Spiti Travelogue: Day 3

Mar­velous Man­ali: Our first overnight halt since leav­ing Pune

I hard­ly got any sleep in the bus. After being involved in a minor bus acci­dent in my child­hood, I find it dif­fi­cult to entrust my life in the hands of anoth­er, and sleep bliss­ful­ly. In the wee hours of the morn­ing, while I just caught a nap, the bus stopped for chai (tea) and I was up again. We had stopped at a small ‘dha­ba’ style out­let, where the weath­er out­side in the ear­ly morn­ing at 6:00 AM was very cold.

I had ‘chai’ and tried to warm myself up. I noticed that the tap water at the made-up-sink was run­ning, and nobody cared to close it. We could hear the water of the Beas Riv­er, but could not see it. Mad­hukar lat­er nar­rat­ed a tale where he was in a group of 2/3 trekkers who had metic­u­lous­ly shut down a run­ning water tap in a remote high vil­lage in Himachal. The next day, the vil­lage ran with­out water, and every­body was fran­ti­cal­ly search­ing for the mis­cre­ant who had played foul.

The night freezes the water in the pipes, so they leave it run­ning. In Maha­rash­tra, we are used to curs­ing any­one who wastes water!

The road was a wind­ing road through moun­tains, with beau­ti­ful views of the val­ley and riv­er down below. For the most part of the rest of the jour­ney, I was in the driver’s cab­in. In the midst of the action, where I can see every­thing, I feel safe, rather than sit­ting behind! The only oth­er pas­sen­ger there was a Cau­casian female, who was smok­ing repeat­ed­ly and to my utter sur­prise was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the dri­ver and his assis­tant in a mixed lan­guage com­pris­ing of ges­tures, expres­sions, and sparse Eng­lish.

We reached Man­ali at 10:30 AM. The com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Man­ali hit us imme­di­ate­ly, as a crowd of auto-rick­shaw-wal­lahs gheraoed us. We had no choice but to accede to them to dri­ve us the 5-minute dis­tance. It was good — we did not have to car­ry our lug­gage.Trees in Manali

The hotel was good. Most impor­tant­ly, it had a hot water geyser, and I could have a hot water show­er any time I wished! We unpacked, show­ered, and set out for our errands. We had traveler’s cheques to encash, which we were able to do in a State Bank branch in Man­ali. We had break­fast-lunch com­bined at Chop­sticks, a very good restau­rant on the main Man­ali Street. The menu com­prised of Chi­nese, Tibetan and Japan­ese del­i­ca­cies. Every­one was hun­gry and we had a feast.

After hav­ing spent a sleep­less night in the bus, I just want­ed to enjoy an after­noon sies­ta, but every­one was in the mood to go to the Hidim­ba tem­ple, so I relent­ed.

Hidim­ba tem­ple is a few cen­turies old, built most­ly out of wood, with intri­cate carv­ings on the main door, and var­i­ous horns of ibex and deer adorn­ing the out­side walls. After our 30-minute walk up, we could see the snow-capped Friend­ship peak in the dis­tance that Mad­hukar and his group had once climbed.

The kids rode a yak at Hidim­ba tem­ple. The own­er said it was about 7 years old. The yak’s fur was white and brown, and the own­er said he washed it every­day with sham­poo. On see­ing our dis­be­liev­ing glances, he said he was not kid­ding. To prove it, he sep­a­rat­ed the white fur with his hands and showed us that it had the bluish tinge of the sham­poo towards the skin, where it was dif­fi­cult to wash. I was amazed.

Manali TreesOn our way back, the oth­ers did some shop­ping (shawls, caps, etc.). We did not, since we did not want to increase the weight of our lug­gage. We spent the evening walk­ing around Man­ali and then return­ing to our Hotel.

Mad­hukar also checked up on the jeeps that we had booked. It turned out that because there was a pos­si­bil­i­ty of snow/water on the road, the Tata Sumos that we had booked would not be up to the task, and the only recourse was Maru­ti Gyp­sies. The Gyp­sy has a four-wheel dri­ve, which is of utmost sig­nif­i­cance on these bad roads.

We vis­it­ed a local bar where we had long inter­est­ing talks about moun­taineer­ing in gen­er­al. After din­ner, we returned to the hotel to pack and pre­pare for the ear­ly morn­ing depar­ture.

Vidisha was the only one who took a show­er the next morn­ing, and we all scram­bled with our back­packs and lug­gage to leave in time. The 7:00 AM even­tu­al­ly became 8:00 AM by the time we left. The dri­vers were two young fel­lows, who safe­ly tied our heavy lug­gage on the top car­ri­er along with cans of petrol for the long jour­ney. I was told that there were no petrol pumps along the way, and I had a fair idea that we were in for an excit­ing expe­ri­ence.

Next: Day 4

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