Manali is a charming, old town nestled in the lap of Himalayan foothills. My first visit to this place was in 2009. I instantly fell in love with this rustic town. This was the mark of a long affair that would continue for the next 5–6 years. In the following years, I did visit Manali, but my fondness for this place didn’t fade away. I must say Manali is solely responsible for bringing out the wanderlust in me. I was inspired by those mountains. They had a magical effect on me. Thereon, I wanted to travel more and discover more.
After a brief hiatus in my wanderings, I was ready to backpack again and head towards the Himalayas. Of course, I couldn’t forget my old love. I had to begin this year’s trip with Manali. As if the entire universe conspired to make my wishes true. I got lucky. From the hustle bustle of cosmopolitan life and little time off from work, I finally had a long weekend in my hands. And, I couldn’t let it simply go away without doing anything. So, my planning for this trip began!
So there it was. I could go to Manali. Yay!
I was so happy. When I finally reached Manali, I couldn’t feel more content. The air felt fresh and everything looked new. Roads looked cleaner, new shops had cropped up and so those little cafes. All these years, surprisingly, I had never noticed and explored this place. Only this time, I realized what I had missed in the past.
I had missed out on long, morning walks down the Mall road. I had always imagined waking up to the misty sunrise through the middle of those snow-capped mountains. My imagination also took me on long bike rides to Rohtang and to the outskirts of the valley. I had always wished to sit quietly on my hotel porch and behold the snow covered hills.
Those thoughts that I had nurtured in my dreams over these years, which had faded into oblivion finally came to shape in the most perfect and unimaginable ways. Each and everything fell into place as if these events were waiting for me and watch me unfold them one after another. Can you imagine how happy I felt?
By this time, I could remember little shops on the way. Walking uphill was no more a major, painful task for me. I happily trudged against the direction of the river. At times, we would do some stunts right on the road. We would jump in the air and click pictures. We would eat hot pakodas and end up buying stale jalebis, 4-in-1 softy tantalized our taste buds and like small kids, we gobbled up our ice creams with happiness in our faces. We laughed, we crawled from one cafe to another and checked out a local bookshop. We also bought some green apples from a local seller and boy did they taste sweet. They were juicy and deliciously tangy !!!
Riding pillion on the bullet and riding to Naggar, a small town 27 kilometers from Manali was joyful. Thinking we would find something out of the world only to discover that it was just another wooden house turned into a museum. Haha! but we regretted nothing. We are fun people who enjoyed thoroughly the journey and not the destination. Riding on the bullet for the first time, I could be only happy as a child receiving candies.
You know your journey could be worthwhile only when you are with the right people. You don’t have to think alike all the time but wanting to explore, trying out new things and the little moments you enjoy doing, makes everything a picture-perfect event.
Naggar is a quaint, little town 16 miles away from Manali. It was once the capital of Kullu kingdom. A day visit to this place is easily doable. Naggar castle has a hotel in its complex.
Manali isn’t a big place. There are the usual touristy spots that can be done in one day. You may visit the local shops selling funky tees and junk jewelry or go to Jana, which is 35 kilometers away during the apple picking season. Plucking fresh apples from trees is a different joy altogether. And, my sudden plan to Vashisht was a sheer joy.
We took an auto. Paid 150 INR and there we were. Vashisht came as a complete surprise. The walk through a hamlet, pine trees and deodars, then a forest that housed a meditation camp, panting my way uphill, everything was so perfect, so serene. In 45 mins, I was standing in front of Jogini waterfall. There are plenty of bike shops. So, rent a bike for a day or two and make your day! I mostly saw Enfield bullets running. Probably, this has to do with increasing travelers heading towards Ladakh, Spiti.
Sometimes, you only wish to do certain things, but they end up remaining incomplete. Only when things fall into place, piece by piece, you realize how lucky you are. Maybe it is about being in the right place at the right time with some luck.
My travel to Manali was beyond expectations. I came with a limited itinerary list but went back home with lots of memories, did things that were never expected and had fun beyond imagination. There wasn’t a single moment when I felt bored. Time rolled so fast. But, for the first time, I didn’t feel I had left something half done. Each moment was incredible. I bid adieu to Manali. I feel complete now and will let this happiness sink in before I come back to this place. Sooner or later!