I have always found it difficult to write in parts,only because I am never sure how to link the disjoint parts. But to write an account of a slightly longer vacation in a single post is being a little hurried with the experience. And I write down my travel experiences only to savor them for a little longer and read about them later and take off on those journeys once again.
On the third day after arriving in Manali, we took for Keylong early in the morning. It was not so much the destination that we were seeking, but we terribly wanted to enjoy the Himalyan terrain, much of what has awed us (and continues to do so) when we look at the albums of all those who have been to Ladhak.
Since we had missed out on going to Kothi the previous day, we stopped there on our way. It is a village only 12-13 kms from Manali, and offers a picturesque view of the hills and the passage of Beas. I cannot imagine how breathtaking the view would get once these tall brown slopes are covered in snow in December. Kothi is hardly even a village really – just a few run-down houses and some way-side shops for the travelers. I wanted to look around and take a walk on the nearing slopes, but there was no time then. After moving on from Kothi, we got on a winding road full of hairpin bends, a road so well made and even better maintained by the Border Road Organization, that we kept on wishing that this organization also takes over the maintenance of Bombay roads. The roads lead us to Madhi, which is another village very close to Rohtang pass. It is here that we again broke our journey for a short stop to take in the breathtaking view. This time, despite the shiny sun, the chill in the air was biting, and I could not have enough of the fresh air, or the view. Just then, I wanted to stop, break the journey, stay at that lovely place and wait for the whole terrain to get covered with the soft, fluffy white of snow. Yes, I do sound a little obsessed with snow, only because I very much am 🙂
It was at Madhi that some saffron and Kasturi peddlers began to make their sales pitches. The kasturi peddler was particularly a persuasive salesman, showing us many tricks of that small piece he was trying to sell. I was particularly intrigued by the chain demo, where he asked all of us to form a chain by holding our hands, rubbed the kasturi in the first person’s hand and we could smell the fragrance in the last person’s forehead – there was no doubt that he was swindling, though we never quite caught him out at it. As it turns out, we were to find similir salesmen even at the 13400 ft high Rohtang pass!
So it was around noon that we finished the 52 km journey to reach Rohtang, and that is an experience that I can dedicate an entire post to. What I was expecting of Rohtang was a narrow passage between the hills to end Kullu district and take us to Lahaul – but this pass turns out to be quite a wide one and looks beautiful and inviting. However it seems, this beauty is only a deception for the pass is known to be dangerous particularly for its irregular and unpredictable snow blizzards, which can cut you off from civilization by snowing you in. In fact it name itself portends the doom, for it literally means a pile of dead bodies in the local language. That is how much fear it instills in the people who live with it! But then, what then such majestic beauty cannot be but awe-inspiring, especially when it holds for its guard those angry looking tall mountains!
At Rohtang, we hired horses to go up to snow point, though it turns out that the horsemen were really exaggerating both the distance and the effort to the place. However, the air was very thin at that height and we took the horses just in case we did need them. The horse ride was another experience, because these horses were very docile and trotted gently to let one enjoy the complete panorama on the way. At the snow point, we were a little taken aback with the number of people. It was not even the holiday season, and definitely not the time for going to Rohtang! Rohtang typically closes by 1st November, and here,on November 5th we found ourselves amidst the crowd that is our country! However, the snow point is sufficiently expansive to accommodate all and still give you a little bit of space to wonder at nature. From the snow point, one can get only a glimpse of the kullu and the Lahaul valley, but at a distance, we could see a small very pretty lake. I tried to ask our horseman the name of this lake but he said it is called only the lake. My conjunction is that it was perhaps the Dashohar lake, and going by my general ‘lake’ fascination, I wanted to go there on the way to Keylong. Our driver, however looking at the time suggested that we in stead do it while returning, to which I agreed since it was getting rather late. For it was almost 3:30-4:00 when we did leave Rohtang after a good time with the snow and a generous helping of Maggi (Yes, the omnipotent food had traversed the height, as had the peddlers I mentioned earlier! In fact the height is now traversed by chaat vendors, tea-vendors etc., which roam around catering to the tourists, but never bother to carry a trash can. Neither has anyone else bothered to keep a few dustbins around the area, due to which the pass is terribly littered and makes one almost angry at the general disregard. In fact, one vendor laughed in my face when I asked him for a dustbin! I seethed at it, since I did not know at that time that I was soon going to reach a village where people will laugh similarly when you asked them for a toilet! That’s how we live in these pretty places). However one thing I should say, to eat spicy chaat at that height in biting cold, is unmatched. This snow peak, was in stark contrast to our snow experience in the Alps where almost no one looked around at the terrain but bothered themselves only with skiing.
Post the snow adventure, we began on a totally different kind of adventure, one I have never been on before, but I think I will have to leave it for the next post.