Summary : Manali is a marvelous base for trekking, skiing and fish.
This is another scenic morning walk. Start early, at the top of the Mall. Take the uphill road, via the unremarkable Nehru Aviary, a so-called ‘sanctuary’ with a few ,pine, cypress and juniper tree species, and three unhappy Monal pheasants In cages. From here, it’s a 10 to 15-minute ‘short cut’—striking left behind Hotels Marble and Pineview, across the yellow-blossom mustard fields, and up into the dense pine forest—until you come to a sign reading ‘Dungri population 140 souls You are now within a short distance of Manali’s holiest shrine, the Hadimha ba Devi Temple. This famous pagoda temple, built in the 16th century by Raja Bahadur Singh, is constructed in the local architectural style of rough-cut stones alternating with bands of wood. The overhanging rock is capped by a four-tiered the pillars, door-posts, and lintel—all exquisitely carved—are superb examples of the fine craftsmanship for which this valley is famous.
Deer and Markhoi horns, donated by local hunters, flank the entrance, lending a certain air of wild eeriness. The interior is a natural rock cave and the shrine itself is a simpler , unadorned slab of stone, on which sacrifice is offered. Under this is the shallow cave, where you can just about discern a faint footprint of the resident devi (goddess). There is no other icon. The temple is located in a peaceful wooded. glade, and is dedicated to the goddess Hadimbadevi. According to popular myth she was a mountain belle rescued from her evil demon-brother by the god Bhim, whom she later married. Today, she is revered as the ‘mother goddess’ of th whole valley, and is regularly consulted in times of natural hardship or calamity, (and by prospective marrieds). Most important, every Dussehra festival for centuries has been customarily opened and closed by Hadimba, in the presence . of her rath or image. If (and this has happened recently) riots break out during . the festival, it is taken as a sign that Hadimba is not amused, and the whole show is summarily cancelled.
Going back down, cut across to your left. This will bring you back to the main road leading out of new Manali, just by John Banon Guest House. Continue up this road a couple more minutes, and you’ll come to the small bridge connecting the new and old towns. The landscape here is a pastoral delight of colourful meadows, bri house water-wheels, rushing mountain streams, and snow-capped peaks. Five minutes up the shepherds’ path at the far side of the bridge, you’ll come into the village of Old Manali Tours. Here life proceeds today much the same as it has for several centuries. Bales of hay hang out to dry from barnyard rafters, smoke drifts up from stove-chimneys poking out from slate roofs, stacked woodpiles prop up the side ornately carved traditional village houses. Look out for the old temple of Moni after whom the town was named. Head up to the top of the village, via damp cobbled paths, until you reach the ridge to the left. Below stretches a winding river valley beautiful flowers and meadows. At the foot of the rushing river, you can see simple but popular lodge, Doloran’s House. The friendly owner offers cheap, very basic accommodation on a long-term basis.
RECREATION Depending on the season Manali is a marvellous base for trekking, skiing and fish The most popular activity by far is trekking, though the trails are not well marked there are no lodges or eating places en route, and you’ll need to hire both equips …. and a cook/guide. There are several trekking shops on the Mall, where you can pick . up equipment and buy supplies. For maps and good information, contact Manali . Mountaineering Institute (tel 42), located 1.5 km (1 mile) out of town (take direction from the tourist office). This place also offers courses in mountaineering, skiing water sports and high-altitude trekking. Himalayan Adventurers, c/o Mayflow . Guest House (tel 104); Paddy’s Treks, PO Box 32, Manali tours, run by the remarkable capital . Padam Singh; Himalayan Journeys (tel 2365); and Ultimate Expeditions, c/o Highland (teal 99) are three reliable—if expensive—trekking agencies. If you car in excess of US$40 per day for long-range treks out to Lahaul, Spiti, Ladakh . Zanskar, then bargain yourself a private deal. Himalayan Adventurers will together a marvellous 3- to 5-day ‘local’ trek up the valley for just Rs350 per head, inclusive of guide, porter, cook and ponies.
Before you set off, let the tourist office know where you’re going. There is no trekking permit required, but you’ll want someone to look for you if you have an accident. Independent trekkers disappear with alarming regularity. If going solo, it’s best to use Manali as a base-camp and just ‘enture out on short 2- to 3-day mini-treks. The most popular expedition is up ti Rohiang Pass (3915 m), which has the best mountain and valley views. Bear in mind, however, that after reaching the head of the valley (2 days) the steep inclin es make crampons and full mountaineering gear obligatory. The pass is gent ally open only from June to November, but on the far side of it is a stark land cape of incredible beauty. If you haven’t time to trek it, then take the bus from he tourist office, which plies up to the pass and over to the Buddhist village of keylong , memorable for the resonant chanting of its monks, which echoes in a slot, deep rumble across the valley.
For a short, easy 3- to 4-day trek, head out to Solang Nullah-13 km (8 miles) out of Manali, at the head of the valley. It has spectacular mountain scenery, a comfy mountain lodge, and a fun ski lift. Shorter 1-day treks are to Arjun Gufa (5 km: 3 milt, a legendary cave near Prini village, and to Nehru Kund, (6 km (3 3/4 miles) from Manali on the Keylong road, a popular cold-water spring. A very easy, enjoyable 5- to 6-hour walk is to Naggar, 22 km (13 3/4 miles)out of Manali on the ‘old …ad Scenery along the way is very pretty, and there are absolutely superb view. rom Naggar’s Hotel Castle. You can stay here too for Rs30 (dorm beds) in Rs 10, or at the cheaper Hotel Poona down in Naggar town. Before going anywhere though, look out a copy of Trekking in India (Gianchand and Manohar Puri) aAnd the revised Lonely Planet guide toTbreking in thye Indian Himalayas PGradesh ar ry Ware, in Manali market. The later is the best bok on treking in Himachal In trekking season, Manali tourist office runs people out to popular jump-off iSkoelang Nullah, for Rohtang Pass) in small minibuses.
There ‘s good fishing for trout on the Beas River at Katrain (22 km: 13 3/4 miles), Raison (asel or Naggar. Season: March to October. Fishing permits are issued by the Mane ourist office. Equipment hire (be warned) can be difficult. Local entertainment is a bit thin. People go to bed early in Manali—it has a lot to do with the mountain air. There are no organised culture shows; to see traditional music, you’ll either have to be here for the Dussehra festival in Septemfestival her/Cr ber or hang around the Mall in the hope (often rewarded) of a local street Enquire at the tourist office about the small Manali ‘Club’. This has a popular bar and it or games, with nominal membership fee for visitors. There are now a number. of noisy video parlours in the Mall—most showing Hindi movies to local tourists.
Himachal Pradesh is famous for its handicraft skills, which find their expression in metalcrafts, silver jewellery, bamboo products, dolls and carpets. Popular buys are the handloom shawls of Kulu and the woodwork and walking-sticks of Shimla. But manali itself is famous for woollen goods—fancily embroidered Manali caps (cirlular cular box-hats, with Tibetan side flaps), gloves, socks, shawls and jackets. These are all reasonably priced and make excellent little presents.
Manali new town was only created in the 1970s and there is no bazaar tradition. The rather stark and offputting Manu Market, a modern arcaded bazaar, lies below the tourist office and is often half-closed. However, the ‘fat man’ at shop No. 2 sells some marvellous Tibetan produce, and the Himachal Khadi Mandal is the place to buy durable, well-tailored Manali woollen jackets which last for years. For Manali caps try first Bea’s Fancy Stores, then Gulati Traders, both at the top of the Mall. They also sell nice gloves, socks, mufflers and pullovers. But don’t buy shawls here—you’ll find a cheaper, better selection in Kulu. What you won’t find in Kulu, however, are fine-quality Tibetan curios and handicrafts. Government Charitable Shop on the Mall has a good selection—including some very unusual (if expensive) pieces.
The most amusing novelty buys in Manali are ayurvedic medicines. These are often foul-tasting concoctions sold by street doctors who beam in on sick tourists like bees to honey. Old gents sidle up in the bazaar to offer a ‘love potion’. To endorse their sale they produce a booklet confirming: This elixir benefits a man, can after use keep prolonged company with many a fair sex without feeling any sense of fatigue. He will have muscular energy like an elephant, he will be inflammable like fire, will have sweetness of voice like a peacock’s, and will be noble like a horse. His eyes will be sharp as those of a vulture. His treasure of human potential fluid will be added in plenty. His heart would be amorous, and he would feel immense satisfaction after intercourse. It will bring him a sound undisturbed sleep. This may be taken by both the male and female partners. It is suitable in every season, and it will give them a healthy and handsome progeny.
WHERE TO STAY
Manali has boomed in recent years. In the 1970s, there were only five hotels. Now there are countless places to stay, nearly all of which, inevitably, are in the top or bottom brackets. If you want a decent room, and don’t want to pay the earth, come in late March/early April. It’s still officially low season then (even though the weather’s fine), and many luxury hotels are still offering 30-50% discounts. The Kulu Valley Hoteliers Union has opened an office near the Tourist Information Centre (tel 2135, 2101) which can help make bookings. All rates quoted below are for the high season, and often include all meals:
Expensive (over US$35/Rsl000 per room night) The new four-star Hotel Picadilly (tel 2113/4, tlx 03904-205) has a nice situation, good restaurant, and all mod cons. Rooms are well-furnished and centrally heated, and start at Rs500 single, Rs750 double. Ambassador Resort Hotel at Chadiyari (tel 2173, 2235) overlooks Old Manali and has rooms from about Rsl200. The Log Huts (tel 2439) run by HPTDC are beautifully located and cost between Rsl200 and Rs1500. The best run hotel is the Span Resorts at Katrain (tel 38) midway between Kulu and Manali. Rooms, including food, from Rsl200 and bookings can be made in New Delhi at GF-7 Surya Kiran, 19 Kasturba Gandhi Marg (tel 3311434).
Mid-range (US$10-35/Rs250-1000 per room night) ITDC’s Ashok Traveller’s Lodge (tel 2331) is surprisingly good value for a govern ment-run place. Rooms cost upwards of Rs350, the better doubles having superb. mountain views. Mr Negi’s Mayflower Guest House (tel 2104) and John Banon Guest House (tel 2335) both offer friendly service, good food and superior rooms With a view from Rs500. Other HPTDC properties include the Honeymoon Huts and Honeymoon Cottages costing Rs500 per room. Hotels Highland and Devidyar are alto good, with rooms from Rsl75. Budget (below US$1O/Rs250 per room night) Reliable cheaper places (priced around Rsl50) are hotels Meadows, Rising Star Shivalik . There are many small private houses, set in a pleasant apple-orchard, who t ke in paying guests. The Tourist Information Office keeps an informal list of what is available. Just over the bridge to Old Manali tour packages, there’s Him View Hotel with basic, but clan, rooms, relaxing garden, and nice river views. The nearby Manalsu Hotel, up o the hill, is a quaint family house with rooms at Rsl25.
EATING OUT Manali’s most popular restaurant, the Mayur behind the Mall, has an awesome menu (surely the longest in India) with some wonderful dishes like ‘Poulet Saute liengroise al bed of rice, garnished with chopyed mushrooms on top’. Actually, the Mayur h the best food, service, sounds and atmosphere in town. Most dishes are very reasonable (Rsl5-25), and you often have to fight to get a seat. On the Mall itself, the high-class Adarsh restaurant has excellent Indian food; the more pleasant Aashiana is; letter for Chinese meals and has good sounds. Budget food is best at either the Monalisa Restaurant, or the Mount View Restaurant with good Tibetan dishes eluding over 30 soups.). Two good bakeries, just above the bus-stand, are Super-bikee and New Rama Bakery.
GENERAL INFORMATION HPTDC Tourist Office on the Mall (tel 2325, 2116, 2175) tries to assist, but is often deluged by tourists. Turn up in the late afternoon to ask any detailed questions.