Magical Manali {India}

It seems my travel blogging timeline has unofficially become something like this:

1. Go somewhere beautiful.

2. Shoot loads of photos.

3. Edit said photos 3-6 months later.

4. Publish something about the place in another 3-6 months whereupon so much time has passed that all useful info is forgotten and I’m left only with is a sense of the “magic” of the place.

Maybe this is all that is required to inspire you to travel somewhere? That is my goal at the end of the day. But when you want to keep it real and not all Socality Barbie (yeah, I went there), there should be something more to say than “this place is a fairy tale dream.”

Yet I can’t find another way to describe Manali other than just that — a fairy tale dream.

In a country of a billion and a half people where most cities have at least a few million residents, Manali is truly a small town of less than 10,000. Populated with apple orchards, old growth forests, the Beas River, and surrounded by snowcapped Himalayan peaks, one does get a sense that they may just stumble into Rumpelstiltskin or Little Red Riding Hood.

Although maybe the Grimms’ fairy tales are a bad comparison because there is no sense of impending doom.

Just a lot of crisp mountain air which feels like new life after being in the suffocating heat of other parts of the country.

Also, German bakeries. And good coffee. And cute mountain dogs. And really, really nice people.

I spent three weeks in Manali and it wasn’t long enough. Especially since I happened to visit in between seasons (the first 3 weeks of April, to be exact). The passes were all still covered in snow so climbing in remote places like Chattru was out of the question. Yet, much to my dismay, the weather wasn’t quite cold enough to get on a snowboard.

After a week of frigid rain to welcome Mayte and I to the mountains, the sun came out and the weather was perfect — not too hot, not too cold. The kind of weather where you put on three shirts in the morning, but are down to one (or none, for the boys) by mid afternoon.

I miss this type of climate dearly as I sit and write in the tropical heat of Thailand. But I digress…

No, I didn’t get to see other areas of Himachal Pradesh. But because of this I did get to know Manali, Old Manali, and Vashisht all the better. My time there was made even more special by having a crew of friends I’d met in Hampi show up only a few days after I arrived.

We definitely became a little family, as it happens when you spend a significant amount of time with people while traveling. I believe it to be more so in this case simply by the fact that Mayte and I had an apartment with a kitchen (and, ahem, a STUNNING view of the valley).

Even if her and I didn’t want to cook, someone else was happy to use our kitchen to feed five or six or ten people. It just feels SO GOOD to cook when you’ve been eating at someone else’s hand for months on end.

More than anything, it felt good to be in a mountain town. It felt like home because, well, most of my life has been spent near the mountains.

The photos below were taken in lower Aleo Forest. If I recall correctly it was about 30 minutes walking from our place in lower Vashisht to the boulders (and 20 minutes to Vashisht proper in the other direction). There is very little information on the interwebs about Aleo. If I recall correctly, lower Aleo is on the left bank of the Beas River across from Manali when facing north. 

The image below was taken in the forest that connects Old Manali to New Manali. There is also a road that runs between the two, but when you’ve got the time…

The photos below were taken in Vashisht. From Manali proper to Vashisht proper is 2.8 km.

The two images below were taken in upper Aleo Forest. Basically you just hike up from lower Aleo.

Are you confused about the layout of the area yet? Me too. This is India.

There are sport routes on those rock faces, as well as many boulders to play on. The German crushers even got their trad rack out…

The photo below was the view out of my front door. Lucky for you, you can also have this view when visiting Manali simply by staying at the lovely Pir Panjal Cottage