Saturday, July 14, 2012

3 - Leh Diary - Day Zero - Manali

Link to Part 1 ,  Part 2

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; 
not going all the way, and not starting.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a Ride!  ~Hunter S. Thompson

After all the initial preparation (or under-preparation), the day to leave approached. Many times, we see that only till you start there is apprehension, fear, anxiety. The moment you step into it, you think how to tackle/get along the thing rather than avoid it. As soon as I weaved good buy to Sapna and returned to my seat, calmness started to settle. I had packed all my things in one sack and tied the jacket to it from outside. 25% of the sack was occupied by the first aid kit that I was to carry for the group. I made a mental check of it and satisfied myself that this should be sufficient for 10 people for 2 weeks. 

I reached Thane early morning by a night train from Goa and went straight to Puru's house just in time to wake him up. After a quick breakfast & shower, we got in a cab to go Bandra terminus where the whole group was going to meet for first time ! Alas, it was not to be. On the way I learned that one couple had already left a night before as they could not get even Tatkal bookings for the train we were to travel. The traffic was low on the Saturday morning and we moved quickly on the highway. There was still smallish jam on a road next to Bandra station with everyone parked the main road and I thought, how lovely it would be to spend  weeks without any road-blocks in sight !

Puru & Bhavna had three bags with Bhavna packing lots of food for the train journey in one bag. Latter found that almost everyone except me had got some or other items for lunch + dinner (+ 1 more lunch next day) during the train journey. Thanks guys !

After the first round of formal introductions, and settling the luggage below the births, everyone started to open and fun started. Other fellow travellers must be wondering what possessed us that we raised all the noise while talking, playing cards but would be dead silence listening to वपू - कथाकथन. During the lunch it was noticed that we did not had enough spoons and (one of us*) lifted one full stack of disposable spoons from the crates of IRCTC packed lunches. I hope that wise guys at IRCTC are busy trying to find new ways to slow down the reservations system servers rather than reading this blog. We also did raise some eyebrows as some observed that the whole group was travelling with helmet. 

We alighted at Chandigarh and went to bus stand. There we found out that all the deluxe / AC buses going to Manali were full as there was some exams and Chandigarh was main centre for three states. Looking at the opportunity, private travel agents has also jacked-up the fare. We decided to travel by ordinary bus and booked for the same. The driver was rash, reckless, careless - but it (+route) did two things - 1. Gave nausea to some & 2. Gave joyride to others. All (who were not sleeping because of nausea medication) were wide awake and result was captured in following picture on the next morning in Manali hotel. 

The driver was so heedless that not only he took on the small vehicles, he also gave a tough time to trucks, while he was on road. We all were hoping that once the driver changes in Mandi ride will be smoother, but latter found out that all HPRTC drivers are from the same mould and even people in leh-indus valley are afraid to travel in those buses and wait for alternative.

Manali, as many other hill-station is a small sleepy town which was mainly a pilgrimage site in old India was rediscovered as a hill-station by British in late 19th century. Long ago the sage Manu, the divine law writer in Hindu mythology, found a fish who asked him to build a huge ship to save the world from the terrible flood that would drown the land. Manu did so and when the water receded, the place he landed was today's Manali. The life started from this place. Therefore the place was known as Manvalaya that is the abode of Manu or Manuwali meaning Manu's. But it was only in the 1970s that the government realized its potential as growing tourist destination. That gave rise to the new town of Manali, which was linked with the old by a bridge. Today Manali has become a hot tourist destination - all round a year. And there comes a peril of modern Indian tourist destination. Though the views of Himalayan peaks and river Beas flowing through nook & corner of the town are pleasing, the sight of litter spread by people (both local and tourist) is disturbing throughout the small lanes of town and market. 

The first task in Manali was to finalize the bikes and we started waking-up the people whose number we've got from internet. We draw blank from all those sources. The couple which had reached earlier had done some local searching and spoke about Iceberg Travels (+91-9817131655). We reached their office which is just across the bridge on Beas river and spoke to Mr. Ram & Mr Tenzin. The bikes were good (4 new bikes - less than a month, without number) and 2 others were also less than 5k kms. The rent was about 20% on higher side  - Rs 1300/- per day as against advertised on the net by many others, but the bike condition was excellent and since they were new, we don't have to go for mechanic and too many spares. The money was paid (security + rent for the full period) and we're promised that bikes will be ready in the evening. We're now ready to explore Manali.

We shopped for items like gloves, fuel cans, shoes (gum-boots) and gunny bags to cover our sacks while on bike. Gum boots, gunny bags & bungee cords are the three things that what we call पैसा वसूल. No other shoe could have survived the hostile conditions and kept out feet dry at the same time. 

After a good lunch at 'Manali Sweets & Restaurant' we walked to Hidimba temple. Its looks like a very fragile structure made out of wood situated amidst the huge & enormous Deodars and is standing for more than five centuries. 


We doubled back to Ice-berg travels office to pick-up the bikes only to learn than just 2 bikes were ready and remaining 4 are still in the workshop. We had to wait more than three hours before getting all the bikes ready to take on the 'pile of dead corps' (a.k.a. Rohtang Pass) next day. Apart from this delay on the first day, the bikes did not stop us at any point. Even while returning the bikes on last day, Ice-Berg travels did not make any fuss about the minor damages, wear & tear and returned the security deposit without any fuss. The bikes performed as desired had no problem what-so-ever in the ENTIRE trip (except in one bike developed minor oil seal related issue and we had to top-up the oil). So do I recommend this travel agent - by all means !

Our plan for next day - Tuesday  - was to reach Jispa or atleast Keylong. But on Tuesdays Rohtang La is closed for the road maintenance. We decided to leave in the wee hours and reach Madhi (base station for Rohtang) before they close. We had a non-descript dinner before shown door by three restaurent as it was quite late (2300hrs) and had a short sleep before getting-up at 0400hrs ! Here we go ......

Some more pictures in Manali - 


* to 'one of us' - I'm hoping for suitable compensation in return of this discretion ;)

1 comment:

arvindswamy said...

I read this post fully concerning the difference of latest and former stuff, it is awesome article.

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