As the bunch of us twenty-somethings packed our bags and waited with frenzied excitement for May 13th , we could think of nothing else but snow, mountains, camping, tents, more snow, adventure sports, hard core trekking, loads of fun..oh and some more snow. We figured out that snow was not that big a deal in no time, but I’ll save that story for later. So off we started, to Manali and further up (via Delhi, but it doesn’t matter), in collaboration with Trek India. Two weeks of blissful calm- no deadlines, no excel sheets, no presentations to be made…Just the endless mountains capped with snow, perennial chill breeze, great friends, hot food- nature at its best- and to nobody’s surprise I had no recollection of my outlook password when I returned. Should give you peek into what made the trip something more than just unforgettable.
The trip- let’s call it expedition from now on, gives me a nice feeling that way-had a three day trek as part of the package. Off we set, with rucksacks and all, camping in two different spots, each of increasing altitudes. If it was campfires, hot piping chai, and incessant laughter from within the cramped tents during the evenings, the mornings were consumed by long treks that seemed unending and at times treacherous. Each of those three days saw us trek close to ten hours a day. Trail 1 was just an ice breaker. Trail 2 was when we had our first brush with snow. We had visualized powdery white layers on which we could run and play catch. Reality- We kept tripping and falling on our faces. And when you sit on it for too long, it is like your butt is on fire. Not nice at all. We camped in a valley between two towering mountains. It was an evening with many firsts- first snowfall, first evening answering an unrelenting nature behind a tree, and going ‘Oi, that’s MY tree!’, our campsite being invaded by atleast a few hundred sheep, gleefully bleating away, drawing water from the stream close by, drinking from it, sleeping with the stars overhead. Ah. Trail 3 was something that only six of us volunteered for. We climbed 13,000 feet above sea level. It was literally that. Climbing. On all fours. One mis-step and it would have been goodbye life, you’ve been good. When I reached the summit, I cried. Never mind that we climbed an unnamed peak :P
We tried our hand at the many adventure sports that Manali offered. River crossing- monkey-on-rope-tied-between-two-poles style, for starters. Add a bit of rock climbing, jumering and other mountaineering tricks. Then you are ready for the big ones. I did not have the stomach for Zorbing, but I believe everybody should paraglide atleast once in their lifetime. From up there- people looking like pinpricks, even with your stomach crying for deliverance from all the virtual frogs jumping inside, you love the feeling! And it always gets over too soon. We later rafted on the whooshing Beas river. A nice guy from Nepal was our instructor. And that again was ten kilometers of screams, prayers, too much water- and fun that we could never get enough of.
Manali town can be described as small, vibrant and colourful. It has something for everybody- We spotted a Madras Idly Restaurant there. It is famous for the different flavoured wines and fruit crushes that are locally produced. Another must have is the famed trout fish that is caught from the river, cooked and served in no time. Delicacy- and super tasty. I would highly recommend walking around the town by oneself. The people are a friendly lot. Even if two cars close to ram on one another, nobody yells. They smile and say ‘aap pehle’. The Tibetan market is a great place for some super-colourful woolen wear, at great prices. And one should not miss fresh, ripe strawberries that are sold at throwaway rates on the pavements. Oh, and I should say- weed grew like how it is called- weed, over here. Such a waste, We walked for hours, savouring the myriad sights, smells and sounds. Good times, I must say.
Though the days were slow, and we had no necessity for a watch or the mobile phone, and nothing to do but laze around and just…let go, it seemed like it was all over too soon. What did I carry home? Lots of happy memories, an awful, stubborn tan that I got from the snow (that scared people at work and prompted a friend to start addressing me Blackey), a sense of contentment and achievement (yes, I climbed an unnamed peak!) and an urge to go back at the next given opportunity. Manali has gotten to me :)