part 4. The story of the Hippie, the river and Bob Marley

Manali - 32°17'8"N 77°9'44"E, Alt. 8612 feet

“Why do you look so sad and foresaken ?
When one door is closed,
Don’t you know that another is open ?”
-Bob Marley

The morning light brought us to some of the lower lying hills of the Himalayas where we quickly stopped for tea and a bio-break. Theglorious sunrise over the hills raises ones spirits and washes away any exhaustion from the long bus journey. As the bus winds its way up the hill side, it offered some excellent views of the Beas valley. Through twists, turns and tunnels, the bus offered one breathtaking view after another. But this was just the start.

From Leh and the great Trek

From Leh and the great Trek

Once the bus reached Manali, we legged it to the hotel, which was just a little bit off the main drag called the Mall. As a side note, any hill town in India has just one main street and almost everything that’s there to be done in that town goes on here. You see the same thing in Ooty, Kodaikanal, Nainital and a scores of other places in the Himalayas. And its of no surprise that most of the main roads in are called “the Mall”

The hotel looked more like an apartment complex with a small reception area with a pretty garden. The rooms were sparse at best with mouldy carpets, creaky beds and a non working TV. We stepped out after washing up and looked around for lunch. We then stepped into one of the numerous Sher-e-Punjabs - Sher-e-Punjab, Original Sher-e-Punjab, Asli Sher-e-Punjab and so on that dotted the Mall. A quick meal was followed by a quick nap which didn’t materialize.

At this point the group split again and one set went off Zorbing and so on, while Lacchi,Vivek, Suchi, Prashant, Soumya , Hamy and me went walking along the river Beas to Vashisht Temple. The walk along the river was absolutely beautiful, marred only by the diesel fumes from jeeps and trucks heading over Khar-Dungla pass and into the dusty mountains of Ladakh with essential supplies.

We stopped for quite a bit at the river and just took in the surrounding beauty of the place with the mountains in the backdrop, conifers along the river and the chillness in the air. We sat on the boulder splashing water on each other like children at and had to yell over the roar of the river. With great reluctance we got off the banks and were back on the road and paused for some pictures near the last petrol pump in the valley of the gods.

From Leh and the great Trek

From Leh and the great Trek

From Leh and the great Trek

A quick diversion up the side of a hill along some apple orchards brought us to Vashist, a temple with sulphurous hot springs that stank of rotten eggs. The place obviously had seen holier days, and now was a hippie joint with Bob Marley movies playing alongside cafes that served Jewish bread and a Rasta hat wearing beggar with dreadlocks. Or the stoned German tourist who confused the previous days stock report for her horoscope.

The walk back towards Manali was equally uneventful and we stepped into a couple of shops to buy some curios. Lacchi and I stepped into a tea shop to meet with the guy who organized the jeeps for our trip to Leh the next morning. The room in which we were staying became the war room and we discussed logistics and the revised itinerary for the trek.

And thus we prepare for an epic two day journey over 480 km of lunar terrain...

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Part 3. The incredible flying roti and a Bus

At this point the group split with some of us doing the checking in and a few others going out to get food for everyone. The dorms were orderly, for the lack of a better word. The room had 12 beds, with 3 double bunk beds on either side of the room. Everybody wound down and started on the food that had just been brought. Excellent paneer (scrumptilicious) , wonderful daal (Delecioutable) and dreadful roti ( Frisbee-esque).

After tossing a roti around for a bit, we bunked down for the night set ourselves for a lot of snoring and disturbed sleep. The next morning, I split from the group to visit my cousin. After a number of trips on the Metro, (which reminded me of the metro in Tokyo) and lot of walking around Connaught Place, I meet up with the gang at a Coffee Day outlet, where for the first time the whole group has come together

The Volvo bus to Manali picked us up at the HPTDC office after an hours delay. As the bus weaved in and out of traffic, I couldn’t help thinking about the road ahead and the expectations we had for the journey. Very soon, the bus hit the highway and we were steadily making our way northwards. After a quick pit-stop at a dhaba, we set off again. The TV in the bus played Pyaar ke side effects, but the DVD kept skipping with the voice totally out of synch with the image. It was hilarious to watch Mallika sherawat talk in a male voice... I got bored pretty soon nodded off to sleep.

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Part 2. Flight into danger

After months of planning, the group (barring Vivek) braves the monsoon rains and the insane Bangalore traffic and reaches the airport and check in the bags. After what seemed to be an eternity, we are finally onboard the IndiGo flight. The beginnings are ominous as the captain announces that we were in for a pretty choppy flight.

The group was in reasonably high spirits and we did our best to irritate people around us by yakking at each other across the aisle and over rows of seats. There was no dinner service, but a dainty looking air-hostess came around selling stuff and caused quite a flurry among the guys after she had gone past the seats.

Just when we were beginning to settle down and relax, the plane hit this great air pocket and dropped quite a bit setting off some stifled screams and audible gasps from everyone around. The rest of the journey was filled with lot of rattling and shaking and me regretting that I had bought the wrong book to read on a plane ( Airport - Arthur Hailey).

After an uneventful landing, we got out on the tarmac at IGI, where the July heat hit us with the intensity of a blast furnace left open. Picking up our bags, we got on to a bus service (Rs. 50) that dropped us off at Chanakyapuri near YHAI. Since we reached pretty late, the gates were already closed and I can’t quite remember if we found an open gate or if we jumped over it.

Trampled byY Trip at Wednesday, February 27, 2008 0 comments Links to this post