Vashisht Hot Springs & Manali’s Wheat Fields
We woke up to the sound of the drum beats coming from the street and we rushed to the balcony to see what was happening. It was a religious procession with the villagers carrying the local deity on a palkhi, beating drums, holding flags and a long trumpet-like musical instrument, I guess they were heading to Hadimba temple. Another day of drinking and celebrating for them, I assumed.
The Crowded Hot Water Springs of Vashisht
I had not visited natural hot water springs before, neither of us had, so we decided to head to Vashisht, which is known for its natural sulphur springs and is situated 6 kms away from Manali. We had a quick bite at German Bakery and walked all the way to the market place in New Manali to catch a rickshaw to Vashisht. Its a pleasant walk but at the same time the amount of the vehicles constantly moving about can drive you crazy. We weren’t in a city but it felt like we were.
These beautiful flowers caught our eye as we were passing a hotel, they were growing in the garden, so we just sneaked in to take some photos. The big roses adorning the lawn with some unusual flowers too.
After some 30 minutes of walking we reached the rickshaw stand. Its best to haggle before settling for a fare with the rickshaw guys, he charged us Rs 80 for the 4 of us, which was a decent deal.
A lovely view of River Beas and the snow-covered mountains greeted us as we took the road going up to Vashisht. The peaks were far away but we got to spent good amount of time on snow in Spiti, photos of that will come in the next few posts. The settlement at Vashisht is at the foot of the mountain, you can feel the buzz as lot of Indian tourists come to visit the temple. The rickshaw dropped us in the parking lot and just few steps away was the temple. We walked through the busy market that had concrete structures on either side of the road. One of our friend who had been to Vashisht 2-3 years ago said that it changed drastically, the green fields and meadows have been replaced by cafes, guest houses, shops etc. A sleepy village has been transformed into a place hustling with activity.
This is the temple outside the main Vashisht temple, with the wooden carvings and the phirang (foreigner) sadhu sitting at the entrance distributing prasad. You will find many such foreign tourists who stay permanently in the mountains or spend long time here, learn about Indian culture, or start their own cafes or lodging facilities.
A local Himachal woman sitting outside the temple with a huge rabbit, she charged Rs 10 to hold the rabbit and take a picture. Everything seems to be big in Himachal, the flowers, monkeys, dogs, who are nice and furry, cattle, etc. That’s what fresh air does to you, even the locals are so strong and fit, without any modern gym or health club. The entrance to the main temple of Vashisht, the intricate wooden carvings on the door forms a distinct feature of the temples in Himachal. Various deities have been etched on the wooden surface, that appears to be quite complex. The main temple is dedicated to Vashist Muni, his idol remains unchanged for centuries but the things around continue to change rapidly. Next to it are two separate water tanks for men and women to bathe in natural spring water. The ladies section was empty when I entered so I happily put my leg in the hot water tank. Ooops, the water was too hot to leave my foot in even for a minute. The water is suppose to have curative properties, so I splashed it on my face and hands and I was out. Few of them also dived in the steaming water, wonder how that was possible. Several taps were placed next to the tank for people interested in taking a shower. Apparently for the convenience of visitors modern bathhouses with Turkish-style showers also have been made.
Even outside the temple people can have bath under the hot water tap. You can see the steam oozing out at so many locations.
Opposite to Vashisht temple is the ancient Ram temple, made of stones, where idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana have been installed. It was closed when we reached, but on walking around the temple we could see that the front part was just an extension, probably to support the old structure.
This picture gives you a closer look of the stone architecture of Ram temple. It was closed at the time of our visit so we went further up to get away from the concrete walls in order to get a better view of the valley. We walked past lodges and went through houses to find an isolated and peaceful spot.
There were so many pretty flowers on the way, am sure if you have read our previous travel articles you would know that we are fond of floral delights. A bumble bee feeding on nectar from the flowers.
We reached high enough not to spot any houses and that’s when we soaked in the beauty around us. Dark clouds began to gather above the mountains and it was soon followed by a shower. We ran for cover, because if we get wet the cold would be unbearable. I didn’t even carry my jacket, so we took shelter under a rock, a natural protection from the mountain rain. It was big enough to accommodate all 4 of us, comfortably. It was already 4 pm, so we started our descent and caught a rickshaw straight to Old Manali. We thought of skipping lunch and going for dinner to our favorite restaurant Green Valley View, for an Olive Pizza.
Stroll Through the Wheat Fields, Apple Orchards and More
It was a late start to the day, almost noon when we woke up. A lovely day in the offing, the sun and clouds were playing hide and seek in the skies. Before enjoying the weather, it was time to fill my growling stomach. Besides, in such beautiful weather you just feel like eating all the time.
The guest house we stayed at served delicious food from the next door Simpy restaurant. The food was reasonably priced and well-presented as evident from the picture below. Going from left to right – Fruit Salad with Curd, Potato Egg Salad, Paneer Mutter, Dal Makhani, Chapatties, Mango, Banana and Chocolate Shake. My mouth is watering profusely as I write. Simpy restaurant serve moutn-watering food, so if you visit Old Manali and want to affordable food, then Simpy and Green Valley View are the places to eat.:)
The story of Manali is similar to Vashisht, rather worse, as I have spoken about it in my earlier post. But today we explored a different side of Old Manali, which was always the real side. A short walk from our guest house took us to vast expanse of wheat fields, vegetable farms and apple orchards. There are just handful of guest houses, but on walking further inside, there is nothing but fields.
You are totally cut off from the developed side of Manali, with no one but farmers doing their work. Fields of Green peas were spread far and wide, that was the first time I saw the plant and I love Green peas . We plucked some of them and started to eat, so sweet and juicy, you can eat them raw.
I was overjoyed with the feeling of being one with nature, with all her beauty as far as I could see. On the periphery of these fields marijuana grows in the wild, it grows everywhere, outside the temple or school, its perhaps what draws some of the local and mostly foriegn tourists to Manali.
There are small narrow paths between fields, so its easy to walk through them, you can find a spot to relax in the afternoon under an apple tree. What a life would this be, if you are harrowed or sad come to the fields or the apple orchards and absorb the positive energy around you. It felt so good walking through the green patch. There were couple of houses on the way, and this cute boy had just woken up from his sleep, you can see the dazed look on his face. While this little girl came chasing me asking for money, then I gave her a Rs 10 note and clicked this photo. We reached a spot where the view was fabulous, we had a view of the entire place with the mountain range at the end.
Flying high in the blue skies,
over the forests and snow-capped mountains,
that’s where my heart lies! ~ Bhavika Jhaveri
I am not too good at rhyming words, but at that moment I wished I could fly!
This cute dog sure was lucky to be staying here. Many houses in Himachal had a dog to protect the house and their fields, but robbery is not at all rampant here, so I guess they just love dogs.
The path was running parallel to the Club House road, so we looked down on the road and said how lucky we were to find this route instead of walking among annoying cars. In the distance a hot air balloon is getting ready to take off! We walked on the path parallel to the road and then reached the other side of Beas river facing Vashisht, wandering in the mountains, didn’t know where the path was leading, it was great fun! The view kept getting better with every step we took. We waited for some time enjoying the scenery. The sun was setting and it was time to reach the guest house before dark. We slowly started the walk back, looking at the mountains and the reflection of the sun rays on the snow-capped peaks. We got back on the path to walk through the golden wheat fields, which were gleaming under the setting sun. We lost our way as well for a while, but were right back in no time. On reaching the guest house we ordered for some simple Indian food from Simpy’s, played UNO, a favorite past time on this trip and went off to sleep. The next day the plan was to catch a bus to Kasol in Parvati valley.
Last Day in Manali
We had to postpone our plan to Kasol by a day since one of our friends was unwell and unable to travel. One more day to roam around in the fields of Manali for us.:) While he rested we thought of going to Naggar, a small town around 15 kms away from Manali, but the cost of a rickshaw ride was working out to be too expensive for 3 people. So we cancelled the plan and started to walk towards Old Manali village.
We see this really funny sight of group of Indians clicking photographs with a foreigner, I think she either owned one of the souvenir shops or was a tourist. Each one would go up to her, give her a hug and pose for a picture, it was hilarious. Some of them also started to clap while the photo was being taken. A brown bird hopping close to the bridge that separates New and Old Manali.
With nothing to do we went to German bakery, bought bread rolls and Yak cheese, went straight to the fields and made ourselves sandwiches. It was different in taste, less salty and went perfectly well with bread and butter. You have to try it the next time you come to Himachal.
The last day in Manali was just spent lazing around, doing some shopping and chilling in the room. We had spent way too much time in Old Manali, Prakash at the guest house was sad that we were leaving. We on the other hand were extremly happy to be making some progress with our travel plans.
Share and Learn: