Someone once told me that taking a decision instantly can prove quite efficient for me. At that time, although a partial believer of astrology for it’s immense depth and mystery, I felt rather strange at this prediction and thought to myself how can impulsive decisions ever be good? But time and again little instances in life have verified the prediction made by the man about 12 years ago!
Upon finally getting one of my comp offs at work I was over the Moon on a Monday afternoon but was not sure how to utilise a three-day holiday stretch. Of course, I did not want to stay in the pressure cooker like the city during the summer. That very evening I packed my bag in a hurry grabbing the utmost essentials and my camera and set out for McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh — just an overnight bus trip away.
Sadly enough, within a couple of hours of reaching my destination I was so disappointed with the hostel staff I’d planned to spend two nights at, and the place in its entirety, that I set out on another spontaneous overnight bus trip to Manali — higher up in the Himalayas.
McLeodganj — Cafes, crowd and heat!
If you’re a fan of heat, weed, and hippies this is the place to be. Stepping out in the day for sightseeing all I could think of was, “What fresh Hell is this?!” as I saw an endless number of people swarming in the twisty roads lined with uncountable cafes, hostels, hotels and garbage. To top it off was the unwelcoming heat, the very reason I had planned to escape Delhi for a bit. Although there are some tourist posts around the place, the summer heat was too discouraging for any travel whatsoever.
Befriending some solo travelers from the hostel, I got to know how everyone was disappointed on a scale of 1-10! Me being 10. Luckily enough we turned out to be great companions for one another and ventured out into some unknown paths in the forests, set up a little picnic to spend some quality time away from the humdrum. It was here that the idea of visiting old Manali popped up! And being all in the mood for an adrenaline rush I was ready to leave for a better place.
But before that, we spent a calm afternoon in the woods among butterflies, and nostalgic music under the very inviting shade of pine trees in Dharamshala.
Places to visit near Mcleodganj:
St Johns Church
Trek to Triund
Old Manali — Cherries, forests and serenity
Thanks to online bookings, I secured a nice and cosy room at Zostel in old Manali. I was pleasantly surprised as I found my way into the little garden area at its entrance. Zostel is hidden from the not-so-busy streets, tucked away in peace, lined with cherry trees and rose bushes allowing you to gaze at a huge chunk of the open sky from the balconies. Beyond their garden, open cafe and hammocks lie the view of a massive couple of green mountains with icy peaks.
Tucking away my backpack, I decided to set out for a little trek with a friend I made on my way to here from Mcleodganj. The short-long walk towards a secluded valley is lined with numerous cherry trees, multiple rose shrubs, cute pooches, and wild little flowers. Although the path is often caked with horseshit and yak dung, the mint fresh breeze and cool shadows lead to quite a pleasant location that offers an unparalleled view of the Paradise Valley. The owner of the quaint tea stall joked, “Yahan chai, chillam, chapatti sab milega!” (tea, smoke, food — we have it all!)
Putting on your favourite music while perched on top of the solitary tea stall’s roof you can spend hours gazing at the Valley while sipping on the tall glass of hot tea he so lovingly serves you. Walking further down to the valley you can experience the feisty Beas river up close — dip your feet in the clean freezing cold water, dunk your face in the gurgling stream to feel that rush of cold current run through your skin, and get back up feeling surprisingly fresh and wild!
This vast beautiful stretch is a really good spot for exercises and yoga. With no one around to disturb your peace you can lose yourself to meditation by the riverside or just pump up your lungs with fresh green air while working out. But, as soon as people find beautiful spots they tend to take a silent vow in ruining it. I saw a little pile of empty alcohol bottles dumped at one place where a couple of cows were poking around for food. Not only is it an eyesore but also it puts the lives of animals in danger. So, when the urge of alcohol consumption drives you during trips, be responsible enough to not dump your bottles prevent in such vast stretchs of beauty rather carry them in a bag till you find a use me bin.
Tourist spots are pretty much always accessible, so I tried to take a detour and explore the unknown, and avoid the crowd. With the great company of fellow solo travelers it was a blessing to wander around old Manali. I checked out the cafes, experienced walks up and down the slopy terrain on a rain-fed chilly evening, ran beneath the shade of tall pine trees chirping like a bird and bursting into little giggles here and there, tried local strawberry jam, and plucked cherries from full bloom trees.
You can also try out the local yak cheese, apple cider wine, plum pulp wine and definitely the yummy rum cake!
Nights in old Manali are delightful — you can leisurely slouch upon a high balcony and gaze at the night sky studded with frequent stars like diamonds on a black metal plate.
Ajay, an avid traveller accompanying me at this massive natural night show came up with a brilliant idea — the Himachal Pradesh state government should carry out a routine daily to boost their night tourism by cutting off power for 10 minutes and help everyone admire the starry night sky.
Places to visit near old Manali:
Despite being a small trip, bagfuls of memories and cherries from Manali returned back with me to Delhi. Greeted with the harsh summer heat, I reminded me of my responsibilities and liabilities, but my refreshing trip had also energised me to take on life with all my capabilities!