Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Heaven and Back!

Impromptu, spontaneous plans are always the best; but ours definitely wasn’t one. We’d been planning for weeks, my sister, cousins and I; changing the prospective destination numerous times. When finally, thankfully it was decided we’d go to Manali. At first the feeling didn’t sink in; not when we booked the taxi, not when we were all sitting at CCD making a list of what all we’d pack before going to Himachal Pradesh and getting our asses frozen; not when we packed our bags. It finally hit in the morning before we left! Yes, it was happening! We were going for a splendid trip WITHOUT any grown-ups! There were just six of us, and we fit very comfortably in the Innova we had booked. We were all in high spirits when we started off, jabbering away and laughing our heads off and listening to music. When we came out of the car to grab a bite at a roadside dhaba, that’s when we realized how cold it was gradually and consistently getting. We hadn’t realized it in our heated, cozy car! The time we stopped at Delhi and went to a restaurant and had rest went by in a blur. All I remember is that we were all equally excited and looking forward to the exciting journey that lay ahead of us. We set off at 3 in the morning, cheering and yakking away and listening to music at an ear-damaging volume. Most of us were half asleep and half dead by the time we reached Chandigargh. We stopped at this beautiful hotel which overlooked a river. Soon after that, the roads started convoluting and we finally entered the mountainous area. It was beautiful after that. The valley continued to deepen as we went higher and higher up. I’d begun to feel a little woozy and kept drifting in and out of sleep. Up and up and round and round we went, until we reached Manali in the evening around 7. My GOD was it cold! And it was raining on top of that! We quickly rushed inside and I straight away got inside the quilt and was dead asleep in no time.

The next day, when it seemed humanly impossible for me to accomplish a feat like getting out of bed, someone screamed that it was snowing. And I said “Yeah right” and pulled the covers closer. When the owner of the guest house confirmed the fact, I sprang out of my bed in an instant, accompanied by my sister, squealing and jumping and went outside! Yes! Yes! Yes! It WAS snowing! I stood under the sky turning round and round and round and shouting, “Wow! Snow! It really is! SNOWFALL! Look at this! Amazing!”, only to realize that a hoard of people was staring at me as if I’m a lunatic on the loose. Sheepishly, I shut up and went inside.

After that the snow simply refused to stop falling! It continued to fall throughout the day, increasing in intensity and thickness! By evening everything was covered in snow. I’d never seen a sight like that before. Heck, I’d never seen snow in my life. It was beautiful. Of course, we would never resist the temptation to go out and play under the snowfall, but when we would come back into our rooms, the cold would suddenly hit us. That would be a pain. Our coats, gloves, caps, shoes, socks would all be wet and then we'd dry them up by hanging them in front of the heater and they would take their own sweet time to become wearable again. We walked on the snow-covered ground, amidst the snow-covered trees and the snow-covered mountains and houses and cars. We threw snowballs at each other and hung around with chubby dogs. It was simply breathtaking to merely look at the snow fall outside when we’d sit inside our cozy warm quilts. I remember leaning on my bed looking out the window at the snow falling from the sky as it soon turned to dawn and sighing, “Man, this is life.”

The snow probably got so ecstatic witnessing our extreme reactions that it completely LOST it. It kept on falling relentlessly, clearly oblivious to the fact that our hands and feet and noses and ears were practically so cold we felt they would break off! Oblivious to the fact that we were shivering so much it was as if we were on continuous vibration mode! Oblivious to the fact that even though we were wearing five layers of clothing we felt like we would turn into frozen popsicles! Just when we had begun to suspect that it was not possible for it to get any colder, the temperature dropped to a minus seven degrees! Holy cow, knowing that fact made me feel even colder! The next morning I remember there was more than three feet of snow and it was all of us were 'brrrring' and the temperature continued to fall sharply. We were advised to evacuate as soon as possible or else we would have been stuck there amidst unimaginable amount of snow, cold, and no electricity. So without losing any more time we packed our stuff and went out. Could you believe my shock when I stepped out and actually FELL knee-deep in snow?! Man, that was something. I was wading through snow, snow and snow! I then got to know that because it was absolutely impossible for our car to come up to our guest house, we’d have to trek all the way to the car! Which was around 2km! Because, walking in such think snow would make our shoes and socks all damp and wet, we had to tie polythene bags around our feet and then wear our shoes; which felt really funny! :P

When we started hobbling through the snow, carrying all our bags and luggage with us, I had to stop for a full five minutes just to take in the entire view. I wanted to absorb it, drink it, soak it all up. I wanted to live there, and die there. I wanted to laugh and shout and jump and cry. It was breathtakingly, majestically, spectacularly beautiful. Everything around us was white, the snow was still falling softly, and there were white, snow-laden trees all around. Beyond all of that, were huge, magnificent mountains, all shining and sparkling white. All of us were making our way through, awe-struck and mesmerized.  It was as if the snow had transformed the whole place and had given it a stunning grandeur. The entire trek was the highlight of our trip because none of us had ever seen such a sight before. And because all of us fell at least thrice and chortled at ourselves! When we reached our car, we snow-fought some more and then embarked on our journey to Kullu to celebrate New Years.

Even while we were in the car, we were all constantly looking out, “oohing” and “wowing” looking at the imposing, white peaks and valleys and trees. It was a sight, it really was.

We stayed at a fine hotel in Kullu and went out for a drive and dinner on the 31st. When the clock struck twelve, we were all sitting in front of a traditional coal-heater warming our hands up. Yeah, we didn't really have a grand party or a big bash, but we were glad to be with each other and just.. sit around.. relax, talk. That was nice. The return journey was comfortable and I did not even come to know because I slept for almost 8 hours straight in the car. Even now, when I think back about my trip, I can just close my eyes and imagine the entire scene in my head. Me standing underneath the sky and feeling the flakes landing gently on my face, the whiteness all around me, all of us warming our hands on hot cups of tea amidst silly, ridiculous conversations, and sniggering and laughing at the stupidest of things, and of course, the immense, bitter, could-almost-kill-you cold. It was worth it. Every teeny weeny bit of discomfort, the shivers, the long 800km journey, the time where we had to cross a slippery, risky patch and we almost fell in a valley, the car sickness; all of it. I know I’ve seen enough snow to last me a lifetime, but if I’m given a chance to go to a place like that again, YES, I’d say a thousand times over; I would, I would, I would! :D


  1. I agree ... a thousand times over (Kite Runner haan) ... maybe we can catch a flight the next time ... me and dad planning to visit Leh by car this year ... wanna join in??

    Oh ... I like the 'continuous vibration mode' statement :)

  2. What do you mean 'wanna join in?' Do you even NEED to ask me that?

    And thanks! :)

  3. Yeah i do need to ... u almost froze to death in Manali ... tats y!! its goin to be one hell of a journey ... seriously!!

  4. WOW!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    "Snow" should actually thank you for writing up such an amazing chronicle about it!! hehe... :P

    Superb!! :)

  5. I thrive on your comments Smriti! :D



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