Gentle moving and a bit of light coming through the bus windows woke me up. It was still dark outside, but the sun shyly started to show its first rays above the horizon, indicating that the dawn is close. I looked around the bus. Everyone was still asleep, stretched on the chairs, resting heads against the windows or hanging over the armrests. I’ve noticed that the road is not that easy and paved anymore. The bus was jumping on the stones, dust was coming from the wheels and there were cliffs on the sides of the road. Somewhere at the bottom you could see the water of the black river sparkling in the darkness. It was not the lowland anymore. We were getting closer and closer to the mighty Himalayas.
Around 12 hours ago we moved from hot and crowded Delhi into the dark Indian night, heading towards Manali – a little hill town located at the foot of Himalayas. After quite crazy first day in India we were so tired, that we fell asleep immediately lulled by the bus ride. At least me, because Pawel was watching for a good while black contours of the vehicles in front of us, which were lightened only by the bus headlights. After, he was telling me the stories about driver overtaking others on the narrow pathways in the blackness. We were also nicely surprised by the condition of the bus – the sits were very comfortable and could fold almost to laying, which made our sleep even better.
The view outside the window was richly green. We were passing through the villages, where the the people were just waking up; small, quiet hotels near the road; temples shining in the darkness; cows wandering along the road’ we were crossing the bridges over the dark rivers. The world was just wiping eyes with sleep, we were entering the Himalayas and the sun was slowly leaning out from the mountains, covering everything with gold. For me, this sunrise, the moment when everything is coming out from the gloom, in the bus somewhere on the way, where clouds and mist were still in the valleys – it was something magical. Sunrise is my favorite time of the day – it’s meant to be seen only by few, because it requires special effort to wake up earlier, but then it leaves you simply amazed.
The trip was supposed to last for the next couple of hours, when, after most of the passengers were awake, we stopped for a break and a milk tea. After having a short rest in the “restaurant” by the river and getting to know local cockchafer species, that apparently really liked that place, we left to continue our trip. We were passing by the waterfalls, climbing the steep hills on the waving roads when, finally, after 18 hours of travelling, we reached Manali – our next stop for two days.
Manali is a small tourist town laying at the foot of Himalayas. It is quite popular place to get away from the city rush, among foreigners, as well as Indians, who go there to catch some fresh air and escape from hot and humid cities. We got off from the bus at the bus station in the loud and colorful city center. However, we didn’t stay there long. We headed straight to the old part of the city, which was the location of Apple View Guest House, that we wanted to lodge in.
The Guest House looking out to the apple trees was one of the most charming places, that we stayed during our trip to India, as well as the cheapest one. 300 rupees for a double room (3 £), very cheap and delicious home made food, green garden and amazing view of the mountains. Apart from that – super nice hosts with lovely little granddaughter, interesting guests and the cow at the back of the house 😉 I literally fell in love with this place.
Although we didn’t have proper sleep for 2 days (we left Aberdeen on Saturday morning, had a flight in the afternoon, night in the plane, Sunday morning reaching Delhi, day in Delhi and then spending night in the bus), we weren’t that tired, but ready to explore. After having simple but good food we went out to see the area. Our guest house was located in the old part of the town, close to the wild river, on the small hill. There was also a lot of greenery 😉
Manali is very interesting place. If you plan to go to that part of India, you definitely should visit it. We were a little afraid of too many tourists and commercialization of the place, but fortunately we didn’t see any of this. Of course, there were some tourists, but not too many and all of them were relaxed and nice, and the atmosphere was calm and quiet.
At the beginning we went for a walk to the Manu temple, which was located on the hill. On the way we were passing by old buildings, small shops and nostalgic pubs.
In the temple we saw some local kids who were playing “hide and seek” around the gods sculptures. At the same time they were watching people to not to take photos of the sacred places. “No photo, no photo!” they were shouting, laughing and running around the main altar. We also met some old ladies sitting on the stairs in front of the building. One of them asked me to take a picture of her. She didn’t speak English and I don’t know Hindi or Ladakhi, but we understood each other perfectly.
For the early dinner we stopped in the Indian and Mexican garden restaurant (interesting mix :)), where in the shadow of the trees we were tasting different Indian dishes – pakora with cheese, aloo paratha and butter chicken with jeera rice.
Nearby, we found the travel agency that was organizing paragliding and we decided to come back there tomorrow.
In the evening we walked to the city center to book our bus tickets to Leh – our next stop, higher in the mountains.
Wandering around the crowded streets we saw donkeys, street performers and kids sitting on the ground with scales
After that we went to the pub recommended by „Lonely planet” for a drink. I ordered local wine and Pawel a beer (of course ;)). The prices were so cheap, that I was extremely surprised when the waiter brought me the whole bottle of wine instead of one glass. But the wine was very good, so I was more than happy 😉
Starting to feel all the tiredness from the past days, we decided to come back to the Guest House.
After few more looks over the apple trees on the stars covered sky, we went to sleep. We needed to get some good rest before the next exciting day, during which we will need to make some tough decisions, watch the world from above, meet the monk who has real diamonds, become a local attraction, get some burns from the holy water and much more.
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