Manali-Manikaran Chronicles: Am I Going to be a Gypsy?

*Finally, I’ve fished out some time to write. I’m suddenly a changed person; a changed perspective! I’ve always written about my love for writing and travel. I’m sure by this time you’ve all understood that when I start writing a blog with how I’m evolving as a person, it is either about writing or traveling. It’s been a while now and I haven’t really shared a travel-story. Obviously, it is because I did not have enough time to get my backpack to use!* 

**Drum Rolls**

*Get your reading glasses ready! I’m taking you to Manali. On a journey that I started with soul-searching as the only thing on mind.*

I would call November the most eventful month of the year. Just before lying on its deathbed, 2014 gave me memories for life!

Writing down a few last mails of the day, I rushed  past the office door early that evening. With a child-like excitement, I drove across the honking cars and traffic signals knowing that in next 10 hours I would be staring at the glorious mountains! *4 days, 3 friends and the lap of mountains, P E A C E*

Departure: 5th November 2014, 6:30 PM: Our cab was waiting for us! After a few hugs to the families and we three left our  homes for a vacation *a much-needed vacation*. After a 40-minute drive from Panchkula to Sector 22 Chandigarh and then another 15-minute hop to a dark and spooky spot (waiting there for a few minutes), we sat in our bus around 8 PM. This is that time of the year when Manali attracts a lesser number of tourists. So, the bus just had us, a few honeymooners and a few groups of students, heading back to their hometowns for the weekend. The bus left Chandigarh at 8:30 and thus, began a journey, I’m never going to forget. It was bumpy yet peaceful. The stars shone above our heads, the nip in the air slowly turned into spine-chilling cold as we slowly moved towards our destination. The bus only stopped twice or thrice  on its way to Manali; once for dinner and the next for a breather ( as I call it). While the other two slept for a while, I spent a good part of the traveling just gazing at the stars. They just made me forget everything about the stress, the work, the studies et al. I did sleep for good 3 hours curled up in my seat. And, when I woke up, we had almost reached Manali. The river, the mountains, the forest; I fell in love with the place the moment I opened eyes that day. *It was the third time, I falling in love with Manali, had visited the place twice back in the year 2007 and 2008. It was the same; even more beautiful. Maybe, November made it look even more fresh!*

Day 1: 6th November 2014, 6:30 AM: Exactly 12 hours later, we jumped out of our bus; looking no less than backpackers this time. We came across a nosey taxi-driver who had some real plans to spoil our good mood. He spoiled good two hours of the day by taking us from one hotel to another. *Lesson to be learned: Pre-book your hotel, even if it is off-season!*  Finally at 8:30 AM, we checked into our hotel, Hotel Chichoga Holiday Inn Manali. Decent, Good Service, Clean Rooms, Good View: In Short, Value for Money.

A View from the Hotel: Manali
A View from the Hotel: Manali

We freshened up a little a got ready for the second eventful and thrilling journey of the day. Rohtang and Solang were calling. We hopped into a cab; the hotel manager had arranged one for us. 12:30 and we left for the beautiful and enthralling journey. The weather was in our favor; it was a sunny, bright day. *I’m a lover of sunny days.*

Sunny Manali Days
Sunny Manali Days

Though, this was my second trip to Rohtang, it was even more beautiful around this time. Warm yet chilly, every inch of the mountains was glistening under the November sun. Just  B E A U T I F U L! We reached Rohtang around 2 PM, climbed up the mountain to find some snow.* Excruciating and breathtaking ’twas!* And, then, there at one spot, you could see the mighty mountains smiling at you and the sky trying to hug you. This one moment, that I heard the winds whistling; I can never forget it. Pious and cleansing! I had forgotten the world and just wanted to sit there on the stone for hours altogether. *Though, the altitude was killing me.*  Some pictures:

On the way to Rohtang
On the way to Rohtang
Almost at the Top, Rohtang Pass
Almost at the Top, Rohtang Pass
View from the Top
View from the Top

After spending a few hours in Rohtang, we moved towards Solang. The valley wasn’t was that eventful this time around; off-season to be blamed. Sipping some coffee and soup, we returned to our base in Manali around 7PM. We were tired of all the traveling, so had dinner at hotel and slept tight!

Day 2: 7th November 2014, 10:30 AM: We woke up a little late and rushed out of the hotel after a scrumptious breakfast. Manali sight-seeing was the plan! The weather showed us its cold side on the second with absolutely no sun. Our first stop was at Van Vihar. It was funny how Manali had been left to its solitude with very less tourists. Although, no rush and traffic jams; it totally worked for us. Here, we sat at the banks of River Beas. A photo-session and then rushed to Hadibma Temple which was at a distance of 3 kilometers from the main Manali Mall Road area.

Van Vihar (Children Park Area)
Van Vihar (Children Park Area)
That's my favorite picture
That’s my favorite picture

At first, we decided to walk but then these street dogs din’t left us alone and we took a short auto-ride. Just as beautiful as ever. The temple premises were so peaceful and tranquil. The pictures have everything to say!

Hadimba Temple, Manali
Hadimba Temple, Manali

After an hour or so, we headed towards the Old Manali. Roamed around in the streets here and shopped a little for the families. After stopping for dinner at a cafe in the vicinity, we headed back to our hotel early. The next day, we knew was going to one hell of a journey!

Day 3: 8th November 2014, 11:30 AM: That is when we checked out of the hotel. Where were we headed? Into the magical valley; the Parvati Valley. We boarded a bus from the Manali Bus Stand for Kasol, a townlet near the pilgrimage area Manikaran Sahab. This is where we had decided to pitch our base for the next two days of our journey.  The day was cold but slowly as we took the turn towards the valley, the smiling sun welcomed us. The mountains and the gradient, all singing joyous welcome songs for us. River Parvati flowing on the side, was just amazing. The lush green trees, the narrow curvy roads, soaring mountains and the turquoise blue river; what more could I have asked for. It was thrilling, scary and gorgeous. We reached Kasol around 4:00 PM and got comfy in a hotel. This was one called Deep Forest; and hell! Deep in the forest it almost was.

View from the hotel room, Kasol
View from the hotel room, Kasol

The best part about Kasol was that it was silent and enticing in every form. The food, the people, the gorgeous mountains- it was all crazily beautiful. Food was a main highlight. We tried some yummy street food and then gorged onto the delightful Israeli cuisine for dinner, and my goodness, wasn’t it some tasty meal! I’m big time foodie and am always a game for trying new food. If you’re visiting Kasol soon, try stopping at the Evergreen for a meal. They’ve got a wonderful ambiance, soulful music and super-yummy food. Italian, Spanish, Israeli, India- Everything!

Cherry on the top, Candle-light dinner at Evergreen!
Cherry on the top, Candle-light dinner at Evergreen!

*I’m quickly jumping to day four: this is the best part*

Day 4: 9th November 2014, 11:30 AM: After night watching the stars and mountains, we woke up around 10 that morning. Food was of course, the first thing that came to our minds and we headed to Little Italy. This is where the testament came into play. They say, you ought to save the best for the last and thus, the last day of our vacation started with a platter of awesomely deliciously scrumptiously yummmmmmyyy food. Italian breakfast! Goddddd, what more could you ask for! Good food, favorite people and mountains: I was falling in love with my life.

After stuffing up our tummies, we moved further to Manikaran Sahab. I have my faith vested in Gurdwaras and so visiting Manikaran was really important for me. The vacation would have been incomplete. River Parvati was at its melodious flow here; steamy yet soft. Another part of the trip that brought peace to me!

River Parvati, Manikaran
River Parvati, Manikaran
Let's bring in some peace
Let’s bring in some peace
Manikaran Sahab
Manikaran Sahab

A few peaceful moments here and then we moved to Kasol Camps. A place where you can sit near the beautifully flowing river just bask in the nature’s bounties. This was the best part of the vacation. Just the river, the mountains, the winds and us. This is where my soul-searching ended. I knew I was taking back a lot of sanity, peace and calm. In those two hours of my stay there, the river, the mountains gave me so much about life. I noticed how the river started from a source and moved along with its course, romancing with the boulders, seducing the rocks and flirting with its banks; covering a journey towards a destination unknown. So much like our lives.

Peace, Calm and Tranquility
Peace, Calm and Tranquility

The towering mountains picked up my dampened spirits and said, “Look, don’t be weak and stressed! You can do this.” I was going back a changed person that day.

Our next stop was a cafe hidden in the mountains. You can to take a scary suspension bridge to reach this one. Concluding the trip, we shopped a little in the town market and then started the packing spree back in the hotel.

Back Home: We checked out of our hotels on 10th November and took a bus from Kasol to Bhuntar. The vacation had not yet ended. River Parvati flowing back with us, was bidding us adieu and telling us its life stories all the way. We jumped off our bus in Bhuntar and took another bus to Chandigarh!

*November 11, 11 AM: Sitting at the office desks, creating the songs and chatters with our keywords. And thus, the saga came to an end. Indeed, it left us enriched with stories and memories for life. I did find the peace. Also, this journey left me with a question, the soul that I was searching for; was that of a gypsy! Eversince, I’ve come back to Chandigarh, all I have thought about is going back again! Am I turning into a Gypsy?*

Teesha

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