Monday, March 07, 2011

India part 20: Manali

Snowy autorickshaw

Eleven hours on a state bus wrapped in blankets. Facing a blizzard in sandals. Falling over in the snow and losing my wedding ring. Wet clothes, no coat. Not finding the ring. Returning to a freezing bedroom without a heater. A very upset stomach. Wife getting her face cut by a falling coathanger...

These were just some of the highlights of our visit to Manali. Okay, so it probably wasn't very bright to turn up in January without any warm clothes, but still. "Whole town is close," the bus conductor kindly told us as we rocked up after the mammoth journey, with the snow falling and the dark rising. Thankfully, we'd misheard him: "Old Town" was closed, which is the traveller enclave further up the hill - Model Town and New Manali were fine, and probably a hell of a lot more picturesque than they are without their winter coat.

Trees

On the plus side - and we did eventually see the plus side - SNOW YAY. I hadn't really imagined such a thing in India (hence the inappropriate clothes).

Hippy bus

On the second day, having shivered through the night with my head wrapped in a scarf, things improved with the purchase of a cheap pair of trainers which I later found out to be Japanese-made badminton shoes and, with my dark blue jeans, made me look like Craig David. Also a coat, which we judged "UK-acceptable", i.e. an item that can be worn or used back home without looking like a dick, unlike much of the produce sold in traveller bazaars and markets (talking to you, man sitting in his lounge wearing fishermen's trousers and playing bongos).

A bit more snug, we made it up to the Hadimba Temple, where the enthusiasm of the Indian tourists, engaged, as usual, in numerous silly photoshoots, started to get a bit more infectious. And there was no denying the existence of a bit of a Narnia vibe.

Gates

Pot

Path

The sun came out the following day and the snow began to thaw, causing mini-snowfalls as the warmer temperature scattered it from the eaves and ledges. We finally made it up to Old Manali, and lo, everything was closed.

Uh, okay

(It was January.) Who needs restaurants and cafes, anyway? Instead, there were loads of kids skiing, sledging and skidding down the streets, some at alarming speeds. Alarming to us, not them, it seemed. By the time we turned round to walk back into town, the thaw was in full swing, and it was as if the trees were throwing snowballs at us. Then, in an unsually un-Indian like act of aggression, a person threw a snowball at us, more specifically at Sarah, so I defended her honour by chucking one back, like that bit in Groundhog Day, as he whimpered, "Sorry! Sorry!" and hid in a doorway.

Old Manali

In summary, then: one million off-season bonus points.

No comments: