HOLIDAYING IN MANALI & SHIMLA
Chapter-1: The Plan.
By April 2017, it was decade when we passed out from High School. At 25, we are doing 9 to 6 jobs as usual. After placements, most of us were diffracted into various parts of the country like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, etc. Somehow, few persons managed to settle in the home town itself. All it needed was a break from the routine life and get refreshed ourselves. Meanwhile, in the span of 10 years we used to meet in the town during vacations and once went on a small trip to Araku. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make up to that trip. We vowed to make it big this time; a long vacation/trip.
One fine day, In June, Naveen initiated it in the Whatsapp group. After so many ideas, references, phone calls, schedules including some misunderstandings; we chose Dussehra vacation (27th Sep to 02nd Oct) for the trip to Manali & Shimla with a strength of 12 persons (This is an Off season). We chose New Delhi Railway Station as the meeting/dispersing point. The first task was to book to & fro journey tickets in advance because the period we chose was very demanding. Accordingly, we booked our respective Flight & Train tickets. Few of us approached travel agencies/agents on phone. Out of them, my itinerary was chosen the best and got approved by the mates. We booked our tour package paying advance amount as prescribed in the itinerary. Since then, there wasn’t a day we hadn’t discussed about the activities, plans, etc in the Whatsapp group. Everyone was excited. It was like an overdose of adrenaline in our blood. As the day came closer, 04 persons dropped due to unavoidable reasons thus making a final figure of 08 travellers’ viz. Anil, Naveen, Raja, Sai, Shameer, Srinu, Vamsi & Vineel. Felt sorry so those 04 but we have to move on.
Chapter-2: Reaching the meeting point.
a) I (Vamsi) started from Sambalpur on 26th Sep by train. My expected time of arrival at New Delhi was 14:30 hrs on 27th. As the season was demanding, I reached the meeting point 03 hrs late. I was the one who arrived first. I love Chole Bhature. After stepping in Delhi, without any delay, I had one plate quenching my thirst towards them. In the meanwhile, I visited Palika Bazaar and had some shopping.
b) The same thing happened with Vineel. His train from Vijayawada was also late by 03 hrs. When we (Vineel & I) met, it was around 08:00pm. We had dinner and waited for the rest of the persons to arrive.
In the meanwhile, we encountered a strange episode in the Railway station premises. Two teenagers were chased and nabbed by Delhi police for stealing a car. To their surprise, one of them found carrying a desi katta (Pistol).
c) Here the first problem arises. Sai & Srinu planned to visit Agra on their way to New Delhi. It was their delay reaching the meeting point which consumed enough time. Our expected time to depart from New Delhi was 11:00 pm. They reached the meeting point at 02:00am.
d) As we were lagging behind the scheduled time, we went on pick the remaining 04 from a place near the airport viz. They had arrived around 11:00pm Anil & Naveen from Hyderabad, Raja from Chennai and Shameer from Bangalore. They had tensed fun while making the two ends meet at the airport regarding terminal confusion followed by an argument with a Cab.
Finally, we departed from Delhi in the 12 seated vehicle (traveller) around 03:00am summarizing our respective journeys and the hurdles in reaching the meeting point. Everybody’s episode was hilarious and dilemmatic at the same time.
Chapter-3: Destination Manali (Day-01).
a) Itinerary goes wrong: After travelling for more than an hour, the traveller halted at a Dhaba named Sanjha Chulha besides GT road near Panipat. The Driver and his assistant had a dinner then. There we got the second problem. The driver asked to pay an amount of Rs.10,000/- for diesel which wasn’t mentioned in the itinerary. It was already 04:30am. After going through a conversation over phone with the travel agent; as a solution, we paid the amount he asked. The journey continued.
b) The taste of Punjab: The cool breezes from the outside greenery made us awake and stare at the beauties of the nature. After going through the exaggerating night view of Delhi, now we were enjoying the majestic beauty of the country side in Punjab. It was the time to get fresh and have breakfast. The traveller halted at a Zimidara Dhaba where we had brush and Parathas in breakfast. All of us were South Indians and it was a bit new experience regarding the item of breakfast and its taste. After capturing some crazy pics and selfies, we continued our journey.
c) The Wonderland: We were on Ghat road then. After few hours we came to see a traffic jam ahead. A truck lost its control and slide into the ghat besides. We were already lagging behind the scheduled time and this accident consumed our time once again. If it wouldn’t have happened, we were planning for River rafting activity. There was a half way more to go and we are getting frustrated by the never ending road and hunger. Music used to heal us and make us stay sound. Probably, that was the lengthiest road trip we had been until. We took halt at Hotel Raja; had a good lunch and moved further. Every view outside the windows seemed amazing and breathtaking. They made my soul feel the song “Phir se ud chala” from the bollywood movie Rockstar. I was literally lost in my imaginary wonderland. The road was besides the rivers. We passed through the towns like Bilaspur, Sunder Nagar, Mandi, etc. The most amazing thing we observed in Sunder Nagar was every lady was beautiful and charming. They just stole our hearts. Even at an instant of time I day dreamed about getting married to one and settle there. May be that’s why the town’s name is Sunder Nagar. After crossing the tunnel prior to Aut, we had tea/snacks break, had some selfies moved on. I conversed with the hotel management over phone and informed them about our delay. Hats off to the driver who drove the whole day steadily and sincerely. He was Punjab’s Puttar, which reflects loyalty. His over sincerity and crewless conditions made all of us go mad on him. By the time our vehicle rushed on the streets around 10:00pm, the city had already slept. At last!!!! We reached our destination; Manali.
d) Finally in Manali: We checked into the hotel (Hotel Century), got freshen and had dinner. The room was noisy at the midnight because we were celebrating Vineel’s birthday. We were literally waiting for that moment since we planned for the trip. After a hectic daylong journey and party we had sound sleep that night.
Chapter-4: Mesmerising Manali (Day-02).
a) Good Morning Manali: Standing at the hotel room’s window in the early morning and getting fascinated by the outlook was not less than a dream come true. Like the way used to watch in movies. Didn’t leave any stone unturned in capturing the beauties we encountered. Had a quick breakfast and departed from the hotel around 08:30am. Had some photos/selfies moments besides the river Beas.
b) Solang Valley: Travelling up around 15Km, we reached the valley. Hired locally available 04 wheeler motorbikes which fetched us to the nearby point. The location was super cool but there wasn't snow. Then we came to know that the season we chose was wrong. We had some amazing fun and clicks over there. After that we were driven to the valley. There comes one of the major activity in our bucket list; Paragliding. After a long wait about 02 hrs, the counter got opened and we bought the tickets. We got transported to the starting point via ropeways. After dressing up with safety measures, following the instructions of our respective trainers, we set to fly. OMG!!!! I was flying; that’s was a fantastic lifetime experience. While gliding, I dared to take my mobile out from the pocket and took some pictures. Fortunately, it didn’t slip from my hands at that moment. The paragliding staff forwarded the photos and video of ours captured during the fly in the exchange of some money. It is a quite common practice in the tourist places. After having lunch in a hotel by the river view, we moved on to the next visit.
c) Hidimba devi temple: Travelling down approximately the same distance, we reached the temple. It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, wife of Bhima (One among the 05 Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata). The temple is surrounded by a cedar forest at the foot of the Himālayas. The sanctuary is built over a huge rock jutting out of the ground. The structure was built in 1553. It was crowded as the days were of Navaratri. Seeked blessings from the Goddess. The place was pleasant and noteworthy by its nature. The tourists will find a lot of local people selling Saffron. In order to get rid of it, we purchased a sample to prove the rest of them that we owe one. After having some fun, we departed from the place before the dawn.
d) Mall Road: Here comes the majestic night view of Mall Road in Manali. We can say the heart of Manali. New places, new faces, new language, new taste and much more. There was a group of 04 stunning divas in western outfits. They were the centre of attraction by default. Of course we had some “Men will be Men” moments there. The place majestic, crowded with new faces all around. Thanks to Vineel’s birthday party, we tasted the famous trout fish. We preferred walk to the hotel then, to feel the essence of the city. An un-fadable day ends.
Chapter-5: Road to Shimla (Day-03).
a) Departure from Manali: As they weren’t accepting the card payment, Raja and I walked to the nearest ATM, withdrew cash and paid to the manager. We packed up the luggage, had breakfast, finished check out formalities and departed from the hotel. There wasn’t an end to the problems/obstacles in the trip. The driver said he don’t have enough money to fuel the vehicle. He asked me to fuel it. But that wasn’t mention in the itinerary either. I furiously called the agent and explained the situation. To our surprise, the solution was, the driver has to drive us back to the hotel which was around 20Km and collect money from the manager. This made us loose our cool. Raja took the phone from me and started arguing justifying the loss of time we are going through. Thank god! We didn’t travel back. On the way to the next place, we halted at a hot spring. Killed some time playing and enjoying the bubbling warm water.
b) Apples: We made our vehicle halt as it was passing by some apple stalls besides the way. It’s time to taste the fruit of the state; Apple. Purchased 10Kg and we kept moving on to the next important activity in our bucket list; River Rafting.
c) River Rafting: Aut, the place where we got thrilled next. Had a deal with the organiser for 02 rafts with 04 persons on each one. It was around 11:00am and we didn’t expect the river water to be that much cool until it spilled on our body. It was amazing experience. We were literally shouting like school kids as we used to do a decade back. The rower had a camera affixed on his helmet which shot pictures and videos during the rafting.
d) Shani Temple: Before halting for lunch, we visited a Shani Temple on the way. Received blessings from the God. The overwhelming view of the river meander from the hill top can’t be expressed through words. It has to be felt with the sensory organs. After having lunch, we set off to Shimla. And this time also, we were lagging behind.
e) Hello Shimla: When our vehicle made its way on the streets of shimla, it was already 2:00am. The thought came to our mind; at least we reached Manali by the dinner. As the capital was located on terrain plateau, the night view with millions of lights prototyped like the galaxy. The next challenge after stepping down in Shimla was to search the hotel. Even Google maps got irritated by our grasping skills because we were wandering within the 100 metre radius about 30 minutes. We were sweating in the temperature of 15°C. Feeling exhausted physically and mentally, we went on to quick sleep mode immediately after checking into the hotel.
Chapter-6: Kufri (Day-04)
Parathas again in the breakfast!!!! Few of my friends disguised. We packed the luggage and left towards Kufri. Meanwhile, on the way we had a moment for photos/selfies. We didn’t expect that visiting Kufri will consume our whole day. After buying tickets, we had to wait for our turn to get fetched to the top by the horses. In the meanwhile we got our turn, we had Maggie. Because of the demand, the 2 minute noodles seemed 2 hour noodles. The path was rocky with mud at some intervals. Unfortunately, Naveen’s horse was feeling sick/un-easy; it troubled and even scared him. Humorously, I don’t know why such things are happening to only him since childhood. There we had some time killing activities like sceptical telescopic views, moments with yaks, shooting, etc. Again we have to wait for our turn. Then what, we had almost consumed our day. The driver advised to leave for Delhi as we can’t trust the traffic on the ghat roads. Moreover, I had to catch a train. The plan to visit and shop in Shimla, seemed an impossible task. Hence, we got enrouted to the point of departure. Everyone was upset as we missed the capital city visit. We hoped to have an extra day in our hand. This is how it looks when reality overcomes itinerary.
Chapter-7: The Departure.
Before leaving the city, we purchased Apples about 28Kg for our respective families. Big thanks to Sai who carried and delivered them. The departure began. In the return, we again halted at Sanjha Chulha; revived our previous visit when travelling upwards. We reached Delhi before the sunrise. We had a photos session for the last time as a part of the trip. 04 days doesn’t seem enough. We regret missing many places to visit like Rohtang pass, Vasishta temple, Kasol, Shimla, etc. As that was our first time, now we got to know the real obstacles travelling in the ghat area. This experience will definitely help us in future. Everyone’s eyes were sparkling like pearls shining in the oysters. After, some heart whelming moments, we departed towards our respective paths. Here, we exits the wonderland and gets back into the real life.
Chapter-8: The Characters.
a) Anil: The curious one alias Bendi. The driver by default was responsible for skipping a lot of things from the itinerary. However, practical are quite different from theories. Got pranked by Naveen and Vamsi regarding a dark male fantasy.
b) Naveen (The Tom): The initiator. The highest grosser in terms of salary in the group. The centre of attraction by default since childhood. Used to get irritated every time by childish cheap tricks of Raja.
c) Raja (The Jerry): Oops!!!! CA Raja. The quickest, smartest and childish. Naveen’s Nightmare. Got frustrated and disappointed by the travel agent because of the poor execution of the itinerary. His anger was 100% reasonable.
d) Sai; The only married guy in the group. This poor guy has to desperately give updates to his sweetheart; Hello!!!! Kaju..... Unfortunately, at some point of time, his phone got damaged. I think you can imagine the aftermaths.
e) Shameer: Probably, a half introvert. Hated time killing. Predicted that we are going to miss many activities mentioned in the itinerary.
f) Srinu: The Hunk. With his partner in crime Sai, had a good time. Mast Aadmi, Bada Bhai, etc.
g) Vamsi: The planner. The cool guy. What else I can describe about myself.
h) Vineel: One of the greatest friends on the earth. The ones who tries not to hurt anyone even when he gets troubled by those instincts. Birthday boy.
I conclude here recommending the readers:
i) Do not opt this season. There wasn't any snow. The best season is Nov-Feb,
ii) Practically, take two days extra leave and
iii) Enjoy & capture each and every moment.
Have a happy holiday.