DAY 26 - MANALI
In keeping with the slower pace of life up in the Himalayas, our day took a while to get going and we enjoyed a pleasant breakfast with one of the managers of the guest house as the sun slowly rose, chatting about the many contrasts we had noticed between the mountain towns and other areas of northern India. The weather couldn't have been more different to the day before's drizzly affair, so we decided to walk up to the main part of Old Manali and visit the Hindu Manu Temple located in its midst. The area had a real traditional feel about it, largely untouched through the generations, its pebblestone streets leading us past antiquated wooden buildings with slate roofs overlooking small courtyards containing livestock or hay. Until the conflict in Kashmir in the late 80s pushed many tourists into the area, Manali retained this largely unchanged feel about it, something which I guess some of the locals may miss, although tourism has given the area a perhaps much needed economic boost. We also noticed, during our time in Manali (and also here in Dharamsala), that the Himalayan regions attract a lot of bikers (invariably on old Royal Enfields) who travel through the area stopping off at hill villages and mountain towns along the way. It's something that I must admit sounds pretty appealing, perhaps something to consider in the future. The Manu temple was pretty impressive - although it didn't possess the opulence or grandeur of other temples we had seen, its modest wooden frame and decorations gave it a certain appeal that complimented its location. We spent the afternoon playing pool in the club house and visiting a 'dinosaur museum' in its grounds (which bizarrely, and very amusingly, included king kong and micky mouse amongst its attractions). We then watched our friends back at Rockway Cottage take cooking lessons at the guest house before spending the evening in one of their rooms listening to music and chatting whilst they made what seemed like hundreds of 'pea-boats' from pea pods to set sail down the stream the next morning, an art taught to the group by its Canadian member. We eventually returned to our room which we made sure was toasty before we got to bed after another relaxed day in the mountains.