a week in manali

As we were nearing the end of our month long yoga program, I had a general idea of my plans after Rishikesh. I’d stay close to the area, head to Delhi, take a day trip to the Taj Mahal, and then make my way to Nepal by mid-May, at a nice leisurely pace. As soon as I had basically decided this, something else of course tempted me! A handful of my classmates were heading to Manali for a music festival. I LOVE music festivals, and I liked the idea of not saying goodbye.

The day of our graduation, we were packed and ready to go. As soon as we had our certificates in hand and had said our goodbyes, we were off! A group of 10 or so (including a few adopted friends made in Rishikesh) took tuk tuks to the nearest bus stand, made it to our bus with literally no time to spare. Our first bus to Dehradun was an hour and a half – it flew because we were all so excited, not to mention in shock that we’d made the bus!

The next bus was a bit of a different story. It was an overnight local bus. It was packed, uncomfortable, and nearly drove off with at least one of our group at every stop we made. But 15 and a half hours later, we were in Manali, and all of our complaints forgotten. It was beautiful. At about 6am, it was freezing cold (a shock from Rishikesh, where you were always a little on the warm side).

In total, we moved hotels 3 times. We stayed in New Manali where the bus dropped us off the first night. We learned quickly that Old Manali was the backpackers hub, and also the location of the festival. So we moved all together. The festival (Dance of Shiva) was so much fun! A small group of maybe 250 people attended, and by the end of 3 days we knew many of the faces, and lots of names too! The music (psy-trance), was not exactly what I’d choose to play for myself, but it was fun and a new experience! And the festival grounds, a 30 minute walk into the forest, with the main stage backdropped by snow caped mountains – superb.

After the festival, the group of 4 girls left moved to yet another hostel – Rockway- which was tucked into a hillside and about a 10 minute hike from town. A much needed change of pace and scenery from the huge group, the festival, and just the noise that comes with any busy tourist town.

After 9 days in Manali, I was ready to be on my own. My “solo travels” had been anything but so far. It was hard to break from such great friends, and I’ll be surprised if the four of us don’t meet up again soon!

In total it took me about 20 hours (two bus rides, 2 tuk tuk rides, and a taxi ride) to get me back to my next stop, about 30 km from Rishikesh. The route could have been better, but all of the travel was 100% worth it. For the views. For the festival. For the community feeling Рwe knew so many people by the end of our stay and everyone was always smiling and happy. The restaurant and hotel owners took amazing care of us. If we went to a restaurant for 2 meals in a row, we were pretty much guaranteed free dessert. One day we went to a nearby town, Vashist, and hiked to a beautiful waterfall with amazing views of the entire valley.

There was so much in Manali that I would have loved to stay longer for – more hiking and trekking, temples, more waterfalls. But until next time, I will remember my week there very fondly.