There are planned trips and there are trips that happen in the spur of the moment. Being the impulsive, little thing I am, my solo trip to Himachal was of the second type. It took me approximately ten minutes to decide that I should pack my bags and scoot to Himachal.
On a typical weekday, I was working from home and was wondering where my life is going.
Have you ever questioned yourself,
“Why am I doing this? What am I chasing? What am I running behind? Does this make any sense?”
My brain was flooded with so many questions. And I am not even getting the time or space to get the answers to myself. There’s an unease. Just imagine, on top of the professional stress, there are other bigger personal things eating up the most important aspect called ‘peace of mind’. Please note, I love my work. I am not complaining. it’s just that it becomes overwhelming at times to tackle everything at once.
There are an infinite number of times when I wished I could be a super hero with unimaginable powers just to deal with everything in a better way.. may be a more matured way!
Finally, I decided it’s time to get some answers, figure out things and come back with a fresh mindset and a new outlook about life. That’s when I booked tickets to Himachal, packed my bags and started my journey of soul-searching.
If you have read my blog about Kerala solo trip, you know I generally don’t come up with a solid itinerary. All I knew when I decided I HAD to go to Himachal was that I had to find my own little corner in those humongous mountains, far, far, away from the chaos everyday.
One of my friends always says, “There’s always a place in Himachal for everyone. Himachal never disappoints!”
This is so true. Himachal never disappoints. If there is one place on the earth I would go again and again, that’s Himachal. This place is called ‘Devbhoomi – the land of Gods’. When you step into Himachal, atheist or an ardent theist, you will certainly feel may be Gods did walk on this land. The sheer size of those mountains all around, the fresh aroma of those pine cones, the slight chill in the wind kissing your face, the morning sun greeting you lazily, the vast expanses of the sky and finally, at night, the best thing, the sky flooded with innumerable stars – That’s something magical and phenomenal.
How I planned my trip?
I follow this travel blogger called ‘Abhinav Chandel’ on Instagram. His feed is my travel checklist for Himachal, in particular. I saw the pictures of Tirthan valley on his feed and decided that this is the perfect place to go on a trip meant to find solitude and inner peace. Now that I found a place to go, the most important thing – booking tickets and stay. For stay, I saw a cute homestay called ‘Gone Fishing Cottages’ on his profile itself. I got their Instagram account, contacted them and booked the stay there right away. I had to go to Delhi by a flight (since traveling to Himachal by a direct flight is way out of my budget), then from Delhi, I had to go by bus to a place called Aut, in Himachal. From Aut to Banjar, in Tirthan valley, we can take a local bus or a cab. To save money, I took a local bus.
I have booked the cheapest flight available that day, since I haven’t planned in advance. So, I had a flight in the morning at 9.45 am. Morning flights freak me out. Since I am not a morning person and there’s a history of me missing my flights and buses, I haven’t slept all night, the night prior to my journey. Cranky and sleep-deprived, I get into the cab to airport at 6.45 am. I passed out in the cab and didn’t wake up until the cab driver woke me up. I rushed to the check-in section at 8.30 am and finally boarded the plane. I passed out in the flight too until the air hostess woke me up and gave me free snacks. Thanks to Vistara airlines! At least one monster was satisfied. Hunger was satisfied but sleep – not so much!! My bus to Aut was at 9 pm. So, I had at least 8 hours to kill with a 12 kg backpack on my back. That’s the moment when I cursed myself for carrying a 2 kg heavy hair drier to Himachal. Rookie mistake!
I was craving for Biryani when I landed in Delhi. As Zomato suggested, Bikkgane biryani is one of the places that serve amazing biryani, it seems. So, I took a metro and reached Connaught place and walked towards the place. It was crowded and I was waiting for some table to be vacant. With this weight of my backpack on my shoulders and hot Delhi weather and sleep deprivation, just imagine what kind of a mess I would have been. That’s when a man, around 50 years old, who was sitting alone and eating, offered me a seat at his table. He was laughing at the unbelievable ratio of my backpack to me! He asked me where I was going and I explained the agenda behind my solo trip. That’s when he narrated his story that happened 30 years ago. 30 years ago, his friends and this uncle were fed up of their monotonous life and planned a trip from Delhi to Jaipur. They were all students and had limited budgets. They started on a bike trip from Delhi to Jaipur. Then the trip didn’t end there. They got so habituated to wandering. True, wandering is such an addiction, (although in a good way) They spent their entire summer holidays traveling – Delhi to Jaipur, Jaipur to Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad to Goa, Goa to Kochi, Kochi to Chennai and back to Delhi. The trip that was supposed to be from Delhi to Jaipur transformed into something else. He said that it was quite an adventure and a learning experience. They had learnt a lot about survival since they were on a limited budget and they had learnt a lot about the culture and traditions of the local people. Finally, I asked him how this trip changed him. He just smiled and said whatever you are doing right now and what you are searching for will all make sense after the trip. It’s good to go on solo trips.
“You will find yourself and much more, you will learn about the world,” he said. That minute, I knew that this trip was going to be a hit. It doesn’t matter how many struggles I am going to face, but by the end of the trip, I am sure that I am going to come back with a huge smile and a lot of memories.
With a hopeful smile, I finally board the bus to Aut, Himachal. They stopped the bus at Mandi, Himachal at around 7.30 am, the next day. The view at Mandi was breath-taking, by itself.
Once I got down the bus at Aut, I called up the host of the stay. She guided me how to reach the stay. She even offered that she would send a cab to pick me up from Aut. But I wanted to do this alone. So, I got on the local bus and reached Banjar, then took a taxi to the stay, located in a quaint village called Deori, 4 kilometers away from Banjar.
Once I reached the stay, mind you, I don’t have an itinerary.
Banjar or Deori was not my destination. It’s the beginning of an adventure. I was open to the endless possibilities this journey has to offer.
After I had freshened up, the staff at the stay suggested me to go on a trek to this waterfalls called ‘Chhoie waterfalls’, nearby. I was obviously excited. My phone had 20 percent charge in it. Anyway, who cares about the phone when you have nature to keep you company? But again, that was a stupid move. I lost my way. There were two trails to go to the waterfall. I couldn’t figure out which way to go. By that time, it was getting dark and I couldn’t find which way to go. The battery of my phone gave up. So, I was stuck there without maps, not knowing which way to go. There were no humans in my sight. So, I had to trek back. Then I found an old woman who asked me to come the next day as it was getting dark. She also offered to accompany me if I go there, the next day. So yeah, my first trek was a fail. But I did enjoy the landscape and the fresh air while trekking. Once I came back, I had ‘Kadhi Chawal’ and Himachali chai. When you are in Himachal, don’t forget to try the local cuisine. It is amazing.
I was sitting on this beautiful deck of the cottage and staring at those night skies and counting stars. That’s when a batch of five guys came and sat beside me. We all were from different places, different cultures and have different mindsets. But at that moment, we were all the same. We are wanderers, trying to find peace in traveling. We talked and talked until it was freezing cold outside and then we dispersed.
Count on me about not having plans and going with the flow! I woke up and went to the dining hall for breakfast. In the cottage, they have this tradition of having the breakfast together, so that we can meet new people and talk to them. I am all in for new stories of the people. So, during this breakfast hour, I decided to go on a trek to this lake called ‘Serolsar lake’ from Jalori Pass. There was this family from Delhi, who talked to me. They said that even their 20-year old son, (Vimanyu) wanted to go to Jalori Pass and asked me if we could go along together. It would be economical for both of us to share the cab charges and also, there would be a companion for me while trekking.
It took us almost two hours by the cab to reach Jalori Pass, 12000 ft above the sea level. From there, it would be around 2 hours of trek to the lake. The trekking trail was relatively peaceful, untouched, I would say. Except for the occasional travellers, all you could see was endless stretch of tall trees, the blue skies.
There was a point when I was too tired to trek. Vimanyu and I shared our stories about college and just like that, the trek became less tiring. Company matters. Good vibes matter. When we met someone coming back from the lake, we would ask how much more time. All of them said, “15 more minutes!” But no, we trekked for 15 more minutes. Still nothing! 15 more minutes.. and still nothing. Finally, after two and half hours of trekking, yes, we found the lake. In front of this lake was this small temple. It was so serene out there. Two and half hours of trek.. was it worth it? Hell yes!
Vimanyu wanted to venture further on the trail. Although I was dead tired, I was curious to see what’s there on the top. That’s when we reached a cafe called ‘Paramount cafe’, literally on top of the mountain. The view there was better than the view at the lake. I really can’t put it into words how that view was.
Just imagine, mountains around you everywhere, a beautiful valley when you look down, blue skies when you look up, cool, fresh air caressing the face and the sound of the nature as the background music.
The giant mountains and those blue skies there suddenly made me realize that I am just a tiny person in this gigantic universe and my problems, a mere water bubble, lasting for the span of a second.
I talked to the vendor at the cafe and asked him where he lives. He said that he lives right there. I was surprised because it was right on top of the mountain, no proper transport. The only way to reach there was by trekking. I asked him if he doesn’t get bored. He said that travelers like us come and talk to him and share their stories all the time. It’s very interesting to meet people like us on daily basis. That’s what he said.
I asked him what makes him happy. He smiled and said, “roti, kapda, makaan aur achhe log” (which means food, clothing, shelter and good people). Isn’t that such a simple answer?
Do you know why you HAVE to go on such trips? You will realize that no problem is as big as you think. The more you think of it, you give more power to the problem to bother you. You learn to worry less and live more.
By the time we came back, we were almost dead. But it was all worth it.
It was my last day in Himachal. (Blame my lack of privilege leaves and my impulsive nature for such a short trip!) The owner of the stay had advised me to go to Kullu as there was a Dusshera mela going on there. I had checked out from the stay and boarded the taxi to Kullu. After I have gone thirty kilometers further from Banjar, I realize that I left the wallet at my stay. I told the taxi driver and he was nice enough not to curse me. He didn’t even complain a bit about my stupidity. I thought of paying him extra. After all, it was my mistake. Why should he suffer?
The Dusshera mela at Kullu has a history. In Kullu, there’s this ancient temple called ‘Raghunatha temple’. So, lord Raghunath, the royal deity inivites all the deities from the neighboring villages for the Rath Yatra (a procession with the chariot). Approximately, 100 deities from all the neighbouring villages are carried in their beautiful palanquins and they assemble there at Kullu to celebrate this mela.
It was jam-packed with the crowd and it was all chaos. After roaming around a little, I finally set out on the journey to the final leg of the trip, back to Aut, then to Delhi and finally to Bangalore. I have reached Aut at around 6 pm. My bus is at 8.20 pm. So, I was waiting at a tea shop for the bus. There was no proper bus stand or seating area there. The owner of the tea stall offered me a chair to sit.
At some point, there were a lot of people, coming for the evening snacks. I stood up and offered them my seat. But they refused it and they even offered me pakoras. Then there was this lady, around the age of 40, she came to me and asked why I was alone. I told her and she said that she is from Banjar. She gave me her number and she invited me to stay over at her place the next time I come (free of cost). I was really surprised how all the people over there are so amicable and welcoming.
There is no way a trip can end without me doing some sort of stupid act. As I told, my bus was scheduled at 8.20 pm. I called the bus driver at 8.15 pm. He told me that the bus got delayed by 20 minutes. I was checking my phone and I assumed that the driver would call me when he reached the stop.
Even reaching two hours earlier before the scheduled time didn’t help me. I still missed the bus!
At 9 pm, I wanted to check where my bus is. I called the driver and he said the bus had already gone 15 kilometers further. I asked him if he could stop the bus somewhere. I was telling him that I would somehow get on the next vehicle, whatever it is and catch the bus. The driver was not willing to wait as there was a delay already.
Surprisingly, I didn’t panic. I got on the next bus (also going to Delhi) and explained the driver my situation. He was so angry with the driver no.1 that he called him and asked him if he’s going to stop for me and questioned him how he could leave a lone traveling girl alone. Still, the driver no.1 didn’t budge. Then this driver came up with a contingency plan. He asked me not to worry. He said that someone was getting down at Chandigarh and I could sit there. I was really surprised by his generosity. Fifteen minutes later, the bus driver 1 called me and told me that he’s going to wait on the way. Finally, I actually got the bus which I was supposed to board. I offered the driver no.2 some money but he politely declined and asked me to have a safe journey and take care of myself. By the way, even the taxi driver declined extra money that I offered to pay for driving me back to the stay for the wallet.
So, this is the story of my Himachal solo trip. After an eventful trip, with tired legs and a satisfied smile, I finally reach home.
After this trip, I changed a lot as a person. I have learnt to take things easy, to let the bad things go, to live in the moment and cherish every little, sweet thing. Another valuable lesson I have learnt from the people over there is : Be nice to everyone. You are not losing anything. You make someone else’s day brighter.
Sometimes, we lose the perspective of life. We get too wounded up in the routine that we forget to live in the moment. On those mountains, I realized that counting the breaths and cherishing each moment you breathe is what it is all about. Life may or may not be messed up. Yes, it won’t make sense all the time. But that’s what makes it fun. Life is one glorified mess that you just learn to embrace.
Thanks for reading 🙂 Please feel free to contact me if you are planning on a trip and if you want any inputs. I will try to do my best. 🙂
By the way, if you want instagram details:
Me : @that_girl_with_curlie_hair
Abhinav : @abhiandnow
Gone fishing cottages : @gonefishingcottages