North Tour: Manali: Snow day!

Wednesday, 9 March

MANALI: I saw snow today.

That, in itself, made my day, but I didn’t just see it. I walked through it, ran through it, sprinted down a mountain of it, picked it up, brushed it off, stepped knee-deep in it, and had a legitimate snowball fight in a bank of it one-meter deep.

Still in India?

Oh yes, and it’s awesome.

Common perception would lead you to believe India’s thermostat is stuck on one temperature: hot. But while my friends report summer has already begun in Nagpur (just three months after “winter” began), here in Manali the mercury flirts with freezing and the acres of snow capping the nearby Himalayas are just now beginning to melt. Manali lies in the thick of the world’s largest mountain range, which takes up most of Himachal Pradesh. India is 1/3 the size of my native land, but on these two tours, I’ve now seen beaches, rivers, jungles, plains, desert, and now mountains.

Even thigh-deep in snow, there was a peculiar heat, a type that felt uniquely Indian. While the others bemoaned my relative lack of clothing, I removed my gloves, hat and jacket, unable to handle the sweltering winter heat. As long as I kept my body moving, I’d stay warm rather than cold.

Where else in the world can you stand in a snowdrift in short sleeves and feel hot?

(Perhaps the better question: who else could?)

Although skiing and paragliding were on my to-do list for today, I did neither due to the unsafe slopes and outrageous prices, respectively. But enjoying the winter weather proved not to be a problem. With shoes that failed to grip the slippery snow, even acute inclines turned into makeshift skating slopes. Anaïs, Jordan and I trudged 200 meters up a hill and either ran, rolled or came sledding down. (The rest preferred to stay dry at its base and sip chai together.) Unable to resist the temptation of firm but pliable snow, several free-for-all snowball fights ensued, accompanied by far more grin than chagrin. Most of us were drenched in melted snow as we bused back into town.

But this was the only snow day we’d be getting all year. Why complain?

Clouds appeared, and removed the luster of the early-afternoon heat. We traveled to a hot spring wherein the contrast of water and air temperature left steam rising high above. Changing clothes in the open winter air caused my exposed hairs to stand on end, but only temporarily, as the steaming mountain water restored my body to its normal temperature. For half an hour, we sat in contented peace, willingly subjecting ourselves to the bubbling steamy warmth.

For probably the last time in India, we enjoyed the heat.



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