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Yak Yak YaK!
From Manali to Rohtang in our Honda City Such plans are usually not made on an impulse..Even if on a bike, one must/does plan way ahead or at least that’s what one would like to believe The rains in August always catch our fancy and so they did this time when we packed our bags once again for Manali – popularly known as “ the Switzerland of India” It being our third visit to Manali, there was not much to do in Old Manali(where we were staying). We decided to head to Kothi, a beautiful stopover almost midway between Manali and Rohtang Pass. The drive is beautiful with sights of beautifully built wooden houses, pretty meadows and sounds and smells of water and greenery filling your senses. It was raining all through and gave the whole scenery a new, fresh look. Just before Kothi there’s a cute little café/restaurant/inn call ed “Chalte Chalte”. More than anything the name pulled us to the balcony of the café, which overlooked mountains, a green expanse of land and a ruined building on the hilltop. It was mesmerizing.
A plate of hot maggi noodles and paneer pakodas for lunch was heavenly. Here’s where we decided we will head to Rohtang. All geared up (in t shirts and shorts) we left Chalte Chalte, belted up and started driving further down towards Rohtang. Less than a kilometre ahead, was a barricade. Apparently private cars without a permit are not allowed to go up to Rohtang considering the bad roads and for fear of accidents and landslides. One has to take this permit from Manali. The hotel owners would know the place. The alternative is to take the local taxi which takes about Rs.3000 to and fro. That did not deter us. By some stroke of luck, after some repeated requests to let us go, the barricade was thrown open by the guards. Here we were in our Honda City VX AT(165 cms ground clearance), ready to go to “THE ROHTANG PASS”. The big deal about it was something we discovered later. Winding narrow roads that keep going up, big waterfalls in full flow (because of the incessant rains), the sound of the wind and the mist..all this at about 4 pm in the evening was humbling. The sharp turns had my heart skipping multiple beats and my ears ringing. We could hardly see any car/bus/truck going towards Rohtang. These were scary thoughts being brushed away by the sheer magnificence of the drive.
A little ahead of Kothi
8 kms short of Rohtang and we felt we should take a U turn. The road had almost finished. It was a narrow stretch of mud and water and huge stones, with space only for one vehicle to pass and there were trucks which wanted to go in the opposite direction.
There’s something about Manali…it never lets you stop. Despite the odds, we kept going..The scenery was breathtaking. We could only imagine what was in store for us at Rohtang. We imagined the pass to be some gateway made of snow. At least that’s what we had read about it in those Geography textbooks at school. We kept going and suddenly we saw this.
First time ever had I seen a Yak, outside the zoo. And there were more
It looked like Rohtang Pass and after we talked to a few locals, we realized we were indeed at Rohtang Pass. No there was no gateway of sorts. But it was undoubtedly beautiful and very cold. T shirt and shorts was definitely not the attire. There were two stalls serving hot maggi tea, eggs etc. We got out of the car to feel the cold breeze against our face. The experience was almost numbing both because of the cold and because of the “far from sanity” feeling. City life at that point with the regular traffic vows, work stress, etc. seemed so petty in front of the overpowering mountains.
It was 5.30 pm then and was beginning to get dark. We wanted to go a little ahead(20 kms) to Dasaur lake. Our spirits were only dampened because we would have to cover the same marshy, rugged landscape we had just crossed, that too in the dark. Hence we started heading back. The best way to stay safe we knew was to keep driving behind an experienced local taxi driver as fog was too dense to be true and the rains were lovely but intimidating. And the song playing in the background was – “Yeh Lamhe yeh pal hum barso yaad karenge….” Au Revoir Rohtang!