Like the ride to Lake Rewalsar, the Manali drive was astonishing! There were endless hills filled with exotic plants.
Once we got closer to Manali, I noticed that the most prevalent plant was cannabis. Weed was growing everywhere!
It took a while to find the hotel, and when we did, the desk guy did the usual I need to see your passport before letting you go into the hotel room scheme.
For some reason (Terrorism? /Taxes?), this is standard practice in all Indian hotels.
Also, as usual, the hotel room was only half-clean despite it being relatively expensive by Indian standards.
That night we went to the touristy part across the bridge and had some international food.
Despite having a population of less than 7,000, Manali had the feel of a mid-sized international city.
The following day our driver took us up to Rohtang Pass, the second-highest motor pass in the world, which is only open from June to September.
Along the lower part of the road, we must have passed at least 50 clothing rental shops, renting out winter clothes for the extreme weather conditions on top of the pass.
The road up looked dangerous as it was only one lane and enveloped in thick fog. Our driver didn't seem to think so, going as fast as he possibly could.
On the way up, I spotted several magnificent vultures circling.
Unlike in western culture in Tibetan culture, vultures are considered a good omen.
I also saw an unfortunate cow that fell down a cliff, along with a jeep on its back that had probably also taken a tumble down a cliff.
After about an hour of driving, we reached the summit point, crowded with Indian tourists.
The summit was 3,200 meters in height. My uncle told me that it was considered the end of the world in ancient times, past the summit, was Tibet.
The view was amazing, but fog prevented a fully clear picture. At the base of the summit, there was still snow despite it not being overly cold.
Most of them from parts of India where it does not snow at all, the tourists were delighted. There was a tire sled ride, and I spotted a few yaks.
The yaks in Manali were famous since yaks are very rare outside of Tibet. I paid the keeper a couple of hundred rupees, and he let me ride the yak for about 10 minutes.
The beast stayed very calm and was a lot more humble than the horses I have ridden before.
On our way down, we stopped at a cafe located directly on the river. It was the first time I had seen a restaurant with tables situated on the river!
The water flowing was ice cold, but it didn't matter. The experience was terrific.
Near the cafe, I spotted a paraglide shop. For only 450 rupees ($10), I could paraglide down the mountain.
I wanted to do it but knew it would be a bad idea to paraglide in shorts and sandals, so sadly, I declined.
After talking to my family, I came to the consensus that I would not be traveling to Ladakh since it was a two-day bus ride with extreme weather conditions.
I heard from many travelers that the buses sometimes break down on the route, leaving travelers stranded for days. It was a hard decision not to go since I might not ever have the opportunity again.
We ended up leaving Manali the following day. I wish I stayed in Manali a little longer and had packed better gear for trekking/rafting.
The area was ripe with outdoor adventures waiting to happen. I felt like I only got a preview of what it had to offer and was hungry for more.
This series on India was written and submitted by guest author Stefan K.