Escape to Manali

The constant and endless movement around the country that had once excited and inspired me was starting to make me grow weary. Apart from a few longer stays in places like Mamallapuram, Pushkar, Hampi and of course the Vipassana retreat I had barely stopped moving in the past 4 and a half months. The summer in the south was slowly creeping north and making itself known with the mercury regularly hitting 47 degrees in Varanasi when I decided I was done with the Indian summer. The Himalayas were calling my name and I dragged me and my sweat-soaked shirt into the travel agent and pleaded for a train ticket north. The agent told me there was one ticket left but it was in the more expensive AC carriage – like I was going to choose anything else at this stage.

Beautiful old houses of Manali

Beautiful old houses of Manali

I stopped in Rishikesh (more to come on this shortly) and met up with some friends I’d met in Pushkar and spent a week exploring the Ganges, the waterfalls and The Beatles Ashram, it was cooler but still a little toasty – roll on the Himalayas.

Before I managed to completely escape the chaos, India had one more surprise in store for me and that was the trip from Rishikesh to Manali. It all faded away like a bad nightmare when I rolled into Manali.

My friends from Rishikesh had arrived the day before and I sent them a message as I got off the bus – ‘Brew some coffee, I’m 5 minutes away’. Sure enough, they greeted me with hugs and coffee and I relaxed into Old Manali.

Old Manali is a cliche mountain town only this time a little different. Where most cliches leave you feeling a little lacklustre through expectations, Manali exceeded all of mine and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

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The surrounding mountains are covered with pine forests that only give way to the snow line at the top, the rivers at the bottom and the waterfalls that connect the two. The mornings and afternoons are cold enough to warrant a beanie, scarf and hot coffee while the days are warm enough to consider a dip in the icy melt-water.

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While Manali lends itself to the peace and quiet it would be hard to get through a trip here without doing at least one of the adventure sports on offer. I took a few days out of my calendar of R & R and went rock-climbing.

The trekking around Manali is world-class and even if you don’t choose to go on the multi-day treks that are offered everywhere there’s plenty of treks that you can do by yourself (the companies and guides will tell you this isn’t possible but a bit of exploration will prove them wrong). After rock-climbing with the guys at Himalayan Caravan I had a chat with them about potential treks and they gave me plenty of ideas on where to go, they also gave me their mobile number incase I got lost. Walking in any direction will take you somewhere pretty special.

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Three months of vegetarianism would also come to an end in Manali. The Lamb burgers at Shiva Garden Cafe were just too good to pass up for $3. Manali may just have the best western style food in all of India as well as delicious Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Chinese dishes. Although being a melting-pot of tourists it was still possible to find some cheaper restaurants ($1 dollar momos became a staple).

The rest of my days there were spent reading, writing, fishing, hiking and sitting in the hot springs in between catching up with the constant flow of travellers through the town.

A spot of early morning fishing.

A spot of early morning fishing.

Eventually the time would come where I would have to re-pack my bags that had exploded across my room and make my way to Srinagar, Kashmir in preparation for an 8 day trek. I had made a lot of friends in the town and left knowing I would be back one day.

Have you taken a break from travel before? Where did you stop and relax?

15 Thoughts on “Escape to Manali

  1. alan walter on June 29, 2014 at 12:03 pm said:

    Nick, Your pictures are beautifully fascinating & your descriptive stories are magical,
    We much look forward to all your interesting commentary.
    On Tuesday Emma is coming across for dinner. Matt & Selena are coming too.
    Hope you are keeping cooler in your new environment.Best wishes.

  2. I have never been to Manali, but hopefully will visit in September. Your post tells me exactly what I am missing by not being there right now – best times with friends :)
    Siddhartha Joshi recently posted…Kashmir Adventures: Rafting in PahalgamMy Profile

    • You’ll have a great time and you may find some more challenging rafting in Manali too. I’ve got to recommend a little place called Tengin Dhaba in Old Manali, it looks for like a convenience store but is actually a little restaurant, cheapest place to eat in Manali and delicious. Look forward to seeing what you think of Manali.
      theboywander recently posted…Escape to ManaliMy Profile

  3. Wow, Nick. Looks lovely there!! Funny about your bags ‘exploding across the room.’ I relate to that.

    When travel wears me out, I usually turn to nature to regroup. Or wherever I am, I just do nothings for a few days, which is always restorative.

    Right now, I’m in Cali and I swear I’ve done very little for a few days. I think it’s because I got tired during a long roadtrip from Bogotá to some colonial towns up north. Now I’m just chilling. Hopefully, I’ll dig in to the dancing soon….

    Have fun!
    Lisa @chickybus recently posted…To Eat, or Not to Eat, Big-Butt Colombian Ants–That Was the Question #ttot #food #ColombiaMy Profile

    • Haha Lisa if I am anywhere for more than say 3 nights my back pack takes over the room. Don’t worry I have self control in dorm rooms (I’m not ‘that guy’).
      I agree nature is the best way of recharging yourself, even a really tough hike in the mountains when you’re worn out can be revitalising.

      Now, go get your salsa on!
      theboywander recently posted…Don’t Worry, Be HampiMy Profile

  4. Ok – I’m gonna be super naive here for a second, but I had no idea India had that kind of scenery! Clearly I need to do more research… It reminds me of the PNW in the US – all the evergreen trees, the fishing, the raging rivers. I could definitely go for a hike around there (not sure I’m cut out for trekking… haha). I’m actually hoping to get to India next year, so I’m sure I’ll have many more eye-opening stages to my research :)
    Katie recently posted…The quiet beach village of Pemuteran, BaliMy Profile

    • You and me both Katie! I was completely taken aback by it. Every town in India is so different from the one next to but the difference in heading north was unbelievable. I actually just got back a week of trekking and it was unbelievable, there are pretty amazing treks that would even suit beginners. Feel free to hit me up with any questions you have about India!
      theboywander recently posted…Escape to ManaliMy Profile

  5. Once again, fantastic photos, especially the one of the flowing river, looks gorgeous!
    Lynda recently posted…Marco Island Princess Sunset Dinner CruiseMy Profile

  6. Pingback: Trekking the Himalayas in the North of India | theboywander

  7. That looks like the most perfect place in the world.

  8. You’re really selling India to me. I’ve never been too keen to go before!
    Arianwen recently posted…Win a NOVICA Gift Card Worth $75My Profile

  9. Pingback: Hallucinations, Monkey Muggings & Beating a Travel Slump in Rishikesh | TOMMY SHAW TRAVELS...

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