Chapter One – The most awaited journey begins…
After not so good week of being homeless for few days( thanks to my wonderful frds who made things easy and not so uncomfortable for me. Its another story, let that be for the time being), we started on with one of the most wonderful and exciting trip of my life till date.
Yes I am a traveler and love being with nature, admiring its beauty and comfort, sharing an amazing connect with everything natural borne around me. Have been to places and now was the time to explore one of the most talked about places – Leh-Ladakh!
Had been seeing a lot about this place on internet, media and television. Time had arrived when it was to be felt and admired in person . The trip was planned in a manner to cover at least 2-3 places other than Leh. So we planned it like Pune-Delhi-Manali-Leh-Delhi.(8th to 18th of July) and probably this was one of the best thing we did for the trip.
So in short we were flying from Pune to Delhi, Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali. A day stay @Manali. Booked a traveller from Manali to Leh(take personal cabs only when you are ready to pay good).
NOTE: You are recommended to take a halt between Manali and Leh(ideally at Jispa or some similar lower altitude area).
Leh, we had a package booked from 11th to 16th .Then again we flew from Leh to Delhi(a day stay). and from Delhi to Pune. So that was just a brief to understand how we went about the trip.
So the nite before our flight from Pune to Delhi, I told myself– f*** everything happening and get ready for the trip. Till late evening I had no clue about my luggage /clothes/ essentials to be taken for the trip. I was completely messed up with my house shifting tragedy and my belongings were in 4 different location of Pune, with me having little clue where what was.
At last I decided – Damn all, I will just collect what I have near me and some clothes that I need for the trip and leave everything as it is, as I didn’t want my trip to get messed in all this.So finally took whatever I could find from my frds place where some of my belongings were and left for Suraj’s place. We were supposed to leave together from his house next morning 5 am.
We reached his house at around 12 mid-nite and did my packing for the trip(whatever I could).
Morning 6 we had our flight to Delhi. We started our day at airport with clicks and pics(you understand girls were with us). Reached Delhi at around 9 am. I have a lot of good friends and I make a point to meet them whenever I am in their city. So I called few of them after we landed. Some were in office so told they would meet in the evening or may be while our returning as evening we had our bus to Manali.
Two of my other friends who are in sales (yes we guys do have time ), told they would catch up with us @lunch. One of them told we could have breakfast in a nearby mall- Ambience, till he comes. We stayed there for sometime, as the weather outside was humid and hot(usual Delhi), so we decided to better be at the mall and wait for my frnd.
As I got only few wearable, I did some shopping at the mall and bought a bright blue jeans there. (remember it was blue.)
After a while my friend Varun came. It was good to see him after long. We had spent amazing days together in our previous stint .We were the only guys who had got a chance to have a back to back trip to Singapore due to our performance and so we shared a lot of memories together.
He advised us to put all our luggage in his vehicle and hop in his car. We were worried earlier as to where should we dump the luggage. So now that was resolved . It was time for lunch, so we decided to have lunch before anything . Also there was this other friend, Saurabh, who was coming to meet us at lunch.
Varun, is a foodie, anyone would agree after seeing him. Anyways, that was good for us, as he took us to one of the most authentic Indian restaurant – Kareems – The original Kareems. Other Kareems in different cities only carry their name, not the food. Yes if you have been to Kareems anywhere in India and anytime if you walk into the original Kareems you could feel the difference right at the 1st place. Well if food is considered, the original kareem serves way too good, authentic and delicious chicken you could ever have. Not only chicken but their mutton, desserts all were equally delicious.
My other friend, Saurabh had also reached Kareems by that time. So Saurabh was also from my previous company and he too was the part of the same team. So in our last job,all(not exactly all) the regional guys did have close connections. It was nice to meet these buddies after long. We had some mouth watering food there with lot of chatting and gossiping. Saurabh left after the lunch as he had some work to finish. We all got into Varun’s car and left from there. So next came the girls demand for shopping , they cannot think that they were in Delhi and they didn’t do shopping. That’s against the Universal rule, right…hmmm…hmmm..k
But before that, thanks to Varun again, he told us that he would show us a bit of Delhi and it would be worth. We agreed and so did the girls(Thank God).He started from the embassy area. He showed us all the state embassies. The place was neat and clean unlike most areas in India. Maharashtra had the largest and most beautiful embassy and every state had a figure depicting their culture .
Then from there we went to see the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, Lal Killa,All these I had only seen on TV, that too on Republic day specials. Well it was really nice to see the make there. Apart from the weather everything was just nice and just perfect. Varun was our angel at Delhi who had given us a very memorable start of our journey. He took us for a complete ride, being a perfect guide anyone could want there. We spent the rest of the day going around with him seeing more of Delhi’s beautiful places that he could show us in that limited time.
Evening 6:30 we had our bus to Manali. Varun dropped us at the bus stand giving us an amazing start to our trip. As we all were tired, we just sat in the bus; relaxed and watched Delhi as it passed from the bus window, showcasing its old and new structures.
While we move out of Delhi, we all went asleep. It was almost mid – night when suddenly a jerk broke my sleep and I happened to see the deep valley (not too clearly), and the best I thought I could do is sleep again. It was too steep to see and the road was damn narrow, I felt some flashlight of trucks coming from opposite direction right into my face. I closed my eyes and just went to sleep again, just went off to sleep.
We took an auto to the hotel. On the way we saw apple trees..almost everywhere. First time I had seen apples like this. One could have easily plucked it .Anyways we didn’t do that and went straight to the hotel.A sudden change in the color of sky, bright light bluish, clouds here and there in the sky and dense fog above the ground, oh, it was an amazing sight.Yes we were entering Manali. A lovely place, with nature flaunting its beauty all around. White rivers flowing gracefully with long stretch of clouds above it. As we neared to the hotel, we could see ice-caped mountains. It was a sight to remember. The snow covered peaks, peeking from the trees simply a picturesque view. The air was as fresh as it could be. I closed my eyes took a deep breath and felt the calmness in the air. Peace!! It was amazing .
A second awe was awaiting us. The hotel was beautiful. Bright blue colored with grey colored brick designed walls . It was a small, cozy hotel. Bhagyashree had booked the hotel via some online site,guess Trip Advisor. Thanks to her. The hotel had a small garden full of flowers and it also had one or two apple trees.
The best part was the hospitality. We just loved the people out there. They were nice, polite, caring and humble. Ok..the name of hotel is Simlog . Their desk showed us the love of their customers. There were n number of mementos from customers to them, which read all about their good hospitality .
Pine trees, mountains and clouds, all in love with each other and we were completely in love with everything that we could see and feel. The trees stood calm and lovable, touching the sky above.We were there around 9 am or so. Once we got the rooms we all rested a bit, got fresh and went to the top floor for lunch. The view was fabulous from the window of the restaurant at the top floor.
The best time and place for a perfect lunch.
After the lunch we planned to go around Manali as we just had that day for Manali. We took an auto and went to see a nearby forest reserve. We did some photography as there was not much to see there. There were hawkers who all were selling “Shilawati” and some were also offering kesar.
It reminded us that Manali is one of the top Honeymoon destination.After some photography session we went to see the hot geysers, all who had been to Manali had told us to visit there.
We came out after the small visit and now we were hungry. Before we could find a decent place to have lunch I saw some jattadhari babas. Curiosity and excitement both pulled me towards him. Had heard Manali had had the best stuffs, so thought of taking a chance .Soon we were there. The hot gyser water was a part of a temple. Manno pretended to do some worshipping gestures for photography. There was small section where hot water was being used by all to bath, and there were number of soaps lying around that place. Not much of an interesting place – everyone was bathing in the same pond water. Didn’t understand at that moment what was there to visit – naked people all bathing in one pool, haha.
The baba was fair with shining brown eyes, his long stiff jatta circled neatly on his head, it did show years of effort to grow them. He wore a single saffron colour cloth around, like the ones we had seen being worn by some sexy girls in some sexy wet scenes in bollywood movies.
I approached him with a bit of cautiousness as I had no clue what I am going to ask him and how would he react. I walked towards him and gave a smile as I neared him. In return I got one, so it made things easier, a bit.
I asked him “Baba, Prasad milega ?” he smiled and said “Zaroor beta” .
To my surprise he opened a steel tin that he was carrying and told me to put my hand in it and grab the stuff.
Yes the steel tin was full of leafy things. Though I took some, but my interest was something else.
So now I openly asked him “Baba, kala hai kya”, this time he smiled looking straight into my eyes, he had caught my expectations. “Beta, mere pass toh bas yahi hai, unse pooch lo”, he pointed to another baba nearby.
My heart said –“mil gaya”, I asked him – “baba Prasad milega.” Without anyword he gave me the white Prasad, I told “baba, yeh nahi”, he gave a stern look, stern enough for me to understand to shut up and get lost from there. I did what I understood, no more words and I walked away.This baba seemed more yogic and more authentic. He was sleek, you could count his ribs, but at the same time strong. Longer and stiffer hair than the earlier baba had. Sharp looks, seemed to be aged 70 + or probably more . He sat in a very small hut just near the temple. As I went towards his hut, I saw some things being cooked inside and another baba was also sitting there.
As I moved away from there, I saw my friends entering a shop where a man was showing some antiques and shawls, etc. I went inside and saw him showing the ring play with the pashmina shawls.
Pashmina or Kashimiri cashmere wool also known as “soft gold” in Kashmir , is a special wool from special breed of Himalayan goats. Its known for its warmth and feel. The pashmina shawls are such that a large enough shawl could pass through a ring. And this was the antic that the shop keeper was showcasing.
Not much of my interest, I saw his antics and stepped out. Also when he told that the cost for it was aprrox 15k + he did some numbering and came to a 4k figure, I guess we all lost interest and came out. If it was for real he wouldn’t be discounting that much…or whatever, we were now hungry.
To my surprise it was a place much like a café you would find in Goa (Ahh, I love Goa ).Suddenly the weather became more cloudy and it started drizzling. We ran out from the shop to the café just above it. Only place that looked good to have food there.
Bob Marley, Shiva and psychedelic paintings around. I could smell something nice there. It had a nice seating arrangement inside and out in the open terrace, which was half covered.We decided to sit outside as the weather now had become extremely beautiful.
The moment when it was showering with light water droplets, a mist of cloud around and mountains surrounding , manali once again was flaunting its amazing beauty and love to us. We did enjoy few drops of the rain in the terrace until the food came.
By that time a guy walked in the café. The inside was cozy. With seating arrangement on the floor, cushions and pillows lying around it looked one of the favourite place for the evening get together . They did what I had on my mind since a while, they rolled some paper . I wasn’t too surprised as I was expecting this to happen. Lucky me !!
I walked in and as it happens they gave me a favour. Good ! real Good Manali !
I even bought a small lump of it. It was one of the famous known thing there.
The rain now was heavy, it became cold and dark. We were done with everything there and now it was time to return to the small, beautiful Silmog Garden (our stay), as we had to rest before the long and exciting journey ahead – to Leh Ladakh.
To be continued……the adventurous ride in an tempo traveller with strangers and friends……leh we are on our way……
most beautiful, adventurous and mesmerizing road trip to Leh from Manali, just begun….