Thursday, June 5, 2008

SKIING EXTRAVAGANZA - Day 3 - 'White arrival'

Day 3 – “White arrival”
(26th January 2006, Thursday)

On the morning of India’s Republic day we woke up to the sights of icy trees and frozen crops – we were nearing Kullu. The views opened our eyes completely, sucking out each ounce of sleep. The curving road was lined on one side with tall coniferous trees, each sprinkled with a unique pattern of snow. The other side dropped into the valley where the River Beas gushed. Only if it were also frozen, the scene would have been straight out of Antarctica with trees!

The houses that we passed by were wooden, with sloping roofs. As we neared Kullu, the road narrowed down. We saw several local kids – chinky, fair and rosy- running around and playing apart from getting a sneak peak into the local market and an occasional peak into a house.

Finally at around 8:00 AM we reached Kullu, our next mini halt. We got off the bus in the 10 minute break to stretch our limbs and breath free. We also explored the area, some of the local artifacts and fruits and juices. Boarding the bus we set off towards Manali. This time the bus conductor did not bore us with some random movie, instead he put on video CD with random songs! – Like it was any better. This time instead of cribbing and dozing off, I looked out of the huge window of the Volvo. It offered me a giant view of nature’s white wonder.

Manali and Kullu are about 50-60 Kms apart. The ride wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d expected due to a sudden spurt in traffic and extremely narrow roads. We reached manali at 10:50 AM. The Volvo dropped us off at the bus stop. The roads were slippery due to the melting ice. The sun was partly out-perhaps wondering whether to shine today or not.

Loading our luggage in a 4X4, we trekked to our Base camp in Manali. Our base camp was DMAS (Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports) just about 2.5kms from the Manali bus station. It felt like we owned this land, this nature’s splendor for apart from the occasional vehicle that passed us by, the place was tranquil thanks to the off-season. The weather was perfect, very romantic and lazy!

45 minutes of trekking and we had arrived at the base camp. The camp wasn’t too big. It composed of 4 buildings-one housing the rooms, one the kitchenette-cum-dining area, one housing the museum and the last that had some more rooms and all the trekking and skiing gear. We were all allotted rooms in the main residential building which also housed a small gym. I and Tanya shared room no. 12 on the 1st floor while Pop and Pradhan uncle occupied room no. 16 again on 1st floor. We were relieved to have running water and electricity. Freshening up we ran down the stairs to explore the camp area.

The camp area was again covered with snow. It was hard to walk over so much snow. Just beside the camp was the valley where a river roared. Coniferous trees covered most of the area between the river and the buildings. The Base Camp was home to many dogs, all huge and ready to bite and cats. A brown-cum-dirty grey haired dog had followed us from the bus station to the base camp. His hair was Poofy, and so we named him ‘Poofy!’ But poor Poofy was shooed away by the massive dogs of the base camp.

By then it was time for lunch. We headed back to the town centre on foot to explore the market, eat and chill-out. We lip-snacked a choicest meal at Sher-e-Punjab hotel. (there are two Sher-e-Punjabs in Manali, but this one was the first one on the left when you walk from bus station to Manali chowk) I bought a pair of glares for myself, ate vanilla and black currant 2-in-1 softy (despite fear of catching a cold that very night). We then soaked up the sun at the mini-park that surrounded the Town Chowk.

Since it was 26th January, there was a Republic Day show being put up in the stage at the Town Chowk by the local school kids. We saw most of the show. It was immensely enjoyable, and a colorful welcome to Manali. There were traditional songs (the high-pitch voice one’s), dances in traditional costumes, skits depicting local life and celebrating mountain life. Over all a good experience and a mode to know the locals a little better.

After the show was over, we explored another part of town on foot, ate rum balls and walked back to our Base camp. We had the evening to ourselves. We took a long bath, lazed around and read books. A bell rung at 8:00 PM, it was dinnertime. The dinner was very basic- daal, chawal, roti, sabzi-and very filling. But most fun was the ‘chuhe-billi’ fight we had as we fought to warm our hands at the bukhara (furnace where wood/coal is burnt to keep the room warm).

It was getting cold rapidly. The cold and the snow all around was taking its toll and depleting our energy. 9:30 PM and we were fast sleep.

About DMAS:
Established in 1971, Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports have their Base camp at Aleo, Manali and a permanent Ski camp at Solang valley, Manali. The base camp can accommodate about 300 people. They have dorms as well as double-bed rooms. It opens up into wilderness, coniferous trees, the river Beas and offers plenty of inspiration.

Check out their official website:

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