The Beginning of our journey
It was in the year 2013 when I badly wanted to cover the length and the breadth of the gigantic Himalayas. We set our eyes on the travel sites every day only to be confused with the starlit hotels and expensive food options every night. Finally, just a couple of days before the winter break, we booked our tickets to Manali and everything else fell into place. Though it was a hasty decision but I must add here that it was 'one of the best things that had ever happened to me'. We boarded a semi-sleeper AC Volvo at around 10:30pm on a Thursday from Delhi's Kashmere Gate Bus Station. The initial journey was a bit of a hassle because of peak hours of traffic on the roads of the capital city but once we crossed the state borders, the trip was as smooth as silk.
The First Encounter with the Hills of Himachal
Thanks to the first-time drivers and a bit of a rugged terrain that the jolts on my head from the glass window broke my sleep. I looked at my watch and saw it was 5:05 am and we were pacing on a narrow, uneven road through a thick forest covering us from both the sides; making it impossible for us to see what was beyond the woods. In minutes the sun began to ascend the horizon and we made our way out of the forest only to enter panoramic scenery right out of the books. The first thing I saw became a memory of a lifetime for me. My eyes popped out at the massive mountains towering as high as I had never seen. The breeze had become chilly and the noise of our bus engines pierced the peaceful ambiance. The birds chirped and flew in a 360 degree fashion encircling the hills over and over again. While I sat gaping the towering figures often greeted by the whimsical water bodies which played hide-and-seek with our eyes making us more anxious to see what's next.
The hills enclosed us in its lap and in no time our cameras were out to capture the breath-taking views. As we climbed up, the steepness of the hills became scarier yet remained outright beautiful. In less than an hour or so, we headed into the famous 3kms long Aut Tunnel on NH21 which was carved out of the Himalayas. The occasional water flashes from the edges of the mountain woke many passengers on the go and by the time we took an exit and reached Kullu, every passenger on-board was keen to step down and take a breather in the hills. We took a light stroll to the edge of the mountain and took our own sweet time to absorb the picture-perfect moment. It was after curbing our hunger pangs with some light breakfast and tea from a local dhaba that we finally headed towards our destination - Manali.
The journey to Manali paces through the narrow lanes of Kullu and Manali towns. All of a sudden, you might feel like a jumbo human from another planet for some time, seeing the height of the bus match the maximum height of the shops and the houses in Manali. But that's okay. You'll be fine by the time you arrive at the bus stand where things are under control.
Our Destination Has Arrived
After an unlikely long journey, all you need is a great place to sit back, relax and cure the body aches. On the contrary, when it comes to Manali you might be as charged as never. It won't be a surprise if you end up booking a cab to visit the nearby attractions later in the day.