I was so incredibly glad to end up in Manali – it wasn’t on my initial itinerary but after researching and being told by numerous friends to include it, I gave in and I’m so glad I did.
My ideal trip would have been to do a Himalayas hike, which is quite a lot further north even though Manali is technically a Himalayan town, I did manage to explore some forests though which were just enchanting and breathtaking!
In fact, Manali had quite a range of faces for me!
First of all, I did not expect SNOW! I was there in Mid-March and let me tell you, when I say I had just come from the Philippines, I mean, I had about 7 bikinis, one pair of silk pants (not warm) and about zero jumpers, one suede jacket built for fashion more than fair weather!
So, my first pit-stop in Manali was a hot shower, then to the markets to buy gloves, socks, beanies and leggings! Which I picked up for $14AUD – not each, ALL! So, if you want some souvenir shopping, Manali gotchu gurrrrrrl (and guy :P)
I met up with Rajesh from Brahmand Tour and he took me to a ski slope where we trekked up the mountain, I fell thigh deep in snow and got stuck, my backpack was so heavy with camera gear that it flipped me forward and I lay there face planted, laughing into snow and trying to ask between laugh-breaths for help.
By the end of the day, I’d been in stitches! My socks were soaked so I stuck them out the window of the car to dry as onlookers giggled at the girl peering through dripping socks in the window. I made friends with about five dogs that kept following me and that I probably would have snuck into my hotel room if we hadn’t been driving.
After the snow we walked through the rainforest to a temple perched above Old Manali, traditionally more of the backpacker side of the town and known as the “Hippie Manali” after ringing the bell at the temple and making my wish we headed down for some pizza – which was probably the spiciest pizza I’ve ever eaten! But great!
We then journeyed through the town to the Vashisht Baths but there are no cameras allowed due to people bathing naked, which, there were! I was not one of them! Maybe next time, when you know, it’s not snowing 😉
We drove past the Beas River which in Monsoon season you can find people rafting down. There was quite a lot of traffic there which ate up quite a bit of the day. But they were building more roads to Leh Ladakh which will make it easier to travel between and pretty much as soon as I left Manali it was all I heard about from fellow travelers so – NOTED! I will definitely head back on my next trip and reach further heights of the Himalayas!
But it was definitely an unexpected and unique side of India I had not anticipated! Manali felt like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where you crawl through a cupboard and end up in snow, then the forest, then the street town, then a temple! Who knew?!
It was fun to be led down a different turn each time with Brahmand Tour who truly highlighted my northern India route! He also drove over 8 hours just to come show me around – which was crazzzzy of him but so so appreciated as I truly experienced the local side and made a friend along the way!
I found Brahmand Tour through TripAdvisor and his official website is www.brahmandtour.com