October 17th - Mcleodganj to Manali

Our drive today was just over 200 kms through some magnificent Himalayan mountain scenery, ending at the town of Manali. As we left our hotel in Macleodganj we passed by the Dalai Lama's residence in exile. This area of India is the home to tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees and everywhere you go you see Buddhist monks dressed in red robes. It brought back memories of our trip through Tibet in 2004. We passed several military installations with tanks outside the gates.

As we rounded one corner the photo below shows what we saw!

On closer inspection we learnt it was in fact an artificial insemination centre for livestock. Shortly after we had our first views of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas.

Some 55 kms further on we turned off the main road onto small side roads leading into an area known as Little Tibet. We passed several brightly coloured monasteries.

Shortly after we came across a set of 8 magnificent stuppas, each with a giant prayer wheel inside.

There were Buddhist prayer flags strung up between the stuppas and also in the trees which surrounded the site. In the fields there were terraces of rice and on the slopes tea was being grown. After 15 kms of beautiful driving we returned to the main road for about 30 kms and then we turned off into the mountains for what was to be one the best drives of the tour so far. How John Brown finds these roads is a mystery to me. Almost always they are not on any road map and they always take you into regions of a country that very few, if any, foreigners have ever been to. We rose quickly up a very narrow mountain pass to over 6,000 ft.

  Often we had precipitous drops on the side of the road, and the edge was unguarded. Here on the descent was one of the few places we had concrete barriers but often these were broken as in this picture.

This carried on for nearly 80 kms, with about 20 kms on rough, but smooth, gravel. We descended from the first pass into a beautiful valley and then rose to climb another pass. As we descended the pass we came across the two all lady cars, Car No. 27 with Eileen Ainscough and Tommy Black and Car 10 with Carol Steljes and Wendy Picken having a picnic on the side of the road. We snapped the photo below as we drove past, and apologies to Carol and Wendy as you are both obscured by your car!

A few kilometres on we joined the main road again for the final 50 kms into Manali.

As we approached our destination the weather changed and for the first time on the tour we experienced rain. Very quickly this turned to quite a downpour and rivers of mud were washed across the road off the mountain slopes. We were very pleased to arrive at our hotel, The Holiday Inn, before it became dark. I took the photo below from our bedroom where we could see that snow was falling on the mountain peaks high above us.

Another great day of touring in India. Tomorrow we head for Shimla, which was the summer administrative capital for the British when it was too hot to remain in Delhi.

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