A recurring account with a monthly contribution of INR3000 for a year had helped us plan our holidays this summer. It may not have been possible otherwise. Majority in my family was for Goa but due to summers, I managed to convince them for Manali.
I decided to drive myself in our Alto to Manali post a stopover at my in-laws place in Chandigarh. We opted for the Ropar-BIlaspur-Mandi route instead of a more pictureque route via Shimla. Former route turned out to be a far better choice in terms of driving comfort and great sight seeing, atleast for first timers. We started at 4:45 am from Chandigarh and had checked in our hotel at Manali by 3:00 pm.
Our first stop was at a restaurant in Swarghat run by Himachal Tourism. Road till Bilaspur was bad and full of trucks. Only after Bilaspur the road gets more flatter and devoid of trucks. Traffic was smooth and we manaed to reach Kulu by 1:30 pm. From Kulu to Manali, we followed Beas river to its source and reached Manali. A glimpse of snow-led mountains in the foreground, river rafting stop-overs and cool breeze seemed to take us miles away from Delhi summer. We had almost forgotten that it is summers.
Log huts- run by Himachal Toursim at Manali is one of best place to stay in my opinion. A two beadroom hut with a hall and a kitchen. Hut was fully carpeted, clean and had enough of wood work to give us a sense of luxury, warmth and confort. In 2 hours we were out to visit Hadimba temple. It was just 2 km away and is considered to be a must visit. I was happy at the sight of lush green hills with dense pine trees.
Kids had a great time while I tried my hands at my camera. Monica got her pics with a rabbit, dressed herself in a himachali dress along with Ruhin. Jassica was forced to have ride on a Yak and I was lucky to take snaps of her before she cried to be brought down.
Next was a day long visit to Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. The hot spring there was the prime attraction. Built along the banks of a tributary of Beas, I suppose, the gurudwara was well maintained and a multi-storey parking space. The road was bad and narrow and we were also caught in some traffic jam. On way to Manikaran, we passed by a small village called Kasol. We were surprised to find Israeli restaurants and a decent crowd of foreigners there. The shops along the road in Kasol had coffee shops and eating joints which were different from what we see in India.
Third day at Manali was spent visiting the club house of himachal tourism. It disappointed us a bit. We visited Manu temple and came across Old Manali. Again a very different experience- small attractive shops are difficult to ignore. Monica was not going to spare me. By the time I could do something about saving plans, I had already spent INR 6500.
After resting at the hotel, we went to Mall road- the main market in Manali in evening. Did some shopping and then we returned before it started raining. We were wearing pullovers while having dinner at Log huts later. Next day was meant for Rohtang. We could manage only till Marhi. Roads to Rohtang were still closed. We experienced long traffic jams, a couple of kilometer walking and trekking before we reached the spot. We were accompanied by a guide but we were too tired to try skiing or any other sport there. Spent some hours there eating maggi and sandwiches before planning to return. Given the traffic situation and narrow roads, its better if we hire a local cab. After covering 30 km in 5 hours we reached the hotel. We went for a repeat visit to old Manali market to finish our shopping.
Few things which I could notice at Manali were- Manali is much more beautiful than Shimila. While hills of Uttrakhand are far more beautiful compared to Manali hills, I appreciate the dressing sense of local men and women in Manali. Women wore nice clean clothes and almost all women had some make-up put up on their face. Men were polite and patient. Despite some rude Delhites getting into fight, locals are difficult to get provoked into an argument but once done they can spoil your holidays.
I suppose we are done with our quota of mountains. Its sea time in future…