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DAY 2 : 3rd June, 2019 – 5:20 AM:

As I pulled open the drapes of our hotel balcony window, I gasped with awe, standing tall was the breath-taking view of the majestic mountains and the valley of  Himachal Pradesh’s beautiful Manali.   I stood there soaking in the sight, and reached back to wake up the boys (herein referred are my 10-year-old son #Jeehan and dear husband #Dinesh) who were sleeping peacefully under the quilt – a rarity for Mumbaikars, but I didn’t want them to miss this beautiful scene.  A little later, the boys joined me to take in the beautiful sight – the pleasant breeze, the flower pastures, the colorful hamlets strewn across the valley added to the magical charm.  So this is what heaven feels like – I thought aloud!  A feeling of inexplicable joy surged through me, feeling overwhelmed to witness mother nature at her best.

I realized my love for nature and travel is pretty intense, coming from an urbane city like Mumbai, I’ve traveled around the world, but right here before me stood a place which can easily match any foreign location in the world. It is true, every year, Manali and its surrounding hill-stations lure scores of people from all across India to travel here, trying to escape the unbearable soaring temperatures of the plains during peak summer months of April to June. This year, I am told the tourist season will last until July too – because the heavy snowfall during the winter that went by will keep the valley well-endowed with snow for some more time.

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This is also the time when Himachal State Tourism organizes various festivals to provide a deeper insight into the state’s cultures and tradition.   The Tourism board hosts several fairs offering great deals on its local handicrafts and handlooms.

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We have been aspiring to get here for past 3 years now before we made it happen, a spontaneous decision thanks to the great assistance we received from the Himachal Tourism Board and our travel partner Balwant Travels, who assisted us in making this a reality.

We started our journey from Chandigarh, where Abhineesh Chauhan, a young entrepreneur who runs his own travel firm was to accompany us on our journey for the next few days winding up at Amritsar at the end of the tour.    Best and most popular route to reach Manali is from Chandigarh, people do opt for Delhi to start their journey, however, we started our journey from Chandigarh heading into Himachal and beyond.

We got to spend a pleasant evening in Chandigarh, which is popularly referred to as ‘City Beautiful’ due to the city’s meticulous layout and its clean and green surroundings.  The city was planned by the french architect,  Le Corbusier which gives the place a very European feel with its layout. Post a sumptuous breakfast at our hotel in Chandigarh, we check out and sat back to enjoy the drive through the long and scenic journey to Manali via Kullu with a  few designated halts to enjoy the picturesque locales.  Being avid food lovers especially the North Indian varieties, we were eagerly looking forward to the gastronomical journey.

On the way, Abhineesh pointed out several spots, he and husband had a great time bonding and indulging in discussions on the political scenario, the latest cars doing the rounds, newsmakers, movies and more.  So with our journey filled with the beautiful passing scenario and some sing-a-longs, we climbed up slow and steadily towards our destination.

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We had earmarked ‘ Water Rafting’ on the top of our Bucket List for the tour and were eagerly looking forward to the same.  As we drove on, we noticed several adventure groups offering the services, however,  Abhineesh had made all the arrangements and we waited eagerly to get going. Besides water rafting, we noticed several other popular sports include Paragliding and Zip Line crossing on offer along the roadside, best to go to an authorized and certified group before you randomly select a desk for the same.

Just as the sun was to set,  we reached a spot before Manali where Abhineesh had lined up the Water Rafting activity for us.  This particular group of boys immediately warmed up to our banter and after some bombaiya bargaining, we signed up for the activity.  Jeehan looked more eager, while I was super nervous, but wouldn’t dare show it. So strapped with our safety gear, we headed to the rocky banks to board the ride.  After a few terse instructions shouted out to us and with constant assurance to remain calm in all situations, we started off…

Jeehan cheered as we rode, however, me and Dinesh were placed smack in the front and were told to remain steady and calm and assist in the movement of the raft, which I’m not sure how I fared – but I guess since we did not tip over, we must have done it right or the Gods must have decided to ease up on us.  My first encounter with the icy cold wave was an entirely different story – shaken and stirred, I was all set to give up, but here the operative word remains calm – difficult to adhere, especially as the water gets aggressive at spots, but then that’s the adventure!  Up and down the tumultuous river, we rafted a neat 7-mile before we reached the other end of the rocky banks, drenched to the core and shivering (a stark contrast to the sweltering heat in Mumbai).   Offering a  silent prayer to God for the uneventful yet very exciting ride – I joined the shouts of cheers by my fellow riders!

Happy that we have one more thing off our bucket list, some garam chai and pipping hot Maggie noodles later, we drove on towards Manali.

Incidentally, the cost of each ride differs as per the number of people – whether you sharing it or going exclusive, I’d say average Rs.1500/per person with an additional Rs.1000/for the photography/videography. It was indeed a must to do when u visiting Manali.

As we entered the checkpoint, we couldn’t help but notice the overcrowded set of people in the cars and on the street – looking so happy and cheerful that it is instantly pepped us up.

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It was already nightfall before we checked into our hotel and post a shower and a lovely dinner, we settled for the night.  The view of the twinkling valley can also be described as beautiful, but nothing to beat the break of the dawn on the snow-capped mountain that we woke up to the next morning.

Eager to get going to the most anticipated Rohtang Pass, we nodded off to sleep.  I know the fun and the journey had just begun….

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Thank you for taking time to read this blog, #TravelWithThe Bajaj features the travel experiences of the Bajaj family comprising of 10 year old Jeehan, The Blogger mommy Savvy and papa #Dhanesh Bajaj.  While we embarked on this long scheduled journey in a spontaneous and impulsive run, we would like to thank a few of the associates, friends and sponsors :  Balwant Holidays #AbhineeshChauhan

#SanjuBabaRohtang #Kuldeep paji #SanjeevSharma #VermaFamily #Thakkar and last but not the least #DeepakAsnani for making this tour such a memorable one.

If you wish to collaborate/work with us then reach us at lifestylesofmumbai@gmail.com.  We’d love to hear from you through your comments and would be delighted if you could share this post with your friends on social media.

 

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