Having fallen in love with the Himalayas in Nepal last year, there was no way we were going to leave India without seeing them again.
After a week getting our Pranayama on at a yoga retreat in Rishikesh, Courtney and I got our chance when we found out the boys, who had left us 8 days previously, were 7 days into a 3 day motorbike ride with another 3 left to go… Not wanting the boys to have all the fun we got on a rickshaw-bus-bus-rickshaw combo for 18 hours and headed up to Manali to find our own adventure.
It didn’t take us long to sign up to a 3 day trek to Bhrigu Lake and to feel right at home in this beautiful little mountain town.
The air was cooler up there and smelt of the tall evergreen trees spread out in every direction. From the wrap-around balcony of our 600 rupee hotel room we could watch the clouds rush around the white peaks of the Himalayas.
Add fresh apple pie and fantastic shopping to the mix and you have 2 rather happy travellers.
There are tonnes of options for trekking in Manali, all easily adjustable to your time frame and level of hiking expertise, and there are loads of activity shops dedicated to helping you find your perfect adventure. We settled with himalayan extreme, across the road from People restaurant, because they had a sign outside advertising for a trek leaving the next day. These guys are awesome at what they do and have been around for a really long time – it was such a stroke of luck!
We almost got talked into going with another guy who offered us his mothers’ coat when we asked about extra layers for camping… glad we got out of that one!
The tour started early and after a quick supplies and fuel pick-up we were on our way up the Rotang Pass, the very same road the boys had ridden days before, to find the start of our trek.
The views were incredible right from the start and did not let up for the entire trek. While we didn’t do any other trekking in Manali, I cannot recommend this particular trek enough – every single step of the way was absolutely beautiful.
We had grazing horses and hunting eagles for company and it felt so good to push ourselves into mountain mode.
We started at over 2000 meters which was pretty intense considering we’d only arrived in Manali the day before. Even on the Annapurna Circuit and Basecamp treks, I’m not sure I’ve ever had my heart beating so hard and loud. I started off worried that I had completely lost the hiking legs I’d spent so long cultivating in Korea and Nepal.
An hour and a half into that first day we found our stride.
Having said that, seriously do not underestimate the altitude changes when trekking in Manali. One of the girls in our group of 5 was really badly affected the first night at well over 3000 meters, barely sleeping because she had such bad headaches. It was kind of scary and we were actually shocked that we hadn’t been pre-warned by the tour guides. In Nepal everyone we met, guides and fellow hikers, were super serious about the ‘don’t sleep more than 500 meters higher than the night before’ rule and here we were gaining 1000 a day.
It was also one of the coldest nights camping I’ve ever had and it was only early October!
The camp was really lovely though, set in a wide valley with a little stream and a panoramic view of the Dolado range. And while we’d only driven 1 hour and then hiked for 3, the stars that night made us feel so far removed from anywhere.
While I will always love the freedom of hiking on my own, without a guide, there are some serious perks for going organised. We were woken up the next morning with fresh and spicy chai in our sleeping bags!
The second day of the trek started straight up and didn’t relent. We burnt our thighs on endless switchbacks, pushed on through the more gentle slopes and before we knew it we were almost rock climbing to get to Bhrigu Lake at an incredible 4270 meters above sea level.
It was incredible to have those sublime mountain views to our right as we scaled what can only be described as a huge boulder slide, higher and higher. Me and Courtney could not stop exclaiming about how much fun the hiking was.
We all sat around singing songs and playing little games at the campfire that night. Our camp for the night was another 1000 meters down the other side of the mountain and another perfect spot. It was like some kind of perfect camping advert and it was delightful! There is seriously nothing like a fire when camping. If only we’d had the forethought to buy the marshmallows we’d seen for sale in Rishikesh…
Although tough on the knees going downhill all day, it was an easy last hike. The forest scenery and views were so nice and we even had lunch by the most picturesque little farmhouse in the middle of the woods. It was complete with flower gardens and had its’ own mini shrine, all framed by fluttering prayer flags.
The hike ended in Vashist, which warrants its own visit from Manali, but we headed back in search of showers after one last communal chai.
While I could have hiked for another 3 weeks, these 3 days in the mountains were seriously perfect. Oli and I are already keen to head back to the Himal Pradesh region and explore more…
Do you have a Himalayan addiction like us? Have you been to Manali? And what’s your favourite kind of trekking?