One of my special friends had quoted in her blog, “Nature is the perfect healer”. After reading the phrase, I took a look at our society and interestingly I realized that my friend is right. Our life is full of complexities related to job, family, friendship, love, envy, competition and countless more that mankind has discovered and nurtured. Nature is the ultimate getaway from all complexities and there is no astonishment over tourism becoming a major slice of human leisure activity in the world.
My opinion about nature is it consistently delivers what we wish her to deliver. If we approach her with sorrow and seek happiness, then she will empty our minds and fill it with happiness. If we touch her with envy in mind, then she teaches us to recognize and love others. If we reach her with anger and hatred in mind, then she fills the pot with peace and harmony.
It was in this regard that I packed my bag to explore the nature. Since I was spending my precious time in Delhi, the chances opened well for me to visit the Himalayas. The name itself melts our mind and instantly throws some beautiful images of mountain towns. One among them is the picturesque Manali in the lap of Himalayas.
I asked many of my colleagues to join the trip to Devbhoomi (another name of Himachal Pradesh). But everyone was busy with their life and I decided to make the trip a solitary one. But against the majority opinion, I have to say, a solitary trip is something really touching. Thanks to my colleagues for not joining and spoiling the party.
I booked through Redbus and boarded on a semi sleeper Volvo named Delhi Travels. The voyage was estimated to take more than 11 hours and in the due time, it covers over 530 km in reaching Manali. To stay, I had booked a room through Oyo Rooms, which was very much affordable at that point of time, mainly because of being an off season.
The bus started at around 9:30 PM and from Paharganj in Central Delhi. As traffic is always a worry in Delhi, we took slightly more time than expected to exit the congested Delhi. Against my expectations, only a handful of passengers had boarded from Paharganj. Since its the off season, there has been no surprise to the less number of travellers. But more people boarded on the bus from Majnu Ka Tilla, which is one of the major bus stations nearby Kahmiri Gate. From there, I was accompanied by some honeymoon couples travelling to Manali and a bunch of IIT guys who were travelling to Mandi.
The first major point of attraction of the journey came with a big surprise when we reached Murthal. Located around a tentative 45 km from the capital city, this village in Haryana’s Sonipat district stunned me for its lively ambience even in the late night.
“Even at 3 ‘o’ clock, Murthal will be crowded by people, especially college students from Delhi”, said Vinod one of the IIT guys. People from Delhi choose to take a night ride to the place and have delicious variants of paranthas and naans with dal makhni, paneer and the non-veg variants. The bus took a halt and we had our dinner from the famous Ahuja Dhaba, Murthal. However, the cost is quite high as they charged Rs 120 for ‘rajmachawal’. After the food, the bus started and we all tilted the seat and slept to get up fresh and fit for the upcoming days!
The green mountains
The bus was piercing fast to the destination when I woke up from sleep after being poked by the wind. Cool breeze hustled across my cheek and I felt like a humming welcome note. When I woke up to her, I realized that she hasn’t come alone. The surroundings were all set with beautiful landscape and airy views brimming with greenery. Small mountains have begun to pop up and it’s beauty brought peace for my mind. For the time being, I was happy to say good bye to the pollution of Delhi, which has become alarmingly dangerous by now.
We had passed through Panipat, Karnal during the night and in the morning, the journey resumed for my eyes from somewhere in Ambala. The IITians were quite happy to give company for me. Vinod was seated next to me. He was surprised to see me alone heading for Manali. He performed the role of a guide for me as he had visited Manali earlier. I also came to know about Prashar Lake through his words, a beautiful pagoda like temple located around 50 km from Mandi. The lake is located at 2730 meter above the sea level and the group was heading to visit it.
Since he was born and bought up in Rajasthan, he was also able to inform me about the culture and traditions of the Rajputanas. His friends where also happy to accompany me and I have to say, they even paid for my breakfast. I slowly realised that a solitary journey will create great occasions to know some awesome people and contribute to culture and friendship.
By 9 ‘o’ clock in the morning of the next day, our Volvo was steering through Bilaspur. The road has become more narrow and small hairpins had begun to pop up. Owing to this, the bus has slowed down. The monsoon also joined the chorus making it more difficult for the driver to steer the bus. I started to feel deep concerns over the monsoons that it might ruin my trip. My mind was thoughtful and I felt that something is going to happen and rightly so.
As we reached further, a row of vehicles were at standstill. We enquired to the locales and came to know that a truck has derailed ahead on a steepy curve. It took around two-three hours for the situation to be handled by the authority and the local people. And the outcome? The journey which is scheduled to culminate by 12 ‘o’ clock at Manali became more lengthy. The travelers slowly started to feel the issue and has begun murmuring about their fate. I was also worried about my schedules and I informed the hotel that the bus will be late to arrive and to wait for my arrival.
The eventful late arrival
After hours long of boredom, the traffic was finally restored and the journey resumed. The incident once again reminded me of a favorite quote: “Man proposes, God disposes”. The faces of the travelers revealed a mix of emotions which was very nice to observe. Even when they were disappointment over the delay of the journey, their mind still rejoiced over the fact that they can still make up to Manali. This excitement notched up to its peak when we saw some unbelievable and gasping views after Mandi, where the IITians had deboarded.
The charm begins
The major expectation for a trip to Manali is to feel the bliss of the mountains and endless greenery. But the real charm begins only after Mandi. The Mandi-Kullu stretch and thereafter the Kullu-Manali strecth is actually the whose essence of a trip to Manali. If we have to divide the trip to different sections then this one falls to the final two portions with a lot in store for travelers. Narrow roads are carved out of steep mountains, underneath which the Beas River is flowing majestically.
Tiny drizzles arrived at the time, adding more flavour for the scenic beauty. Since it was the monsoon, the river appeared flowing in light brown colour carrying all the mud. Towards the opposite hills we can spot isolated human habitations and small temples. The road and the hill is bridged across the river using iron rods to transfer necessary goods to the otherside. There are hardly any stores or shops available in between the stretch that travellers need to buy water and food for the rest of the journey from Mandi itself.
The bus was smoothly advancing to Kullu and we have become more excited about the journey. We had forgotten about the Birlaspur breakdown and was indulging in happiness. If something like the Mandi-Kullu stretch is delivering this much beauty, then we were thinking about how enthusiastic can Manali become soon.
But the unexpected was always planned and scripted by the God. Just a few kilometers before reaching Kullu, one of the back side tyres of the bus busted. The bus was then parked towards the side and the staffs where trying to resolve the issue. We once again cursed our fate. A trip which has already been late for hours will now become more late. The passengers had begun to question the staffs and ironically they were less known about the techniques to replace the tyre with the step-piny. We rightly interpreted that the issue won’t be solved and a group of us decided to take another local private bus to Manali.
The rest of the journey was with the local people of Kullu and Manali in their own bus transport. When I consider the fact that the tyre burst of our Volvo gave an occasion to listen the local speeches of the people of Devbhoomi, witness the fun they shared, the attire they had with the typical Himachal cap, the language and its unique dialect, I was thanking God for creating an opportunity like this. After rejoicing this great experience, we slowly reached Kullu.
Kullu lays the red carpet for us with its murmuring pine forests and deodar forests. I sensed that they are trying to talk to us. The whole horizon towards the right side of the bus appeared like an ocean of mountain – an endless green graph drawn by nature, separating the blue sky. Human habitation is visible in the town and I took couple of pictures that bespeaks its glory. Kullu is enveloped by the sky to the top, mountains in the backdrop and the Beas river flowing like a waist string adding overwhelming beauty. And one thing I have to say, the Kullu girls also looked stunning just like the nature. A perfect combination isn’t it?
The bus halted for half an hour in the Kullu bus stand and after grabbing necessary fuel for the body , I waited for the bus to start. Meanwhile, I took a glimpse around the nature and the people. Their face seemed so happy filled with positive vibes. Like an overflowing pot, they enthralled with happiness and peace. The nature’s grace has perfectly showered some happiness to their mind. I have never seen this kind of happiness in any faces in Delhi. I melt down myself to this magic of nature. No wonder why writers like Ruskin Bond have chosen hill stations to reside. Where would I be staying if i ever had a retirement life? The question and the bus pointed to our final destination Manali.
The final attraction came when we reached the Aut tunnel, which is the only gateway to Kullu- Manali. It extends to about 2-3 km in length. The tunnel was quite unexpected and can be added to the last surprise till we reached Manali. The private bus stand is located just adjacent to the heart of Manali known as The Mall Road.
However, if you are going by Volvo, then you will be deboarded at the Volvo stand, located before the private bus stand. From there you have to have a 10 minutes walk to reach Manali. By around 5:00 in the evening we reached Manali and the next couple of days marked the most valuably spend time for me.
Note: Now stay tuned for the second edition describing the local site seeing and the heavenly trip to Rohtang Pass!