Now was the time to explore the beautiful Himachal! I took a shared ride in a mini-van from Dharmashala to Manali. The drive in the night was a wonderful experience. It was dark, from the front seat only thing I could see in the headlights was the narrow road with pits and pot holes, blind curves, steep gradients, no street lights in most of the forest area! I reached Manali safe and sound early in the morning. After dealing with the agents I checked in to a hotel for 2N/3D package with food and 2.5 days shared tours for Rs.4000. For the quality of food, room and the tours it doesn't look expensive.The best thing to do in Manali is visiting Rothang Pass. The drive is fantastic, the destination is fantastic! I started with a shared tour arranged by the hotel. There was a very funny honeymoon couple with me! They both provided a real comedy all the way. They wanted to experience snow up in the hills. The scenery through the valleys is majestic. On the way our driver asked us to rent the ski-suits telling that it would be extremely cold up in the pass. Each costed Rs.250 which I never used. The suite was really smelling of sweat and looked very dirty, it wasn't so cold to wear a ski-suite.
Rothang Pass is a natural divide between the Kullu Valley in the south and the Spiti Valley in the north. It is an ancient trade route between two areas and is open from May to November.Once up in the mountains, that is at 13,051ft, the view of the surrounding Himalayan mountains is wonderful. The view of Hanuman Tibba is unparalleled. I saw a line of horses and horse-riders. They were charging Rs.600 for 1Km ride up to the snow line on the nearby peak to see the snow or that day few snow flakes!! Alas! Anyways, I didn't take a ride, opted to hike up instead. Initially I felt the altitude but then few stops for few sips of water did the trick. I went up much more than the horses could take. The powdery snow, almost nothing, was around and people were crazy about taking picture in that snow.
Next day, it was time for local sightseeing ... that included few temples and monasteries. Major being Hidimba Devi temple, Shiva temple in Manali and Vasishta Temple in Vasisht. The Vashisht temple has a black stone idol of Vashishta Muni. Near Vasistha Muni temple, there is a hot water sulphur springs. There are separate bathrooms for men and women. There is a Lord Rama temple nearby. The temples are built with extensively carved stones and wood. There were people playing traditional music when the arti was being performed.
The Manali market is a nice place for shopping. I spent more money here shopping and then on I had to tighten the budget for my travel a bit! Great sweaters, shawls, stoles, silk and so many things. It is a good place for eating out too! Good restaurants are all around.
Visited a monastery very near to the market. The place is beautiful and has few shops which sell Tibetan traditional items.
On the third day I went to Manikaran, a holy hot spring. The place is boiling hot ... feels like the river is boiling!
In my next visit to Manali I plan to camp and hike in the Great Himalayan National Park. Hope it happens some time soon! I will look forward to it!
---Excursions- Hidimba Devi TempleHidimba Devi temple in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, the most popular among Hidimba temples. The most powerful being in Kullu Valley. The 500 year old Dhoongri temple is built with wood and has a wooden pagoda with three tapering roofs. The doors and the outer walls are carved very beautifully and intricately. The Hidimba Devi image is in a massive rock cave. The temple is one of the five sites awaiting to be added to UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
There is a rope hanging near the rock. The legend says that, those days hands of sinners would be tied to this rope and sinners would be pushed hard swinging against the rock!
Hidimba Devi, is a short role in the great Hindu epic Mahabharatha. She was one of the wives of Bhimasena, the second brother of Pandavas, and mother of Ghatotkacha. She belonged to Kirataka tribe (forest dwellers) from Nepal. She and her brother Rakshasa Hidimbasura wanted to eat Pandavas. Bhima killed Hidimbas
There are so many other places but time is most valuable that did not permit me to stay longer than this.but had a great trip that time.
And its me,