Heading to Manali, India
We left McLeod Ganj and headed via taxi to Manali, India. It would be an all day affair on mountain roads. We had taken a taxi from Amritsar to Dharmshala and knew what we were up against for the day. We booked a car through a local agency and when the taxi arrived, I noticed the tires were completely bald all the way around, and the front right was showing the steel belts. I wasn't comfortable taking this taxi as it was in such poor shape but, I figured I would give the driver a chance and didn't want to hassle with finding another on such short notice.
Taxi Driver Woes
Within an hour and half, we ditched the super-aggressive driver who obviously had no clue that taking mountain roads at the speeds of which he was taking them. With tires as bald as they were, it simply wasn't safe. Multiple times I told him to slow down, but he continued to yell at other drivers, pass on turns, and drive to fast. We were glad we did. The roads after we ditched the driver and found another, were much worse. The mountain roads in and around the foothills of the Himalayas are poorly maintained. They are full of gravel and broken bits, and far too narrow to be considered safe. We made it however, to Manali in the evening safe and sound.
Manali, India Background
Manali, India is an old British hill station that is now a favored vacation destination for Indians. Many come here to Honeymoon. It sits at about 2000 meters high and sits in a valley with the River Beas running through it. To make a long story short.... It's absolutely beautiful... more so than Dharmshala and McLeod. The towering mountains on each side of the valley are snow-capped, and breath-taking. The climate is cooler as well by at least 10 degrees and greener with lush vegetation overall.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 In the Himalayas
Off To Neggar - Renting a Bike
We stayed in Manali for only one day and realized that it was simply too cold for us and the daily rain showers made it somewhat miserable. So we opted to rent a Royal Enfield motorcycle and head to Neggar. Neggar is about 20 miles south and at a lower elevation where it didn't rain so much and warmer temperatures. It has been a minor dream of mine to ride a Royal Enfield as it's such a classic motorcycle, and unless you are in India or the UK, you have little chance of riding one or even seeing one in Panama where we saw some at the Topas Hostel in Boquette. It was GREAT... A 500cc Bullet, classic design, and smooth ride with plenty of power to climb the hills. "The queen of the mountains" they call them!
View From the Snow Touch Resort
Neggar and Hotel Issues
We headed down to Neggar on our new bike and booked a place online at the Snow Touch Resort on hotels.com. It promised river views and a balcony. We got there and they gave us a room with a view of the back patio and no balcony. We spoke with the manager and said it was our Honeymoon. I know, lying isn't right in any circumstance, however the normal arguing wasn't working and the room we got, was not the one we paid for. A room "opened up" and we got the room we were looking for with an amazing view of the snow-capped mountains and the river. The room was so big we could have played soccer in it! It was a suite, and from then on the owner of the hotel gave us the most amazing customer service, greeting us every time we met. The food however at the hotel, was horrendous. Good thing street food in India is abundant and good.
Freeing The Horse In The Himalayas
Riding the Hills And Freeing The Horse
We enjoyed a few days for riding through the mountains on our Royal Enfield and buzzed around villages in and around Manali One day, we stopped to have a break north of Manali in the Rohtang Pass and we noticed a horse that appeared to be stuck and nayed constantly at us. When we investigated closer we found it to be straddling a barbed wire fence and had its tail wrapped in it as well. Shelly and I spent a few minutes freeing the horse who swiftly trotted away to about 25 yards from us. He then turned around and gave out a big nay and disappeared into the hills. It was almost if he was thanking us, and we wondered how long he had been stuck. I'm sure the pen where he was trying to get out of and the owner of the horse wouldn't thank us, but we couldn't just leave him there stuck. We got back on the bike and continued to ride the Entire Day. Check out the video below to see where we went.
Downtown Walking Street In Manali
The Town of Manali, India
The Town of Manali is charming. Perched in the mountains on the Beas River, the hills and landscape make it a relaxed place to hang out. There is a walking street in the center of town where shops, restaurants and cafes abound. We ate at a Chinese place on the walking street a couple of times while in Manali. It was nice staying in Naggar and only visiting Manali and the hustle and bustle of the town. The walking street was one of our favorite places to sit and people watch in India. We
After a few days in Manali and Naggar, we decided not to take anymore taxi cabs in the mountains and opted for a larger mode of transportation. We took our first Indian "sleeper" bus to Delhi where we would then take a train to Rishikesh, India. Poor choice. The bus played movies until about 9pm at over 100 decibels in Hindi and made it impossible rest, even with earplugs. There were no curtains either and the bus driver seemed to be in an awful hurry. The side to side jostling, coupled with headlights of passing cars in your face and the constant honking of the driver made sleeping only a dream. It was a nightmare really! Absolutely will never take another mountain night bus again.. anywhere!
Change In Perspective
Manali, India is not just a place to honeymoon, it's a place to ride motorcycles, people watch, enjoy great food, relax, take in some fresh air, and realize that in the hustle and bustle of India, there are serene places. We loved our stay in Manali. The temperatures were welcomed to the heat of the rest of India, and the people here are relaxed. We loved riding the Royal Enfield around. It had been a while since we had driven anything at all, and to have a vehicle to get us around, gave us complete freedom to enjoy the area.
We realize that freedom is a subjective thing. It can mean so much to so many. Maybe it's freedom from an oppressor, or a job, or tyranny. Sometimes, freedom just means that you can get out with the wind in your hair in the thin mountain atmosphere, simply enjoying the views and hum of a motorcycle.
We have a Video of the rides in the Himalayas. If you get seasick or carsick, maybe you should take some Dramamine before watching.