Solang Valley

Monday September 10, 2012: sightseeing

No deep pondering or profound truths today. We are going up the Himalayas, perhaps on the lookout of snow. But it is the end of summer, and most of that snow below 4000m has already long gone, molten by the very hot Indian sun.

The day starts early, and we leave before 8am to Solang Valley. In Palchang, the ‘Highway’ diverts towards the Rohtang Pass, nearly 4000m high, and towards Solang Valley. The bridge over the Beas was destroyed by floods in 2009. The ruined twisted steel has not been removed yet. [there is also another and frightening story about Rohtang Pass if you click here]

A new bridge has already been constructed. It looks a lot safer than the structure below us.

The ski-resort is just around the corner. Not that any skiing can be done now. The season ends in May and till the end of November no snow will fall to allow for winter sports. The tourist area is not very special. There is the remains of a market, something that looks like a Russian playground where paragliders land, and zorbers are halted. There are horses that you can ride. And I will certainly try that on my next visit. And yes, there is a ropeway.

This ropeway catches our attention, since it can bring us considerably higher than the 2100m were we are right now.

Not that we see any snow from down under.

The ultra-modern ropeway opens at 9.30, and we have to wait 20 minutes. Some sherpas try to impress us by opening their paragliders and gliding 2 or 3 meters.

India is a clean country. While we are waiting all the cow dung is removed from the Russian playground and we see how 3 cleaning ladies carefully clean every cabin from the ropeway.

Once up, there is not so much to do. I was expecting a network of footpaths, but there is nothing. There is one path downward, back to the valley, there is a pizza cabin, a 50m path leading to a vista point, and a steep path up for goats.

We risk ourselves up the goat path, but we are incapable of imitating these animals. 50m higher we sit on the trunk of a 90° bent but living tree, looking down there is a steep slope 30°. But looking up we see at least snow covered mountain tops. We are now 2950m high according to my smart-phone. However, it looks more like 1500m in the Swiss Alps. The smart-phone has no connection to the internet, so unfortunately we cannot navigate aided by google-maps. I should think about this when next time I come to India.

I found a panoramic tour of Mount Indrasan on Google Earth. If you click the follwing link, it should open in Google Earth and show you around. Even with a fast internet connection it is a good idea to first let the animation run while Google Earth is trying to load the scenery, and restart the animation clicking the play button of your Google Earth tour player at the lower left corner of your Google Earth window, once the download is complete.

[after our arrival back in Europe, I’ve been playing very often with google earth to find back the things I have already discovered, and to look at the 99.99% other things that were just around the corner, but beyond the purpose of our trip to India and Sofie’s grandmother]

After a picnic, we take the ropeway down. The sun is high near the Zenith. Around the sun is a full halo. Ice crystals high in the atmosphere diffract the sunlight 22 degrees, making a full circle.

Down below we watch a spectacle of paragliders …

Paragliding is tightly regulated in India:

Not flying in three piece suits … 🙂 caught my attention, besides, … today is the 10th of September, and they are flying regardless ….

We go back into the car and Tashi drives in the direction of the Rohtang Pass.

The Austrian firm STRABAG is helping the Indian government to build a tunnel. Rohtang Pass is closed many days a year, making travelling to Leh and Ladakh near impossible over land. The tunnel will cut through 10km of rock and will save close to half a day in travel time to cars, and probably an entire day to trucks. Everything is announced to be ready by 2016.

But that is still very far in the future. The cutting is past half way though, so there is progress. There is an enormous military importance connected to this project. China is not so far from here, neither is Kashmir.

The condition of the road worsens and is often like this …

But the scenery is very beautiful.

Our Suzuki Maruti climbs till 2600m, however, this kind of car is not meant to go another 1400m higher on a very bad road. We park somewhere and enjoy the landscape and nature, breath the fresh air, sit down on a rock and do nothing.

By 3pm we decide to drive back home. Tenzin invites us for a late lunch at Johnson’s Café in Manali. They have delicious food, for an acceptable price (to european standards).

After lunch, past sunset, we stroll around Manali Market and enjoy the evening atmosphere …

10 thoughts on “Solang Valley

  1. I visited India on two occations last year and was just remenissing by looking at my own photos on the computer. When I got to the photos of my trip into the Himalayas I googled “Rothang pass” (as it was the scariest experience in my life) and found this blog. As it happends my (now) wife lives in Manali, so your photos and writings definately takes me back 🙂
    It’s a funny coincidence that your blogentries are from Oct last year which is when I was there too. I saw the same woman with the rabbit, visited the same temple, went paragliding at the ski-resort, ate in restaurants in Old Manali, frequently visited the market etc. We might even have passed eachother but didn’t notice 🙂

    My personal reflextion is that sure, Manali is a beautiful town and all, but it’s nothing compared to the stunning views of the Himalayas up north, to Leh, Ladakh. This means however that you need to cross Rothang pass, which still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Still worth it though! 🙂

    Thank you for taking me back to India 🙂

    • Hi Björn, great to hear.
      Actually we had been in Manali during the first half of september. The purpose for our visit was to meet with family we had not seen before. The added blessings of adventure and friendship we met with gratitude.
      Once home, and opening google earth, I realized that next time I want to cross Rohtang pass and go in the direction of Spiti, the moonscapes that have attracted my whole life. Perhaps another visit will take us to Leh … 🙂
      Perhaps we meet there some day, who knows …
      Have a great easter weekend!

      • Would’ve responded earlier but got alot going on in my life at the moment. One part is that my wife has gotten her “green card” and will move in with me in just over a week 🙂 (Just had to brag a little ;))

        I had to Google Spiti to know what you meant, but apparantly it’s a bit to the east where I never went. I got ALOT of photos of the scenery on the way to Leh and it’s breathtaking! Dont know if it’s the same “moonscapes” though. But all in all the Himalayas has the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.
        However, one place I HAVE to recommend is Rewalsar! Just a few hours taxidrive from Manali. I’m not a very spiritual man but there was such a feeling of serenity there it hung like a blanket over the whole village. So relaxing!
        The second time I was there (on my “honeymoon” actually) I had the opportunity to take part of a rare happening. I didn’t really quite get it, but my wife explained that “somewhere” a fire spontaniously erupts and they spread this fire to many places across India, and as we were there the fire arrived in Rewalsar. They erected a big tent and placed the fire on the podium for everyone to see. What was facinating about this event was that there were so many different religions gathered, quite a few of them who in other parts of the world is at eachothers throats but gathered in peace for this event. There’s still hope for the world 🙂

        Anyway, the trips I made to India was the greatest experiences in my life. Me and my wife will definately go back as often as we can afford! 🙂

        • Congratulations with this administrative success. Wishing you well living together as a great couple. I will certainly go to Rewalsar one day. It’s not so far of the road from Mandi.
          But I have no idea when next I’ll be in India. Life is like a wave, and if you follow the wave it is easier than if you surf away against the currents.

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