Hopefully, you’ve read Part I already
To get to Kasol, one has to go to the new ISBT bus stand and book a bus that will take you to Bhuntar, since there is no direct route. Of course, we didn’t know this, so we took a couple of buses (yea you have to change in between, which cost us Rs. 42/-, from the old bus stop near our Dharamshala to the new ISBT stop. I was quite impressed with the New ISBT, which looked quite modern compared to the rest of quaint Shimla – we booked our tickets to Bhuntar which was Rs. 1315/- in total. Bear in mind that if you want to head to Bhuntar the bus leaves at 8.20am. Getting up early is no fun when you are on a vacation! Unfortunately the bus arrives on the first floor that connects directly to the open roads, which sucks when you neither have a backpack nor does the damn escalator work. It gave Lawrie and Ian a chance to gloat over how “easily” they could climb up! Bastards!
The journey to Bhuntar was unfortunately uneventful, because of which Lawrie decided to come up with one of the stupidest games ever invented – 20 questions. For those of you that don’t know, this is a game that is played between two people, with one person thinking of a famous personality, and the other guessing who it is by only asking Yes/No questions along the way. Of course, being Lawrie, he creates his own rules along the way as he sees fit, resulting in me praying that either we reached our destination soon or that we hit a divider in the road and toppled over just to save myself from the mental torture! We finally reached Bhuntar, which is quite a bustling area, and after having some snacks and dodging the traffic while crossing the road (mind you- all the while lugging a very heavy suitcase behind me) we got to the bus stand to board the local bus to Kasol which was ~Rs 34/- per head. FYI Kasol is around 30 Km from Bhuntar.
Now, I kid you not, when I say that Kasol is located at one end of the world, and to get to that end of the world, you have to drive up mountainous terrain where thinking that the bus will topple down the sheer edge of the cliff face is quite common. Not to mention that at times there are 2 busses and/or sheep along that narrow road which make the horse rides in Kufri seem like a walk in the park. I only remember making the sign of the cross umpteen number of times during the journey! I think, we all found religion that day!!
Finally, we reached Kasol around 6.30pm, and lo and behold – it was… well, I don’t even have words to describe it. Imagine walking on an empty road with no streetlights and nothing to do – yep, that’s Kasol. It was barren, it looked like civilization ran away from this place (of course, not as bad as old Manali, but we’ll get to that later). Apparently people only come here to smoke up, which is quite surprising, because I have no idea who the bloody hell they buy from, since there was no one around!!! Anyway, we managed to snag a room for 600/- for the 3 of us, and then went about hitting the town (or should I say ghost town).
There is a famous bakery called German bakery, which Ian had read a lot about online, but unfortunately they only had leftovers, so we went elsewhere and got some nice momos to munch on for Rs 80/- down the road. For dinner, we got to another pretty famous place called Evergreen Café, which is located in an obscure corner of the road and there’s a good chance you would miss it, but once inside its really great, TBH, I was surprised such a place even existed – they even have an outdoor section where you get your “stuff”. Ian ordered some Shakshouka, (a dish of poached eggs in tangy tomato gravy) which is supposed to be popular here, though I found it ok, nothing too great – regular tomato ketchup and अंडे!
The next day, we had one of the best breakfast’s on the trip, a chicken cheese omelette that was well prepared (especially for so early in the morning, may be ~8.30 am) at Moon dance café and then boarded the bus to Tosh (which we were initially planning of skipping out completely, but added this in as a last minute, well, addition) carrying our luggage with us.
Taking the bus from Kasol to the Tosh drop off point cost us Rs. 30/- per pax, and took about an hour or so, which wasn’t too bad considering that we were fresh as daisies. Apparently, from where the bus drops you off, it’s another 4-5 km to get to the actual spot to explore all the beauty of Tosh. Ideally you can walk up, though there was rampant construction of a new thermoelectric power plant due to which some of the roads were dug up and made walking too difficult. Not to mention that yours truly was worried about the wheels of this suitcase breaking off whereas Lawrie was well, just fat and lazy. So we took a taxi up to the drop off point, which took ~15 minutes (though it seemed much longer due to the winding roads) cost Rs. 300/-. We dropped off our bags at a room somewhere at the top, cost us just Rs. 100/- for a couple of hours, and then we went clamouring up the winding roads that reminded me more of Bandra’s bazaar road. Tosh has some really nice picturesque views, but that’s about it – nothing much else to do there. Being hungry, we stopped a one of the villagers’ to order some Maggi and coffee. Turns out they make their money by ripping off the tourists. We paid Rs 330/- in total for something that we would have gotten in Mumbai for less than a hundred bucks! Ian, Lawzz and I were all like WTF… though arguing with them is kind of pointless.
We returned back, took our luggage and took the cab back down and shelled out another Rs. 300/-, reaching the bus drop off point around 2pm. Imagine our shock when someone told us that the next bus *might* arrive at 4pm. Can you believe it? 4pm, what the heck were we supposed to do until then? Trust the man of the hour to come up with a plan – Lawrie said, “Let’s cab it”. Therefore, we took a cab for 700/- to get to Kasol and within another 5 minutes, we got a bus from Kasol to Manali! Turns out taking that cab was actually a smart decision after all. Way to go, Lawrie!!
We started off at about 3.30pm, shoving ourselves into an overcrowded (something tells me that overcrowded seems to be the norm here). The bus passes through the main city of Kullu, which is another bustling area, which simply means that the already crowded bus gets even more overcrowded, if that were even possible! The only comfort was that Lawrie and I were sitting on a seat meant for 3 people, but no one else dared ask him to shift over 🙂 (though I think there were some whispering comments about it, alas all in vain though). Off course, overcrowded means that there would obviously be some pretty faces too, and I was definitely not be disappointed. I did find a bit of culture difference Vis a Vis Mumbai though, especially with the female of the species. In Mumbai, women usually sit on the appointed “For Ladies” seats in busses especially if they have the choice between those reserved seats and a general seat near a Male passenger, and God-Forbid if they ever sit near a male, you’ll notice a minimum of two inches gap between the two passengers. However not up north! I noticed that if them chicas had the option of the reserved seat or the general seat with a male passenger already sitting, they simply choose whichever seat is closest. And they’re pretty much rubbing shoulders with the other passenger! There was one 20ish woman sitting on the seat with me (mind you, it was only the two of us on the seat meant for three, so there was plenty of space) and every time the bus swooned left of right, she’d be smacking shoulders and brushing against me due to the momentum of the turn. In Mumbai, the only smacking I’d get would have been across my head, along with an ear full!! But up north, they are very open minded (either that or she found me hot :P)
The Bus to Manali was ~Rs 120/- per head and based on the recommendation from the driver, we booked a room at the Highway Inn for Rs 600/- total. Highway Inn, was by far the best place we stayed in so far, a very well done up room! Of every place that we had been to so far, Manali was my best (though I know Ian would disagree). This was the first place that actually had people walking and shops open post 10pm – it reminded me so much of Mumbai, where the nightlife actually exists. We went to a small dhaba to eat, and then headed to Honey Hut, which was highly rated on TripAdvisor for some honey mocha which was lip smacking.
This cafe is located in Mall Road, Manali. We had heard of this cafe and its mouth-watering cakes, coffee and pastries. The best part is they don’t use sugar, but honey instead in all the goodies. It’s true what they say about Manali – It attracts adventure travellers, with heli-skiing, hiking and mountaineering the favored active pursuits. Not to mention, but we also found a cabbie who was part time drug peddler, oh well, everyone needs an extra source of income, right?
The next day we headed off to Solang Valley to jump off a mountain…