For me, the luxury of living in Delhi does not lie in the bar menu of an upscale joint in South Delhi, but the accessibility it provides to the Himalayas. If I could, I would escape to the hills each weekend and spend my days hiking and finally sipping on tea and maggi.
The best thing about Good Friday is that it falls on Friday! And wasting a long weekend is blasphemy, I had very intently been researching destinations all through April. I invariably try and stay away from tourist hotspots, and sadly of late Manali had morphed into one too. But I came across a very enchanting castle turned hotel. I had never heard of this resort but the gothic castles and European facades appealed to me. I immediately booked my stay at The Himalayan from April 19 to 21
With no itinerary in mind and only the excitement of staying in a castle in the middle of Himalayas, I hopped on to the most uncomfortable 14-hour journey to Manali in an HRTC bus.
Day 1 - The Himalayan
I reached Manali around 9 AM in the morning. The resort was only a kilometre from the bus stand which I walked. On my arrival, I was astounded to see gothic facades, flags with ibex printed on them, and vintage cars in the parking area.
What surprised me more was the fact that how well concealed it is. Since it was still a little early to check-in, I decided to explore the entire property. Apart from the castle structures, the property had English gardens full of rose bushes, hydrangeas, daisies, and periwinkles. The property also had a kitchen garden where they grew lemongrass, parsley, and other herbs.
I sat near the pool with the Himalayas around me and sipped my masala chai as my room got ready. I checked in around 2 PM and I had tears in my eyes when I saw a fireplace in one corner of the room. I asked the staff to lit some fire and I sat in my room like a queeeeeeen!
Day 2 - Day Trek to Bhanara Village
I woke up early the next day, had some English breakfast with home-made hummus (dayum) by the pool and decided to go on a short hike around Manali. Since I wanted to skip crowds, I decided to trek to a village called Bhanara. Bhanara day hike is a part of the Hampta circle trek. The trail isn’t well marked and you’d definitely need a guide to help you along the route. I came across Himalayan Challenges, who helped me with this trek.
My primary aim was to find snow and skid on it like a kid. Since, it was already April, most of the snow had melted at lower elevations, but I still went ahead with the hike. We climbed uphill for almost 4 hours to Shuru and then to Bhanara village. Since we couldn’t find snow at the last stop, me and my friend Prakash from Himalayan Challenges decided to climb a little higher.
We finally saw a small stretch of snow. It was a beautiful frame with pine trees all around us and clear azure skies. We stayed there for a bit and had our lunch and decided to go back.
I reached my hotel by 6 PM, had a light dinner and slept like a baby
Day 3 - Did someone say Siberian Husky?
I decided to go for a small run at 6 AM in the morning to avoid any traffic. I came back at 7:30 AM and decided to stay inside the resort. There is a hidden door inside the property which opens up to vast stretches of apple orchards. I hiked uphill to small villages making my way through apple and cherry blossoms, right by the property.
The owner, Mr. Nishat Mohi, was very kind and got his Husky, Lys, in the English gardens. I spent most of my time playing with the dog and tried to photograph his bright blue eyes.
After a perfectly well spent day, I grabbed my bag and GoPro, clicked some good-bye shots of the property and caught my bus to the ever-so freshening polluted air of Delhi.
This was one of the best solo experiences I’ve had. Away from commercialisation and crowds of Manali, I decided to find places which gave me the thrill of the mountains in it’s purest yet luxurious ways.