B - so we reached Manali exhausted and went as quickly as we could - allowing for annoying touts and rickshaw drivers trying to rip us off - to the nearby village of Vashisht. Beautiful place, up in the hills above the Kullu valley, with views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. We were even nearer the high mountains here! It was also quite a traveller's hangout, with loads of places with cheesy names like 'World Peace cafe' which had american films on every night, munchies food like apple crumble and pizza and everyone seemed young and cliched. So, many opportunities for observing amusing traveller-y types (which of course we are not) like the American eco warrior who aparently was not allowed back in the states, very stoned Isralies, of which there were loads, and just generally young travellers having amusing conversations.
From Manali we decided to go to the Spiti valley. On the way to Kaza, our destination, we had a 14-hour jeep journey across some of the most amazing scenery I've ever come across, stopping at chandra tal, a very serene high altitude lake, on the way. We left the green drizzly Kullu valley and climbed slowly up and up and up, till we reached our first high mountain pass - the Rotang pass at around 3500m. We couldn't see a thing - there was mist all around. Then suddenly the mist cleared, leaving bright blue sky and small, high white fluffy clouds and a vast view across a huge snow-capped mountain range.
As we worked our way along a long valley with the most dramatic curving roads, the landscape became dryer, the huge mountains on either side changing from grey and rocky and wet with huge long cascading waterfalls with a bit of clinging greenery to even greyer and dryer and more barren, until slowly they aquired an yellowy tinge, then some pink, then orange, then red. I never thought i'd like this incredibly barren landscape, devoid of any trees and hardly any wildlife, but i challenge anyone not to be impressed by that journey. Behind the barren mountains we could see huge snowy-icy glaciers towering beside us. We were so excited, we took millions of photos - as you can see!