Himalayas Calling II

Day 2, March 3rd 2005
After an eventful day and a sound sleep at night, we were ready at 8 am for the next destination, Solang Valley. The place was closed for tourists and no taxis were allowed. Fortunately we negotiated with a driver and convinced him to come. At the check post of Nehru Kund, we made excuses to the Indian Army that we are not here for sight seeing. "We are going to meet our family friend in a village nearby". That was the excuse that worked. Reaching the village, we spotted a shop for snow dresses. We had our jeans soaked in ice the previous day. So we planned to take the full snow dress kit - boot, gloves and a fur coat. During seasons, a set will cost you around Rs 200. After a bargain, we got 5 pieces for 300 bucks.

Solang was 3 kms from the village (Palchang). A walk along the road was the only option. The road was fully covered with snow and no vehicle would take us there. The view all around us was completely white. All the beauty of nature was captured in our memories and in photographs for others. There was snow as far as your eye can see. Beas was flowing below as a narrow stream. After walking for about half an hour, we reached the valley. I expected a place similar to the valley of flowers. But this was nowhere close to it. It was a much smaller valley with a few hotels and shops scattered here and there.

Catching the first sign of a Wine shop, Harsh rushed to get a bottle of beer which was chilled by burying in the snow. Sun had come out of the clouds and the morning mist was cleared. The climb had compelled us to take off our winter clothing. And then came the idea of clicking a few photographs like the heros of Hindi movies. Remember the song (Yeh Haseen Vaadiyaan) sequences of Roja. But again for us only heros and no heroines around. :-(

Marching a few more metres ahead we reached a location which seemed like a venue of winter games. Skiing and Board Skating on a hill. There were people, young and old, practicing skiing. All were students of an institute, we came to know later. Gaining enthuciasm from the kids, we hired skiies, after a lot of bargain, and started moving around. Raja was an expert and was at ease. Balancing on a ski is a difficult task. It seems elegant for an onlooker, but you feel the fear of falling once you have them on your feet. The body weight has to be kept just above the boots. The instructor mentioned all these and then we were left among the experts who were skiing there. Raja and Harsh learnt quickly and even managed a race from the top of the slopes. Ankur and Girraj were the worst, with chotu falling a lot. All of us had a laugh at various poses in which he fell (forward, backwards, sideways...).

After skiing for an hour, we trekked back to Palchang, handed over our snow dresses. Waiting for a cab, we did sight seeing of some couples. One of the ladies was really gorgeous. Seeing her get into a car with Chandigarh registration, we made plans to visit the place. That is how chandigarh got into our itinerary. Luckily we also got a cab back to Manali. Our next destination was Manikaran.

Manikaran was a holy place for Sikhs. We had heard about hot water springs there from a lot of people. There was a gurudwara which provided good accomodation and food. Reaching Manikaran was easy from Manali. Got a Himachal Transport bus from Manali to Bhunter, and a local bus from Bhunter to Manikaran. We reached our destination at late evening and it was pretty dark to enjoy the view of the surroundings. Got ourselves a nice room in the gurudwara, had dinner from the langar, attended the puja (the first time for me), planned for the next day and had a sound sleep.

Day 3, March 4th 2005
Next day morning brought freshness to our spirits. All of us were up and ready by around 6.00 am. Wandering around the place we found out a hot cave and a few tanks which collected water from the hot water springs. Hot cave was a place surrounded by hot water and was really cosy. At the hot water tanks, we noticed women sitting around with strings dipped in the water. From a distance it seemed like fishing. But as we came closer we were surprised to see small cloth bags (kizhi in Malayalam) tied to the ends of the strings. Asking them about what it is, we got a reply that they were cooking. Firing them with a few more questions we learnt that all food in the gurudwara was cooked in the hot water coming from the springs. Rice, pulses, vegetables etc were put in a conatainer full of hot water. Even rotis were rolled and put in hot water and they would float once they are cooked.

After experiencing the wonders at the hot water springs we had our backpacks ready to move to Shimla. It was a long bus journey, most of which we spent in playing cards. 4 of us played and the 5th one was supposed to take photographs of the scenery around. By late evening we were at Shimla. Mall Road of Shimla was famous for Maal rather than Mall. Soon we took room in a cheap dharmasala and were on the Maal Road. As the weather was chilly in the evenings, we didnt have much luck with the Maal. Depressed, we had heavy dinner at a dhaba. After making all arrangements with him Harsh for our trip to his place (Chandigarh) we sent him off in a night bus. Back at the dharmasala at 10.00 pm we played cards again for some time.

Next two days of trip to come in next blog.
Keep Waiting.

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