It was 12 a.m. on the 1st of May,when we reached Bhuntar. Our journey from Bir to Bhuntar was a quiet one,as Ankur,Geetu and I were asleep for a large part of it.I guess,the three of us were the most bummed out after the epic paragliding failure. 😛 On the other hand,Priya,Bharti and Harshada recovered from the stupor way more faster than us.In reality,Priya already had a hunch about the entire catastrophe(well,you do get that kind of experience after two failed attempts :P) and came back to the happy-go-lucky mode in double-time.I,on the other hand was almost dopey and would come back to my senses only when my head would hit the glass window. 😀
The road from Bir to Bhuntar was so curvy that it was a hard-won task to even sit straight for a minute.However,Ankur well accomplished the job,by not only sitting upright but also sleeping without a headrest throughout the journey(I believe,you are seldom left with a choice when you are sitting in between two girls whom you have met just two days back. And of course,lolling over them while you are asleep,is definitely not a good idea. 😛 ).
We made a stop in Mandi and had our dinner at Hotel Rajamahal Palace. The hotel is located in the heart of Mandi town,near Indira market.The palace was earlier a Royal Family residence and later converted into a hotel in 1982.If you are in Mandi,do make a stop for some comfort food and also check out the market nearby.After having our dinner,we headed straight to Bhuntar without making any further stop along the way, as it was quite late and we all were dead tired.
We checked into Hotel Amit in Bhuntar and as it was past midnight,even the receptionist didn’t bother to go through all the mandatory check-in procedures and simply handed over the keys.Now,you would think that after such a tiring and unfavorable day we would actually go to sleep,but we stayed awake till 2 in the night,playing cards and having fun conversations.Though the conversations did take a bizzare turn,when suddenly out of nowhere,Ankur and Geetu got into a silly fight and didn’t talk for the next 24 hours.If this seems like a serious happenstance,then let me clear out that the next morning the incident took a funny turnabout and till date we laugh at the memory of it. 😀
In the morning,we checked out of Amit at around 11 and made our way to Manikaran. Manikaran is located 35 km from Bhuntar and is famous for its hot boiling sulphur springs. It is also a pilgrimage area for both Hindus and Sikhs,which is located on the right bank of blustering Parvati river.Words cannot do justice to the beauty of the journey from Bhuntar to Manikaran. As we drove through the serpentine road along the Parvati river,the view on our left looked exactly like the landscape illustrations from our childhood paintings with gigantic lush green mountains and the bubbling river below it.While on the other side were the rocky mountains making our drive tricky.
We reached the ‘Gurdwara’ at 12.30 in the afternoon and headed straight for ‘darshan’.After offering our prayers,we went for the ‘langar’ served in the ‘Gurdwara’. The food here is cooked in the natural boiling hot water from the sacred spring and though simple,tastes heavenly.Afterwards,we visited the courtyard of the ‘Shiva’ temple where we could see many hot water springs.The water is so hot that it is difficult to stand barefoot on the temple grounds and hence wooden planks are kept for the devotees to move around.Here,you can buy small rice sacks and boil it in the spring water.You can see many such sacks tied around the hot spring’s opening and also large earthen pots are kept in which the ‘langar’ is cooked.
Behind the ‘Gurdwara’ is a bustling market,selling trinkets just like any other pilgrimage place.After strolling in the markets for sometime,we decided to head to our next destination,”Manali”.On our way back,we made a stop at the hippie village of Kasol to explore its markets and Israeli cafes.Though we were quite full after the ‘langar’,yet we couldn’t stop ourselves from gorging on some yummy cafe food and mocktails. Also,while you are in Kasol do check out the small shops selling colorful dream-catchers,jackets,trinkets etc and you might lay your hands on some unique stuff. 😉
After spending an hour or so in Kasol,we made a move to Manali. The drive from Kasol to Manali was again filled with our silly talks,laughter and some soothing songs from coke studio playing in the background. It was close to 7 in the evening by the time we checked into our hotel in Manali.
Hotel Chetna & Cottages had one of the most amazing views amongst all our stays in Himachal. We had the entire top floor of the hotel to ourselves as all the three rooms were booked by us.It was like having our own personal space, overlooking the pine-tree forests and the snow-capped Himalayan mountains.The rooms were utterly cozy providing us relief from the freezing temperature outside.
As it was already dark till the time we freshened up,we decided to hangout in the famous mall road market.We walked from our hotel to the mall road instead of driving and on our way stopped along the stalls for some window shopping.Though there are multiple options to shop but everything is quite overpriced and can easily be found elsewhere at a lesser price.
With time,the temperature started dropping further and it was getting extremely difficult to stay out with a single jacket covering us.But like every other group we had two insane people with us (Harshada and Ankur),who were adamant to try out the 7 in 1 flavoured ice-cream and even the bitter cold couldn’t dwindle their enthusiasm.:P After we all had our share of munching,we rushed back to our hotel(this time we took autos).Even though we were extremely tired but as usual after freshening up we settled for our round table conference of late night gossips and card games.
By 2 a.m. all of us were extremely drowsy and Geetu and Bharti finally gave up and called it a night,while Harshada,Priya,Ankur and I kept our conversations going till dawn and none of us had even the slightest hint of sleep in our eyes.That was one of the best tête-à-tête I had in a while and probably one of the finest piece of memories I gathered in the entire trip,something that I will reminiscence in the days to come. 🙂