Thursday, July 19, 2007

To heaven and back

Well, if you are wondering where heaven is, it is right here on earth (atleast the heaven that I'm talking about is right here). To be more specific, it is located in Himachal Pradesh, India. The place I'm talking about is Kullu, otherwise known as the valley of the Gods. It sure does live up to its name...
It is a small town tucked away in the folds of the lower Himalays, apparently lost in time. The town of Manali is about thirty kilometres from Kullu (takes around two hours by road).



We (my team and I - six in all) started our journey from Gurgaon shortly after midnight on the 12th of July. We were jubiliant after completing a successful demo at work and were in the mood to celebrate. We hired a cab and set off to see this place that was so highly reccommended by anyone and everyone at work. To add to the excitement, google showed us tantalising images of mountains shrouded in mist and clouds rolling over cliffs. So off we went taking our winter clothing and a change of clothes. The journey took us longer than expected, twenty hours against the expected fourteen. The delay being caused due to bad roads, rain and our collective urge to stop everytime we got a photo opportunity... (the last being the major contributor).


We passed through Panipat and Chandigarh before entering Himachal Pradesh (HP). The leg of the journey through Punjab involved crossing the river Beas multiple times. However once we were in Himachal, the river became a constant companion, and the wide expressways of the plains gave way to the narrow, snaky, winding roads of the mountainside. We edged along savouring the sights that the mountains had to offer along the way, ranging from rock overhangs above the road to sections where the road hugged the sheer vertical rock face on one side and held the promise of a plunge into the icy waters of the Beas on the other.

The first phase of our journey ended at Manali, where we stayed for the night. We found decent rooms for Rs. 400 per room (thanks to the "off season", as they call it). The mall road was bustling with tourists till late in the night (well assuming that 11:00PM is way too late for a little town, hidden away in the mist). This made me wonder how the place would be during the "on season". Well to continue with the story of our journey - after making due enquiries about the weather and road conditions to go to Rohtang, we made ambitious plans of leaving Manali at five o' clock in the morning and heading off. The weariness of the twenty hour journey by road hadn't sunk in as yet, probably the chill in the air and the excitement kept the weariness away. However it decided to kick in as soon as I hit the bed...

I regained consciousness at 7:30 am. To cut a long story short (and leave out some uninteresting and routine bits in the process), we set off from Manali shortly after 9AM. The distance to Rohtang Pass (or Rohtang La as it is known locally) from Manali is roughly fifty kilometres. It took us four hours to cover that - reason: bad roads. Well it would be unfair if I blame the condition of the road entirely - we did muliple pit (read pic) stops. One of these happened to be forced upon us by the Border Roads Organization(BRO), we had no complaints though. The BRO was blasting a section of rock for widening the road, so as a safety measure they had blocked the road temporarily. A word of appreciation for the BRO is absolutely essential, taking into consideration how efficiently they clear landslides and keep the traffic flowing. The BRO was happily blasting rock away while we took a leisurely stroll outside the car. The air was cold and in a few minutes we were engulfed by a passing cloud...

Once we were at Rohtang, we took horses to carry us around. We poor humans were out of breath in the rarefied atmosphere at 13050 feet. There was some snow left from last winter, but not much. However the place offered an amazing view. The valley right below had a lake and the ground was carpeted with flowers...

I just need to close my eyes and I can sense the cold mountain air on my face... refreshing and relaxing.

5 comments:

Sac said...

Truly wonderful blog.. :)
As breathtaking a description as the actual place itself.
I wish it had been a longer article though and the ending could have been a lot better..

These are miniscule abberations in what is almost a flawless piece of work..

Please keep them coming..
Manali rock!!!! Truly...

Anonymous said...

how did u knw that it was heaven??

Vishnu said...

@anonymous
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder - in short, it need not be heaven to you.

itsme said...

Hi Vishnu..

HP is really an amazing place.
A great description.
I too had an amazing time there.

Arun..

Sachi said...

nice post da...