so we made a decision to
continue on to Manali and return another day to see the festival. We had to
change on to another bus to Manali (Rs45) which was crowded the whole way. It
supposed to have only taken 90 minutes according to the information we had. It
actually took 2 1/2 hours, which made me wonder if it was a good plan to return
to Kullu for the day? The journey is a facinating one. Old style wooden houses
with their small doors dotted in amongst modern ones. Traditionally dressed
folk going about their work. In the distance the peaks of some mountains
covered in snow were visible. An exciting sight for Shiera.
had been to Manali before and aimed up the Mall
towards the old town to find a place to stay. Ended at The Manali Mahal Hotel
for Rs600 in a massive room and an in-house restaurant that served us up a nice
meal. It had been a very long day, and we collapsed into bed early.
Sunday 17th October - A busy day ahead as there is so much to do in Manali.
About 20minutes walk from the hotel is the Dhungri temple. Otherwise called the
Hadimba temple. The approach road is
winding and attractive, with many nice hotels and restos climbing up to the stately
Deodar forests. A barber caught my attention in a small house along the road,
so I stopped for a full shave. Always a treat, and for only 60 rupees, well
track that leaves the main road and enters the Hadimba temple grounds is fun.
Yaks and their owners are groomed immaculately for photos. For 20 rupees Shiera
got to sit on a Yak whilst I took her photo. They are so sweet (both of them)
that you have to do it. Also walking around were ladies dressed in traditional
costume with long haired Angora rabbits and also manicured mountain goats. It
is a bit gimmicky, but so sweet.
Hadimba is a lovely wood and stone 3-tiered temple, constructed in the 16th
century. The outside is decorated in animal skull bones and detailed wood
carvings. Many pilgrims come to pay homage to the shrine. Up a path from the
temple is another interesting site at the Tree
Temple. Out the other side of the
Hadimba temple is the road heading to Old Manali. First though, we had a great
lunch at the Spanish Casa Bella Vista café. Their own claim is the be the best
pizza in India. Well what we had certainly was excellent.
pathway lead down to the river where ladies were busy washing in the fast
flowing water. Wherever you go in Manali is a treat. The most beautiful
scenery. Across a footbridge and then climb into Old Manali. Amongst some
modern buildings is nestled the wonderful old houses. Tiny door frames with
decorated surrounds. Some traditionally dressed old folk were working about
their farm. Some baby calves were feeding and children playing in
haystacks. It is easy to spend hours
wandering around the old houses and we found somewhere nice to stay, so will
relocate tomorrow for a few days at the Drifter's Inn.
the top of the old town is the Manu Maharishi temple. Built on the site where
Manu was supposed to have meditated after he landed the boat that saved
humanity following the floods. Manu is the Hindu equivalent of Noah (and his
Ark). I just love the seemingly fanciful concepts that form the basis of much
of Indian culture.
much to do today we took a rickshaw down to the Mall. As luck had it we were
just in time for the Dussehra procession. Three groups were carrying idols and
showering themselves in coloured powder as they boogied along the road, accompanied
by the crowd of hundreds trying to catch a photo. The colour and fun atmosphere
was awesome. Careful to dodge the clouds of powder that erupt from nowhere.
was still early afternoon so decided to head to Vashisht, north east of Manali
town. There is a small Buddhist temple nested into the mountain which I had
been to last time, so went back to see if it had changed. Still quiet and
pretty. The sky this afternoon were a bit overcast, but the view was still
characters we saw at the parade this afternoon re-appeared in the evening at an
event held on stage at the auditorium. The 'King and queen' characters
initially had to sit in their thrones as a queue of worshippers offered them
food. After a while they began to look ill, and were trying to politely refuse the
food. It was fun to watch the dancing monkey character throwing coloured powder
over himself and then the audience. Plenty of singing and dancing, all done in
typical Hindu style.
Monday 18th October - We transferred to Old Manali today. Staying at the
Drifter's Inn (500 rupees including free wi-fi). One thing that is quick to
notice about old Manali is the backpacker scene. Cheap accommodation, good food
at sensible prices, and all the support you need in easy reach. Compared to
downtown Manali around the Mall area, prices are much cheaper. We have been
looking at going to Leh after here. Down in town the cost is 1,500 rupees on
average. In old Manali it is 1000 rupees. No expensive restaurants, all good
now Manali is in low season. Many businesses have closed for the winter and
will re-open around April. It does mean that exploring the area is very
peaceful as often we are the only ones. Restaurants are so quiet too. Which
means fast service!
Tuesday 19th October - Up in the hills above where we are staying, is one of
the most beautiful places on earth. The gorgeous old wood and stone Hindu
houses where the cattle occupy the lower part of the building in winter to keep
them warm. Walls a foot or more thick. Tiny decorated entrance doors and old
folk dressed in thick colourful rug style clothes for warmth. Many paint their
houses in lovely colours. Turquoise, purple, yellow etc. We were shown around
one house which rented its rooms out for 200 rupees. Lovely and cozy with its
own log fire heater. Nothing straight. All with that rugged crazy design but so
beautiful to bring a smile to your face. On top of the hill is what I can only
describe as 'Heaven on Earth'. A small shrine faces the mountains on a small
plateau which screams out to be an awesome campsite for the night. It is the
sort of place which lifts your spirits. No noise. No pollution. No traffic.
Just nature, peace and an incredible view, and we had it all to ourselves.
Shiera was in higher spirits today too, as for the first time in ages, she was
able to wear a dress instead of backpacker clothing. It was such a happy
experience. Everyone we met was so kind and free to talk to us. Many were also
tending their harvests. Corn, apples, grains, straw for the animals. One type
of grain was like a pink feathery type. Really tiny grain which they use for
making soup. We had lunch in the café opposite to the Manu temple before
sauntering down back to the hotel.
met a Russian guy who has lived here long term. Many long termers look like
hippies from the 70's who got lost and never found their way out. Long hair and
beards, rugged skin, but with a laid back couldn't care attitude that underlies
the separation from the rat-race for so long. Some look closer to the rather
strange vision of a Saddhu than anyone from the western world. Awesome
characters to chat with though.
amuses me the way we change our style of dress when we come to backpacker areas
and especially mountains. Anything goes. Doesn't matter what you look like.
Sometimes it seems, the more bizarre the better. The range of clothes is
superb, and so many nice materials to choose from. It is a shame we have to
carry everything we buy!
the next day or so we explored some more. Old Manali is a wonderful base from
which to see some nice scenery. Out the back of the village is a large area of
orchards, which must be really pretty in spring when the trees erupt into
blossom. Right now they are bare, having lost all of their leaves. The village
folk are all busy cleaning up and harvesting corn and other grains ready for
the winter. Everywhere is a working space. Roofs are used for drying corn in
the daytime sunshine. Some of the seasons crops of apples are used to make a
nice cider. I bought a bottle from town (Minchy's Golden Gate. Made in Shimla)
and it made a pleasant drink whilst writing.
to the Drifter's Inn is a construction site for I guess another lodge. It is
entertaining watching some people work. It looks ok when finally covered up.
But during construction, it is so crude to make you wonder how long it will
head off to Leh in the morning and have to get up at 4:15am. The temperature
and altitude will be more of a challenge than where we are now, so we headed
into town to stock up on necessities. Diamox for Acute Mountain Syndrome (AMS).
Gloves, long sleeved shirts and snacks for the journey. It is predicted to take
18 hours leaving at 5:30am (1,100 rupees each). A very long and tough day
sandwiched into a minivan. Deep joy!
cider is taking effect now and I guess I will fall asleep soon, so that is
about it for now.