So we got to know that we’ll be able to find some snow in Solang and Kothi. Rohtang and Gulaba were blocked due to heavy snowfall two days back. Therefore we planned our itinerary to include just the first two places and to be back in our hotel room by evening. We had booked our taxi the previous day itself from Manali bus-stand.. Contacting Taxi-drivers directly instead of booking from the official drivers’ union counter us saved us 50 bucks, but still it was a wrong choice. (Why?? Read on..)
So we set out early (9:30 is surely early by any standards 🙂 ) It was a bright sunny morning.. just the perfect start to an exciting day.. Well if we were excited with what we had seen on the first day, we were to know that it was nothing as compared to what lay ahead for us. Solang was about 1-hour drive from Manali. The scenery on the way was literally a treat for the eyes. The temperature was falling we were heading close to the snow covered areas, but we were least bothered about it.
We reached Solang at about 11. Finally we found snow!! Seeing snow from so close for the first time was driving us crazy. Hurriedly we got a pair of snow-shoes each and rushed towards the main area. And wow!!! The view inside was really mesmerizing. I was simply awe-struck by sheer beauty of the scene.. It was just snow, snow every where…. A large plain mostly snow covered area.. adjacent to some heavily snow-covered mountains… And everyone present there was enjoying the moment to the max.. Some were skiing, some were having a snow-scooter ride, others were tracking on the snow-covered hills and some others were just enjoying the beauty of the nature.. We decided to follow the group3 and go for some tracking..
We started moving up on the snow-covered rocks.. Though it was a bit slippery, but it wasn’t that hard as the thickness of snow was at least 5-6 inch, enough for the shoes fit in tightly. Now we were literally inside snow.. We were enjoying this all: Playing with snow, making snowballs and hurling them at each other..
The only thing missing was snow-fall.. We did try to create some artificial snowfall by picking up snowballs, throwing them high and breaking them in mid-air. At least, that could work well for the snaps, but it didn’t come that gudd ..
After going to a certain height I gave up; Could not dare to go beyond that point…It was not that hard to proceed further.. But looking at the ground and seeing that we had already come too high ( at least for me), the idea of coming down through the slippery snow looked already a bit tough to me.. So I decided not to go further, though Kaushik, Aakash and Anuj did go to some more height.. For me it was time to take some rest in the snow 🙂
After spending some more time in snow, we headed for paragliding… Though it looked pretty fascinating, but the thought of jumping off a high cliff even with the glider and a trainer was a bit too much for me.. Moreover due to some problems in Manali ATMs, we were running somewhat short of cash and in any case were not in a situation for affording 4 paragliders. ( The cost was 600 bucks per person) So I and Anuj decided not to go for it. Kaushik and Aakash went ahead. Kaushik had some problem due to upper-weight limit, but finally the paragliding-waala gave in to Kaushik’s persuasions and allowed him to go for the action. And as they say, it was an experience of a lifetime for both of them. I managed to make a video-clip of Kaushik enjoying paragliding, though that resulted in the glider falling on me.. 🙁
With paragliding done and having had our lunch, we were left with little money. With about 150 rupees in my pocket, I was the richest in the group at that time :D. So we had to give skiing a skip. But just for the records, we had managed a snap holding the ski-sticks with the local-ski waalas. 🙂 And yes.. the bargaining here knows no limits. The ski-waalas were ready to let us enjoy skiing for Rs 300 for 4 persons; while another group from STM (Anuj’s friends) paid as much as 500 per person!!!
Next we decided to move to Kothi: the next thing on our itinerary. But we were in for a disappointment. The driver stopped at a point called Café Kothi saying that this is the place. Now the place looked marvelous if considered a restaurant to be stopped at on the way. But that surely wasn’t a place which a person would come to see specifically from Manali. We asked the local janta and got to know that though the place was really Kothi, the thing which people come to see is a snow-point 2-3 kms higher. But the driver was adamant not to take us any higher without charging more money. We called up the Taxi Union President in Manali. He appeared to understand the situation, but he said that he can’t do anything in this case because though the driver was on the roll of the Union, the booking wasn’t done through the union. If later was the case, he’d have instructed him to take us to the desired point. So anyone reading this and planning to go to Manali, make it a point to book through some authorized body only. After arguing for some time, we decided not to spoil an enjoyable day with some stupid driver.. In any case we had seen enough of snow. So we decided to head back to Manali.
We were back to our hotel by the evening. Someone had earlier told me that a sunrise/sunset at a sea-beach or in mountains is one of the best sight that one can see on the earth. Though we missed the sunrise and the sunset, but we did manage to see a glimpse of the last rays of the sun, falling on some distant snowy mountains. And it was truly a picturesque view. 🙂
We were too tired now to do any marketing, though had planned earlier at least to buy some Kullu-shawls for mom. We rested for a while and had our dinner. Before long, it was time to pack up and move to bus-stand for an overnight journey to Shimla. We had a real great time at Manali. Considering that we were not able to go to many places ( Gulaba, Manikaran, Rohtang etc are some names I remember), perhaps two days are not normally enough to cover this beautiful place fully. I would surely like to come back to the place with more time at my disposal if given a chance.
For the next post over to Shimla…