If Simla is referred to as the The Queen of Hills, Manali should be the king. Set on the Beas River, a perfect getaway for skiing in the Solang Valley and trekking in Parvati Valley, a jumping-off point for paragliding, rafting and mountaineering in the Pir Panjal mountains, home to highest peaks in Himalaya like Shirgun Tungu peak, Rohtang Pass and innumerous travel possibilities that Manali offers to people of all age groups, deservedly makes it the King.
Manali is much more than a place you would visit as a tourist. It is a place to feel and soak in the spirit of doing the things you always wanted to do. From savoring the delicious pahadi food, volunteering with NGOs or local monasteries, to enjoying extreme sports that surge the adrenaline through your veins and cherish the joy that closeness to nature brings. This Himalayan town is a perfect destination for all types of tourists.
The sleepy town of Old Manali brings you close to your inner self. If nothing, you’ll surely associate yourself with the brotherhood of enthusiastic Travelers.
It all started in October 2014 when I had decided to go for the ultimate Trekking Expedition in the Himalayan Ranges, The Shirgun Tungu trek. The experience of this trek was simply unreal. Perhaps it was the bold, yet serene, landscape or the unique experiences or maybe the wonderful people I met. Or most likely, it was a combination of everything. It was not only about having fun, it was not a cake walk for any of us, it was only for great team work and unbeatable desire, that we managed to reach the summit successfully.
Goal: To reach SHIRGUN TUNGU PEAK, located at 13,500 ft
Duration: 20 days (including travel time)
Things to carry: Hover sack, water bottles, torch, shoes are a must. Trekking equipment can be rented. Carrying energizers and energy dense food would be a plus. Tip: Keep your luggage bare minimum
Reaching there: I, with 2 other friends, took the Garibrath train from Bandra, Mumbai at around 9A.M. Arrived at Delhi railway station the next day at around 7.30PM and started immediately for the Bus journey from Delhi to Manali. At the crack of dawn, next morning, we set foot in Prini in Manali where our base camp was located.
Manali is one of those towns which make you fall in love with it at the very first sight. We were no exception.
At the base camp, we were welcomed with a wonderful filling breakfast.A guide gave us a bit of orientation, followed by allocation of trek equipments, instructions etc. We met other trekkers here. Had an introductory session. Who knew we would keep running into each other throughout the duration of the trek! That day we roamed the streets of Prini to get acclimatized to the weather.
Now onwards, the next 5 days would only consist of trekking, reaching campsites safely and nearing the final destination.
We headed towards our campsites with views of beautiful Manali valley, huge trees, dense forest, steep mountains.
Prini- Riyan- Negi Dug – Kurdi – Dahanu Dug - Bannad – Prini .
This was the route we took, Dahanu Dug being our camp site closest to the peak. Each campsite had its own beauty.
Riyan – Close to River . Negi Dug – A plateau.
Kurdi and Dahanu Dug – completely in snow. Bannad -In dense forest.
It was pleasing to wake up every morning amidst nature, witness the sun rise through a dense cluster of white snowy mountains as its golden rays slowly took over night or lose track of time while staring at the star filled sky at night.
It looked so beautiful, so surreal, that you could keep watching it and never get tired.
It being the month of October, the risks in the region were at their peak. In situations like this, it is always advised to set a routine and follow it religiously to avoid any mishaps. Ours involved waking up with morning tea, followed by breakfast, walk, reach campsite, have lunch, relax, some evening activity with snacks, wander around, dine and get back to tent by 8-9. Though at the last campsite we were done with the dinner by 7 PM!
The climb from Riyan to Negi Dug was the steepest of all climbs. Each one of us had given up at some or the other point in this patch. Motivation and teamwork were a great help.
This part can really put your determination to a test. Do not give up. The view from the top is worth all the efforts. Negi Dug is my personal favorite camp site. After all the efforts one takes to reach there, whose wouldn’t be?
But this is a favorite for one more reason. This was the campsite where a bear had turned up outside our tents in the middle of the night. I must admit we were scared to death then, but looking back, it was a lifetime experience! Thinking about it still sends chillsdown myspine.
Apart from walking, we also had to do River crossing, Net climbing, Flying fox, Rock climbing during the expedition. Climatic conditions made things tough occasionally. They were a pleasant adventure.
Climate in the North can be pretty unpredictable. Such a situation happened to come our way at Kurdi. It kept thundering the entire night at Kurdi camp, heavy hailstorm followed by mild snowfall. We predicted that the weather would clear out the next day giving us time to reach our next campsite. With determination we set off for the next halt but there! We were proved wrong! It started snowing when we were still climbing the slope. Needless to say, walking on snow was not easy. The challenges we faced here were uncalled for but we managed to reach Dahanu Dug safely. I wouldn’t call it an exciting experience but it was fun.
We spent rest of the day in our tent. Temperatures went as low as (-7) deg Celsius that night. Oh the chills! It was a tough night.
Next day was a perfectly normal one. We reached the summit point. The view from there is Breathtaking. That moment! The feels of reaching your goal, that sense of accomplishment makes you forget every pain you went through right from the start of the journey.
The descent was not at all easy given to the snowy path. Rather, that was the most difficult part, where in you have to keep control of your body and manage walking properly as there are good chances of getting knee injuries. We came down all healthy and in one piece, singing songs all the way down. We came back at the base camp. Not a day was gone and we started missing the entire journey already!
We spent the next 3 days in Manali. One can do a lot of things here like:
Take a stroll along the Mall Road.A tiny market bustling with people from all walks of life. A true manifestation of different colors of Indian culture absorbed in warmth of Mountains.
Old Manaliis just another name for food, dance, and music. Indulge in delicious organic food, talk to strangers, walk along the tiny rivulets that flow all along the length and breadth of Manali. Cherish the freedom!
Visit Hidimba Temple, which is at a 2km walk, and observe how Manali has still preserved its cultural heritage.
Help Locals. Take a souvenir back home, like a handcrafted shawl or a pahadi topi. These clothing items are made by various cooperative societies comprising mainly of women of Manali and near-by villages. What better way to empower women of the mountains! Manali has a magical charm associated not only with its weather but also its people. There is no match for Manali’s hospitality.
$$ Here’s what I learnt from my experience and which may help you to have an unforgettable experience. $$
Plan. Random is good, without any doubt. But a well planned journey will always keep you out of harm’s way. For instance, avoid walking down from Vashisth Hot Springs to Manali in the dark. That area is dimly lit. Weather at Manali changes as frequently as fashion in Mumbai. Be prepared foreverything.
Communicate Around Manali.Do not be afraid to head into the wilderness. At the same time,do not forget to communicate with local people around you or your family about your plans for the day.
Seek Local Input There are certain places and even villages too where women wearing western attire are not welcome. It may sound stupid, but that’s how it is. While in Manali, do as the Manalians’ do. Always seek local input before visiting a remote village.
I would wrap it up by mentioning that this Manali is certainly an at least once in a lifetime experience. I personally believe, everyone should try it out once “at least”.
Keep Learning! Keep Experiencing! Keep Traveling! Because to travel is to live. Has always been
This entry was submitted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest, Wanderlust in association with Mood Indigo, IIT-B. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Vinaya Patil