Written by Shobhangi Rudra.
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.“
… I could feel chills running down my spine. This time it was not fear, it was the anticipation, the excitement of the unknown. We were approaching the hills.
I woke up around six in the morning. Everyone was asleep. The sun was peeping through the clouds. The glass windows of the bus were enveloped in a blanket of mist and fog. We stopped for a quick cup of tea. I was freezing and the cup of tea did wonders to my freezing inanimate Self. After a short break, we hopped on to the bus again.
There were no dhabas nearby. We ate cakes and dry fruits for breakfast. Around 9:30 am, we reached Manali Bus Depot. The depot was situated in a valley and was surrounded by lofty mountains on both sides. Amidst the chaos, I could hear the faint gurgling of a stream. A river was flowing peacefully nearby.
We got on a minivan from here. The van was supposed to drop us at our hotel in Solang valley. Almost 10 minutes later, our vehicle stopped. The Solang bridge was choked with traffic. It would take at least three hours to clear. We decided to trek the rest of the way to our lodge. Our instructor called it a “mini trek”. The vans would drop off our luggage later. Thus, our mini trek began.
We were surrounded by lofty mountains and deep valleys. The huge strong mountains had a beauty of their own. We were approaching the snow. We started to lose our breath after an hour or so. Our instructors constantly motivated us to move forward. We had to cross a road uphill which was converted in snow. This was the first time I walked on snow.
The feeling was surreal. After almost two hours we reached the entrance of our hotel.
It was a small passage that went down to reveal our lodge. The passage was slippery with melting snow. I slipped and fell but got up laughing. It was a very funny experience because I felt like those animated cartoons who slipped and fell on a banana peel. Even the entry gate of our hotel was covered with snow.
It was lunchtime. I was sharing a room with Katha and Sreeradha ma’am. The view from our room was something out of a movie. There was a huge field covered in snow where people were enjoying snow activities. On the right side, a small stream was flowing with its own rhythm. It was surreal. Something we usually saw in movies.
We freshened up and went down for lunch. After lunch, some of the students accompanied by an instructor went out for a short trek while the three of us stayed back. We went out to explore the place on our own.
After a “Bollywood inspired” photo shoot, the three of us brought some snacks. We bought a bottle of gin to keep us warm in the minus degree temperatures.
By the time we returned, everyone was back. We entered our room and feasted on bhujia and gin. We talked about everything from tours to personal life. The first day at Solang valley ended on a good note.
Day 2: The Highs and the Lows
I was waiting eagerly for the second day of our tour because it provided me with the opportunity to try something new for the very first time. We gathered in groups of ten to learn skiing!
As easy as it seems in movies, gliding through the snow and down the slopes is a task that requires a lot of body strength and courage.
Our instructor was an Olympic Skier. He had represented India in many international levels.
We gathered around him and then he started to explain to us the various parts and equipment involved in skiing. I was extremely excited to try this. One by one, all of us tried to glide down the slope and after innumerable falls I finally got it. It felt like I was riding on a wave and the moment the slope ended, I landed on soft snow similar to the golden sand on the beaches.
We continued skiing for an hour or so before we headed off for our lunch. We were supposed to trek to the old Solang village nearby.
Skiing is a very physically exhausting activity. The innumerable falls on hard snow hurt my back. Soon, we left for Old Solang village. I will be very honest here. In the beginning, the trek was through a beautiful path with knee-deep snow on both sides. We could see a dried-up tree after every minute. It looked like we were on the set of Narnia movies. The beauty was incomparable. Something was only seen in movies.
We trekked through the snow, slipped and got up again. We crossed a makeshift wooden bridge across a stream that was almost frozen. After half an hour, we found ourselves standing before a hill with makeshift muddy roads to go up to the village. My vertigo stuck me again. It was scary but I did not just give up. We started climbing up the mountain. The narrow and slippery road which kept on twisting really tested our strength and courage. I almost reached the top, when I felt a shooting pain in my chest. Due to safety reasons, some of us got down. I regretted giving up. Tears rolled down my eyes. After returning to the hotel, I decided to try harder the next time and see the village up there. It’s still an unfulfilled dream waiting to be fulfilled.
My back was covered with dark bruises but it didn’t dampen my spirit. After a delicious dinner, we slipped under our covers to sleep.
Around 3 am, there was a blackout in the entire area. Our heater switched off and we could feel the chills creeping into our blankets. Three jackets and double socks couldn’t keep us warm. The temperature in our room dropped to -6 Celsius. All of us came out of our room to see if we could find a way out. The halls were deserted and we could see the mist on the windows. It looked like we were a part of any horror movie. Very soon, our lips started to turn pale and no, I am not exaggerating. To our relief, after an hour, the lights turned on and we could finally retire to bed.
No more adventures for today, we said in unison before we went to bed.
Day 3: Solang Valley- Bittersweet Memories
I have never woke up to a more beautiful view. The Sunrays caressed the snowy mountains. It seemed like thousands of diamonds were scattered on the mountain. It was a heavenly sight. We woke up around 7 am in the morning for the group breakfast. We were supposed to go to a trek to the Shivling nearby. It was not going to be an easy trek. I couldn’t be a part of this trek because of my injuries that I sustained last day.
We had a warm cup of coffee and hot bread for breakfast.
After freshening up, we gathered near the reception where we were given snow boots. It was very difficult to walk in those, but we had to break them in.
We were divided into two groups. One group will be taking part in the snow activities first and then go on the trek and vice versa.
I was a part of the group which indulged in the activities first. I have a tremendous fear of heights. We had a wide range of activities to take part in. The first one was the Tyre ride. We had to sit on a tyre in pairs and then the tyre would be pushed down a slope. A designated man always held the anchor to prevent any mishaps. I was really scared. Katha helped me a lot during this time. After a lot of persuasions and calming, I decided to go for it. I held on to the tyre with a firm grip. The man pushed us down, and we slipped down the slope at high speed. The snow hit my face like raindrops. I squeezed my eyes shut and within seconds, I was down the slope. It felt like I was flying. What an amazing experience!
The next ride was called zipline. We would be suspended on a wire stretched across the snowy field and would swish right across the field. It was supposed to be a free fall. Now, this was something I was extremely worried about. I could feel my vertigo creeping on to me. One of the few friends I made on this trek was Ankit. We were in the same university but we never even spoke to each other. He assured me that the ride would be a thrilling experience and I would enjoy it. I decided to let go of my fears and just hop on to it. The feeling of zip lining through the air was something out of this world. It was surreal and I was flabbergasted.
After this, we rode on a snow scooter and drove all across the field.
Soon, everyone left for the second trek while I and ma’am stayed back. I surely missed the opportunity to visit Shivling but I won’t say that I regret it. Ma’am sustained injuries last day and she couldn’t trek. So we decided to go on a little walk on our own. We walked through the small alley and bought some drinks and snacks to feast on while we had our own chit chat session. Around 8, Katha returned from the trek and we were very proud of her. She completed the trek. We saw pictures and videos from the trek
Later that night, after small bonfire night, we retired to our beds. The next day included the journey back to Kolkata. It was a long day and we slept to the tunes of “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran. It was our last night amidst the beautiful mountains in Solang valley. My first trekking expedition had many ups and downs. All I can say that no matter how many times we fell, we got up with the same zeal and enthusiasm. The trip ended with a lot of beautiful and bittersweet memories. What’s the fun if everything goes on in a perfect manner? It is these little incidents that turn out to be some of the most beautiful memories of your life. The one thing I learned from this experience was to never give up. Giving up will stop you from experiencing the phenomenal light at the end of the tunnel.
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Shobhangi Rudra is a Content Writer at The Strong Traveller. A wanderer at heart, she keeps on trying to find herself through the little trips and quirks. A student of journalism, Shobhangi loves to share stories, deeply passionate about travelling and experiencing new people, culture & places. She loves to read Rumi and strongly believes “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”