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 …