Don’t go looking for it (mysticism) in the buzzing town of Manali.
It is hidden in that snow capped mountain, that old temple which has become a tourist destination, you can even find it hiding in the hands of the painter who is painting key chains for the honeymoon couple; you can find what the mighty mountains do to you as you see the Beas gurgling past you.
Living in Delhi I could never gather enough courage to take the road trip to Manali considering that it would take around 12 hours or may be more on the road. But after years of road travels with the husband and kids things have changed and we decided to visit Manali with friends from Delhi. In fact, that is what we joke about this trip of ours; that we never explored Manali while we were in Delhi and now when we are based in Hyderabad we decided to visit.
But it happens all in good time. Sometimes the destination chooses you and not the vice versa.
We had planned the visit in April which is still the off season in Manali and booked a tempo traveler for ourselves. We were four adults and three children in all and the distance was humongous so we wanted a comfortable ride for all of us. We started our ride about 12 in the night.
Travelling with family and friends, this was one of the many trips we had done with Devesh, Smita and their son Divyansh fondly called Vishu; we can also call them the Nigams. With them around trips are more fun and laughter abound for us and the kids too. So we were all settled in our luxury abode for the night; the seats of the tempo were covered in leather and could recline and our favorite playlist playing we dozed off in anticipation of the trip which had just begun.
We hadn’t booked any place for ourselves in advance because it being off season we thought we would rather check the place out ourselves and book according to our travel plans in Manali. And it worked well for us.
The distance is definitely quite something when travelling from Delhi to Manali and it took us more than 15 hours to reach Manali but our campsite for the night was another 15 kms from Manali and we reached our first destination – Himalayan Footloose Camp near Sethan Village after 8 in the night.
These camps have just opened this season and are perfect for budget travelers. We were too tired so we just had hot Maggi, tea and fresh and home like dinner and just slipped in to our tents. This campsite is at a height of 2700 meters above sea level and is at a restricted area just like Rohtang Pass so you need to obtain permission from SDM office in Manali to visit this place, however Devesh Joshi owner of the camps helped us with that. Though the curves and cuts on the way up from the check point you would have to manage on your own and it will really test your driving skills so be prepared.
We woke up to gorgeous views of the entire valley in front of us spread like a carpet and our tents amidst apple orchards which were yet to bloom.
After soaking in the views and gorging on hot Indian breakfast with lots of hot chai (tea) we decided to hit the town of Manali which is about 15 km from the camp.
We invested some time in ground research and we zeroed in on a new property – Ra hotels The Himalayan Paradise just a few km off the Mall Road. It’s a newly built hotel with view of the Beas on one side and mighty snow capped mountains on the other side with ample parking space. What struck me the most was the beautiful lawn which is right at the entrance of the hotel where you could just sit, relax and sip your tea with your favorite book.
Some time after settling in and having a sumptuous meal at the hotel we went for a stroll to the Mall road and shopped some souvenirs – the typical touristy stuff but its fun nonetheless.
For dinner we headed to Chopsticks on the Mall Road and if you love Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese cuisine then you can’t afford to miss this.
We knew Rohtang Pass was still not open for public so we headed to Solang Valley for day 2 of our trip.
Solang Valley was full of tourists and we really could have totally avoided it but then for first timers it is ok to be indulging in adventure sports this place has to offer specially if you are travelling with kids.
This place was buzzing and everyone was adrenaline struck it seemed. You could opt for the usual activities like zip line, river crossing and horse riding or if you are the adventurous kind then you have the options of tube sliding on the snow, ATV ride to and fro the top of the mountains where all these activities are organised and yak ride. All of us did almost everything (I was happy clicking the yak with other riders of the team) and it was fun.
You can also do paragliding in Solang Valley but in our case we had plans for Bir Billing – the highest place in Asia for paragliding.
On our way back to the hotel we visited the famous Hadimba temple. It really doesn’t matter where and in what form you are born if you are good, good comes to you, perhaps we mortals can learn at least this much from a visit to this temple dedicated to Hadimba – a demon who is worshiped like a Goddess.
Life is just your reflection. Lessons learnt on the way.
Day 3 and 4
After a lazy breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed for another long drive to Bir Billing but, not before another round of shopping and a meal at the famous German Bakery. We ordered what we fancied and every thing was fresh and tasty but beyond that was just two things- grilled trout and the Bhagsu cake. These are a must try if you are dining here.
It takes about 7 hours from Manali to Bir Billing but I strongly recommend this place if you want to enjoy paragliding and if you have time don’t miss this place. You could also go to Mcleodganj from Bir Billing. We however had plans to get back to Delhi from Bir Billing after paying a visit to Baijnath Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is considered to be one of the 12 jyotirlingas.
We booked Tatva Bir Resorts and Tents from Manali and were super happy with the place. (Read more about our visit to Bir Billing here (blog post coming up soon)).
As we reached Tatva Bir around dinner time we checked into our Swiss tents and quickly had our dinner with some bonfire and some music; we could only think of paragliding which was booked for the next day.
It was morning and we woke up to an overcast sky and were booked for the first slot of paragliding. Having reached the flying spot in Billing we were tagged with one of the pilots and then the next 15 minutes all of us just became one with the sky and the wind and were carefree just like that bird in the sky and knew in reality what a bird’s eye view actually is. It was just like a page from a fairy tale, it was so much fun and watching the kids fly away with their giggles was priceless.
Ah! Life you are so sweet and so bitter at times. Can anyone say I have had enough of this life? I am thinking as it is time for me to land and put my feet on the ground again, literally.
Tips for Family Travel:
- Camps can be for young kids in the family but not small children.
- Try and avoid the peak season in the mountains.
- Solang Valley is avoidable.
- Try food at Chopsticks at the mall
- Grilled Trout Fish at The German bakery is not be missed.
- A visit to Van Vihar National Park is a must. Go there for some carefree time amidst tall Deodar trees. Kids too would enjoy the park as there is paddle boat, swings and lots of space to run around. Entry is only INR 20/