The green valleys of the upper Kullu Valley are surrounded by steep rock walls, waterfalls and snowcapped peaks. It is a gorgeous part of Himachal Pradesh.
The mountain communities of New and Old Manali are set in the foothills of the Kullu Valley. Our friend Colleen was visiting and came with us to Manali and McLeod-Ganj. Old Manali is a cute town with one road that leads straight up a steep hill with hotels, shops and restaurants on either side. At the top of the road are old wooden homes, still lived in even-though some are quite rundown. They have larger upper levels for living and a smaller base for their animals and the animal feed.
There’s also a small Hindu temple on the hill, Manu Maharishi temple. According to Hindu beliefs, Manu was the creator of civilization and there’s a story about Manu similar to that of Noah’s Ark. The legend is that during a massive deluge, the Ark carried Manu, 7 sages and the seeds of creation to safely moor in the Himalayas. Locals believe that Ark moored in Manali. This temple is dedicated to him and this legend.
Hidden on the top of a small knoll in Old Manali we found an old wooden Hindu shrine. Around it is an amazing view of the town and surrounding mountains and waterfalls.
Between Old and New Manali is a gorgeous forest park with tall fir trees and a trail connecting the two communities. They only charge 20Rs (36 cents) to enter the park, so we figured we could afford it.
It rains a lot in this part of Himachal Pradesh and particularly during our visit as it was the end of monsoon season. Aa a result there are many beautiful waterfalls. A few kms from Manali, in Vashisht, Jogini Waterfall powerfully cascades down the rock in multiple tiers. In the village of Vashisht are 2 old Hindu Temples made mostly from wood.
Manali offers many good trekking opportunities. Together with Colleen we did the 4-day Hampta Pass trek. The trek begins on the side of the Hampta River and follows it up the lush valley. After our last few treks in the arid Ladakh region, the vibrant green grass, trees and shrubs along the Hampta River were overwhelming.
During the first day we passed a beautiful, high rock wall that looked prime for climbing and saw many gorgeous waterfalls. The trek went through the green, rocky valley passing herds of sheep and goats. As we ascended the valley we could see the high mountains in the distance.
We found out early and often why it is so green in the valley. It began to rain as we arrived at our first campsite. As soon as we got into a dhaba for shelter it started to pour hard. We felt a little guilty as we sat in the dhaba and watched our guides set up our tents. The rain continued off and on for most of the night, but luckily once we started to move in the morning it subsided. It rained on us a few times over the next 3 days, but thankfully we were usually in our tents before it rained hard.
The rugged rock walls and amazing waterfalls continued the next day. We had a cold time running under one waterfall and a very cold fording of one of the deep, fast moving side streams. We think the water was close to 3°C.
On our second night we camped below the large, hanging Indrasan Glacier in a meadow overlooking the valley below. We could hear the seracs falling off the toe of the glacier in loud rumbles throughout the night.
On the 3rd day we hiked up a scree slope and then a boulder field to reach Hampta Pass. From the pass we could see a little of Indrasan Mountain and its large hanging glacier, but the clouds were low and thick, obstructing our view. On the other side of the pass we walked along the Indrasan River where we could see high, snowcapped mountains both up and down the valley, but the low clouds covered them for most of the day.
On our last morning, we had a beautiful sunrise with a clear, blue sky. We could see many of the high mountains that had been covered for the last few days. Gorgeous spikey, snowcapped peaks and large, crevassed glaciers were all around us. As we started packing up, the sky filled with interesting cloud formations over the high mountains.
We started our trek with an icy cold ford of the Indrasan River before heading down the valley. It was a gorgeous walk down to the end of the trail as we looked ahead to the peaks of the 7 Sisters.
As usual, as soon as we reached our ride back to Manali, the heavy rains began again. The drive back was on a muddy, dirt road that ran high up on the edge of the mountain. It was a bit scary at times, but in the end we all returned safely.
Coming up next: Spiti Valley: India’s Little Tibet
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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