'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
I got no further up the highway to Leh and the bus gave up. In Shimla, the bus had just refused to start; here just out of Manali toward Rohtang Pass the engine destroyed itself creating a thick oily cloud of acrid black smoke. We all walked the eight kilometers
back to Manali. I sat in the ‘Mall’ in Manali drinking green tea and wondering what was going on. The journey to Ladakh had certainly been full of surprises and delays. I wondered if there were more surprises in and around Manali. What I found out was Manali,
the Beas River, and the Kullu Valley are a destination all to their own and often missed on the rush to Leh. I visited the Tibetan market in Manali, the gorge at Kothi where the Beas squeezes desperately between rock walls, the Parvati River which runs hot
and cold, an ancient fort built by Raja Bhosal at Nagar, and walked two treks, walking from Manali to Dharamsala, but first over the Chandrakhani Pass and into the Valley of the Gods.
I simply could not resist a place named the Valley of the Gods. As the legend goes Jamlu, who was the principle holy man of the Malana Valley was carrying a basket containing all the deities important to Hinduism over Chandrakhani Pass on his way to Manali.
A strong westerly wind struck Jamlu at the very summit of Chandrakhani causing him to drop the basket. The prevailing wind blew all the deities back into the Malana Valley. Jamlu realized the deities wished to remain in the valley and so it came to be known
as the Valley of the Gods. The trek begins in Nagar and can be done in six days. The walk winds through deodar trees over Chandrakhani where there is a magnificent view of the mountain Deo Tibba and its glaciers through the village of Malana and ending at
Manikaran on the banks of the hot\cold Parvati River. There is a trail beyond Manikaran leading to the glacier and the source of the Parvati near Khirganga. I did talk with a university group who were just returning from Khirganga and they were all most excited.
For me, well, there are too many adventures and not enough time. I always promise myself to return.
I did return to Manali after the trek, taking the bus from Manikaran. It seemed odd that a trek with such fantastic scenery, brief time commitment, and only a short distance north of Delhi had little popularity. Malana has a refreshing yet remote feel. The
snow-clad peaks, the deodar, the rushing water, and chilling winds create a memorable experience. The only amenity missing was wildlife. Several villagers in Malana told me there were leopards in the mountains, but I did not ‘spot’ one. After a soak in the
hot springs at Manikaran, I made it back to Manali where I prepared for the epic, 18-day journey to Dharamsala. I hope all of you are well, cheers!
(Photograph of Rohtang Pass by Dr. Susan Sharma)
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