Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 7: drive up to Gulaba Point (30 kms before Rohtang Pass)

Day 7: April 9, 2013

Day @ Manali

Comes a day in everyone’s life when it turns out to be the most action packed day of your life and many of your dreams come true. The Day 7th of our great Indian road trip turned out to be one such day.

We had planned to go to Rohtang pass. But we came to know at Shimla that Rohtang pass usually opens in mid May. But the road was open up to Gulaba point which is about 30 kms before Rohtang pass. The Army had opened the roads up to that point. We decided to go to Gulaba point. We got ready early and had our breakfast in the resort.

The drive to Gulaba point was very beautiful. The higher we climbed, the more breath taking the scenary became. We saw large orchards of Apple with the flowers in full bloom. The fresh fragrance of tall pine trees was all around us and the roads were laden with tall Christmas trees as well. Small rivulets appered out of nowhere at regular intervals and joined the mighty Beas. The Beas River was flowing fuller than it was lower down, having been fed by freshly melted snow and rains in the previous couple of days. We saw many sure footed and hardy Nepali workers climbing slowly but surely with heavy loads on their backs at the various construction sites and road work sites.

The roads are very steep and some stretches are god and some stretches are not very good. The tarring is not yet complete due to which the road is full of pot holes in those stretches that are not good. It takes a lot skill, patience, courage and guts to negotiate the curves and the steep climb efficiently. The signs are missing at many key points and so we have to keep asking the way all the time. There are many sharp and steep hair pin bends throughout the way. We lost our way at one point when we took a wrong turn and soon realised when we asked the way at the next point and took a turn back and resumed our journey forward.

After we had passed a certain point we suddenly saw snow very close to the road. We stopped and jumped out of the car like small children and went to play with the snow. During the drive throughout the route we found shops advertising skiing suits, gum boots, snow goggles, gloves and many such gear that you would require to wear to save yourself from the snow and the cold. We ignored all the shops and the signs and proceed further having decided to hire something right on top. But later we realised that it would have been a good idea to hire at the beginning itself because rates are cheaper at the bottom and very exorbitant at the top.

When we reached Gulaba point we were greeted by hordes of vendors trying to sell their wares or services. We hired fur coats for all the four of us. Ashok at first refused because he never feels cold and felt that he could handle it. But it was freezing and 4⁰ C and so he decided to take a coat. We also took gum boots as it is difficult to walk on the snow with regular shoes. There is also the possibility that the shoes and the socks might become wet and cold due to the snow and so it might be difficult to walk with wet shoes and socks later.

The snow and the beauty of the place is breath taking. The snow seemed to be very old as it was covered by twigs of the trees and there was brown and black dust on the snow that had fallen from the trees. A lot of tea and coffee vendors were moving up and down selling hot beverages to people and enticing people to buy their wares to fight the cold. But we had been warned at the resort not to buy any eatable or drinks here as they use the dirty water of the melted snow to prepare and we might end up falling sick.

There were many carts selling hot boiled or burnt corn. Many vendors were also selling hot Maggi and Parle G biscuits with hot Chai and hot coffee. We resisted the temptation to buy any of those. We hired two motorised battery operated off-road bikes and had a very scary and jolly ride up the mountains. Once we reached the top we were again hounded by vendors. We succumbed to a few. We took a horse ride. The horses are mountain horses and look very strong and are very sure footed. Its very difficult to walk on the snow as the snow is soft and our foot goes in many places. It happens to the horses also. Whenever their foot goes in, we tilt to a side. For people who are used to walking on flat ground knowing what is up ahead and being sure of where we are placing our feet, it is a bit of a scary experience. But if you are the kind who revels in the unexpected and enjoys a little bit of a thrill in life, all these experiences can be very enjoyable.

We wore the traditional Himachali dress and took photos. Amrita refused to wear those dresses and went away to try some skiing. We forced Ashok to wear those clothes and he posed for a few pictures very grudgingly.  We also got tricked into hiring a photographer when he approached us. He took some 42 pictures of ours and charged us Rs.50 per picture. After much haggling and bargaining he settled for Rs.30 per picture. Since we were busy posing for photographs, we could not try out skiing as we had to do some more sight-seeing and wanted to get back to the resort early and sleep early as we had a tough drive back to Delhi the next day.

The drive back was completely downhill and the steep inclines had to be negotiated skilfully. We visited the Hidimba temple. This temple is in a cave and has the feet of Hidimba, the Rakshashi princess who married the second Pandav Bheem and gave birth to the brave warrior Rakshash Gatodgach who fought valiantly against the Kauravas in the great war of Mahabharata. The feet are carved in the rock and there is a large iron lamp burning continuously. The cave temple has a massive wooden structure that has been built on top with a beautiful doorway and windows that have very intricate carvings on them. It is supposed to be a 400 year old temple and the cave temple is supposed to be more than 4000 years old. There are some skulls of animals that have been put up on the walls just like how we would find carvings of mythological stories or mythological Gods in the temples of the South.

We went to the Gatodgach tree temple which is close by. The Gatotgach tree temple is nothing but a massive Christmas tree with some skulls of animals pinned up to it. There is a large board explaining the significance and the story. We returned to the resort and began packing and getting ready to leave the next day and drive back to Delhi.

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