Four women put their work, books, worries and their monotonous routines aside to take a trip which would go down as a high point in memory lane. My cousin, who was visiting from Australia, was hell-bent on visiting Shimla and Manali and I was more than happy to cajole her sister and my mother into consenting.
The drive begins
After a lot of watch-synchronisation and mutual wake-up calls, it was a happy family reunion at the Delhi airport. Our driver Jugraj was, at first sight, an angry young Sunny Deol stereotype but he became family over the next few days. We made a quick-stop at Haldirams and gulped down a heavy lunch and ere long were zipping through the Haryana highway. Occasionally we'd pass tanks and tractors and squeal at a chubby kid drinking lassi. fter a seven-hour drive we reached our quaint hotel situated at the foot of a hill. As soon as we stepped out of our temperature-controlled car, the precautionary sweaters casually slung across our shoulders became very necessary and we rushed into the warmth of the heaters in our rooms.
It was Holi the next day and, having no intention of getting soaked with well-intentioned pichkaarisandgubbaras, we spent a languid morning in our rooms. By noon we reached Jakhoo temple where the resident mob of monkeys authoritatively slid their hands into our pockets checking for prasad. At Mahasu peak in Kufri we were bandits replete with a rifle on a yak, natives in the local attire and gluttons at the food stalls.
On my earlier trips I'd picnicked at Glen, gaped at the Shimla golf course from afar while secretly resolving to spend my retirement money on the membership and posed for many a picture at the sprawling Viceregal Lodge; all of which are must-sees. The Mall Road, which dates back to the Colonial era, is an uninterrupted row of shops selling both local and branded goods, cafes, bookstores and emporiums and is perhaps the most scenic commercial stretch in the country.
The drive from Shimla to Manali was punctuated with many stops, thanks to the winding roads that made me queasy. These winding roads were flanked by cherry and apple trees, statuesque cedars, private farms with glasshouses and other picturesque flora.
By the time we reached , I was very sick and mother put me to bed thinking she'd have to ship me out the next morning. The pervasive smell of pain balm woke me before the rest. I drew the curtain blinds groggily to peer at a snow-capped mountain and my pain flew out of the window. After a delicious breakfast, which I was kindly prevented from eating and thoughtfully fed some plain bread slices, we were on our way to greet the snow. At the rental store, all my hopes of a fashionable ski-outfit were dashed. I was lucky to find a clean one. We went, which offered more of a street-lamp's point of view than a bird's eye view of the valley and my mother quite sportingly took the plunge as well.
After paragliding we proceeded to ski, as everybody knows it looks infinitely more easy than it is. I crossed skis more than once with some annoyed honeymooners and could glide barely two feet before I came to a stubborn stop. We finished the day with the mandatory snowball fight. All roads that lead to Rohtang Pass were blocked by snow but our driver tried to make up for it by taking us to the “Jab We Met” lodge and pointing out shooting locations of ‘Hero-Love Story of a Spy' and other films we'd never seen to cheer us up.
The Vasisht hot water springs, Tibetan monasteries and the Hidimba temple are spots you should include in your itinerary. It was snowing the day we left Manali and we were torn between leaving the picturesque hill station and getting out of the sub-zero temperature to an endurable climate. The mountains are lovely, dark and steep but we have jobs to keep and pockets not adequately deep. If I could (and I can) I would (and I will) do it all over again.
Checklist: Moisturiser, sunscreen, sunglasses, thermal innerwear, woollens, gloves, waterproof sneakers, precautionary tablets for car sickness.
If you feel carsick, distract yourself with banter. Don't try to sleep it off, it only gets worse. Eat half of what you normally do to prevent nausea and sluggishness.
It's a lot of fun to be unabashedly touristy. Take pictures in native costumes, try all the snow sports, pose with motley rabbits and yaks.
Try the Maggi at the ubiquitous Afghan stalls, it's out of this altitude.
Shilpa is a Vth Year, M.Sc. Electronic Media student at Anna University.