written by - Sandy & Vijay
There was a chill in the air, as we checked out of our hotel in Shimla. It was the month of December and one can expect as much if not more when you are literally in “The Lap of the Himalayas” or Himachal Pradesh. We were on a road trip across some of the most scenic places in the Northern part of India. We had started from Delhi and crossed Chandigarh before reaching Shimla. After a couple of days in Shimla, we were now ready for another exciting leg of our road trip – Shimla Manali Road Trip! Our next destination, Manali.
We paused to take in the stunning view of picturesque Shimla that stretched out below us bathed in an almost ethereal glow in the morning light. Though the sun was not visible, a dash of pink like a random, broad stroke of a painter’s brush in the sky, underscored the sun’s presence.
We got into our car to begin our 265-kilometer journey – Shimla Manali Road Trip. Though the distance was not much, I estimated that it would take at least 8 hours to reach our destination including pit stops for lunch and tea. The mountainous terrain that we would be covering would be slowing us down.
I drove to the nearest service station to get a quick check up of the car as I did not want to take any chances on the mountainous highway that we would be taking.The Shimla Manali road trip is considered to be perilous but enchanting too. An experienced mechanic checked the CEAT Tyres of the car and also the battery, belts , fluids and air conditioner. It is always wise and prudent to take all safety precautions before and after hitting the highway and hence the check up at the service station had now become a routine drill for us every time we hit the roads. I felt refreshed after a good night’s sleep, another important safety aspect that we ensured we followed religiously. We had also ensured that we had all our luggage properly and securely stored in the boot of the car, ensuring no free objects were inside the car as the winding roads could turn them into hazardous projectiles. The safety kit consisting of water, warm blankets, first aid kit, flashlight and tools for changing tyres was also packed and easily accessible.
We drove away from Shimla situated at an altitude of 7,238 feet to keep our rendezvous with Manali. Manali is a beautiful valley that nestles between picturesque and snow- clad mountains and is situated at an altitude of 6,726 feet. We were looking forward to a couple of days stay in magical Manali, but for now, we were looking forward to enjoying and relishing each moment of our Shimla Manali Road Trip as we would be passing through some of the most scenic and beautiful spots of the state of Himachal Pradesh. We wanted to savor our Shimla Manali Road Trip journey before we reached our destination.
As we wound through serpentine roads cut into the rock faces of mountains we felt a thrill pass through our spines as we scented adventure.We passed small villages and waved at the smiling children as our minds registered and froze moments of life in these remote villages for posterity.
A monkey struck a pose for our camera as we passed by. About 33 kilometers from Shimla we reached a place called Shalaghat where we took a pit stop for some quick snacks and ginger flavored tea.
The pit stop seemed to have worked wonders on our bodies and minds as we hit the road again, we gazed in awe at the coniferous trees swaying majestically in the breeze, bathed in sunlight and a song of sheer glee escaped our lips.
We made fairly good time given the nature of the terrain that we were driving through and soon reached the midway of our journey. We were somewhere near a place called Haribag. We stopped and got out of our cars.
We had to! The sight of an emerald lake framed by the mountains was so enthralling! We pulled out of the car and took some photos and generally lived the moment, experiencing the serenity of the place. The lake we came to know later was Sundernagar lake.
We were feeling hungry again, the mountain air and the drive seemed to have done wonders for our appetite and we felt that we could eat a horse, but of course we would not as we are vegetarians!
We ate at one of the Dhabas or roadside eateries that dot the highways of North India and serve some of the most authentic and tasty food. We ate our favorite Parathas with potato and cauliflower fillings, steaming hot and adorned with dollops of white, melting butter. As the butter melted on the parathas forming rivulets, our stomachs cried out for more and we ate till as if there was no tomorrow. We washed down the Parathas with a large glass of Sweet Lassi, thick buttermilk with lots of cream.
We drove steadily, the car was quite now, the heavy food had obviously taken its toll and a few gentle snores could be heard. We quickly reached a place called Mandi. And here we met the river Beas.
The river would give us company from here till our destination, Manali. It is interesting to note that the river Beas was the eastern most part that Alexander the Great reached in his conquest of the world. It is on the banks of the river Beas, Alexander’s team mutinied and refused to follow him further in his quest for world supremacy as they had been away from their homes and families for eight long years. The ancient Greeks referred to the river Beas as Hyphasis.
The silence in the car was replaced by ooh’s and aah’s as we drove alongside the river Beas. The river Beas meandering seductively to our right, presenting a beautiful and tranquil picture. Towards our left was the rocky walls of the mountains. We then passed a beautiful temple known as Anokhi Mata Temple and halted briefly to offer our obeisance to the Goddess. We resumed our journey, after giving our stiff legs some exercise and restoring proper blood circulation to them. We wound our way across some really dangerous and breathtaking curves to reach a tunnel which was 2.8 kilometers long, the tunnel looked eerie in the darkness, needless to mention there were some ghost stories associated with it as well. The tunnel led us to Aut and from there we drove steadily to Kulu. We passed apple trees that stood bare as this was not the apple season. We would have loved to see the trees laden with the red beauties. We halted at Kulu. The climate had changed as we approached the mountains, the sun was no where to be seen and a light mist covered the place. We did some shopping and bought a couple shawls and sweaters. We also went to the flowing Beas river and checked out the river rafting options available there.
We soon quickly left Kulu behind as the weather was getting a bit inclement and we wanted to get to our destination before nightfall. As we drove towards Manali, soon we were able to sight the beautiful snow laden peaks in the distance and the car too seemed to be excited by the prospect of seeing these peaks up close, as it accelerated by its own volition, or so it seemed!
It was Christmas night when we reached Manali, and the town was gaily decorated, we reached our hotel which was framed by snow capped mountains and were greeted with a huge, brightly decorated Christmas Tree at the reception.
We checked in and moved towards our rooms, physically tired but spirits on a high, intoxicated by the beauty of Shimla Manali Road Trip, one of the best road trips that we had ever done.
Shimla Manali road trip is enchanting. Lovely landscapes, river Beas, Sundarnagar lake, a long tunnel, snow-capped mountains entice you on this road trip. This road trip is recommended for honeymoon, couples wanting a vacation, family, youth seeking adventure and also for solo travelers.