Igloos in India – Unexpected Winter Joys
Okay, that’s normal. People travel to Iceland, Sweden and the Nordic countries and stay in an igloo every day, don’t they? But this was different. It was in Manali, India. A first of its kind! Economical igloos built by a Master and made accessible to so many of us from this developing low-passport power country who would otherwise never afford an igloo stay (want to visit?).
The camp is at the bottom of this valley
My friend Tej coerced me into going on the trip with her. So with her, and friends Sam, Dev and Vishal, we finally did the flights and long drive to Manali and spent the night in the home stay of the igloo co-owner Tashi. The next morning co-owner and guide Vikas suited us up in snowsuits, and take us up in the mountains quite near Hamta Pass. Sethan Valley in Himachal Pradesh is neat the Hamta Pass that connects two states. It is peaceful and quiet, and a perfect location for the igloo stay. We’re then marched down an incline into the valley where the igloo stay is located.
There hasn’t been much snow these few weeks so we could still see spots of brown amidst the white landscape. We’re offered tea that is soon replaced by rum as dusk settles. Everyone entertains with stories of trips and treks, and of myths and local legends. Camp leader Vikas told me my mother-in-law loved me a lot because the fire was blowing in my direction. I tell him I haven’t met her yet. So we’ll just have to wait and see. And the stories continue.
On the way back from a pee in the woods – Doesn’t the snow look like foam?
Since the bogs are a way off, we go into the nearby woods to pee behind rocks. But after coming back Tej tells us that in Himachal you cannot pee behind rocks, especially not the big ones, because they’re considered to be the seats of gods.
“You mean I have to pee out in the open?”
“No, just go behind the smaller rocks.”
“That’s practically out in the open.”
Dinner time – My friend Vishal, our guide Tashi and me in the background
And soon it’s dinner time. Yummy mutton masala and rotis (Indian flat breads), and of course cauliflower bhaji (a dry vegetable preparation) for the vegetarians.
After dinner, Tashi put us to bed. Literally! Of course, he put the guys to bed first in the bigger igloo. He then came over to our igloo with hot water bottles and showed us how to place them under out feet before getting into the lining and sleeping bag for a sound night’s sleep.
Enjoying tea in the tented kitchen
Come morning, we’re served hot parathas (Indian flat breads stuffed with a potato filling) and ajwain flavored chai or tea. The ajwain or bishop’s weed in the tea makes it much a lot tastier than our regular ginger flavoured tea from Western India. Ajwain is also known to keep you warm. Makes fried mackerels taste awesome too!
A walk in the woods with new friends
After breakfast, some of us go for a walk down to the walnut groves with bare walnut trees reaching almost the sky. If we had gone a little further we would have reached the river Beas.
After that we spend time sledging in the snow and also get some skiing lessons from Tashi. Tashi then gives us a lesson on what it takes to build igloos (highly recommend this tour). During the lesson, Tashi explained that the igloos can take the weight of all of us put together. So we scrambled atop the igloo to pose.
My friends Tej and Dev on the igloo, with Tashi standing by
After a few more hours or fun in the snow, it’s soon time to leave the camp. I wish we could have stayed there longer. Hopefully next time.
Kakslauttanen is the dream on the bucket list. But for now I’ll satisfy myself with being able to tell people that one day I woke up in an igloo.
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All photos by Abby Rebello