Manali. A sunny morning at the end of September. The sun warms up the fresh Himalayan air. I get ready for a hike to Solang, a hill station near Manali, where I hope to zorb down a hill in a big inflatable ball.
There is an easy way- over the road, and an uneasy way- through the hills, to walk to Solang.
I take the uneasy way. A trail leads me up the hill, through orchards, green fields and cow trails. In the middle of farmland a Rasta bar rises up .The bar is owned by an older Japanese man who specializes in growing large quantities of weed in his garden. And in keeping lots of scary dogs. I ask him for the way. He points to the distance and tells me to keep on walking.
The path slowly dissolves into a maze of tiny trails, sometimes ending in nothingness or right on a cliff. I look down at the road and wonder about my mission. I have lost track and decide to descent to the road, concluding that I have taken an impossible road to Solang.
Another apple-orchard. The owner of the land sees me and is not amused. I rush towards the stairs leading down to a small village.
I try to ask some villagers for directions, a long and confusing process. No clear answer.
Two hours have past, I am still walking, again in the hills, no sign of Solang, and no more people around. It is getting later and my vision of zorbing balls slowly make place for visions of taking the bus back to Manali before it gets cold, dark, and hostile.
Some people again, finally .I ask them for the way to the nearest bus- stop. One of them gives me a worried look and turns to his friend for assistance; walk down the hill, then cross the bridge and follow a road. Easy enough, it seems.
Slowly I notice something strange about my surroundings. Lots of fences, weird signs and a large, open square. I start realizing where I am. The middle of an army base. I keep on walking, hope that they are tolerant with foreign visitors and try to not give it too much thoughts.
As I approach the bridge something is missing. There is a hole with a river underneath. And a sign: Do not pass. The bridge has collapsed.
I dream of my bus to Manali and realize that once more I will have to work for it. I need to cross the river. Fast and by foot, stepping from stone to stone. One wrong step and the river will swallow me. Shortly I consider my other option: staying where I am. Slowly I lift one foot towards one of the stones in the river.
Evening. I am warm again and drink to my victory- a happy one. Next time I will take the easiest way to get to Solang, by bus. There is still a zorb ball waiting for me on a hill.