Old and New Manali

Friday 25th March 2011

Today I decided to stay in one place – well almost.  Superb breakfast in the early morning sunshine set me up for some walking but first caught up with some photo uploading, which I have been unable to do all week.  The guys at the hotel are now getting a bit suspicious that I am using their internet a bit above their normal expecations, but it is the first fast connection all week.

[singlepic id=59 w=320 h=240 float=left]It was a lovely hot morning with a gentle breeze – perfect for trekking, so I took the steep track down the hillside from the hotel, expecting to be able to cross the Beas valley to the village on the other side of the valley, Vashisht.  The walk along the left bank was lovely, but the promised bridge never materialised and so reluctantly I turned round after a mile or so, to head back to the bridge at Old Manali.

[singlepic id=57 w=320 h=240 float=left]Across the valley must be the hospital and I was both alarmed and assured by the appearance of an air ambulance helicopter who made an expert manoeuvre, obviously very well practiced, as it approached at high speed down the valley and turned to land within seconds – a very efficient way of being rescued.  It is still serious snowy conditions only five miles up this valley, and the Rhotang Pass carrying the fabled Manali to Leh road will remain closed until June, which seems quite incredible here in this 30 degree heat.

So although I never got to Vashisht to see the hot springs, it was still a very pleasant few hours walking.  At the bridge I climbed further up the hill and followed the road to the Hadamba Temple which turned out to be very popular.  As it is a major tourist attraction old ladies clutching photos of gods latched onto any Indian tourists, and many were also holding  huge Angora Rabbits which were available for photo opportunities, and seemed overall to be in very good condition with their incredible fluiffy white fur.

[singlepic id=64 w=320 h=240 float=left]But todays star performers were the Yaks – two of them available for photos in the saddle and very popular with the local honeymooners.  I had heard that Manali is Indias number one honeymoon destination and had this confirmed when I got involved in being photographed with the groom of one party.  Indians just love to have their picture taken with a white person, so today I came in joint second place with the rabbits, but the Yaks are just so peaceful and beautiful that they must remain todays number one photographic subject.  I want one!

[singlepic id=65 w=320 h=240 float=left]The Rough Guide recommended a nearby restaurant, Il Forno, for their italian quality pizzas but when I got there it was still closed for the winter – as are so many of the places around here.  I would definitely return for the view alone though.  Further down in town Manali was still uninteresting and with pizza on the brain I went back to Johnsons and had an amazingly good wood fired pizza and another hot spiced apple juice.  This place is exceptional by anyone’s standards!

[singlepic id=70 w=320 h=240 float=left]In the heat of the afternoon sun I imagined the 2 km walk back to Old Manali, especially after all the walking I had already done today, would be hard work but in fact it seemed quite a breeze.  So much so that when I got up the hill to the hotel I kept going and headed right out of town on the trekking route to the next village spurred on by the amazing views in the late afternoon.

The village was even more interesting without the distraction of carrying my bag and as expected the locals simply ignore the intrusion, which they are obviously so accustomed to – the season hasnt really started yet but it must have a huge impact on their lives when the summer invasion of western tourist with their music and Enfields roaring all night.  Even now there are a few bikes roaring around but there are sheds full of Enfields ready to unleash any week now.

[singlepic id=69 w=320 h=240 float=left]I returned to watch the sunset over the mountains from the hotel, took advantage of the good broadband to skype home and then sat down in the hotel restaurant, where I still am, for a very good and exceptionally filling meal.

The end of another lovely day and the start of my last week, although it has dawned on me that I am not compelled to return on the flight which I have booked, such is the benefit of travelling with a scheduled airline!  Having said that, I probably will but if anything comes up in the next few days which requires a little flexibitily, then I may take advantage!

Good night for now though.

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