Manali in January
Manali in January is an all new place. It is white as snow because snow takes over everything in its stride then. All the better for skiing at Solang Valley. Though, Rohtang Pass is out of bounds for being snowbound in 7 feet or more of snow. A White Christmas is no fantasy here.
Manali in Himachal Pradesh is home to snow. Himalaya, the abode of snow, of course!
Driving: Beware, these are mountain roads
Getting to Manali from Chandigarh or Delhi by bus, especially Volvo, is easy, but the snow melt on roads at Manali itself can challenge the best of drivers from the plains. Hill drivers are in demand for their obvious skills in this snow and ice terrain. A traffic jam on an ice-layered road is usually credited to drivers from the plains who use the brakes frequently to manoeuvre the track.
Of salt, butter and tea... Excuse me, is this soup?
The locals seem to have no fear of the cold. Barefoot children with ruddy cheeks, throwing snowballs at each other are a common sight! Whereas, heavy -- I mean real heavy woollens are not sufficient protection for visitors, at times. The locals' immunity to cold may be boosted by the local chai. Not a familiar avatar of tea, this one, but it does a good job to heat up the body, I guess. Tea leaves brewed in water, with a dash of salt and a spoonful of ghee or butter, this is what the locals recommend for winter!
Life at SASE, Manali
A stay at SASE (Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Manali), a defence establishment can be an added privilege here. Air warmed rooms, hot water, regular Indian food, and lots of tea -- regular and the buttery Tibetan variety that is quite useful here, make for a comfortable haven to return to after walks around town.
Visiting Rohtang La may be completely out of question In January. Rohtang La remains snowbound most of the year except summer months, i.e. June and July roughly.
Solang Valley, if not Rohtang La
Solang Valley makes up for Rohtang La! The skiing here for all kinds of people -- those with savvy skiing equipment and trainers, and those with a used car tyre under them :-)
Childhood thrills: Skiing with a used car tyre
Whizzing down the soft, snow slopes sitting on a car tyre is no less an adventure, and its costs a mere Rs 20! Takes one back to the thrills of childhood. Simple can be great says this car tyre skiing experience at Manali's Solang valley ski slopes.
Against the backdrop of snow, friendly yaks jibe each other in play unless tourists want to try a yak ride and their owner calls for their attention.
Amarnath in Kashmir, and another one in Manali, Himachal Pradesh
While, Amarnath the natural stalagmite Shivlinga formation in Kashmir has been revered for ages, Manali has its own mini-Amarnath. Thankfully it is not as popular as the one in Kashmir, so a great place to walk up to. There are plenty of trekking opportunities in Manali, outside the touristy stuff, if one enjoys the surge of fresh air in the lungs that accompanies such exploratory attempts.
Pagal nala, called so by the locals which is otherwise a bubbly mountain stream turns takes on ferocious proportions when rainwater drains through it. This unpredictability in current and volume has got it the name of Pagal nala. More of such mountain streams wander along to meet River Beas, a tributary of River Indus.
Himalaya is still home to some real yogis. Those who prefer solitary contemplation to wild adulations from devotees. And there are others who sacrifice their solitude to take on a large band of students or followers.
A blizzard here is nothing more than a passing phase of nature, if you go by these dogs' response to it
A trek around the mountain paths at Manali may possibly bring you face to face with the solitary kinds. The cold means nothing to them. Clad in a simple cotton wraparound and another cotton cloth over the upper body, a content smile and meditative eyes, they may be elusive to tourists.
Yet, some of the hill dogs have a natural affinity for such benign souls and can spot them sooner than our human eyes can. As the yogis, the dogs too have no fear of the cold or anything else for that matter.
A blizzard here is nothing more than a passing phase of nature, if you go by these dogs' response to it. Can we say the same about ourselves, equipped with the best of facilities and insurance policies? We do try in spurts to find that balance and peace in life. The journey is beautiful...
Manali can be many things to different people. What you find here depends on what your search is.
Manali in winter is more charming a place than it is in summer, when all residents of the Indian plains head for the hills to cool off from the dusty, sultry summer. It can get pretty crowded as many other hill destinations. Nonetheless, summer is the time to be in Manali, if you want a glimpse of the Rohtang Pass and the road beyond :-)
- Hill trains of India
- Ganga Arti at Rishikesh
- White water rafting, Shivpuri to Rishikesh
- German bakery at Laxman jhula, Rishikesh
- Srinagar in Garhwal Himalaya
- Trek to Tungnath, Chopta
- Ukhimath in Garhwal Himalaya
- Madmaheshwar, Panch Kedar
- Stopover at Joshimath
- Auli in June
- Valley of Flowers, Garhwal Himalaya
- River Kosi, Jim Corbett National Park
- Buffer zone, Jim Corbett National Park
- Weekend at Jim Corbett National Park
- Hartola, Kumaon Himalaya
- Manali in January
- Weekend in Leh, Ladakh
- Govind Ghat in August