The excitement was palpable. A trip from Chandigarh to Kulu Manali on a bike. Myself and Gadeock started our bikes, from the 12 Guards unit lines in Chandigarh. I was on my bullet and he was on his Jawa, a bike popular among bachelors in 1975.
The morning October fog was thick as we wroomed towards Ropar along the canal. We turned towards Bhakra Nangal Dam, and stopped at the Sikh shrine at Anandpur Sahib. Lots of men and young boys wearing traditional clothes of Guru Arjun Singh’s followers, dark blue dresses, a shiny sword to proclaim their martial background, white steeds decorated like the Guru’s horse.
We stopped for sometime next to the Bhakra Nangal Dam, the second tallest dam in India and the lake it forms, Gobind Sagar looks unending, as it goes around the town of Bilaspur. Then we reached Mandi where we had a thakra Punjabi breakfast of Alu Parathas, white butter, curd and chilly carrot pickle .
From here the real mountain road starts, the scenery is stark with the Sutlej flowing on our right, and the rocky mountains outcrop, making a roof over our heads. An hour of this tricky winding road and then Shangri–La, a beautiful valley opens up in front of you; sunny, with rows of Golden Apple laden trees, wide boulder strewn river and pink cheeked fair maidens ,waving at us. We reached Kulu and went for accommodation in a tent (the Dassehra crowd had booked all available hotel accommodation),with the luxury of carpets, electric lighting, furniture etc. We mixed with the crowds celebrating Dassehra , huge idols of Durga being transported on vehicles, women singing and dancing in colourful traditional costumes.
The road to Manali is very scenic with pine trees on both sides, and lovely wooden chalet like houses, perched on hills. We had lunch in a hotel, built above a river, so we could look down on the tossing waters from our window. Lovely Shawls with embroidery, and elaborate knots. Kulu Caps with golden borders and handicrafts made from pine cones are some of the shopping items. A stop at an inviting pool on the river, throwing off all our clothes , dunking the beer bottles in the river , we soaked in the nature’s abundance; sipping chilled beer and chomping on sausages and watching the spotted trout fish happily feeding on our handouts.
One should stay in these locations for at least a week to get the full benefit of vacationing. The Israelis, French and German tourists were unwilling to leave, many of them overstaying their visas. I swung my bullet left and right through the hairpin bends, as we traced our way back to Chandigarh and humdrum Army routine.
Leaving behind a devastatingly beautiful place on the face of earth with its simple friendly people, mountain streams with cold bluish white water, nature’s bounty of apples, apricots and plums. This place is not to be missed in your life time.
Major V.M.Rajan served in the Indian Army , for close to twenty
years, travelling to all corners of this vast beautiful country.
He has a flair for writing, and makes articles that are rivetting and