After the changes around my volunteering gig last week, things have gotten much brighter. Day by day, I feel even more at home at my new hostel and more comfortable with the staff/guests who feel like my Manali family. Over the last few days, I was able to put the past behind me and truly relax for the first time in the Himalayas.
Day 20: morning in Old Manali + Manu temple + chill time at the hostel
On Saturday, I started the weekend with a morning walk to Old Manali. I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a morning walk, and I just love starting the day with “me” time. I like venturing out before the rest of the town wakes up, especially as high season is starting to pick up.
I decided to visit Manu Temple which sits up the hill of Old Manali. It was quite the climb, and I treated it as my day’s workout. 🙂 I loved the quaint wooden structure with Tibetan elements.
The inside of the temple was so peaceful.
After my morning walk, I got some breakfast in town. I’ve been eating meals at the hostel as part of the volunteering exchange, so it was a nice change to venture out for my own meal. I asked the restaurant to make me a traditional dish for Northern India, and they served me puri bhaji (deep-fried rounds of flour with a spiced potato dish). It was SO tasty.
The rest of the day was spent chilling. The weather was gloomy outside, so it was the perfect day to stay inside. The hostel was pretty popping as a few long-term digital nomads were staying here, so there was a clear “weekend mode” vibe. We hung out in the lounge, watched movies, and enjoyed each other’s company.
Day 21: Baror Parsha waterfall hike
The next day, Chetan and I ventured out for a hike to Baror Parsha waterfall. This waterfall was less known in Manali, so I was glad Chetan let me in on the tip. We took a rickshaw (India’s version of a tuk-tuk) to the base of the mountain and started climbing.
The hike was pretty short (15 minutes) but very steep. In a short period, we climbed the entire mountain and got amazing views of the valley. We stayed at this viewpoint for some time – I could tell this spot was special to Chetan and we took our time enjoying it.
Made it to the waterfall! It was on the small side but so peaceful. We stayed here for some time, eating our snacks and chatting with other hikers. As a typical day goes, several other passers-by asked us where we were from, for our Instagram, and to take pictures with us. At one point, Chetan said, “I’ve never gotten this much attention, and it’s all because of you.” Welcome to my world. 🙂
Ever since I joined his hostel, Chetan has been super supportive. We quickly became comfortable with each other, and I feel like I can say whatever is on my mind knowing that Chetan actually listens and values my thoughts. Chetan is also very mature and professional, and I truly respect him as a businessman. Our friendship truly turned my experience around!
We stopped by a little cafe on the way down the mountain run by an elderly couple. It was modest but SO cute. I loved all the homemade decor and attention to detail.
Down the mountain, we stopped by the temple that Chetan frequented each week, and then we hung out by the river. These river views never get old.
We took the local bus on the way back (my first local bus in India!), and then we stopped for pizza for dinner. We went to Super Bake, which is probably my favorite food spot in all of Manali. It’s several things in one – a grocery store, a bakery, and a meal spot – everything is SO good. We shared two slices of pizza and a lava cake.
Day 22: day trip to Solang Valley
The next morning, I linked up with Subhash (from my old hostel) for a day trip. Subhash offered to drop me off in Solang Valley (~45 minutes from Manali) which was on the way to his photoshoot. With Manali getting more crowded with tourists by the day, I wanted to find peace in a less-visited town and have a day to myself.
Solang is a ski resort town and a scenic spot in the summer – tourists from all over come for paragliding, hiking, ATVs, etc. It is slightly higher in elevation than Manali (8,400 feet), so the views were closer to the snow-capped mountains.
I started off the day with a hike to the Shiva Temple. The hike was along a rocky path and a decent climb. Since I was alone, I took my time climbing and enjoyed the views of pine trees and snowy mountains. Even though I hike frequently, I walk at a below-average speed, so it was nice to walk alone and not worry about catching up with others. 🙂
The views were unreal. The whole trail was facing that large snowy mountain – it was even more epic in person.
Spotted some little creatures along the way.
The trail ended with a few temples close to each other. I wasn’t sure which one was the actual Shiva Temple, 😛 but I enjoyed the peaceful vibes. There was also a little bit of snow!
Enjoyed some chai after the hike and before the next activity. I loved all these roadside vendors in Solang Valley, giving the place an upbeat vibe. I had street food all day and it hit the spot.
Next, I headed to the top of Solang Valley via the ski lift. It was a bit pricey ($9 USD), so not a lot of people ventured up there, which made it even more peaceful.
I’m so glad I went up! I thought the views below were already amazing, but the views from the top were something else – just like The Sound of Music. The area on the top was quite small; people stayed along limited trails and snapped photos of the scenery.
Spotted wild horses.
A lot of people come to Solang Valley to paraglide. I loved watching people fly away into the sky. I paraglided once before in Colombia, so I decided to pass this time.
Also at the mountain peak were photographers who took photos for tourists in traditional Himachal dress. At 30 rupees per photo, I thought why not. 😉 I felt a little silly doing this photoshoot, but I was happy to take away some nice shots! I felt like a real local wearing these garments.
I headed down the ski lift and ate momos, which are basically dumplings with Indian spices. I loved eating the Tibetan-inspired food in this region as it reminded me of the Chinese comfort food I love.
After a full day out, Subhash picked me up and we headed back to Manali. This was one of my favorite days in the Himalayas so far! I loved the epic scenery and having total freedom as a solo traveler again. 🙂
Day 23-25: working days
The next few days were chill but productive. I relaxed around the hostel, took walks, and went through the ebbs and flows of village life.
I also put my head down and did some work for the hostel, starting with designing the restaurant menu and getting us live on our first booking site. Overall, my job has been more project-based (mostly on the computer), so I help out when tasks come up versus having a set of responsibilities each day. Now that I’m more settled in this gig, I’m planning to do a “day in the life post” next week to share what volunteering has looked like. 🙂
Have a great weekend!! 🙂