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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

McLeod Ganj to Manali

INDIA | Thursday, 21 October 2010 | Views [1736]

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 lower Dharamshala.

The 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.

One 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 job. Jimmy's 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. 

Our 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.

We 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?

Tomorrow 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.

I 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 worth it.


The 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.


The 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.

A 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.

At 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.


With 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.

It 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 superb.

The 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 value.

Right 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.

We 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.


It 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!

Over 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.


Next 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 last.

We 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!

The cider is taking effect now and I guess I will fall asleep soon, so that is about it for now.


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