Aaaaannnd I'm back! For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, I was away on a break for the last five days. And by a break, I mean a vacation. And by a vacation I mean an actual vacation and not like the break that went wrong last time. I've been overworked since the past few months. But I clearly suck at taking breaks. The last time we took a holiday was in May last year. We have been so happy at out own place that we did not feel the need for a vacation then. But wanderlust struck again and we decided it was time to do something about it. We went and came back. After spending five days in temperatures under sub zero, Bangalore welcomed us with its blistering heat. I can't believe what has happened to Bangalore these days. Winter lasted for exactly two days and then boom! The scorching sun is back with all its prickliness. I miss the good old Bangalore at times and yet there is no other place in the world where I would want to stay. Bangalore was and will be my home for life.
Cal and I have never seen snow in our life, so we decided it was about time to strike that off our bucket list. We planned an almost impromptu trip to Shimla and Manali. Immediately tickets were booked and an itinerary was drawn up. A week later, we were on a flight to Chandigarh. We had a customized trip planned out for us exactly the way we wanted and hence we had a driver waiting for us at the Chandigarh airport. I was surprised when I walked into their airport. There was hardly anyone there. Apparently it is a new airport and still a lot of services are yet to come in. We drove to Manali from Chandigarh. Chandigarh city is absolutely beautiful. It is very well planned with wide roads and disciplined traffic. The helmet rule for pillion riders is implemented so well that every one I saw riding pillion was wearing a helmet! The traffic rules are stringent and people follow it to the tee. The air is clear and chilly. The city welcomes you with open arms and that was the best start to a vacation.
The drive to Manali was picturesque to say the least. The temperature was around 5 degrees when we began and kept falling rapidly. By the time we reached Manali, it was night and the temperature was -3 degrees. My teeth were chattering and I was smiling looking at the snow clad mountains around me. Our resort was on an elevated spot and the view from there was splendid. Wrapping ourselves in two layers of winter clothes, we hit the bed and slept off almost immediately. We woke up to dewy windows and scenic beauty. The snowfall was less this year and occurred only at a few spots. Apparently the whole city of Manali will be covered with snow during this season, but this year God decided otherwise. We traveled to a few spots where there was quite an amount of snow and enjoyed ourselves.
Gulaba snow point was covered with snow and we tried out hands at skiing. It was disastrous but we did have a wonderful time. They gave us an entire costume to don, that looked like we were going to the moon. Boots, jumpsuit, gloves included. We even tried on the local Himachal attire and looked funny in it. In the middle of the snow clad area, there was a guy preparing maggi and tea. The best maggi that I have ever eaten all my life was here. The feeling of eating piping hot food while being surrounded by snow was something else altogether. Next, we went to Solang valley. This spot had more snow when compared to Gulaba. The scene here was straight out of a movie and was magical.
At the peak of a mountain here was a Lord Shiva statue that was naturally formed out of snow. And you had to get there barefoot. Yes, on the snow! Among the thousands of people present there, only around twenty people dared to do it. And guess what, Cal and I did it too. Barefoot on the snow, walking up quite a few steps. For me it was not about being religious and praying to God, it was the walk up there that excited me. It was painful to say the least. My feet were completely frozen after a few steps and I couldn't feet my fingers at all. Yet, we kept going. The snow was slippery and for every step we took, we came back five steps.
Finally after a while, we were standing at the peak with the Shiva statue. Ah what a feat that was, walking on bare feet. But then it is not only about going up, it is also about coming down. Climbing down steps is normally easy. But not when it is covered with slippery snow. We slipped, fell and got up a hundred times. But we never stopped. When we got back to the spot where we had left our shoes and looked up at the peak we felt so thrilled! We had done it! The fact that we couldn't feel our feet for the next 48 hours is something else altogether. The shooting pain that comes with it is inexplicable, but when I look back at what I did I know that it was worth it!
To be continued.