Buddies in Manali

Tripoto
24th Mar 2018

Since we had left college, there was a ever lasting desire to go for a trip with our college buddies.

Due to obvious reasons, it kept on postponing.

Finally somehow everyone of us agreed for a trip this time.

After much discussion, we finalized Manali.

Day 1

We started from different directions and met up at Delhi airport by 1pm.

From Delhi we took the Satabdi Exp from New Delhi to Kalka which leaves at 5pm.

We had CC coach, but the coach looked more like a 2S type (with AC).

Anyway, the familiar and more than adequate food service in Satabdi and the express-speed managed to set the right mood for the start of our journey.

We reached at Kalka at about 9.30pm almost on time. We retired for the night at our pre-booked Manglam Hotel.

We noticed all the hotels nearby run as a night shelter for Satabdi or similar trains, where people check-in late in the evening and check-out early enough for the toy-trains towards Shimla.

The Manglam hotel was cozy enough with neat and clean rooms and proper reception. Being at only 5minutes walking distance from the railway station, made it the perfect hotel for people wanting to catch morning toy train.

Day 2

The Vintage Ride:-

Early in the morning, we got ready, checked-out and headed off for the toy train.

We hadn't get the much desired 'Shivalik Express', which is fitted with deluxe coaches with comfortable seating, as booking for that train starts 4 months in advance and we planned our trip much later. By which time, Shivalik exp was fully booked.

We had booked the 'Kalka-Shimla Express' which is scheduled to depart at 6am. A little to our surprise, this train did not have deluxe seats (contrary to our expectation).

Also seating arrangement is not as per IRCTC reservation status. We had to talk to the TTE, who then allocated a 'coach' for us. It is a separate coupe with only 5 seats (we were 5 people). So we could enjoy the ride with out an intrusion of a 6th person. :)

We also managed to catch a glimpse of the 'Rail Car' train, which has only 1 bogey and has the looks of old bus. Seats looked comfortable, but I wouldn't recommend anyone booking that train.

The ride was awesome. The tunnels, the turns, the whistle, the small but pretty stations - all added a unique flavour to the ride.

The stations offered authentic and delicious local breakfast and hot/cold beverages.

We reached Shimla at about 12 in the noon and checked into Hotel Gulmarg (off Mall road).

The rooms we got were actually honeymoon suits, with lots of mirrors all over the room. If you stand at any point in the room, you would be able to see at-least 4-5 reflections of your own simultaneously.

Couples going here please make a note. ;)

In the afternoon, as suggested by our hotel, we went to check out a nearby spot - Kufri.

They were charging 500 INR per head for visiting some view spots on the top of the hill. Naturally we were a bit reluctant at first, but then decided to give it a go.

It was horse ride to the top of the hill. The ride was exciting enough, as they left the horses mostly loose. At first we were scared to death as the horses were walking very close to the edge of the cliff and there were no trainer holding or guiding them.

Later we understood that these horses are so well trained, they can move up or down-hill without almost any supervision.

On the hill top, there were some view spots, temples and a fun park. All of them (except the temple of course) were chargeable and quite expensive; so we decided to skip them.

Some of us went for go-carting, which was again a waste of money. You can do much better and exciting go-carting in other cities in much lesser price.

The horse ride back was familiar. Yet with the element of downhill did add a little bit of excitement to it.

All in all, the 500 INR is worth spending, if you have never ridden a horse before. Otherwise you might get disappointed.

Later in the evening, we explored a little at the Mall road and headed back to the hotel.

Day 3

The next day was a big day, as Manali was waving at us. So we started early in a Toyota Innova.

On the way, we stopped for river-rafting near Kullu village. There are a lot of shops/people there on both side of the roads who offered adventure sports like river-rafting, para-gliding etc.

The one we choose was suggested by our driver. Our driver, Suresh-ji, happened to be driving in Manali-Shimla for as long as 20 years. Naturally he knows a lot of people there. He is very soft-spoken and all of his suggestions were on point and perfect.

We and our trip were blessed to have such a person driving us and guiding us all along the trip.

River-Rafting @ Kullu:

River-rafting was an awesome experience. I was the only member in our gang who had prior river-rafting experience. I did it before at Coorg.

The water was super cold, but still we jumped in twice for little swimming breaks.

The river was smooth enough as the ice only started melting at this time of year (March end) and monsoons haven't started yet.

Our guide/instructor was much knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what he does.

Apparently they get 2-3 months break each year from July to September, basically the monsoon season. He uses this tie to trek to high mountains and had a lot to share.

He also informed us about characteristics and deadliness of various river currents.

River rafting costed us 6000 for 5 people and 500 more for video recording on a go-pro. Apparently one needs to hire the full boat and boat can fit 6 people at max. And the costing is always per boat not by head-count. But you can always do a little bargain.

Later we did a little shopping at a local garments shop near Kullu (again suggested by our trusted driver).

The shop was very welcoming and prices were reasonable. As we all were bachelors and men, they helped us pick shawls/strolls for our mothers/girl-friends with much patience, often having to describe which is for which purpose etc.

(P.S - Ladies for whom we had shopped, loved the products)

We caught a glimpse of Kullu town as we drove through towards Manali. Kullu is a 'cute' little town, with a vast field right in the middle of it. The view of the valley from there was awesome.

Would love to plan a stay there in my future visits.

We reached Manali a bit late at 8pm and headed directly to the Hotel.

The hotel, Hotel River Bank Inn, is located just off Mall road. Normally people may not choose it as its a little away for the happening place. But as suggested by our driver, we checked-in there and later realized that it was a superb deal.

The hotel was only 5-10mins walking distance from Mall road, located right beside the river Beas. Being a little on lower budget coz of the location, but full of features nevertheless.

We could view the river Beas right from our hotel room. Immediate surrounding area seems a bit remote, which added a nice feel of being close to nature to it.

The hotel also provided awesome food and room-service, though the food was a little costly.

We stayed in Manali for 3nights.

Day 4

Next morning, we headed for some play time in the snow. Rohtang pass had not opened yet, so we went to "Gulaba".

On the way there are many shops providing snow suits on rent.

We were hesitant as we thought we have had enough clothing on for the snow, but decided to go for it anyway.

I will recommend renting them out, as these will protect your precious clothing from getting wet or dirty from the snow.

It was a place with huge crowd. Most of us were experiencing snow for the first time, so we were overly excited as well as scared.

We started slow climbing up through the snow. After a while most of us got the hang of it.

But man!! it was so exhausting climbing through snow. We wandered how strenuous it would be for the real mountaineers...

Eventually we had reached where there were no more people going up. Time for sliding!!!

We found a perfect place with very less rocks on the way and went sliding down one by one.

The slide made up for the hard climb. Some of us climbed a bit more, so enjoy a bit more of slide.

I had worn both top and bottom layers of thermals. The strenuous climb and hot sun, made it very hot.

Halfway up the climb, I had taken off the top thermal (stuck with the lowers as of then). We all were sweating as we came down.

Next destination was Solang valley.

The place is really picture perfect. One can spend a whole day just sitting there and enjoying the beauty of the valley.

The place offered a ropeway, which takes you all the way up to the top of the mountain. It is really required for the skiing activities that are available here.

But as all the snow there had melted long before our visit, skiing had stopped.

The place also offered a very short (30-40 secs) of paragliding, which didn't really excite any of us.

We made our way back to the hotel and called it a day.

Day 5

Day for manali local sight seeing.

We visited Hadimba temple, Manali Club house, Manali nature park. Places were nice but doesn't need a description of their own.

Later we roamed around Mall road till the evening, did a little shopping, packed dinner and got back to the hotel.

Day 6

Kasol!! here we come!

On the way, we stopped at Naggar and the famous Naggar Castle Hotel. Naggar is a small village near kullu and a great place for stay for people who doesn't like the hustle-bustle of tightly-packed Manali.

The Naggar hotel was beautiful and completely made of wood. Decorations on them are very detailed.

We stopped for paragliding on the way near kullu, but as the wind were off that day, nobody was gliding and it had to be postponed.

We went to Manikaran first.

Manikaran has 3 (as much as we got to know) public hot-spring pools.

We went for the open air pool next to the gurudwara. The pool was well maintained; washrooms and toilets were nearby.

The water was a bit too hot. At first even dipping the toe felt like a shock. But eventually we all went in.

It was really very relaxing in the water.

Later we visited the gurudwara, had food at the langer and visited Ram mandir.

Ram mandir also had few hot spring sources, some if of them were so hot that the water was boiling.

They were making prasad for the mandir in earthen pots dipped into the hot-spring.

We had pre-booked a camp for the night that day. The camp was a little off kasol.

On way to the camp, we saw swarm of Israeli tourists around the hippie town Kasol. We learnt that hash is very easily available here, though we failed to score any that day.

The camp was just next to the parvati river. The place was secluded, with nature all around us.

Thankfully considering the fact, that most of the campers here were novice, the camp facilitated basic toilets.

Camps were really neat and well maintained. Beds were comfortable and warm.

In the evening, we all gathered around the bonefire and shared lots of stories.

As the place was right next to the river, even being at technically higher temperature than Manali, we all were trembling.

The warmth of the bonefire came to the relief.

We chatted till about 2am and called it a night.

Day 7

As we had planned to give paragliding one more go and reaching Dharamshala being on the itinerary, we had to leave early.

Our first camping had came to a close, with a true desire to come back once again.

Paragliding was a go today!!

Though the organizers did not look that formal, they were professionals averaging 10-15 jumps everyday.

It was a whooping 2200 + 500 Rs for video per person.

The experience was awesome. It lasted for about 5-6mins and we got to see the whole valley during the glide.

We rode for most of the day, stopping at AUT village for lunch.

In the late evening, we reached Jwalamukhi, checked in to our hotel and headed back to the famous Jwalamukhi temple.

Jwalamukhi temple is famous for its ever burning fire "jwala" right out from a rock.

It was a really long line at the entrance of the temple. We had to wait in the line for at least 2-2.30 hours for a "darshan" of the jwala.

Later we had food at a local dhaba- Shankar Hotel, near the temple. Food was really tasty there.

Day 8

We headed for Dharamshala the next day. First stop was Dharamshala Cricket Stadium.

The view from the stadium was awesome. A must visit for any cricket lover in India.

India's highest stadium was surrounded by tall mountains all around. The grass on the ground looked so green.

Next stop was Bhagsu Nag falls.

As it was pre-monsoon, the falls barely had water. The view was nice nevertheless.

A staircase went all the way up to the source of the falls.

There were a number of pretty cafes along the staircase. Most of them are buddist cafes and all of them having a nice view to offer.

We had some snacks at "No name cafe".

We had leave early, not finishing all that Dharamshala had to offer, as we had a train to catch from Pathankot towards Delhi that same night.

We reached at Pathankot early in the evening, bid good-bye to our true guide and man-of-the-trip, Suresh-ji, our driver.

The trip had come to an heart-breaking end.

Our trip has ended. We have successfully re-fueled and caught up with our best buddies.

The trip has successfully made our bond tighter and made us come closer to each other than ever.

With a promise for another trip soon enough, we parted our ways.

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