The Big Trip


Solang Pass

There are stunning views of snow capped mountains in every direction in Manali. Why we thought that getting an even better up-close and personal view of snow would be a good idea remains a mystery. But our driver said we should go up to “snow point”, an hour north of Manali. The road turned out to be an order of magnitude worse than the road that we used to get to Manali from Mandi. Boulders were on the road from innumerable rockslides, several sections of the road had washed out, the potholes could (and did) break axles, and one-lane sections had to accommodate both directions of travel. In spite of these conditions, we found ourselves in a lemming-like convoy of tourist busses, vans and cars. We knew it was going to be a less-than-ideal experience when we reached the first of the infinite number of shanties lining both sides of the road offering “for hire” full body ski suits, rubber boots, vintage skis, and full length winter coats that looked like they were made of synthetic yak wool and weighed 100 pounds each. In front of each shanty was a hand-painted sign that read “Shop No. 341” or “Shop No. 749” etc. And each item “for hire” prominently displayed the number of the shop that had put it out “for hire”.

The cars, vans and busses reached a point of gridlock about half a mile short of the final destination. Everyone then continued on foot through the slush,including the women in high heels. With very few exceptions, the tourists were from other parts of India, and it appeared that most of them had never seen snow before. There was a circus-like atmosphere at the end of the road that words cannot describe, and that we fled after just a few minutes. Luckily our driver was able to extricate our car from the gridlock and we made our escape. Just in time, we discovered the next morning. A short while after we left, a major rockslide blocked the road and stranded everyone else up on the mountain for more than 4 or 5 hours.

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