Day 11-This day saw one of our longest road journies of the trip. Being in Rampur, we were back into the world of good roads and lot of people. All these days in the lonely mountains and plains made us feel like we were away from civilization for too long. Rampur is in Shimla district and hence the good condition of roads. The MPs and ministers turn a blind eye to the interiors as they pour all the money to the places close to the capital. Our journey started with a big setback as we had to retrace 60 kms because of a blocked road. And to make up for the lost time, Manoj bhai was at his speediest best. And the vehicle did show some problems for the first time. As he opened the bonnet and fixed it up, 2 mechanical engineers stood there with wide open mouths, thinking what the hell each part is. Lunch was at a lonely hotel in a misty place. At 1pm in the afternoon, the place looked like the sun hasn't risen yet.
And after a rollercoaster ride, during which I almost screamed out in terror seeing the speedometer, we reached Kullu in the evening. But we didn't stop. Our destination for the day was Manikaran, famous for its hot spring and the Gurudwara. On the way, we passed very near to the Malana village. Its a village known all over the world for producing the best hashish called Malana cream. But, more than that this village is significant because they live by their own rules. They have a democratic structure which is older than most countries. And they are fiercely protective of their lifestyle and culture. They see Malana as a country and the Indian Govt's rules don't work there. Outsiders might find it hard to adjust to their rules and going there without proper guidance can put you in danger too. Manoj Bhai told us that they thwart the police who comes to raid the drug cultivations here by rolling down big rocks from uphill. It takes more than a day to trek to this village. Having missed it this time, we are sure to return to trek to Malana. Another interesting place on the way is Kasaul, a place so filled up with Israelis that you might doubt if this is in India itself. Even the boards of the shops are in Hebrew. The young Israelis come here after the compulsory military training and have a good time in the hills. At night, we had a great time with Manoj Bhai and his driver friends at Manikaran.
Day 12-The day started with a dash of spirituality as we took a dip in the hot water spring near Manikaran gurudwara. The water from the original spring was re routed to a big pool near the Gurudwara. This was followed by a visit to the Gurudwara, situated at the other side of the river Parvati, which was flowing with all might. The Guru Granth Sahib was being read by a group of old men inside the main shrine. Manikaran is a holy place for the Sikhs as it is believed that Guru Nanak himself visited this places. Whole families packed in lorries were seen as was bikers proudly displaying the Sikh flag. Through a pathway in the Gurudwara, we can reach the Siva temple. Parts of the temple stand on the natural hot spring and you can feel the immense heat on the floor. Here, the main ritual is the cooking of rice in natural hot water. Rice is tied up in clothes and put into the spring and it cooks faster than any pressure cooker. The rice is given as prasadam. We visited another Siva temple in Kulu, this one carved out of rocks. The temple has a big feeding hall at the bottom where anyone can have lunch for free. We had a simple yet tasty lunch, sitting along with swamis who been travelling the length and breadth of the country.
Manikaran at morning. At the bottom, you can see the natual hot spring being re routed into a pool. The gurudwara can be reached by crossing the river.
a swamiji we met at the Kullu siva temple. Forgot his name. He said he keeps on travelling and has seen most parts of India.
Now, we were on our way back to Manali, but the adventure wasn't over yet. We had our first experience of rafting in Kullu. As the life jacket was worn and the boat started moving, I was scared a bit thinking of how terrifying the experience is gonna be. But then, as we went down stream moving up and down with the waves and getting splashed all over, I realised this was one of the best experiences ever. And Sanju Bhai, our driver Manoj's friend followed us through the road and clicked as we rafted along merrily. Though it was 5 Kms of rafting, it was a blink and miss experience. And one worth every millisecond of it. Next was the experience of watching river beas rushing just below you from a wooden trolley controlled by ropes. This is used by the people here to cross the river and to transport goods from one side of the river to the other. Sitting huddled up inside that small box and stopping just above the middle of the river is an exhilarating experience. We also stopped by at the shawl making centres of Kullu. Kullu is famous for its shawls and it was nice to see the intricate process of weaving. They sell the produce at their own textile on the top floor. There are a number of similar shops in Kullu. This shop was special because I saw some of the most beautiful girls ever to work in a textile. I had a hard time selecting shawls as my eyes were out of control. I still haven't forgotten those faces.
And this is what weary travellers do after a long road trip...rest at Hotel surabhi just below the world peace cafe, gazing at the mighty mountains..
And atlast, the road trip had come full circle by the evening of Day 12, when we reached Manali. After 9 days on the road, one awesome driver, mountains, rivers, snow, monasteries and encounter with inetersting people later, we were poorer by many rupees, but richer by experience. And I wouldn't trade anything for this. But, we were not done yet...!
your crusader Praveen
your crusader Praveen