Himalayas Calling

Few more mountains captured in memories!!! Visit to the Himalayas continues with a trip to Manali and Shimla. All the planning was perfect this time. Nice climate. Nice timing. Nice arrangements. Nice company. (Doesnt mean that earlier company was not nice). But it was a all boys trip which has its own privileges and advantages. All mischieves!!! (Do I need to elaborate?)

Here is how it goes

Members: Raja, Ankur, Girraj, Harsh and VG (me)
Places: Manali - Nehru Kund (Snow Point), Solang Valley
Shimla - Mall Road, Kufri
Extra and unplanned Chandigarh - Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Rose garden, Sec 17 market

Just a background on the planning.
A trip was due for a long time. Planned the trip to be after our mid-sem presentations (Feb 26th). Arrangements of stay was made at PNB guest house at Manali (Coutsey - Harsh Dhand). Thrilled to go on 1st March after the LP workshop ( I couldnt miss that.. I was the volunteer.. How can u expect JD to leave me on a vacation when an event is being organised by him..) All of a sudden 2 colleagues go on leave. Presentations to be postponed. When?? All I had to do was run around and meet all the professors get a date fixed ( March 10th ). Or else trip will be cancelled. At last all professors convinced and trip again came into being. REBORN.

On 1st of March 2005, morning Raja books 5 tickets to Manali by a private tour operator. 450 bucks. Pretty reasonable for a 16 hrs trip. Alas!! The bus was a 2x2 seater. So who will sit on the 5th seat. Along with a stranger. All of us fight for that seat. "Agar ladki hogi to mein baitunga", was a common comment. Bus scheduled for departure at 6.00pm from Connaught Place. Being punctual, we reached there at 5.30. Made a quick visit to nearby market. Saw some good chics, had a softy from McD, and back on time for the bus. Enthusiasm gained for the lonely seat. Rushed with our bags towards the bus to capture the seat first. To the disappointment of Raja, the last one to enter, he was to spend a night with a stranger. A guy!! But with his tricks, he somehow captured another seat and I was pushed to the hot seat. At last settled and JET SET GO. Begins the journey of laughter and enjoyment.

All of us got a new nickname. Raja - Papa, Ankur - Mummy, VG - 1st son, Harsh - 2nd son and Girraj - Chotu. And the whole family on a vacation. Suddenly Ankur has an idea that we will be going through Punjab, and should speak only Punjabi. And hence, every sentence will start with Paaji ( brother ) and all nouns will be repeated twice ( Pani - wani, Roti - shoti ). Fed up with the Punjabi, all started relaxing. Papa Mummy discussing the pros and cons of flirting and attraction to the fairer sex. I dont know what made them start and what was the end. I was busy dozing off, I had put a night out the day before. Got down at some dhaba for dinner. Saw a few MADAMMAs in a volvo, cursed Raja for booking in a cheap bus instead of the volvo, went around them, and then back to sleep.

Day 1, March 2nd 2005
With the break of dawn, we had reached the foothills of Himalayas. Twists and turns of the road. Cold atmosphere of the mornings. We had stopped for a tea. I was the first to get up and wake up all. "Abe kitna sote ho tum log". As the journey uphill began, we remembered a precious thing that we had. A DIGITAL CAMERA. What else do we need on that morning as we climb the hill along the river Beas. Got to the window seat and there goes a series of shoots. To be honest, none of them were anywhere close to the perfection of MC and Su. But managed some good pics. Snow capped mountains, Winding river, pine forests, leaf-less apple and plum orchards, morning sky, road and tunnels... After all this we reach Manali after passing through Kullu.
As I had mentioned the stay was arranged in PNB guest house. It was a two room suite, pretty luxurious by our standards. After refreshing ourselves with a quick bath, in that cold weather, we set out for the snow capped mountains which loomed in front of us. Getting a share taxi in Manali is a nightmare. All the tourists being couples, taxis had a decent time there. Couples preferred taxis but for us, that was an expensive affarir. So we decided to trek along the road to the snow point (Nehru Kund) which was about 9 kms from the town. After walking for a kilometre, we thought of asking for a lift to the destination. The first vehicle that came along was a tractor and we jumped onto the trailer attached to its end. It was my first ride on a tractor. It is horribly jerky and one would feel really uncomfortable to travel on it even for an emergency. But that being a maiden ride for me made it enjoying.
Nearing the snow point, we had already spotted snow on the road sides. Expecting knee deep snow, we hired snow boots to protect our shoes. Snow Point is the highest place open for tourists due to fear of land slides. It was overcrowded with honeymoon couples enjoying skiing, snow biking, slides on the slopes, and posing for photographs. It was a sight of envy for all of us for not having a girl friend along with us. We posed for a few photographs, played with snow and had sight seeing (watching beautiful ladies) and got bored pretty soon. At the sight of a steep hill, myself and Khandu had an idea of climbing over to the top.

The hill was fully covered with soft snow. Each of us had to watch our steps to avoid falling into pits. Khandu and myself took lead along a faint trail of some predecessor. The final quarter of the climb was difficult. No trail ahead. No idea where the snow will be hard to step on. I took a route and asked Raja to take another. Unfortunately Raja was on a wrong track and got himself in a bad position, snow upto his waist. Somehow he managed to pull himself up and come back on the right track to the top. That was not the end of the adventure. After climbing down from the hill, with a few sliding, we marched ahead for a trek along the river Beas. We were determined to cross the river and a search for a suitable place, narrow enough to jump, began. Walking upstream for about half a kilometer, we reached a make-shift bridge made up of a dilapidated wooden plank. Crossing the river was the least part of the adventure. After that where to go and how to get onto the road became our next goal. A road and a few houses was visible on a plateau.

The stretch that separated us and the road was partially covered with snow and stones jutted out at various places. Trotting on snow was dangerous because of crevices between rocks. Raja being light-weighted took the path through snow. I took the advantage of long legs to jump from one rock to another and find my way. The rest followed either one of us, which ever path they felt the easiest. To add to the trouble, a drizzle had started pouring. At first site, it seemed to be a snowfall but then we had to make a run as it was raining. Luckily it stopped after some time. After a long trek for 2 hrs we finally hit the road and were back to the town into the cosy hotel room. The day ended with a heavy dinner and a few enquiries about the next place to visit.

Stopping for a moment.
To be continued....

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