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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

Manali to Keylong

INDIA | Tuesday, 26 October 2010 | Views [2064]

Friday 22nd October - An early rise at 4am to go to Leh. We got picked up at 5:15am from the junction in the old village and then waited for a while down at the central bus station for extra passengers. Finally got on the road at 6:15am.

Today promised to be an incredible experience. A very long day, passing over mountains and along valleys. The section up to Rohtang La Pass at 3,978mtrs was superb, even though it was still early and the light was low. The name literally means 'Pile of Dead Bodies' from the thousands of travelers who have died there over the years. From almost approaching the peak and down the other side we had snow and a light wind, causing a difficult time due to ice on the roads. The road snakes its way through the mountain pass with a jaw dropping scenery. The snow got heavier. Something that reinforced the point that we would not stay in Leh for too long as we have to return the same route. Many vehicles struggled to make some of the climbs. Numerous abandoned vehicles along the way. Mainly trucks.

The toughness and tenacity of the people who choose to live in these places is amazing. You need to be a special sort who can tolerate it. Thick skin and a rugged attitude. Just get on with it.

Shiera's first experience of open air toilet in the snow and freezing temperatures. Sorry to mention it, but out here, the facilities are a bit rough....and a challenge to your dignity!

We stopped at Khoksar for breakfast and foreigners only passport check. A digital display read 4 degrees C.

The snow continued all the way and got heavier. By the time we reached Keylong in the Bhaga valley at 3,350mtrs, the snow was coming down thick. We all sat in the van at the bus stand for a while before it became apparent we weren't going to be moving. Apparently, the next pass up ahead was blocked, so there was no way forward. Further on in the discussions and it also became apparent that there was no way back either, as Rohtang La was now blocked also. No choice but to stay the night in Keylong and see what happens in the morning...we were snowed in!

Most of Keylong was closed for the winter, and the only accommodation choice, so it seemed was the dormitories at the Drabla guest house at the new bus stand. 100 rupees for a bed, in a shared room with some Indian tourists.

The HPTC canteen at the bus stand seemed the only choice for food and could only serve up chai, cold drinks and the usual staple of rice/dal combination. We would die if we had to stay here for long!

It was a very long night! The loudest voices in existence were in our room, with no escape. Before the night was out, like a thriller, someone would die! You can tell I’ve been reading Dan Brown can't you?

Saturday 23rd October - Well at least nobody died last night, but it was close. There was a continuous chorus of annoying guys regurgitating sputum at regular intervals, intermixed with farting and snoring. The room was a freezing cold prison cell with only candle for light as the town's electricity was out. With the only cover being three or more layers of clothing followed by duvets that must be relics from the '50s having been used in damp conditions with no wash despite being used many hundreds of times. You can imagine that this was like Shiera's worst nightmare.

We woke up early and the snow was still falling. The views though, were simply stunning. Most of the discussions seemed to indicate that we were snowed in for at least 2 or 3 days. Now how's that for Shiera's first experience of snow! Last night we built a 'Snow Bunny'. Not a normal snowman, but a snow bunny. And we had a snowball fight. Awesome!

We learnt that the town had a bazaar a short way from the bus stand, so headed there to see if we could buy Shiera some good boots, as the present ones were leaking. Keylong is a super place. Nestled in a picturesque valley with the awesome scene of the surrounding snow covered mountains and crystal clear blue sky. There is a phrase 'Every cloud has a silver lining'. Well the silver lining here is that we have been stranded in a beautiful place. Not on everyone's itinerary, but well worth it. We found a nice hotel and restaurant to relocate to called Hotel Tashi Deleg, down In the town. Good food and very nice husband and wife owner. After final confirmation with our driver that we had no choice but to stay for a couple of days, then we relocated to a super room for 500 rupees, with the most awesome view of the mountains, and...quiet.... No more farting or snoring...apart from Shiera that is! One of the walks from the central bus stand offered an incredible view along the valley. The snow blowing over the distant mountains occasionally cleared to reveal a picture postcard view to die for.

The mountain folk here are tough. And I mean really tough. Some were walking through the snow in flip-flops. I even saw some kids in T-shirts. If there skin was fairer, it would have turned blue to match the sky. As it was, they have thick and rugged skin. Many ladies wear traditional costume of black with decorative needlework. The school girls dressed in Tibetan coloured uniform. Now that the winter has set in, they would get little respite from this cold weather until next April or so.

The snow had piled a foot thick or more on the roofs, so they were busy scraping it off. Power and telephone wires were layered in ice and many had collapsed under the weight. The electricity was still out to whole town as a result of collapsed power cables into the area. Maybe power will be restored sometime in the next day or so. Last night we had to make do with small candles for light in the dorm and toilet. No heating and no emergency generator either. At the Tashi Deleg they have a backup generator, so we should have some electricity this evening and some heating in the restaurant too.

Out for a walk along the valley was superb. The sun had come out and the roads were a combination of running water, slushy snow and mounds of snow fallen or cleared from the roofs of the buildings. The sky was crisp and the panorama magnificent.

Down from the walk we stopped at a Dhaba for some Thukpa, the staple diet of the locals. Not one of my favourites I must admit. The one we had was a bit slimy and full of gritty bits, but it warmed us up. I felt happier afterwards when we got some freshly cooked Gulab Jamun from another café. Naughty but nice!

Around 7:30pm they fired up the generator and we were able to move to the restaurant for dinner and the comfort of a gas fire and some lighting. They had a separate circuit to provide a single fluorescent light in each bedroom. Enough, but no heating, so we piled on the quilts and blankets. So much that we almost couldn't move.

Sunday 24th - At breakfast we met up with a group of Australians who were also stranded here. They were on a filming project for a series of TV programmes surfing around 28 states of India with a surfboard. An interesting concept, and full of challenges along the way.( www.surf28states.com ). They had a Yak pull them along in Manali as there is nothing to surf on. Here it was pure luck being surrounded by snow.

We got some very disturbing news this morning. Yesterday there had been six deaths on Rohtang La pass. Some ladies who were at the bus station had lost there son, and some of the others were Indian tourists from Bangalore and Calcutta. Apparently their vehicle had gone over the edge. We were stunned, considering we had come across that pass ourselves. It was understandable why it had been closed until the army gave clearance for it to re-open. The latest estimate was that it might open tomorrow. We will have to see.

The extra time here gave us the opportunity to see Keylong from almost every angle. More walks along each road radiating from the centre. Today was less snow than yesterday due to the thawing from the sun, but it was still a magnificent view. The stay at the Tashi Deleg has also been superb. They are the only restaurant worthy of note I think, and their food is excellent.

The time here has also been relaxing with an opportunity to do some reading. I just finished Dan Brown's epic novel Angel's & Daemons. Having seen the movie, the book adds some great seat gripping detail. Never used to be into novels, but he writes books you just cannot put down.

Bored now with nothing to read....what shall I do after finishing my writing? With Shiera, when she gets bored that means it's time to annoy me. Maybe it's time for retaliation!

Monday 25th October - I had a really restless night filled with many coughing spells. When we finally got up we hear that the temperature last night had been about -10degrees. At breakfast we got them to ring our driver, who luckily confirmed that we were to head off to Manali this morning after the army gave the all clear to go. We finally departed Keylong at about 9:10am. The journey was amazing. The land had been sculptured with snow and the crystal clear blue sky was beyond just being awesome. For most of the route we had to crawl along in convoy, with numerous trucks and other vehicles trying to get out whilst they could. Many accidents along the way too as the conditions were still treacherous. Thankfully we made it to Rohtang La pass by mid day and then the tricky decent to the valley bellow. This section was slower and more fraught than the ascent. The crazy thing was the impatient drivers trying to overtake on dangerous bends and some getting stuck. The lack of intelligence of some drivers is beyond logic.

We arrived back in Manali at 4:20pm, a little over 7 hours for the usual 5 hour journey. Before heading back up to old Manali we booked our bus tickets down to Shimla for day after tomorrow. Should warm up a bit down there.

Not sure whether it was something I ate, but a couple of hours later I started to feel bad. So tired, coughing fit and not able to eat much. We hadn't stopped to eat all day and I should have been hungry, but couldn't stomach a full meal, and had bad diarrhea. Had to go back to the hotel and straight to bed. Could just be a chill.



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