Tag Archives: Manali

Return to Manali



Following my ride from Leh I returned to the Viewpoint hostel in old Manali. I received a wonderful (almost heroic) reception from the owner and his family. I suggested to the owners son that he too should visit Leh. Considering I had travelled halfway around the world and had the opportunity to visit Leh it was incredible that he had grown up in Manali and not ever been there. He decided that he would like to go and make a similar trip. His father gave him his blessing and was happy for him to take time out from the family commitments. Result! Despite being newly married (3 months) he made arrangements to ride there by motorcycle with two friends. He simply needed to get a driving license and put in his application. It takes a maximum of 2 weeks to process at an office in Manali and there is no fee.  Joachim had taken a room at the hostel too and was planning to visit the Parvati valley next before attending a meditation class in Dharamsala he had already booked.  I asked Joachim to join me on a trek up the valley to the West of old Manali. It was something I thought to do when I had been in Manali the first time round.

The weather became hot and very different to the constant downpours that Manali and Himachal Pradash  as a whole had experienced whilst I had been in Leh.

The trek out of Manali which followed a river along the valley and  up around quite high hills, fields, and forests was wonderful. The scenery changed quite a lot but was mostly  a lush green landscape. The dramatic combination of rocks, trees, rivers and waterfalls together with flowers, birds and insects made it a perfect outing in the sunshine. It was quite unspoilt and the well marked, sometimes difficult, path was often overgrown. At times it was quite precarious and took some care to avoid slipping down the steep hillsides. Once we had arrived at a particularly outstanding waterfall we stopped for a packed lunch of Tibetan bread, curd cheese, tomatoes and mango.




My return to Manali represented the end to my bike ride. I rested and returned to a daily routine. I took advantage of the time off and walked a great deal in Manali and tried to cover some of the places I had not previously visited. One  good walk took me high above the town to the West and through many orchards of apple trees.


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It took around twenty hours to reach Leh by road. This included a few stops for refreshment. It was an incredible road trip which tested the vehicle and the skills of the driver.
I had booked my place early and had snagged the front seat. I watched the road carefully and considered the degree of difficulty I would experience cycling back. The road conditions were seriously bad and was amazed that a minibus could cope with the flooded rocky roads. All kudos to the driver who had been doing the route on a regular basis for over 6 years and knew it like the back of his hand. I enjoyed the luxury of being driven but felt a little guilty having scotched my ‘green’ copybook.




We were delayed at one point where the road had given way to fast moving water and mud. Vehicles were queued and a fair few people, in typical Indian fashion, stood and watched a lorry with its wheels spinning and sliding in the mud.
With a little coordinated effort there was a way for us to get through. By getting the passengers off, putting rocks under the rear wheels and enlisting the help of other drivers to push we were able to get past. Using this method we managed to get three minibuses through.
I was amused at the Israeli tourists that finally conceded to remove themselves off one minibus to lighten its load. They had summer sandals and flip-flops. Some looked like they were dressed as Rajasthani herdsmen with baggy trousers and matching hats. They did their best to avoid getting mud on their ethnic attire and gingerly tiptoed ahead past the problem. I think they would have been horrified at the thought of actually helping to push a vehicle through mud.








Having backtracked to a village to drop off an elderly lady we arrived in Leh in darkness. It took a little while to reorganise my luggage around my cycle panniers. Somewhat cold, tired and disorientated I struggled to make my way up a steep hill away from the bus station. It was pitch black. Eventually I found my way to a dirty looking room at the Indus hotel and gratefully fell in to a coma.



20130702-132808.jpgInitial impressions of Manali are disappointing. It is, naturally, a huge draw for tourists seeking refuge from the heat of the Ganges plain and beyond. Manali has a seaside town atmosphere and is heaving with people. The main drag is a pedestrianised area awash with shops, restaurants and travel centres. However the surrounding scenery is nothing short of spectacular. The Beas river has carved through the rock and helped created a valley that extends over 80km South to the Pandoh Dam reservoir. At Manali it is fast flowing and loud. Himalayan ranges rise up in every direction and stand proud above alpine forests. To the north are the formidable mountain passes which lead to Ladakh, Pakistan and ‘Tibetan’ China.
I had the address of a hostel in old Manali. The road winds up past a pine forest, down over a river and then up once again towards the old town. The original village is very attractive with distinctively built wooden buildings.
The newly replaced Manu temple represents the story of how the ‘law maker’ Manu, a little like the biblical Noah, arrived here following a great flood.

On the opposite bank of the Beas lies the village of Vashist which boasts of hot water springs for bathing. Aside from the usual tourist shops, hotels and restaurants Vashist has developed a reputation for being a destination for ‘stoner’ Western tourists with a cafe culture to match. It also has a large number of motorcycle hire companies. Row upon row of Royal Enfields gleam brightly alongside the road leading up to the village.
New Manali and the commercial centre sprawls along the West Bank of the river Beas. It mixes working class suburbs with a Tibetan community, Buddhist monastery and temple. It is separated from the old town by ancient forests. The ‘nature walk’ is particularly pleasant and in the hill forests above is the Hidimba Devi temple containing a natural cave shrine. 20130702-152609.jpg20130702-152744.jpg






Beyond Manali is the Rohtang pass. Many Indian tourists find their first experience of snow there. It is also the gateway to Ladakh. At 2am one chilly morning I popped my bike on top of a minibus and left for Leh. I had been disappointed by my failure to get there from Srinagar. I was going there after all and cycle back to Manali via one of the most exciting and highest routes in the world. Wow.