October 18th - Manali to Shimla

Another simply superb day of driving through the wilds of the Himalayas. Wonderful twisty mountain roads rising to the highest point of the tour at 3,140 metres, over 10,500 ft.

We left Manali at 7.30am on a bright and cold morning. After all the rain of the previous evening it was a relief to be driving in the dry. I have been asked by one reader of the blog to give more information on the weather and the food. I will deal with the weather now and later with Indian cuisine. Today was the coldest we have had on the entire trip with the temperature falling below 6 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature we have had was about 40 degrees just before we reached Delhi. On the whole it has been clear blue skies with very little wind. I'm not sure if we are lucky, but it certainly feels like it after the vagaries of the English weather.

Our drive took us due south back down the Kullu Valley, but this time on the western side of the river. On the way we came across a large flock of sheep being herded down the main road. Some of the sheep had magnificent curved horns.Herding of livestock down main roads is a common occurrence in India, and a hazard that you have to be on the alert for at every bend!

We turned off for the Jalori La Pass after about 100 kms from Manali. We really were in the wild. A narrow mountain road took us up and often you met buses coming down and you can see from the photo below how tight it could be getting past them. This time its Jim Carr in Car 4 trying to avoid the bus!

As we rose up into the mountains the drops on either side of the road became quite spectacular and you could see for miles across the valleys. We soon rose into the snowy areas, although not much snow had fallen during the night. Some slush on the track but nothing to bother us. We reached the summit at about 11 am and a whole group of us congregated at the top, some throwing snowballs. Below Ernie Nelan, one of our great friends from the States (Texas) and Thelma Howells, with snow on the ground in the background.

Some of the group at the summit.

The drive down was through some beautiful mountain scenery with rushing rivers and dense pine forests and lower down the slopes were terraced with crops growing. The fields had farmers working in them and we passed through many small villages which had houses that had their roofs covered in corn that, I presume, was being dried for the winter. Then incredibly we came across a Belgian cyclist coming the other way. He told us he had cycled 100 kms from Shimla that morning and was heading over the Jalori La Pass! To think that someone could manage to ride a bike over the pass with the rough tracks, mud and slush was quite something. Towards the end of the pass we drove along a mighty river in a large valley with rapids at regular intervals.

Whilst driving along this river we were stopped by a digger clearing a landslide.

We spent about twenty minutes waiting for the road to be opened before we drove on towards Shimla.

Our final 80 kms of driving into Shimla was over another pass, this time reaching 8,000 ft. At the summit there is the Indian ski resort of Narkanda. We arrived at our hotel, the Oberoi Wildflower Hall at just after 3 pm. Seven hours of truly great driving. We are staying here for two nights and tomorrow we take the famous Shimla narrow gauge mountain railway for an hour and a half ride.

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