An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie

Tripoto
16th May 2018
Day 1

Summers in India can be grueling. That is what pushes me every year to visit a hill station – to cool off. This year, I chose not to go alone but in a group. I didn’t know any of my crew initially, but once we decided on the trip, everyone was in.

As we were doing a group tour, we thought it would be better to have a long train journey in order to get to know each other. And so it began the mega journey of 2018.

INDIAN TRAIN RIDE

Amidst all the shouts and bustle of the train, we managed to bring life to the train. Innumerable rounds of antakshari (it is a game where you can sing songs ), and playing Buff as well as UNO, we finally reached New Delhi.

We had to ride from the Nizamuddin station to Manali overnight, which is about 500 km.

KNIGHT RIDING

We all were tired beyond belief, and it took us more than 3 hours just to get out of Delhi region. Once we made it close enough to Chandigarh we liked to stop at Dhabas which is a specialty of this region.

The Pahalwan Dhaba is famous, but foolish me and my sister we made it to Baskin and Robbins to have some ice-cream rather than having the typical Haryanvi lassi.

Later we just stopped at another Dhaba where we had some tea, and clicked some shitty pictures. I love driving out into the night, but it was a risky thing we were doing because the road from Chandigarh to Manali is hilly and the terrain is difficult.

That too we had only one designated driver who had been driving for hours. My main goal was not to let him doze off. So off went into the night.

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
Day 2

I have been to hilly areas but is not any area have I seen such fast driving, because people value their lives there. Yet on my road to Manali, I thought it is gonna be my last night the way Ravi- our chauffeur was driving. We even had to wait at many stops just to take a break and free ourselves from the muscle cramps.

My best moment was when we just waited at a place for coffee at around 3 in the morning, we were already up in the hills. It was cold and I had to light a cigarette and share it with my friends so we get to keep ourselves warm.

Just sitting there in the night with the cold mountain wind blowing and burning off the cigarette was a moment I am unlikely to forget anytime soon.

I did not sleep a wink throughout the ride, I used to bump Ravi’s shoulder to let him know that he was sleeping. But finally watching the first rays of sunlight filtering through the mountains gave me a giddy excitement which I hadn’t gotten in a long time.

Two days of long journey, and a sleepless night, and I was at Hanogi. This shaky bridge would give anyone a heart attack. The wind was loud above the Beas River, and my one step there make it shake. Goosebumps!

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

It took another two and a half hours to reach Manali. My first glance at it and I could not believe it. My eyes went straight to the mountains. And that is the closest I had yet been to a snow-laden mountain. I could not thank my hotel staff enough because the view was gorgeous. I could spend days sitting there and staring outta the window.

But whatever it may be we needed a power nap and refreshment before we explored. After a yummy lunch of Egg Fried rice (Pahari food is love) at a local joint, we headed off to see the thrills Manali had to offer. We decided on visiting places that would not demand much of our energy, tired to the bones? Yeah.

THINGS TO DO IN MANALI

HADIMBA DEVI TEMPLE

You can walk anywhere in Manali, it is better that way. Around the summers it is one of the most visited places. There was honking of cars everywhere which I don’t like one bit. So we walked our way to Hadimba Devi temple. I had looked at this marvel in pictures.

But up close it was surreal. I hate crowds. So when I tried to enter the temple and saw the line of devotees. I scratched the idea of going in. But I spend my time in Van Vihar. Which is close to the temple and a quiet place to sit and relax.

THE CLUB HOUSE

Zorbing

One of my best experiences of the first day in Manali was in the club house. The club house is a place for sports- from indoor to outdoor. The first thing I did there was water zorbing.

I am out of shape so it is no wonder I took breathing breaks while being on my all fours and trying to get the big ball rolling in the water. It was exciting and draining as well, I effing loved it.

The Pool Thing

After getting out of breath by zorbing, we headed off indoors to play some pool. To be honest, I got no idea how to handle a stick. But those amongst us knew, taught me how to do it. And I clearly learned how to hit it.

Our time in the Club House didn’t just end there we spent an insane amount of money on per chance games like shooting, archery and yes a silly one was “Drop all the glasses with a wall”. We wanted to head to Vashist Springs, which is a holy place with hot water springs. But it was already too late, so we decided against it.

The Hotel we stayed in had served us delicious dinner. If you travel up here and do not taste Rajma Chawal then your traveling here is futile. So make sure that you taste a plate of it, and once you have done it you will wanna do it again and again

Hanogi

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Hadimba Devi temple

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Zorbing it Club house

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Pool Room in Club house

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
Day 3

MARHI/ ROHTANG

From the day I planned on coming to Manali, Rohtang had been up on my list. It is one of the most dangerous roads in the world and it takes you up into the Antarctic like beauty of the mountains. But sadly just few days before we arrived there was snowfall. And roads to Rohtang were close.

So we settled for a place in lower altitude, the road to it was nearly as tricky as Rohtang – we went to Marhi. At an altitude of 11,000 ft, it still had snow left in the summer. The temperature was below the freezing point. And just when I had started playing with snow it started raining.

I can’t tell you enough how much I loved this place. It had an army camp just above the mountain and on the way you encounter lot of army trucks going. It is really commendable how these brave-heart soldiers survive here.

SOLANG

It took half of our day to come back from Marhi, and we made a point of getting out of our snow suits in public which was the goofiest thing I have ever done.

Then we headed to Solang Valley also known as the snow point( though there is no snow here during the summer). It is famous for skiing during winter. I so want to travel here during winter, to just catch the snow in time.

There wasn’t much to do here during summer because it just looked like a barren piece of land. Something caught my eye here, and it was paragliding.

Our whole gang wanted to do Paragliding but as soon as the instructors saw us, they hiked up their prices, demanding 3000 Rupees from all of us. And that paragliding did not even have a proper height to it. We chucked the idea away, disappointed.

HORSE RIDING

When something outsmarts your budget, what do you do? You do something far more exciting at a meager cost. That is what happened to us. We saw an old man with a bunch of horses, near the Shiv temple just outside the Skiing center.

It was my sister’s idea to go talk to him, and boom! We landed a deal. He decided to take us all to the shiv temple on horseback for 12 km. And he charged much less than we had expected. So yay!

In no time we hopped on. But, damn my luck, I got the naughtiest of them all. His name was Sheru (meaning Lion in Hindi). He reared his head and galloped here and there, once I was on his back. Thank God! He did not throw me off.

The first few minutes of the ride, I feared for my life, but soon enough, I drank in my surroundings. We were walking straight into the foothills of the mountain where the Beas River originates.

Imagine, being on a horseback, hopping through the rugged terrain with the glaciers winding across your path, this experience was my favorite as of yet. Our guide who led us towards the temple, was an old Himachali man, he told us about himself. How now people prefer riding the hotshot snow motorbikes rather than taking a horse, and how we were his first ride of the entire day.

While he talked I talked to Sheru, calming him down. When we went uphill I had to lean backward, and when we went down I had to lean forward. “ Easy there Sheru Boy!” was all I had to say. Once we reached our location, it was so cold there. We had to sip a cuppa coffee.

Taking rest for a while, we started our journey back, and now I had trouble getting up on Sheru, because I am a shorty. Our guide was old so he wasn’t able to push me up even though he tried. And after my several attempts, there came a local who lifted me up easily so I straddled. Everyone around the coffee stall laughed out loud, and I turned tomato red, yet I looked around and waved at him, shouting a huge thank you.

The journey back was victorious, how you might ask. Let me tell you. When we were on our horseback perched up high, that too walking in an imposing line, everybody down riding the motorbikes looked up at us. And my inner goddess just did a twirl!

Wander woman says woman up!

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

And up and up we go

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

The higher you go the foggy it becomes

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

It was drizzling

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Beauty of barrenness

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Ride it

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Unabashed Himachali nature

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
Day 4

After a well satisfying day at Manali, we now headed to Dharamsala via Kullu.

Visiting Hill stations? Then you got to keep in mind to bring a lot of clothes, and make no point to washing it because they don’t dry. That day I made a stupid mistake which I would like you guys to learn from.

KULLU RAFTING

We took a stop in Kullu, named the Himachal Pradesh tourism and rafting point.. And We jumped at the chance we got at rafting here. We were in a group, and the best thing you can do in a gang is rafting.

I had never done it before. We were told by our guide to get rid of our sweaters, and he even said to remove my glasses. But I said I am practically blind without it so, he understood my trouble. The instructors made sure we wore the life jackets properly. We agreed to do a 14 Km long rafting.

Once we were in the boat we floated. My excitement knew no bounds. But the fact that I lack one of the important life skills- swimming, made me afraid too. I sat right in the front. And the ones in the edges took the paddles. We were taught when to do the front and back paddle, and when to get down. I sat on the front like a wall, that is what I thought.

The stretch of water started, and it was quiet for a while. But then we starting singing like a bunch of loonies, we were stoked. The swell of the waves started getting bigger and we paddled, forward backward, anything that took us ahead, we came to a point just under a bridge. Right at that moment a row of army trucks went over, and they waves at us. I just died right then.

After some time we started seeing other rafting crews coming from other directions, we waved them high, and bumped into them in a friendly way. There came the highest point of wave when the river Padmini and Beas met. We just sat and waited for our instructor’s command, he told me to get down on the front of the boat. And I just did that. Then came the moment of crowning glory, when we bumped hard into the waves. And I got drenched. The waves carried away our laughter. We even got into the water, it was 50 ft deep, I didn’t know and it was freezing.

We had it all recorded in Gopro, so we were excited to have the videos with us. But sadly and by the bad stroke of luck, the card got corrupted and we lost our file. Videos or no videos, we at least had the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget how my buddy Kartik used his paddle to throw water at me, and I did something spontaneous- I spit the water right on his face. It was juvenile, but so much fun! I am definitely doing the rafting thingy again, I don’t care that I don’t know swimming, gonna try it anyway.

Changing out of the wet clothes is a tricky thing to do. My finger hurt just doing that. And yes, protect your hair, depending on the minerals in water so make sure you put your hair inside the hat they provide. Not like stupid me, letting it down.

The rest of the day we did nothing than travel, and it did not feel like I had come to a hill station because wow, it was hot. It took us around 6 hours to reach Dharamsala. And it was a relief to see a cloudy weather.

I can’t put into words how these quaint towns affected me. Just driving through them gave me a feeling that I was Alice in Wonderland. Palampur was the best town I saw on my way. It defines the word Sustainable development to a T.

PALAMPUR DHARAMSALA NIGHT WALK

Like Manali, our hotel in Dharamsala was also located in a scenic place, just on the foothills of mountain. We agreed that after we freshen up we will go exploring. So, we set out just to stroll around the locality.

The town was quiet, and the locals looked at us like we had two heads. We were wearing jackets, when they weren’t, that must look weird.

Coming from a place where we do not get to eat authentic chineese food, we wanted to taste chowmein, and Viola we spotted a local shop which prepared it. We sat there watching the IPL, it was a CSK match, so yay!

We had to wait an hour to get the stuff our dreams, and when they served us up we wolfed down the plates. It was a homey li’l shack cum shop. So we relaxed there. And my friend Kartik had a crush on the waitress, that made us stay longer than wanted.

Our way back seemed to have perfect timing. Just when we had reached the look-alike of Big Ben, it was 9. And the clock chimed , I couldn’t have been happier. We heard the bell going on, and strolled back to our hotel. The road was empty and that was when I felt best.

The scorching hot weather did nothing more to lessen the humidity. We checked out of our hotel and planned on doing a roadtrip to Dalhousie. But first we would visit few places around Dharamsala.

Wakanda Forever!!

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Beas under sunshine

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Just before we started off into the pounding waves

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Breakfast at a shack via Kullu

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Walking through Dharamsala

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Meadows of wonderland

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

The Mini Big Ben

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
Day 5

Things to do in Dharamsala

HPCA STADIUM

We headed out to visit the HPCA Cricket stadium in Dharamsala. It it here where many of the IPL Matches were held, that made it all the more exciting. We paid the entrance fees and made our way inside the stadium. And I will say I have never seen grass as green as I saw inside the stadium. It had the view of the mountain from anywhere in the stadium, so that is a plus point. We also watched a few kids who practised cricket there, and there wasn’t anything much to do so we headed back to our car.

DAL LAKE

No, this is not the Dal lake you see in pictures, this is not the one in Srinagar. But this is the Naddi AKA the Dal lake. It is just like a park where you can stroll and sit. We found a bunch of guys playing cards there. But my attraction there was a group of kids, there were so adorable to look at. I even tried talking to one but most of them did not understand Hindi and were speaking in their local language

BAN JAKHRI

Another Big No- No to this as well. You won’t believe the rush which seems to fill the streets of Dharamsala near the Ban Jhakri waterfalls. We walked and walked to beat the traffic still we could not see the waterfall in sight, we even visited the shiv temple on the way but still no sign of it.

But we did see a pool like thing where you can dip yourself and be cool. In the summer heat it was so tempting. Once we were halfway we got the sight of the waterfalls and another temple near it, and that waterfall was not a waterfall, but in the summers was reduced to a thread of water. Our Ban Jhakhri rendezvous ended up being a shopping delight as we shopped in the thrift stores. We bought some really good bohemia jewellery and jackets.

ST JOHN’S IN WILDERNRSS

By this time I was so disappointed in Dharamsala because it was so loud and noisy, and of course we travelers are to blame. It was Sunday and we really wanted to go to the church. And no matter what a Neo-Gothic church never disappoints. I had read a lot about St John’s in Wilderness because its name intrigued me. We walked into it and I was so glad to know that it was also a CNI church, a church wing of which I am also a part of. I even met someone local from my hometown there. The world indeed is a small place.

St John’s in Wilderness is a very old church, built during the time of British Raj. You can learn the truth of its antiquity by the gravestones and epitaph which line the cemetery of the church. I loved dating back the graves and the oldest was from 1822, about two centuries back! Can you believe it. I just did not want to get away from there, but I had a breakfast to catch. Just in front of the church we found a stall serving mini-burger, how were they? yummy let me tell you.

NAMGYAL MONASTERY

Our last stop before we made our way to Dalhousie was the Monastery. Due to the traffic we had to walk a long way to the Monastery, but it was worth it. If like me, you are fascinated by Buddhism, you need to see this place. On the entrance you will find two boards depicting the story of the youngest political refugee. Make a point of reading it, because it is interesting.

And before you enter the temple, do not miss the museum. It has got all you need to know about the chinese invasion of Tibet. The heart breaking story is portrayed along with the real pictures of the events. The Namgyal Monastery is a place where lot of the devotees sit and chant, you can sit if you want to. But the amount of tourists bustling made me think that we were intruding their privacy and I really did not want to do that. They were serving food, which if you wanted you could have.

And on we sat inside our cars and made our way through the rocky terrain, it was so hot, and the sun shone right on our faces, and at that altitude it is scary. I commend Ravi, our designated driver who braved all the odds to drive us home safely.

The road to Dalhousie is the prettiest one I have seen, there is no place near the road where you wouldn’t find wildflowers, and there is no way the sunshine can penetrate through the thick canopy. Dalhousie was far cooler, and we had to wear our sweaters again to keep ourselves warm.

Nestled in the snowy mountains -HPCA stadium

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Everyone on fleek

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Sky above me , Earth below me

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Aww these innocent cuties!

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Behind the lenses

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Stained glass windows

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

In memoriam

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Walk on a grave (St John's in Wilderness)

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

How old can a grave be?

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Turning the wheels in Namgyal Monastery

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Namgyal Museum

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Youngest Political Prisoner ( Board before the monastery)

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
Day 6

Dalhousie – a little Britain inside India. That was my first impression of it. I have never been to the UK, so my impression was based on the books, movies, and stories about England and the English culture.

But whatever it may be, I fell in love with Dalhousie instantly. This place is somewhere I would like to come again and again, or maybe settle down. You can see plant pots on both sides of the road, and they give me the hanging garden feels.

Summer Vacation in Dalhousie

I know I have been raving about my hotel rooms throughout this long summer road trip, but Dalhousie tops them all.

Lucky me, I got the view, the room, the staff and the food – all the boxes ticked. I got a place to rest, where I could finally feel like home.

Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh

On our first day, I gave every detail to my appearance. I thought we will just be doing some local sightseeing so I dressed well. But damn my luck!

We came across a point where we could do paragliding. And I wasn’t dressed for this adventureas I had my bellies on not sports shoes. I had paragliding on the bucket list for so long, and when I got the chance I jumped at the opportunity, damn the shoes.

Well and let me say that nobody in my group was up for it, so I had to go for it alone. Lucky me! That is what it thought until I had to raid the mountain range and its caveman ways to get to the peak of the mountain.

I have zero experience whatsoever in hiking, so when I had to do it I felt so out of breath, and my blocked nose and cold-stricken lungs didn’t help either.

Half the way through I thought I was going to die, I could feel the blood in my throat from all the coughing I was doing. I don’t want to go philosophical on it or anything, but that moment I realized I either go up or keep sitting here because no one is going to pick me up.

I scaled to the tip and finally got there. Water up there is gold, and you will definitely need a bottle after the strenuous hike.

As I had no experience of paragliding so I got myself a cool pilot. He buckled all the necessary straps, pulled some ropes, and let the parachute open. I had to run from the peak and jump off the cliff, and pray that I don’t fall.

I had never been so excited in my life. All my previous complaints and bodily ailments vanished. And even though I have acrophobia, I wasn’t feeling it. I ran as if I was running for my life and jumped straight off.

And whoa! It was exhilarating. I could see the trees below, the river, the tiny dots called houses and the field where my gang was waiting for me to be done flying and come to them.

It was all good till my pilot adjusted the sails (in sailor’s tongue) and we were gliding. I wasn’t just going forward, I was twisting and turning along with the wind. That is the thrill of paragliding. And this too, I would definitely want to do again.

We flew for about ten minutes and made it towards the land. Just when we were about to land my pilot commanded “Legs up!”, and in that way, I landed like a pro. I hadn’t expected that I thought I would get stuck somewhere in the bushes, and tear my pants.

Kalatop

The strenuous hike and the aerial changes made my body feel sick, I got a serious headache. And did not want to do anything but sleep. So I thought I could skip the zoo/sanctuary while my friends go and visit.

I have been to my fair share of zoos and seen many species, so it did not interest me. While I took the power nap in the car I thought maybe I will miss out on the exotic species they are going to see, but as it seems this sanctuary had very few animals.

It is just a stretch of a jungle on the mountains where you see bears if you travel at night.

St. Francis Church

Getting back to my hotel room was all the comfort I needed. And my power nap turned into a powerful sleep. I woke up reinvigorated and wanted to check out the St. Francis Church which was near my hotel.

I dressed up for the cold and visited St. Francis church. It has got a lovely entrance, there was various station along the stone paved way to the church depicting the crucifixion of Jesus.

I adored all the sculptures here. There is a myth that you can ask three wishes the first time you visit a church. I don’t believe in it, but there is no problem in giving it a try.

Once I returned to my room, I just sat in the balcony and had a drink looking over the sight of sleeping Dalhousie.

Waking up in the mountains

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Let's fly high

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Khajjiar lake (Himachal Pradesh)

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Let's glide in the mountains

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

That's how we land.

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Dusk sets at Kalatop

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

St Francis in dark.

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

Inside the St Francis catholic Church

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar

I never got used to the sun setting late up in the North ( Balcony View)

Photo of An Adventure into the North : Manali- Dharamsala- Dalhousie by Ankita Sagar
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