There was a phase when I used to hear all the girls around me crave for the beaches that came along with Pina Coladas, hot colourful bikinis, and music in the waves. But recently, more and more people are coming out and declaring their love for the mountains. I tried to crack the reasoning but failed to do so. I also asked many beach lovers turned mountain goats the reason behind the transition, they said “mountains have a lot more to offer”. On the other hand when I had met a Brazilian surfer in Odisha (ISL 2015), he told me “beaches don’t count, the question should be mountains or the sea? And I choose the sea because I’m a water monster, my surf board is my wife and the sea has an entire universe to discover, not as much as the mountains.” There are still many ardent beach fans and I personally can’t choose mountain over the beaches because when it comes to travelling I have no loyalty. If I’m in Rome I’ll do as the Romans. And yes, no two travellers are the same.
The story I’m going to tell you today is about six friends, not best friends, everyone had a different equation with each other, set out on a journey to the mountains of Kasol. Each one of us were there for a different reason, learnt something different from the journey; but one thing we all learnt in the end how difficult it was to go back to our respective cities and not waking up to the mountains with each other waking up at different times. SO here’s how we reached: It’s a task to reach Kasol from Delhi, so we drove from Chandigarh which was a full seven hour journey. I personally love road trips as long as I’m not sandwiched people, if there’s space to breathe and move I can enjoy the car ride and not just wait for my final destination. SO even though we were six of us, we selected a 12-seater tempo that gave us two seats each to sprawl. The drive was in fact as good as reading a book – it had so many stories to say with every mile. The dogs looked so friendly and greeted us as long-lost friends. They lead us and showed us the way when we decided to walk around. The accent of the people was fast in the beginning of the sentence and slow at the end. Everybody had pink cheeks and the massive population of Israelis were all so good looking. I came to know that they had Greek ancestry that gifted them light eyes and hair, and amazingly structured faces. I also noticed how our tempo driver had friends at every lane who’s faces lit up as our car passed and excited waves were exchanged. Within no time we were recognised few as well, or maybe they just treated every tourist like a close relative. We felt we were home.
I noticed how raw the beauty in Himachal is, it wasn’t windy and that’s why even at -3 degrees I didn’t feel bitter cold. The days were warm, cosy and bright, the sunset was late – usually post 7, cold, dark, mysterious and yet welcoming. It almost seemed as if the mountains kept surrounding us to protect us from rest of the world, they sheltered us so we could only breathe in the fresh mountain air.
In between our journeys we stopped at dhabas but not where the driver suggested because we wanted to eat according to our choice and not be victims to commission extracting schemes. This was the best decision we made and learnt one trick – before ordering the food we would order some tea, and based on that we would decide whether the place is good or not. We also compromised on the taste once or twice simply because other dhabas had a better view or a better loo.
When finally we reached Kasol we were exhausted and looked forward to our room. It was already dark and we were warned not to go out really late. But the cafes we spotted on our way, each one of us chose the one we would like to come back to. It’s a small town and you can identify each and every shop or café easily. We quickly unloaded our hand-luggage and was pleasantly surprised with Sandhya Resort. We were three in each room and the the excitement had just begun. One quick shower and we were out exploring the cosy and festive roadside cafes.
In the next two days we went to all our favourites including – Evergreen Café, Yerpa, Shiva mama, Little Italy Bar & restaurant and Stone and Garden Café. And we packed loads of sweet and savouries from German Bakery. It was only once we reached Manali we concluded that German Bakery was better in Manali because it was a lot bigger and in the open. But Evergreen Café was better in Kasol. The floor cushions, tribal decor, free-spirited music and the fresh food stays with us even today. Our favourite was the Avacado sandwich.
From Kasol we went to Chalal and Manikaran, and trekked to Malana, followed Manali and Solang. Malana was a life-changing experience.