Catching winter’s last hurrah in the Himalayas
INDIA has always been in my bucket list for as long as I can remember, so when my travel buddy from Thailand suggested a trip to India, I said yes right away. After numerous email exchanges and chats and ticket booking updates and travel arrangements, we finalized our plan and to cut it short, we met in Kuala Lumpur last March for the trip to New Delhi.
I discovered Rolly was interested in India for one main thing- to experience his first snow. I warned him that snow is just fun for the first half hour or so then it gets so cold and brutal but he assured me he was going to love it and “taste” it.
We arrived in New Delhi in the dead of the night and went straight to a hiker’s hostel near the train station. The next day, we boarded a bus for the 15-hour trip into the wilds of the Himarchal Pradesh to the Himalayan mountain ranges. The roads snaked through what would have been picture-perfect scenery in daylight. We arrived in the resort town of Manali the next morning and we can see snow-capped mountains in the far distance but there was no snow in sight in Manali.
The hotel allowed us to check in at 8 a.m. without additional charges which was great so we dumped our bags and hired a taxi to drive us to Solang Valley, also called Snow Valley for 1,000 rupees. Solang Valley is where all the winter activities were offered.
The road to Solang Valley is a dream—enchanting views of snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers, dramatic twists and turns along mountain gorges, forests and lush green meadows with the Beas River flowing through the valley.
As picuresque is the road, the bumper to bumper traffic is a nightmare. The 14-kilometer trip took us over three hours to get there and another three hours back. It seemed that a thousand people from different parts of that world decided to catch winter’s last hurrah at the Himalayas, until later again this year.
Entrepreneurs are cashing in on the influx of tourists with snow suit rentals, food, coffee, drink stalls, snow boots rental and everything else for sale.
When we finally reached Solang Valley, I saw no snow and found out we had to ride a cable car for 600 rupees to the top of one of the mountains. And then there was snow. Tourists littered the mountainside armed with mobile phones taking selfie shots everywhere.
I stayed inside the cable car terminal shivering despite the snow suit we rented on the way up and just zoomed in shots from my camera from where I was. Rolly was in snow heaven, catching snowflakes and rolling in the snow and even taking off all his clothes for a quick photo shoot which I was amused to oblige.
A blinding rain started to fall and I was just glad to be back to our hotel in Manali. We came back to a very cold room so that we had to rent a heater from the hotel for an additional fee. The small portable heater did not really help at all. I went to bed wearing two jeans and my thick jacket and shivered the whole night.
Snow fell in Manali that night leaving the whole town blanketed in white the next morning. I dreaded going out but true to his word Rolly was out early and enjoying the freshly fallen snow.
I still have more reasons to go back to India and one of them is a trip through the famous gut-wrenching drive through Rohtang Pass which is only open from June to October. If you want to see the snow, the best times to come is from November to February. We were just lucky to catch its last hurrah at the last week of March.
Apply for an e-visa at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html. I got mine approved in less than 72 hours.