Day 5: Rohtang (The Bridge between Two Cultures)
Manali was beautiful in the night and it appeared prettier in the morning. The distant peaks have recently received the first snowfall of the season and the bright sunlight made them look like glowing jewels on top of the crown. We will be travelling close to those – our day was reserved for the Rohtang Pass – where the journey along the course of Beas will end.
Rohtang is extremely important in terms of cultural point of view. It is the oldest route that connects the Kullu Valley – a predominantly Hindu region with the Spiti Valley – a predominantly Buddhist region. Rohtang has been used from the time unknown by the inhabitants of both sides and has been famous as a cultural bridge. Till date, the important of Rohtang has not reduced a bit. It is only a day after we returned from there, a newspaper clipping attracted our eyes that says the underground tunnel bypassing Rohtang is about to be finished. This might act as a relief for the tribes of Spiti since Rohtang remains closed for about 6 months every year.
Visiting Rohtang requires a tourist permit and it is advisable to arrange for that at least a day before. The permit can be obtained from online portal but a hell lot of details are required – more over the online window opens for only 4 hours daily (10:00 – 12:00, 16:00 – 18:00). So, it is advisable to get in touch with your driver the day before your visit and get the permit – and also don’t forget to get a printout of the same. As per the Green Tribunal norms, they allow only 600 Deisel Vehicles and 400 Petrol Vehicles daily. In peak season, acting early is necessary. We got our permit while travelling from Simla to Manali – so it was not an issue with us.
We started early – at around 7:30 – since we had a plan of visiting Solang valley while returning. The first few kilometres of the journey was usual with the distant peaks and sound of the river but once the checkpoint was crossed, the road became completely different. It’s kind of an out of the world journey where you slowly climb the hills and with every milestone, you see the change in ecology. When we started the sides of the road was filled with pines with a few apple orchards in between. Slowly they completely disappeared and it was only small bushes. By the time we were close to Rohtang there was nothing but brown faded grasses. I would again say – many people believe that visiting this place during the snow is more attractive but honestly the beauty hidden under those snow is far more fascinating. The play of colours on the canvas of the hills and the sky is heavenly.
We stopped only at a few location to take photographs and made our first proper stop at Marhi – a place about 12000 ft above the sea and the last inhabited place before Rohtang. At Rohtang you will not get anything – a kiosk, a tea stall or even a toilet – for everything you have to go back to Marhi. There are few Dhabas here and they offer very tasty food.
We had our breakfast at the hotel – so had only cups of coffee and started again. The area is completely barren with no tall vegetation and that gives a wide view- the entire road below can be visible. It took us less than half-n-hour from there to reach Rohtang.
Even in full sunshine – Rohtang was extremely cold – the effect of the strong Northern air was very strong. The beauty of the place is just amazing. The mighty Beas we followed so far was a narrow stream here flowing slowly playing with the pebbles. Rohtang is the origin of two great rivers of the Punjab Plains – Beas and Chenab. The origin of Beas – from where the underground river comes under the sky is very close to the place where most vehicles take you.
It is a fantastic place for photography – I guess the sky remains clear most of the time- the snow-clad peaks, the flowing river, wide valley, playful clouds – all create superb scenes for nature photography. It does not take more than 2-3 hours to see the place completely.
We started from there by 2 and had lunch at Marhi. If you are interested in going paragliding, Marhi is a good place though they do not keep you afloat for too long. Our driver suggested Kullu will be a better place for paragliding – though the view of the barren valley & the snow-capped peaks from the sky was really asking me – I decided to go for it at Kullu.
On our way, we stopped at Solang Valley – another beautiful place along the Beas. Solang is located at a much lower altitude but it has a fabulous advantage so far scenic view is considered. it is just below the Hanuman Tibba Range of the Himalaya and the clear view of the peaks is visible from here. Solang is also famous for its adventure sports – and most people come here for that only. Since we decided to do those in Kullu, we didn’t spend much time and started heading towards – Manali.
We planned to look for some authentic delicacies of Manali in the evening.