The weather again changed this morning and we were welcomed with fresh sunshine and clear sky. We headed to Rohtang Pass today. Rohtang Pass is a high pass (height13, 058 ft.) on the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It links the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh. In this post I am going to describe our Rohtang Pass tour in details.
The pass provides a natural split between the Kullu Valley with a primarily Hindu culture, and Lahaul and Spiti valleys with a Buddhist culture. The pass is open from May to November. It is neither very high nor difficult to cross on foot by trekkers, but it has a well-earned reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable hails and snowstorms.
This pass is an olden trade route between the people on either side of Pir Panjal. There are other passes in Lahaul and Spiti which have specific names like Kunzam La, Baralacha La, etc. The National Highway 3, the road through the Kullu Valley, ends at Manali. The road northwards over the Rohtang Pass to Keylong, Lahul and on to Leh in Ladakh is Leh-Manali highway. This Leh-Manali Highway generally become very busy during the summer months as a substitute military route since the Kargil Conflict in 1999. Traffic jams are common as military vehicles, trucks, and tourist vehicles attempt to navigate the narrow roads and rough terrain, mixed by snow and ice. Numerous episodes of the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers series shot in this route. With increase in Traffic at Rohtang Valley, environmentalists fear its influence on the delicate mountain ecology. A rise in average temperature, and the consequent melting of glaciers, is also issues of concern.
Dress Rental for Rohtang Pass Tour
You can hire snow clothes, ski dress and boots from many vendors en route to Rohtang Pass at Marhi or at Snow Point. Though local administration had been fixed rate of tourism related activities or articles used but local shop owners charge high.You had to bargain and fixed up the final price. Few rates I remembered-
- Warm coat,snow shoes and stick set-Rs.150 for full day.
- Skiing dress set- Rs.200 for full day.
- skii dress with skii pair and guide-Rs. 400 for full day.
- Snow scooter joy ride 5-10 mnts-Rs. 600.
Check all garments are well cleaned before renting.
Rohtang Pass tour Permit
In 2016, the Himachal Pradesh government started issuing permits online to limit the vehicles to control pollution in this area. Permits are issued only to the first 800 petrol vehicles and 400 diesel vehicles. And Also 100 permits are issued for the Private Number Vehicle (60 Petrol and 40 Diesel) on first come first serve basis. In a week each vehicle will get only 3 permits. Administration kept Tuesday as the day for maintenance of Rohtang. So no permits are issued for the Tuesday by Himachal Pradesh Tourism. A tax of Rs. 500 and sometimes, congestion charges of Rs. 50 for SUV (Rs. 100 for bus/HMV) is to be paid and accordingly the permits are issued based on daily quota defined by Kullu District Administration. The tourism permit is valid only for 24 hours (to & fro). Valid ID Proof, valid Pollution under Check (PUC) Certificate and Vehicle Registration Date (Age of vehicle not to be over 10 years) are required to be produced to obtain a Rohtang Pass Permit. You can apply for the permit on the Official website online.
After National Green Tribunal Himachal Pradesh Government is serious about connecting Rohtang Pass with Cable Car (Ropeway). Government has announced and initialized to start the construction of Ropeway in 2017. After facing so many consequences the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation will finally going to start the Palchan – Rohtang Pass ropeway in Kullu Manali in PPP model with TATA infrastructuer and Malana Ropeway Pvt Ltd.
To Ease the Traffic Congestion on Manali Rohtang Pass Road where limitations have been imposed in last 2 – 3 years by National Green Tribunal particularly on Diesel vehicles movements. The step has been taken to recover the natural climate and provide employment among locals in Kullu Manali. Rohtang Pass Ropeway will be constructed in three Parts. First will be from Kothi to Gulaba, second will be Gulaba to Marhi, and third and last will be from Marhi to Rohtang Pass. Government expecting tourists can enjoy the Ropeway mid of this year.
Our driver took 2.5 hours distance about 50 kms by road from Manali to Rohtang Pass. After this Ropeway Tourist can cover this distance in around 25 mins and may reach at height of 13050 fts. Our driver told ‘Jab We Met’ movie shot at Rohtang Pass and Manali. Ever forget the scene where Shahid Kapoor is driving the blue jeep through Rohtang Pass and beautiful Kareena Kapoor is singing and dancing the melodious song- Oh Rama, Yeh Ishq Haye, Baithe Bithaye.
Another project “The Atal Tunnel” is also in the verge of completion. Atal Tunnel is a highway tunnel being constructed under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway. About 9 km length, the tunnel will be one of the longest road tunnels in India and is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by about 45 km. The tunnel is at a height of 10,171 ft whereas the Rohtang Pass is at a height of 13,051 ft. The excavation of the tunnel completed in October 2017 when the blasting from south and north ends joined, and the completed tunnel will open probably in September 2020.
Our vehicle stopped on the parking lot. We got down start walking upward. I left the main track and moving upward through a footpath(pagdandi). When I was going upward I stumbled in one place and found one old horse shoe. I became very happy after getting that amazing memento. Horseshoes have long been considered lucky(Ha..Ha..). They were originally made of iron, a material that was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being the luckiest number.
There is no choice to stay at Rohtang Pass unless you’ve got your own tent and found out camp by the roadside. Rohtang Pass is not safe for night stay. You have to come back to Manali to stay. You must also try to leave very early in morning approximately 5 am. When we reached there we saw fresh snow covered the area. We played in the snow, walked around enjoying every bit of it and snapped some beautiful photos. We returned from there back to Manali Mall by afternoon and strolled there once again post lunch.
Mall Road is the main street in Manali. The offices of Municipal Corporation, fire service, and Police Headquarters are situated here. Automobiles, except emergency vehicles are not permissible on this road. Mall Road features a number of showrooms, departmental stores, shops, restaurants and cafes. A government managed Himachal Pradesh emporium that gives handicraft products of Himachal Pradesh like locally designed woolen clothes, branded clothes, pottery items, wooden products, and jewellery is additionally located here.
Mall Road could be a perfect place to start the exploration of Manali. On the Mall road Manali next to the Bus depot there is a temple dedicated to goddess Durga. You can visit the temple and pray there. Durga Puja immersions are preformed from the Hills of Manali and we witnessed that. With a colorful crowd and Traditional Musical instruments creating a mystical Durga Puja immersions. It was a great experience to witness the journey of the Goddess and Her family from the Pandal to the banks of the river Beas.
The Mall road is called the heart of Manali. The street is buzzing all day with a lot of activity and is not far from all the places that interest you; hence you can book your accommodation at Mall road. Mall Road Manali is lined with several hotels, restaurants, and bars. You can shop shawls, rugs, jewelry, woolen caps, wooden furniture, and books. It also comprises of small shopping areas just like the Dragon Shopping Complex, Lama Underground, Hong Kong Market, Shangri La Shopping Complex, Thai Market, Snow Lion Underground Market, and New NAC Market.
Crafted Keychains, name plates, etc. which are customized to one’s own message are worth buying as mementos. Also one can get his name carved on a single grain of rice. Local shops are abundantly selling chingus (a type of blanket) claiming to be warm in winters and cold in summers. Be cautious of these. They will show you parcel ready chingus. Do not fall prey to them. The chingus are also known as “Sparu”. Beware of these ‘Sparu’ sellers.
Also do not buy saffron (kesar), musk (kasturi), or shilajit from street vendors. Most of these products are fakes. Buy from government-authorized shops only. Do not also buy the dry fruits, almonds, cashews, and pistachios that they sell on the streets. They seem to be cheap but they are stale and bad in quality. We returned from there back to our hotel by afternoon and then relaxed for the day as next day we had a journey to Manikaran via Kullu.
Also read HIMACHAL DIARIES-PART IV