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Old 20th July 2012, 18:44   #16
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month

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Please thank your college friend (who is the SP of Mandi), for making the difference
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Originally Posted by rajeevn View Post
And I must congratulate your friend, the Superintendent of Police, Mandi. The work being done there is, indeed, commendable.
Thanks for your appreciation words. I'll pass on to him. It will make him more proud and give him more energy to carry on the good work. I'll send him this post link as well.

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Originally Posted by rajeevn View Post
As for loving to drive after Pandoh Dam, ... it was fun of course, but it was frustrating and scary too, for reasons soon to be made clear... that's coming up now!
I am eagerly waiting to hear this..
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Old 20th July 2012, 20:56   #17
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month

Great T-LOG sir! You have got me hooked! Waiting for more updates!

Mind sharing what exactly is the guy in the white innova (Picture #14 in the 5th post) trying to do here? Looks like he came up from the side of the mountain!!
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Old 20th July 2012, 21:20   #18
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

After Pandoh Dam…

The drive after Pandoh Dam, as mentioned, is where the journey really begins. The roads, except for the first 15-odd km, are great, the curves are sweeping, stems of the reservoir to your right keep winking at you from some 50-odd-feet below, the rock-faces start to shed their foliage, and the crisp air raises within you a youthful thrill. Little did we know that what we were about to get up our spine was a numbing chill!!

There we were, actors us all in this Utopian travel setting, just beginning our drive toward nirvana on the stretch immediately after Pandoh Dam, where the roads are narrow and bad for a bit, but yet with was a whistle on our lips and the smile of expectancy on everyone's faces...

And these are the reasons why...
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And then, out of the blue, this is what appeared to change it all (this is a later picture; the next few paras will explain why we didn't take pictures for the last 5-odd minutes!)...
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Out of the blue, we were jolted back to reality—a big bad meanie was snapping at our tails, with a front-end that looked like the snarl of the devil to me! A privately-owned bus was hurtling down this bad stretch behind us and I saw him all but tail-end the two cars that separated his bus and me. All of us have seen the Might is Right equation at play—bigger cars all but pushing big cars aside to get the right of way, big cars doing the same with slightly smaller cars, and slightly smaller cars doing it to smaller cars still and motorcyclists; and so on down the 'Size' value chain. Here was a pink-colored private bus, on a potholed road just about as wide as the bus was, all but tail-ending car after car in a slow-moving caravan of 3 cars, with me up-front!

Twenty seconds later, both the now-panicked drivers behind me had moved aside to let him pass, with one almost scraping the rock face to his left as he came to a screeching stop just in time. So, what’s the score now? Well, Mr Pink Meanie was behind me—about 8 inches behind me, with both of us doing about 40 km an hour on a road with bends, where it was not safe to do over 30 kmph! Given a choice, I would have quietly moved out of the bus' way. I had no flight to catch or airport to reach (he certainly did, it seemed!). The problem was that I didn't have that choice, at least not for another 2 km where the road widened just enough for me to let him pass! I reduced my speed to 35 kmph to stay safe, he came hurtling at me at 45 kmph. If I hadn't increased my speed to 45-plus, he would have rammed me from behind!

This when on till we were both hurtling up and down that mountain road and around the curves, nearly bumper to bumper, with me forced to gradually increase my speed to avoid being rear-ended by a man who appeared hell-bent on doing so! I looked at the speedo—I was at 80 kmph on that road, and he was the only thing I could see in the rear-view mirror!

On every curve I took on that dangerous road, I could, through my right foot whenever it touched the brake pedal, feel every one of the top-end Yeti’s safety features come into play—ABS, EBD, HHC, HBA & MBA; grinding and grating sounds that were rending my car-loving heart to shreds. But hello, happy news, they were also keeping me straight as an arrow and dead-center of the road, not letting the car slide or skid all over the road, especially on the bends. I blessed the Lord for giving me the courage to opt for all these features and scoured the road ahead for enough space to let the pink meanie pass me by, and then some—for you see, I didn’t trust him not to smack me as he overtook me, if for nothing else, then for the vicarious thrill of it.

Finally, the fabled divina ex machina maxim came into play and just such a place came at one particularly sharp bend—and I slid the Yeti into a spot where to side-swipe me out of spite, or out for the pure pleasure of doing so, he would have to perforce miss the driving line and risk going straight into the wall. I didn’t trust this man at all. After all, he had already proven that he was not in a very amenable or sensible state of mind! Thankfully, for once, sense prevailed in our bus-man and he drove right past. What was shameful was that when he passed, all three of us in the Yeti could see him laughing out loud.

Sad it was, and disgusting… what are we turning into, as a people?

This is us post our little mis-adventure, parked, taking a breather, getting our wits back, slowing down our pulse rates...
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Okay. Okay. Long breaths taken. God thanked. Lucky stars counted. Brighter side visited. Many a time. We were all the three of just fine. Correction—make that the four of us. The Snowman had come through like a shining star. With all respect to my official trip photographer and Mitsubishi, and a mental kiss to my former vehicle the Paj, I couldn't have pulled off that drive in the Pajero!

One more "for-old-times' sake" picture of my erstwhile Pajero here, if only to say 'SORRY' to it for being rude about it. The washing-the-car bit will surely pacify her—she always looked happier after a wash!
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Sorry, Moderators, for going off topic for a moment here...


Okay. Okay. Enough lamenting. A happy trip we were out for, and this was but a skirmish—at least that's what we told ourselves and set off again. With a clear mandate—we had to catch up with the pink meanie, if only to take at least one picture of the bus, so that we could share the same with all at T-BHP. And catch up we did, click the picture we did, and since the bus stopped soon after, we crossed it and then I drove like a bat out of hell—no way was I wanting to get into his crosshairs again!

Some pictures from the ensuing drive, to get the perspective back to fun and celebration. We were on holiday, after all, and this was but a blip on the otherwise spotless radar... Here we go.

PS: There will only be a few pictures of the tunnel here, just before reaching Aut, and all of them are bad! We have loads more to share and will do (on the return journey), and our official photographer NilanjanM is planning a surprise treat for everyone to enjoy!
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And then came the mesmerizing bit of the drive...
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And so the drive went on, with the vistas getting more and more beautiful...
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I have crossed this bridge enough times, but the sight never ceases to enthral me. At T-BHP, we have seen far greater confluences, but this still brings a smile to my lips each time I see it, and makes me wonder at the power and serenity of nature
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The standard picture that must be taken on every visit to Manali!
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And the first clean, unfettered glimpse of some real mountains. We were getting close to Manali. I could smell her...
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Toll? No toll. This was the moment when whatever little apprehensions we had left in us, post our encounter with Mr Meanie in the pink bus, were forgotten. The 'toll-man' was sleeping.

The Yeti honked. No reply.

The Yeti honked again. No reply.

The man at the wheel honked—"Bhai saahib, toll nahin chaaiye kya?" No reply.

Motormouth Lady honked—"Main dekhti hoon. Jaag jaayenge. Bhaiya, toll le leejiye. Bhaiya. BHAIYA!" No reply.

The consensus was clear amongst all three of us—When a pretty lady calls a man BHAIYA, he will never wake up! Even if he is awake!!

Next step, official photographer NilanjanM honks—"Let me take a picture of him."

That did the trick, for whatever reason. Toll man sprang to his feet. Took Rs 10 from us. And we were on our way. No snoozing pictures. Alas.
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Finally, we were well and truly on our way to Manali...
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Old 20th July 2012, 21:47   #19
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Rajeev thanks! This is a nice travelogue and a nice engaging writing style!
What a traumatic experience with that pink bus!!
Good you kept your head!
I second your view about the Yeti's amazing safety kit. It really boosts one's confidence!
Cheers.
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Old 20th July 2012, 22:01   #20
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

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Rajeev thanks! This is a nice travelogue and a nice engaging writing style!
What a traumatic experience with that pink bus!!
Good you kept your head!
I second your view about the Yeti's amazing safety kit. It really boosts one's confidence!
Cheers.
Thanks, Shankar—I am glad that you liked what I have written. I agree on the Yeti safety bit with you 100%. The little lady has her crankiness, and a few twinges, but she delivers when it really matters!



Am going to dedicate one post to a lot of very good things, and two small yet rather bad things, about her when I get to the 'Yeti experience' part of the T-Log right at the end, after my two bits about the travel and the travails that accompanied it are done with and dusted over.

Thanks again, Shankar, for your kind words.
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Old 20th July 2012, 22:08   #21
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

Thank you so much for such an entertaining logue. It makes for awesome reading when every thought is shared, it really does. I like the way its been put up. Well 'pink meanie' would have been shown a sign by me, its called the 'take off' sign, but then again I would not ever do that on the highway. The Yeti is a wonderful car and its been captured beautifully. What I love is that you don't dwell too much on details, your words keep pace and had me thoroughly entertained. I personally loved the log. Some very nice clicks too. 5 stars for you my friend. Nothing like reading a lovely log after a tiring day at work. Makes me want to plan.
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Old 20th July 2012, 22:47   #22
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Originally Posted by AbhishekB86 View Post
Thank you so much for such an entertaining logue. It makes for awesome reading when every thought is shared, it really does. I like the way its been put up. Well 'pink meanie' would have been shown a sign by me, its called the 'take off' sign, but then again I would not ever do that on the highway. The Yeti is a wonderful car and its been captured beautifully. What I love is that you don't dwell too much on details, your words keep pace and had me thoroughly entertained. I personally loved the log. Some very nice clicks too. 5 stars for you my friend. Nothing like reading a lovely log after a tiring day at work. Makes me want to plan.
Dear Abhishek,

Thanks for the words of encouragement. They mean a lot and help in keeping me going and posting away. It may have been a short two-and-a-half day trip, but it sure had its ups and downs—let's put it this way; I was back at work on Monday, and I was smiling from moment GO!

Thanks again, and there's lots more to come. As the T-LOG goes, we have't even reached Manali yet!

And we won't, on the T-LOG, for a while, because we took a detour—as we realized that the early-morning start had stood us in good stead and we had made great time. It was barely 2 pm and we were almost there!

Come to think of it, we did over-speed for 2 km out of 590 km overall, and I did drive like a joker when the 'Pink Meanie' was after us—in retrospect, he helped us get there quickly!

That's coming up shortly, including some fish 'n chips (and awful coffee) at Naggar...
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Old 21st July 2012, 00:10   #23
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An admission is called for now, friends, a sad one, from my perspective.

I didn't know one thing about this trip till about 5 minutes back! And that, in the days to come, may send me to Kingdom come. Lady Motormouth AnjaliS saw the T-LOG on her laptop and exclaimed to me a few minutes ago—"Where are my pictures? Why aren't you posting them?"

"Your pictures? Why should I post pictures of human beings when we are in Manali? Why are you so vain?", I shoot back, suddenly all complacent, self-fulfilled and victorious. My evening is made. No dessert is needed. I have won the day. I am king. I am King Kong.

"Vain?", the Mouth shoots back. "I took pictures during the trip, and better ones than you guys. I even shot you guys, when you were crooning over things and you didn't even realize it."

Hello! What in tarnation did she shoot photos of on this trip? How? With what gizmo/device? Hidden camera? Visions of TV 'Breaking News' and what celebrities eat for breakfast flash before my eyes. What angles did she get? What time? When? And why, without telling us?

GULP!

"I had a point-and-shoot camera, stupid, didn't you guys notice?", she pouts, now confident, more so as I deflate by the second. I am almost pulp. Threshed.

Okay. Okay. Seems the Mouth had a point-and-shoot camera with her, tucked away, Sony no less, and was quietly working it. There are some newly-discovered pictures we have now, some very nice ones I may add.

Some glimpses here, and an apology to AnjaliS—'Motormouth' is now officially multi-christened; 'Motorfinger' is her brand-new handle! She can actually do more than just talk, non-stop... When did she learn to?
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And now, since there has to be, is a self-portrait—from that blooming hidden camera...
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Suitably chastened, with a heavy burden on my fast- and now oft-sagging shoulders, I carry on with the T-LOG. The show must go on. We have to reach Manali, no?!

So the show shall go on, with pictures from our still official photographer, NilanjanM. Some pictures of the rustic side of Himachal, en route to Manali...
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Now, this is the 'real' road to Manali, one that takes you past real villages, real villagers, and real scenic vistas
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Desh ki dhadkan—Tata Nano is everywhere now...
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And then, some more rusticity
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And the Yeti stops once again—we are making good time, and what better place to have a nice cuppa?
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But Motormouth aka M'Fingers raises her head again. Some more hidden camera pictures.
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And the show moves further upward, very hungry now, and still not 4 pm...
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And here, folks, we took 'a' right turn—not 'the' right turn—and stormed a castle! That's coming up shortly...

Thanks for reading.
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Old 21st July 2012, 02:09   #24
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

You do have a flair for writing, dont you?
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Old 21st July 2012, 10:57   #25
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Great T-LOG sir! You have got me hooked! Waiting for more updates!

Mind sharing what exactly is the guy in the white innova (Picture #14 in the 5th post) trying to do here? Looks like he came up from the side of the mountain!!
Dear Aplang,

Thanks for your kind words, and do keep the feedback coming in.

And that's a very valid point there about the Innova! The angle does seem to suggest that our friend drove right up the mountainside from below to get there quickly and save on some time!



Unfortunately, all that happened was that while there were two lines of vehicles headed to the toll booth—one of trucks and the other of private vehicles (with the remaining part of the road on the right reserved for oncoming traffic to pass by)—many like our overzealous friend in the Innova decided to use that oncoming lane to get ahead. And therein lay the genesis of this jam. We all see this happen today at every toll plaza, in cities, highways, state roads, you name it.

In fact, now that you mention it, here's a hairy incident that happened on the drive back from Manali to Delhi, on this trip itself—which underscores just how belligerent and impatient we are all becoming. At the toll booth near Ropar, an Alto nearly took off the Yeti's left-side door rear-view mirror to get ahead in the queue; I moved a bit to the right to let him go. The Alto tried to do the same to the Swift in front of me. The driver of the Swift wasn't as timid as me—he would not let him go. They inched forward, side by side, centimeters apart, a battle of nerves.

We followed in the Yeti, waiting for their anticipated kiss! It happened, and it wasn't a shortlived kiss—they kept at it till the Alto lost a rear-view mirror, the Swift had a bumper that was half hanging and scraping the road and you had two drivers cussing away at one another.

The net result was this:

The Alto saved about a minute of waiting time and lost a mirror.

The Swift lost no time, only a bumper.

The Yeti lost a minute, while its three passengers added some new words to their Hindi vocabulary—we had lowered our windows to listen to their exchange of pleasantries!

Jokes apart, a rather insipid reflection of what we are turning into. Traffic, jams and queues are only going to get worse. Then? Is that what is going to become of Resurgent India as well?

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Old 21st July 2012, 11:04   #26
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You do have a flair for writing, dont you?
Dear Zappo,

Thanks. I am glad you like the writing bit. To be truthful, having been stuck mostly on the highway on this short trip, I am digging in to all my reserves to ensure that this T-LOG comes through fine for all readers and lives up T-BHP's rich legacy of travelogues. I have enjoyed them so much over these last few years, and am only now realizing how tough it is to do a meaningful one myself (it's great fun too, may I add!).

Kudos to those who do such great Travelogues one after the other.
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Old 21st July 2012, 12:55   #27
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Almost exactly 20 years back, I drove my first car, a Maruti 800, up a curvaceous road to reach a castle. We were three friends on that trip as well, and since we were younger, the impulsiveness quotient was some notches higher. All that was needed for a complete overhaul of the tour itinerary was a road signage that said: Naggar Castle, 1 km. And up the blacktop tarmac we went.

The insides were mesmerizing, the views enchanting. Then, there were 20-odd artistes at work there, all foreigners, churning out alluring charcoal drawings on white drawing paper (about the size of a regular magazine cover). We later learnt that these drawings were auctioned to tourists and other visitors, and the proceeds used to finance the stay of these artistes in the rooms at the castle itself.

In short, the artistes got a 'tariff-free' holiday for two months each year, visiting tourists got to acquire exquisite free-hand drawings and sketches from budding international artistes for a pittance, and art and culture received a boost that cut across all man-made boundaries and barriers.

Some of views from and of Naggar Castle—nothing much has changed in two decades. Amen!
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Twenty years on, seemingly nothing has changed. And let's thank the Heavens for that! The insides of Naggar Castle are still mesmerizing, the views are as enthralling as ever and haven't changed a speck, the restaurant remains where it was and serves the same fare; even some of the stewards are the same. And me, I was as hungry today as I was two decades back when I first came here. Even the food order we placed was pretty much the same—Chicken Pakodas, Freshwater Whole Grilled Trout and Cold Coffee. "Make the coffee strong, Sir."

While the order was being whipped up, official trip photographer NilanjanM(unaware then that he was being scooped on the sly by the multi-christened M'Mouth aka M'Fingers and her hidden camera), disappeared to do whatever he does with his camera.

Lady Multi-M was living up to her first name for a bit, whipping out her Blackberry, only to check mails, praise the Lord. I crouched in a corner and thanked the Lord for the silence and peace of the place (and the absence of verbal phone calls), looked aft of the balcony and gorged on the vistas that this vantage point has to offer. Enchanting. Exquisite. Tranquil.

And then, Cacophony.

Cacophony, I said? Yes. The phone calls had begun.
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"Hello. Hello. HELLO?!"

"Where is the presentation? You have sent it to me already? Let me check. Yes, I have it. Hey, I can't download the file. Maybe it's because there is only one danda on my phone signal. Okay. Read out the presentation to me, slide by slide. Do it quickly. What will the client say?!"

What will the 'client' say? Indeed. Thank you.

What about what all of Naggar and this part of Himachal will now have to endure for God knows how long, given her tenacity, her verbal timbre and the enviable resonance she manages to pull out her famous tonsils whenever she deems to. Needless to add, I 'thought' this, and did not 'say' this. I quietly slunk into a cranny on the balcony, pushing myself as far away from her as possible without making it too obvious. Please don't me wrong—I am a normal person, not Superman, and there is only so much my eardrums and jangled nerves can take.

POOF! She was back to her true calling—M'Mouthing! Ensuring that not only would HP Tourism get a boost by her presence at the restaurant; but that even the telecom folks back home wouldn't lament the untold loss of business caused by her departure from Delhi.

Disclaimer (for my personal protection): Sorry, AnjaliS, I couldn't resist that one!



And now, to reveal what our trip photographer was up to, while she talked and I skulked.
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There is also a nice little temple within the premises of the Castle, and one just outside. This is the one inside
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Some other pictures taken from within the Naggar Castle premises
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And this is the old temple just outside the Castle—notice that it appears to be half below-ground
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Back to reality. As I cringed in a corner, some respite for me, in the form of the 'strong' coffee I had asked for. Only, this wasn't strong—it was lathal. All I had to do to get to Manali double quick from here was gulp it down in one swig and I wouldn't have needed the Yeti to cover the remaining 14 km in 14 minutes! It was coffee at its deadliest—in his zest to serve a regular customer, the jovial steward had put in five times the coffee beans it would take to make 'strong' coffee. His intentions were good, though, and I smiled and thanked him, praying I would be able to sleep at all over the next few days after downing this lethal concoction he had so lovingly rustled up for me!

That's the deadly coffee—the color itself tells its own story
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And that's the fish and chips. Legend has it that they send someone on a bike to catch the fish from the river down below after you place the order!
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Soon enough, the chicken pakodas arrived too, as did our official photographer NilanjanM from his sojourn. The foodstuff was most delicious and we each cautiously sipped the coffee with our eyes riveted on one another—to see which one took off like a Diwali ka rocket! Thankfully, we remained in our chairs through the meal and after, and shortly settled the bill to head the last few kilometers to Manali. It was getting on 5.30 pm.

Some pictures from the last bit of the drive up to Manali, from Naggar Castle
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And finally, the first view of our destination—Manali—another 2 km and we would be home, home being a nice little cottage on the outskirts that a friend of mine has
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Next episode: Manali and what the troika did there for the next 36 hours. Coming soon! Thanks for reading.
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Old 21st July 2012, 15:27   #28
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

So Manali, here we are...

And as always on every trip, the first thought on reaching the destination went to the silent traveller—the car, Snowman Yeti in this case. It had got us here in style and comfort, and fresh as we were from our fish 'n chips, it was necessary to ensure the Yeti had her fill as well. And yes, at the back of my mind was the guidance of the fuel pump attendant just after Kiratpur (just before we entered Himachal Pradesh)—that all fuel pumps in HP were closed because of a strike.

Either his information was wrong, or the strike had been called off. Either way, the fuel pump was very much open and doing roaring business at that. So we topped up the tank, and made the customary call to Chhattrapal, the caretaker of the cottage/flat, to tell him we would be there in 5 minutes and could he open up the house?

That's the Yeti, getting her tummy filled, while I amble around in the background...
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Making short shrift of the duties at the fuel pump, we headed out to the house and began the process of settling in. The views of the mountains from all three balconies of this house are ethereal, and here they are for your viewing pleasure. While the official photo-chap did his bit, we other two went about putting the place in order and all things in their place.
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Each time you look at it, it seems better—and more pleasing to the eyes
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Notice the path to the right? That's the path down which the Yeti came—and slid into her parking slot
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Some more views from the balcony(ies)—I can never get tired of watching these pictures
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The small gas stove we always carry was fired up and a cup of tea made. Arrangements had to be made for dinner, as we were getting tired by now and it had been a long day... Also, the next day was the only one we had for doing any mischief in Manali, and we had to make it count. All the gadgets and gizmos we were carrying were brought out—for most to be charged, and for some to deliver the goods (the laptop is belting out music in one of the pictures, while it rests on the couch).
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That's me in the background, scrubbing the sink. Till the place of residence is not spick and span, it somehow doesn't feel right! Am not a finicky person, folks, just like things to be clean.
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One of the two very cosy bedrooms in the house. The pity is in four years, the only person who has ever lived in this house is me—about 10-12 trips. My friend is too busy to travel to Manali—he needs to get his priorities right
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On to the market it was in a while, as we got some dinner packed and decided to tuck it in, and then tuck ourselves in for the night. It would be an early start tomorrow, and as I have said earlier, it was the only day we had in Manali, and we had to make it count. Some final evening pictures from the balcony as the sun goes down...
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And before we wind up for the evening, a glimpse of what tomorrow holds for us—it is going to be one fun day, with some UPs and DOWNs!
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I personally just cannot get enough of this picture. It is hard to imagine that one was sitting behind a desk in an air-conditioned office barely 48 hours back, in a city with traffic snarls and 45 degree heat! All of that seems so far away, and like a bad dream, now gone away. Please do not miss the paraglider on the top right-hand-side of the picture—Nirvana!
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Thanks all for reading, and tomorrow will bring some nice surprises for one and all...
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Old 27th July 2012, 08:08   #29
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

Wow.... This is something! I'm glad now that many members are talking good about Skoda. Had you done any off roading? Please post the pics of the same - just wanted to see how the yeti fairs in real life off-roading.
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Old 27th July 2012, 14:31   #30
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Default Re: Lightning strikes twice! 3-Day Delhi-Manali trip twice in a month (Skoda Yeti)

Beautiful TLOG! Keep up the good work and post more pics.

Last month I was hunting for a picturesque hill station for a vacation and was confused between Shimla and Manali. I finally zeroed in on Shimla but now after viewing these pics I guess would have to plan another trip to Manali soon.

Its a beautiful place!
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