While planning for the trip, I was a little skeptical about traveling in a Volvo because of all the stories that I had heard about the long duration and the discomfort that one has to go through. However, the whole idea of traveling with my friends and the excitement of Skiing for the first time made me forget everything else. After spending a hectic day at office, all geared up, we reached ISBT Kashmiri Gate around 8.30 PM. After waiting for a while, we boarded our Volvo and the journey finally began at 9.40 PM. We were a group of 4 friends all excited and happy about the whole idea of taking a 3 days long break from the routine 12 hours corporate schedule.
We stopped at Jassons Sheesh Mahal Punjabi Dhaba, Sonipat to have dinner. Another thing that most of us are worried about is the quality of food and clean restrooms during an overnight journey. But, I must say, Sheesh Mahal solves your both problems. The food was good and the restrooms were clean.
After having a break for about 30 minutes at Sheesh Mahal, the journey continued. The best part about traveling with your friends is that you never get bored. There’s always something to talk about and you don’t realize how time quickly passes by. Soon, we were in the beautiful city of Chandigarh. It brought back some old memories as I had spent 3 good years of my life in that city. I will cover the beautiful city in may be another blog. Although, I find it difficult to sleep while I am traveling but I dozed off since I was a little tired after a long day. When I got up, the view was breathtaking. The beautiful morning made us realize what we actually miss in our corporate lives. That’s why I believe it’s really important to take breaks from your hectic life and get connected with the real world as often as possible. We reached Manali around 10.30 AM. The Volvo driver was an expert and it was a smooth ride over a not so smooth hilly terrain. So, I can say without any doubt now that Volvo journeys are not that bad.
We took a cab from the bus stand to our hotel. The hotel was a little far away from the bus stand. After going through a lot of reviews good and bad about the various hotels, we had chosen Nihal Cottage – Ride at Hill for our stay. We had booked a duplex room in the cottage. Since, we had reached a bit early, we had to wait for a while for housekeeping to make our room ready. Meanwhile, we looked around and found that the view was awesome from the terrace of the hotel. We could see the snow-clad mountains. The weather was pleasant and we were happy about the fact that after so many if’s and but’s, we finally made this trip happen.
As we checked-into our room, we got ready and had brunch. The accommodation was nice; however, the food was okay as expected. Thanks to the reviews that we had already gone through during our research. Some of you must be wondering why we chose Nihal when we already knew about the food quality. That’s because we already had a plan of having just the complimentary breakfast and going out for lunch and dinner. So, accommodation was our priority and not the food. We decided to head back to our room and take a nap before we actually start exploring the place.
We got up with the sound of something tapping on our roofs. It was blowing a gale, with the wind whipping through the streets, and howling all around us! It seemed as if the wind was trying to welcome us to Manali with all pomp and show. 😀 Soon the pleasant weather turned into a colder one. Thankfully, we were carrying our jackets even though we were told that Manali weather in April did not require us to carry woolens. We are pretty smart corporate people. We always keep the risk and contingencies in mind even when we are not working.
DAY 1 – Manali Mall Road
We decided to keep this trip as relaxing as it could be. The whole idea of this trip was to spend some good time in the lap of nature without worrying too much about covering each and every place in just 3 days. After all, we were not there to meet any deadlines. 😛 As our hotel was a bit far from the Mall road, we decided to take a cab. Since, we were there to explore and create memories we thought of taking some pictures while walking towards our destination rather than just standing and waiting for the cab.
We saw and a cab coming towards us. Negotiated a bit and headed towards the Mall road. It was a perfect place to be in the evening, full of young crowd, good food joints, many shopping options and a pleasant weather. I would like to mention about the two of the food joints not be missed if you are at Mall Road, Manali. One is The Delhi Chaat Corner where you get the best chatpati chaat. The place was clean and the chaat was finger licking good. This is a famous joint where you can spot photographs of many B-town actors snapped with the polite and humble owner at the joint.
After pampering your taste buds with some chatpata stuff, the other option to have main course was the Mom’s Kitchen. Although we didn’t get a chance to meet the Mom in the kitchen; however, we met the Dad. 🙂 The owner was an elderly man who shared his story of how he moved to Manali from Delhi with his wife. As we were wondering what the Dad was doing in Mom’s kitchen, he told us that his wife was busy in some family engagements and how he managed to cook that delicious food for us. The delivery was a bit slow as the man himself served us and there’s not much staff to assist him in the kitchen. But, friends the wait was worth!! Trust me. You would actually feel eating food at your home. The name of the restaurant was apt. After strolling for a while and buying some cool stuff from the Mall road, we took a cab to our hotel.
On reaching our hotel, we decided to be kids again. Yes, we decided to play Snakes and Ladders. 😀 At first, I was not very keen on playing it but once we started playing, it was great fun. I don’t really remember who won the game but while playing two things that I realized were that sometimes it’s okay to let your inner child come out 😉 and the second one was that we need to learn from the kids who find great happiness in little things. After deciding on the activities for the next day, all of us went to sleep.
Day 2: Solang Valley (Horse riding and Skiing experience)
The driver who dropped us hotel last night reached sharp at 10 AM to start our adventure filled day at Manali. Solang valley is located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Manali and lies between Solang village and Beas kund. En-route to the snow point, there are many shops from where you can take ski clothing, boots, gloves and socks on rent. They also provide an option of taking a guide who can assist in the skiing activity. None of us had ever done skiing and had to return to our families safe and sound. We took one guide as well. The cabs drop you near the parking, beyond which to reach the snow point, you either need to walk or can enjoy a horse ride. Not wanting to make us feel tired at the snow point, without any second thoughts, we took horses. The horse ride was bumpy as the path was full of cobbles and pebbles. We could see the snow clad region as we were getting close to the ski resort. These are spread over a vast valley, having sprawling slopes. The picturesque scenery is filled with verdant valleys and snow-capped peaks.But wait, all sounds good till now, right? However, we got annoyed and disappointed when the guide with us told there were not enough ski equipments and we would be given two at a time. All of us wanted to enjoy the sport of skiing together. Alas, we enjoyed by taking turns. It was worth every penny paid, just that would have loved it had we been given more time with the equipment.You can enjoy and play with the snow, it’s not spotless clean as this wasn’t fresh snow. It has been maintained somehow for tourism. There is a Shiva Temple when you climb up the valley. It was a good decision to hire gloves to fight the cold weather and play with snow. There were not much food options but we could get hot maggi to satisfy our hunger.After having maggi, we clicked some more pictures. Then, we started back our bumpy fun ride towards the parking lot. Day 3: Rafting
We got our bus tickets cancelled from Manali and instead booked from Kullu to extend our stay by a day and enjoy the rafting at Beas river in Kullu. We had a sumptuous breakfast, post which we checked out from the hotel. The same cab driver was fixed for this rafting expedition and he was punctual enough to be at the hotel at 10AM. The white water rafting starts from Pridi (near Kullu) till Jhiri (near the Bhunter Airport) and is an amazing experience. The journey from hotel to the rafting point took us close to an hour (due to the hilly terrain). Being a weekday (Monday) and morning hours, there were only a few tourists including us. We finalized one from the many touring companies at INR 2100 for the 7 kilometres of rafting for the 3 (out of 4) of us. He made us sign some usual agreement/papers (rafting at your own risk :P) and we were all ready for this thrilling experience. He briefed us on the do’s and don’ts. Rafting can be real fun if you follow the instructions and stay careful in order to avoid any mishap.
After rafting, we changed our clothes. Since, there were few tourists, the changing rooms were easily available. We spent some time clicking pictures around the Beas River. We had some food from the stalls. There were again limited options but, the food was good.
The cab driver then dropped us at the Kullu Bus stand. This time the Volvo journey was more relaxing since we all were happy with our overall experience.