written by - P V Sreeraj Nambiar
It was on a morning in September I received a mail from my brother regarding a tour plan to Delhi Manali. Actually I was thinking about the same for the last 1 or 2 years. The mail was actually from a Tour Planner in Himachal Pradesh. They had given a 4 days plan that starts from Delhi and after 4 days they will drop us at Delhi itself. They will be arranging the accommodation and food at Manali only. The accommodation selection is ours, we can select higher end hotel if we need or any other categories. The package won't include the food while on the way to Manali from Delhi and the return journey. I will share our travel agent details will be published at the end of this travelogue.
at last the day came, 04/11/2016. We were off 10 members in which 2 are children (below 5 years age). The main problem is, we all are staying in different places, me and wife in Chennai, my father and mother in Kerala, Brother, his wife and children in Hubli and his father in law and mother in law in Kerala. It took nearly one day for me to decide how to go to Delhi without wasting much time and without having much problems. So I decided to take my parents to Chennai and we will take flight from Chennai at 7.10 am. For my brother he booked a hotel at Bangalore and he reached there at 03/11/2016 itself being he cannot travel long with the small children in hand. Their flight was scheduled at 8.30 am.
At 10 am in the morning we all assembled at Delhi international airport. Our vehicle was waiting at the parking lot and within 1 hour after completing all other procedures we reached the parking lot to see our vehicle. It was a very neat Force Travellor and Driver was from Delhi itself. By talking to him it was understood that, he is very much experienced in this route because he regularly ply or conduct his own tour packages to Manali. He was in this field for more than 5 years.
While we started our first concern was breakfast. Because all started in the early morning and we didn't eat anything from the flight too. So we were all hungry. When we talked about this to our driver, he told it will be very difficult to get a good Hotel inside the city and in our route. So better we can take some snacks and will go for lunch within 1 hour outside the city limit, and we agreed. He stopped at a small road, where we could find some northern snacks shops and juice shops. Some of us bought juice and some had samosas. That limits our hunger for a while.
After nearly one and half hours journey, he stopped at a large place which was that much crowded with parked vehicles and people. And it was our place for lunch. Hotel Amrik Sukhdev. As said already it was a very crowded place, and took more time to get food delivered. Really you need to be very much patient. But the thing is food is very much tasty and the area is neat and clean. After all these fight we came out of the hotel we noticed many chairs outside and people are eating. We thought it was also part of that hotel. But we were wrong, there you can see some small small hotels and you will get Masala Dosai, Poori, Roti etc. These places are not that much expensive compared to the hotel and taste is also good.
Here in the parking lot our driver, here onwards I will mention him as 'Motu Bhai', suddenly told us to see a Multi Axle Volvo Bus parked near to our vehicle. The bus was actually waiting for some passengers and 2 policemen came and they started with a Maruti Gypsy police vehicle escorting it. It was the Delhi-Lahore Bus.
And now the time is nearly 2 o'clock. We took nearly 1 and half hour at the hotel. Now starts the real journey. Motu Bhai was driving the vehicle on an average speed sothat we should reach Manali before 11 PM. With the small kids we were also enjoying the long drive. It was just roads and vehicles and some times we can see the pollution effect of Delhi too. It was in November and the fog started to pour in Delhi at that time. And sometimes it changed to Smog too. Even in the mid noon also, Delhi was cool and we told Motu Bhai to switch off the AC. He also, suggested the same, because dust will be less in the highways and the best way to enjoy the trip is open the windows and feel the wind.
Motu Bhai has some strict things with him. He always take Diesel from Reliance Pump. When I asked why it is like that, he told, it's a private company but still they are providing good diesel and he is getting good mileage too. I am not sure whether other companies fuel is not that much good or not, but still my first choice is always Indian Oil Corporation.
Our vehicle without rest guided us through the north Indian villages towns sothat Motu Bhai and his travellor needs us not to miss anything on the way. And when it reach evening 5 PM, we need to stop for a while to go for rest rooms and tea. Whenever we informed within 15 minutes he will find out a stop for us that will be an average shop but with all facilities in good condition. We all had a hot tea and a break. The name of the hotel is Baba Ji Vyshnom Dhaba. It is really an average hotel for a small tea break. An average toilet facility is also available. After a strong tea, Motu Bhai started flying with us.
On the way, Motu Bhai informed us that before 10 PM the hill area will start. And being it's night we all miss the exotic beauty of Ghat Section. But we can get the whole scenery on the return trip. The whole ghat section according to him was nearly of 125 Kms. And at the end we will reach Manali. We took extra stoppages and we were very much slow in the hotels because we need to handle the children. Motu Bhai was very calm in all the situations and he told to take our own time, but if possible make fast otherwise we will take more time to reach there.
And at 8.30 PM it was time for Dinner. The hotel selected by our Bhayya was Zimidara Dhaba. A place which have lot of place to accommodate more people and they serves good varieties of food. The people there was very friendly and very much good in handling customers and we all enjoyed really. We got some Cow Milk for children from here and collected some bottles of water too. Because now onwards the hill section starts and is the time for sleep too. We started from there without wasting much time. Motu Bhai told us, to sleep, for him these trips are usual and he will manage without any problem. But, we know it will not be good.
Now, within one and half hours the hill road starts and thus the cold starts to creep inside our vehicle too. Motu Bhai is now covered himself with a black blanket and he advised us to put the blankets. He insisted us to put blankets or woolen clothes to our children and we obeyed. but he was true, when time goes the cold starts increasing and even we cannot control it. All the doors and windows are shut in our vehicle, still cold creeps inside. Sometimes sleep came to my eyes too. I tried my level best not to sleep. The roads are very much curvy and are always busy with Lorries. Many of the times we were also doubted where all these lorries are going. (Still Unknown).
When it reaches nearly 11 PM and it nearly 2 hours away from Manali, Motu Bhai told us, he is feeling sleepy and need to sleep. Without any second opinion we agreed with that, because safety is first always. After 1 hour of sleep in the highway he was awake and again started. Before that he need a sleep breaker tea. We all came out, because we all waiting for a toilet facility. The hotel or shop name is Laxmi Bhojnalya. It was that much cold there and even our hands were shivering. Somehow we managed to drink and we need to fast to reach Manali as soon as possible. Our travel agent had already planned a hotel on the way itself, because we already informed them our time of reach and at 1 AM we reached our Hotel. Hotel Ankit Palace. Everything was set there, and we didn't wait even a minute there. Directly the people came took all our luggages to the respective rooms. We booked 4 Double rooms. And couldn't wait, the thick blanket was waiting for us. The long road journey and the sleepless morning made us fell asleep very fast. It was nearly 8 Deg Celcius there and too cold for us, especially people from South India.
After having a good breakfast there it was time for us leave from the Lodge to our main lodge and for sightseeing. The people there helped us in handling children they gave food like milk and prepared South Indian Rice too free of cost. Motu Bhai guided us directly to the Hotel and after arranging our Luggages in a single room we left there. The Hotel was little bit better than the first one and the name was. We booked 4 double rooms there also.
Now it is time for us to go for sightseeing. First of all the place selected was Hadimba Temple. Hidimbi Devi Temple, where it was built around a cave where it was believed Devi Hadimba, wife of Bhima (Mahabharatha), did her meditations. The whole area is just like a forest, and one can walk around through the carved pathways in the middle. This will offer a great view and a better place to take some snaps around to remember. Local people will be there with Yacht, and can poss for photos by sitting on them and can go for a small walk too. People will be there with the common local dressing materials and for a small price (that can be bargained) they will make you dressed up with the traditional dressing and can pose for photos. Room for local purchase is also available.
There one can see a Museum, which will explain the details and history of the Hadimba Devi Temple and there displayed ancient Pots and materials people were using in the ancient times. One photo of Hadimba Temple, which was taken in the winter times was also displayed there. We were unlucky to see that in real, but can plan for next visit. Important thing is, there are sellers who sells blankets with the name of some unknown brands for huge price, but the same thing can be get at the market for a less than 80% of the price mentioned. But we purchased some emergency small small items like hand gloves and socks for children from there.
Before going to the next place we were decided to take our lunch at Manali Bazar in Mall Road. First we went to a hotel, but the waiter told us there are nobody to take the orders and it is very difficult to serve fast. So after wasting nearly 10 minutes there, we went to another hotel nearby named Gozy Restaurant. The food was awesome and the service was very much good too.
Now, after the spicy lunch, Motu Bhai suggested next place as Him Valley Theme Park. This place is a well designed cultural area with lots of activities to do. the entry fees is 200 per head. There is a Boating area where we can go for boating for atleast 15 minutes. You need to pay extra for that. It is a small pond, and the boating is enjoyable for small children and couples. The garden around this area is also a well built one with lots of good scenic spots for photography. A free of cost cultural programme is also conducted here. There on a stage people will dance for the good popular songs. The audience can also join with the dancing team. For those who needs little bit adventurous activity, there is a room for that too.
After enjoying the spicy food we then went to Vashishta Temple, another famous place to visit in Manali. This temple is believed to be 4000 years of old and the temple is decorated with beautiful carvings on wood and drawings. The main attraction near to this place is hot water spring near to this area. When we reached there, the temperature might be below 10 Deg celcius, but still the temperature of water was really hot. Even the floor inside the Temple too was really hot. We need to walk nearly 1 KM from the parking place to reach the Vashishta Temple. Both side of the roads are covered with small scale sellers. We even enjoyed one masala Tea from there and we bought some caps and gloves. I didn't take my Camera to this area, being its a temple, so no photos too.
And it is time for winding up for the day. We came back to the hotel where our rooms and the dinner was waiting. All the rooms were very much comfortable for a single family with children. Each rooms were given with a double bed and a small room with a single bed. The toilet is equipped with heater facility. We settled in our rooms and at 8.30 PM the dinner started. Now time for sleep. Before going for sleep, I checked the temperature there, and was 3 Deg Celcius, and was expected to be 1 Deg C in the morning. We were also expecting.
Yes, here the second day in Manali starts. After having our breakfast, Motu Bhai started our vehicle. We were headed to a place in Kulu where we can do rafting through the Beas River. We travelled nearly 1 hour from our hotel through the village roads. Suddenly Motu Bhai showed us a forest where a Hindi Film 'Krish' was shoot. A very nice picturesque. I had tried to take good snap on the way, but unfortunately the mobile camera will have its own limitations. We could see apple trees on both sides of the roads, but as per Motu Bhai, the season was over and thus we couldn't find anything.
When we reached the rafting area, we were given a deal of 800 rupees per head for 7 Kms and a 1000 rupees for the entire video and photo shoot. We will be given a CD with all those recorded video on the way and photos took with the help of a high quality camera held over the helmet. Before starting we were informed that there are chances of spilling of water on the dresses, so better keep a spare dress, which we didn't take. But Motu Bhai helped us to find a shop where we can get a waterproof overcoat for rent, but still it can save only 80 %, that was more than enough for us. We 8 people bought all those overcoats and started our journey. The water was that much cold and before starting we took a snap too.
It was really a great trip through the Beas River, one of the best in Manali. The 7 KM rafting included some adventurous moments too. But the children age 5 are not allowed.
Next destination was Naggar, a huge village in Manali situated 5650 Fts above from the sea level. The main attraction here is Naggar Castle. This one is built by Raja Bhosal and a hotel controlled by HPTDC is running here nowadays. This castle is really a great example of ancient architecture. There are three stories in this castle and one Museum is also running here. The nature view from this castle is really mindblowing. Another main attraction here is Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery. Nicholas Roerich was a great artist and he stayed in Manali for more than 20 years and after his death his whole property was then converted to a Museum which portrays his paintings. The museum and art gallery is now under HPTDC and it portrays the ancient models of pots, dresses, kitchen utensils and other traditional items. There is an entry fees for both and Monday is a Holiday for both Museum and Art gallery.
After coming out of this place we directly went to our hotel for the lunch and had a great meals there. Now it was time for us to move towards the most awaited Solang Valley where one can do Para gliding. We were already late and somehow we reached at the Solang Valley at 4.30 PM. But we were too late, because the temperature is very low, nearly 3 Deg Celcius and we thought it will not be good to fly at this temperature from that height. So we dropped the plan and took tickets for rope way. This place is 8000 Ft above from sea level and is famous for adventure tourism. Being it was in November we couldn't enjoy the exact beauty of Solang Valley. At 7.30 PM when the temperature touches 0 Deg Celcius we started to walk back. Before that we had a great coffee at Solang Valley. We reached back to the hotel at 8.30 PM and directly went for dinner.
We need to sleep early because Motu Bhai told us to leave Manali at 1 or 2 Am itself, sothat we can reach on time at Delhi Airport.
It was really a great trip and what we missed was the snow. But on the way back to Delhi the temperature was that much low and the children couldn't handle that. Our Motu Bhai gave extra blanket for us to cover the children which helped the children to get a warm sleep.
While coming back we had enjoyed some road side shop foods and juices which was really pure and tasty. Our plane was scheduled to start at 10 PM. While coming back we all were talking about the same thing, "Yes, We need to come back again when Kullu Manali snows down".
Our Driver was really great gift for us who knows Manali/ Kullu areas and roads very well and is very much aware of the road safety too. He never ever allowed any person to sit at the co-driver seat without wearing seat belt.