Manali: Heavenly beauty

Start of the day (23 August 2018)

I woke up around 6 AM and ordered a cup of tea. Some time later, I stepped out on to the road. The morning was very beautiful, with the Sun emerging out from behind the clouds at one moment and going behind them the other moment. I could see the Beas river flowing in the valley, a row of hotels on the hill on the other side of the river, tall pine trees, apple trees laden with fruit, and clouds. For a long time, I stood there and absorbed that fascinating view. The silence in the atmosphere was occasionally broken by the sound of a passing vehicle.

Manali has 3 prominent areas – one near the mall road, and towards the bus stand: this part is full of hotels, one at almost every 50 m. The mall road also has the main market. Then the log hut area and old Manali, this area also has a number of hotels, but it is relatively quiet. Our hotel Treebo Celebriti was in Old Manali. Area near Vashishtha is a residential area, but again has hotels and shops offering motorcycles on rent.

I returned to the hotel and went for breakfast. Upon my request the hotel staff, plucked a couple of apples from the tree and served them 😊. Wish of seeing the apple trees and eating a fresh one fulfilled.

Baskar informed that he will arrive at the hotel by 9:30 AM. Since we had to leave for Delhi by evening bus, I asked him to come with the bags. The hotel staff helped us to book a taxi.

Naggar Castle

Naggar is a small ancient town, at an elevation of 1800 m. It is 30 Km from Manali, towards Kullu. The road to Naggar is narrow, and on both sides of the road there are tall pine trees, some as high as 30 meters. You also pass by several trout fish farms.

This castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu in the 15th century. Now the castle has been converted into a heritage hotel that is run by the HPTDC. The castle is built from stones, and it survived the earthquake in 1905 due to use of earthquake-proof techniques. From the castle you can see the beautiful Kullu valley.

For the lovers of Fish. Manali is known for Trouts also!
Naggar Castle
Naggar Castle
Kullu Valley

Roerich Art Gallery

From Naggar Castle we went to Roerich Art Gallery. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, writer, archaeologist, and a philosopher. Nicholas Roerich started his 5 year-long Asian Expedition (1924 – 1928) and travelled through Sikkim, Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, Karakoram Mountains and Tibet. Nicholas and his wife Helena were avid readers of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore and Bhagavad Gita. Nicholas Roerich died in 1947 in Naggar. This was my second visit, I always wondered what might have prompted the Roerichs to settle down in Kullu? It must be the beauty of this region and the happiness of being in the Himalayas.

The gallery houses several beautiful paintings of the Roerich’s, such as “Mount Kailash”, “Tibetan monks returning from Lahaul” “Study of mountains” and “mountain pass” and “Gaddi Girl”. You remain attached to those paintings. It was here that, the idea of visiting Ladakh had firmed up in the mind.  We paid our tributes to the legendary artists, saw the museum and started our journey back to Manali.

Svetoslav Roerich’s Paintings

Nicholas Roerich’s Paintings

Other temples and Tibetan Monastery

On the way to Manali we stopped at the Jagatsukh village and visited the Jagatsukh temple, built in 8th Century AD and dedicated to Lord Shiva and an ancient Gayatri temple.

Upon entering Manali, we visited the Himalayan Nyinmapa Buddhist Monastery near the mall road. The statue of Lord Buddha here is 1 floor tall and there are a number of frescos.

It was almost 3:30 PM when we finished our visit to the monastery, and were on the mall road. I and Baskar were missing south Indian food (Idli / Dosa), so decided to have dosa or Uttappam for the lunch. After searching through 3 to 4 hotels we found a place that served Uttappam and Idli.

Gayatri Temple
Lord Buddha, The Protector
Lord Buddha

On the bus to Delhi

From the mall road, we returned to the hotel to collect our bags. The hotel staff helped us get a rickshaw to take us to the bus stand. We reached the bus stand around 5 PM. Our bus was to leave at 5:30 PM, while Baskar’s bus was about to leave at 6 PM. Baskar had language barrier in communicating (knowing only English and Tamil), so I helped him to locate his bus. From Manali HPTDC and HRTC run Volvo buses to Delhi and Chandigarh. These buses are very good and known for their punctuality.

The bus stand in Manali is just by the side of the Beas river. The river was swollen with the heavy rains of last few days. We also came to know that the road to Chandigarh has been washed out at several places due to rains. At the bus stand I met Pankaj, Chandrakant and Lalit, who had gone to mall road in the afternoon for shopping. We 4 said goodbye to Baskar and boarded the bus at 5:15 PM.

Fresh Kinnaur Apples, Anyone?
A view of the Bus Stand

Stuck on the road

The bus departed on time at 5:30 PM. We could see Beas river by the side of the road, apple trees and, heaps of fresh apples kept in small tents by the roadside, waiting shipment to market places, and vehicles transporting apples.

The road condition was bad due to heavy rains in monsoons and at many places the road was completely washed out. After sometime rains started and visibility on the road decreased. After Kullu, the bus went through the Aut tunnel, which is 3 km long and considered one of the dangerous tunnels. On the Beas river a number of dams and hydroelectric projects such as the Larji Hydroelectric Project and Pandoh dam have been constructed.  The bus passed by these locations. The reservoir of Pandoh dam is very big.

Around 10:30 PM the bus stopped at a Dhaba for dinner. I had some bananas, and biscuits which I had purchased at Manali for the dinner. Sometime around 11:30 PM – mid night I realized that the bus was not moving ahead. Possibly an accident had happened on the road, which had become dangerous to drive due to rains, bad condition and decreased visibility