The visit to Kulu, Manali and Kelong with my family took place during the period June 21 to June 30, 2009. The visit was not certain for different reasons till the last day. Of course, train & hotel reservations were done about a month ago before the journey. As we did our reservation quite late, we could not find the best possible connections. Thus we had to manage with quite a bit of inconvenience.
On June 21st morning, we reached New Delhi Station and we found the train waiting for us. The Kalka Satabdi is an air-conditioned train takes about 4 hours to reach Kalka. It provided tea, breakfast, juice etc with newspaper and packaged water. The journey was very nice. The trouble started as soon as we alighted at Kalka station. It was quite hot at Kalka not because of its own temperature but because we came out of the air-conditioned coach. The Himalayan queen, the name definitely conjures up in our mind of a beautiful train but not worth its name. It has more number of seats in a small area unlike the Shivalik express which has more leg room and enough space. The seats are also very cozy in Shivalik express. The Himalayan Queen also took quite a while to reach Shimla. On the way we also came across a forest fire that added to our discomfiture. The fire came even on the railway track and we had to wait about half an hour before the train restarted.
This time we had a booking at Youth Hostel at Lakkar Bazar. The taxi we took charged about Rs. 150 to reach the Hostel. The approach road to the hostel is a dirty one and the staff, I found, was not enthusiastic of the incoming guests. In addition to this, there were a number of monkeys literally hanging around and any eatables they see are in danger of being snatched by them, especially bananas. The super deluxe room was a nice one and the 21st June night had a little chill in the air. For us Shimla was only a stopover for the night. However we had a good night's sleep except that I once fell from the cot suddenly just because three persons sleeping on a double bed was little dicey.
Next morning we settled the bill with the hostel people and we took a cab from outside and reached the Bus stand from where Buses for Manali start. We planned to get the HPTDC bus but it was full so we had to take a private bus going to Manali. Our next destination was Kulu, 40 kms. before Manali. On the way our bus got into a small accident and that delayed our journey by 2 hours. Inside the bus most of the passengers were couples going to Manali to have their honeymoon. We had to put up with their new found love bites. We reached Kulu around 5.30 p.m. and the conductor dropped us just in front of the HPTDC hotel. I liked it instantaneously. It has a sprawling lawn area with flowers around and very quiet. As we had our prior booking, we were allotted a nice big bedroom and a sitting room with a TV. All arrangements seemed perfect. We had a cup of tea and sat outside in the garden looking at the gigantic hills around. Although the Bias river flows very nearby but except a little bit of sound of the flowing water, it is not visible from this Hotel. But never the less we enjoyed our evening quietly. The dinner was good and we went to bed by 10.30 p.m.
Next day morning (June 22, 2009) we spoke to the manager for arranging a car. We wanted to visit Manikaran which is about 40 km. from Kulu. Manikaran is famous for hot water spring and a Gurdawara where Guru Nanak stayed during his sojourn there. The hotel 'Silver Moon' where we stayed for the night is a nice place away from market area with a lot of greens and open space. People who love nature can stay here for a few days.
Next day we got ready by 8 a.m. and had our breakfast before going to Manikaran. The road to Manikaran is very good with Parvati River flowing along the way. The greenery all along kept our mind green. The last Stretch of about 4 kms. is very bad but the road almost runs parallel to the Parvati river and that is the most enjoyable part of this road. We reached Manikaran around 12.30 p.m. and crossed over a bridge to the Gurdawara. Here the river makes a deafening sound while flowing under the bridge. You can see from the bridge one of the hot springs where people were taking bath. As we entered the Gurdawara we found it so crowded with people mostly Sikhs. There were many square areas where one can see the hot water boiling and people are getting small packets of rice cooked. There were also a few rooms that are very warm. It is said people with rheumatic problem can derive comfort by taking bath in the hot spring and sit in the warm room. For this purpose a Kund has been made where the water is little more than body temperature. I visited the Gurdwara on the first floor and had Prasad at the Lungar. There is a small market and a Rama temple nearby. While we were returning to Kulu, the driver proposed that we should visit a Shawl manufacturing unit which we did. It was nice to see how sweaters, shawls, jackets are being made. As per our program we wanted to be dropped at the Kulu bus stand but our daughter said it was nice if we could take the car till Manali. Her mother also supported and thus we had to pay Rs. 600/- extra for dropping us at Manali. The road from Kulu to Manali is most wonderful one. The beas river flows almost parallel to the highway and see a lot of green on both sides of the hills. We also saw a number of young students enjoying rafting and canoeing on the Beas river. We also came across a few tents put up for the stay of such participants. Simply you see a lot of activities along the river.
We reached Manali and found our Hotel Beas, run by HPTDC just on the bank of the Beas river. We could see the river from the balcony and even from the room how forcefully it was flowing. We settled down in our room and had a cup of tea sitting on the hanging balcony. Although Manali has lost some of its old charm, still it is one of the best hill stations in Himachal because of its proximity to Rotang Pass, Naggar, Manikaran and easy visibility of the Himalayan Icy peaks round the year. Manali is no more that quite, serene hill station instead it has become a busy tourist centre round the year. The large number of vehicles and people clogging every street of Manali is a serious challenge to the environment scientists. It is high time that a policy is formulated to control this onslaught on nature. In the evening we just went for a small walk and dinner. The hotel's dinning hall is across the road near the market and is in a very noisy place. We missed much of the quietness of Kulu and we longed for it.
Next day on 24th June, 2009 we planned to visit Hidimba and Manu Temple. After breakfast we took an auto and visited the Hidimba temple. This location of the temple is at a height and surrounded by tall Deodaru trees and it quite a quiet place when we arrived. But it became crowded very soon. There were many small shops doing brisk business. This temple still continues with animal sacrifice.
From the Hidimba temple we went to Manu Temple, only one of its kind in India. Manu is one of the lineage that gave 'the code of conduct' on how human beings should conduct in respect of relations, society and God. There are many controversial sayings in this book which cannot be accepted now. But in any case the genius of Manu cannot be disputed keeping in view the period of his times. This temple is a renovated one over the old. Not many people visit this temple and it is neither located in a nice spot. The modern thinkers do not give much importance to Manu's writings sayings his thoughts are retrogressive in nature thus in a modern society these cannot be followed. On the way back we had our lunch in a hotel at Mall Road, and fixed a cab for next day to go to Jagat Sukh, Naggar and the waterfall.
We had a good rest after lunch and after having a cup of tea, took the riverside path. We could take a number of snaps along the Vyas river. We also came across a park where children were riding on play-boats. While coming back to our hotel we had to take the busy road and it was really painful how this beautiful hill station is over crowed with vehicles and roads are packed like Delhi roads. At about 8.30 p.m. we had our dinner and went to bed early for next day morning we were to go to Naggar.
Just after breakfast we got ready for the drive to Jagatsukh. This is a quiet village on the way to Naggar, about 6 k.m. from Manali. Jagatsukh has two temples, one dedicated to Shiva and the other to Raj Rajeshwari. These two temples are supposed to be 5000 years old and the priest is a woman! For the first time I saw a woman priest in a temple. There is a coeducational school adjacent to it. This place is also a point for going to Chandratal Trek. From Jagatsukh we drove to Naggar. The most interesting landmark of this place is the Nicholas Roerich's painting exhibition and museum. Roerich married the then film actress Devika Rani whose portrait was also painted by him. Most of the paintings displayed and are on sale depicting the Himalayan Panorama and other natural scene. The museum is also worth visiting. The next landmark at Naggar is a castle now converted into a hotel by Himachal Tourism Development Corp. The location of this castle is on the edge of a hill and one can see the breathtaking landscape of Naggar and the river Vyas flowing and the mountain range at a distance. There is a small hill view exhibition in this castle. The most attractive part of this castle is that you can sit on the hanging verandah and watch the landscape while having your breakfast or lunch. One can stay in this hotel and enjoy the nature. (to be completed)