I had to travel to Spiti to meet my shutterbug friends, but due to a landslide I had to take a detour and ended up landing in Manali.
I had to travel to Spiti to meet my shutterbug friends, but due to a landslide I had to take a detour and ended up landing in Manali. I had to take an overnight bus from Delhi to Manali which was a 12-hour journey. I’ve vacationed at Manali before and I was aware of the typical touristy places to visit, but this time, I wanted to explore locations that aren’t often treaded on by visitors.
The stand out point was the Apple Mandi, a huge fruit market which pretty much had just two women among 200 men! I felt a bit odd as the people there were staring at me as I had no companion with me. I also didn’t know the language, so I felt a bit out of place, but things changed when I took my camera out — the residents brightened up my day with cheerful smiles. This was a brand new experience for me, as I’m used to shooting at weddings where the setting is perfect and shoots are often planned.
I also went to a place where there was a small factory where dozens of women were knitting. I walked around in the area and a myriad of sights welcomed me — from people roasting corn to monks greeting me to traders selling and buying things and tiny boys playing a game of cards. I managed to capture some good shots there and I indulged in a bit of shadow play etc.
The calmness of the place was in sharp contrast to the city life I’ve lived for so long. From 200-year-old trees to clean air, every aspect of Manali felt blissful. The best part was there were no tourists and selfie-clicking addicts at the places I toured. It was a whole new experience to just stand there and hear what the trees were saying - it’s no surprise that I spent most of my time there.
As for the food, the absolutely delectable sarson ka saag served with makki roti and dollops of butter were beyond awesome. If you want to try this ‘melt instantly in the mouth’ dish, then you must visit the eateries near Hadambi temple. I’d like to specially mention my cab driver who took me to the most unheard of areas. One of the places he took me to was a hamlet, which I was told is filled with knee-length snow in the month of December.
The Manali apples are something you shouldn’t miss biting into. I can guarantee you that anybody who sees the mist-covered fresh fruit would get tempted to pluck a few and eat them. I also got to see kids reading, studying and playing and managed to get some nice images of the li’l ones. I even went to a park where I found a lot of local people spending their time - it was home to huge trees and a beautiful lake. Soon, I found myself in lovely company as I was joined by a friend with whom I travelled to the Naggar Castle, which is around 80 kms from Manali. We were joined by more buddies and all of us ended up staying overnight there.
As for my accommodation, I stayed at a small lodge that was surrounded by apple orchards — the very thought of this drew me towards the place. One thing that was bemusing was the ton of people who were bewildered that I was travelling alone and kept asking me if I was married or single! Overall, this will remain one of my most memorable trips as it made me realise that going the unplanned way can be fun too.
(As told to Ikyatha Yerasala)