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Living away from family, with people your age, living the fantasy friends life is a very special experience. Sharing rooms, fighting over petty issues, all night group studies one day before the exams can really bring you close to people. So taking a trip together became all the more special. While planning this trip we came across a start up set up by our seniors which is into experiential traveling – Shoes On Loose. The way they had planned the entire trip keeping in mind all our requirements was so perfect, that we had no doubts that it was going to be an amazing experience.

With everything planned and set we started our journey, on a very cold December evening, further into the cold, to Manali. Our first stop was Kasol, which is a small village on the way to Manali. This place is full of beautiful mountains, Deodar trees, rivers and steep roads. The guesthouse where we were to stay was on a hilltop and there was a short trek that to be undertaken in order to reach there. Situated at the banks of river Parvati, this guesthouse provided an amazing view of the place.
After resting for a while, we headed out to begin our plan of action. We went to the famous Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. The hot water springs here and in the adjoining areas are legendary and is considered extremely auspicious. Here food is cooked in Hot Water Springs. They tie the rice/vegetables in cloth and keep them in hot water to be cooked. It was pretty insightful to know about the origins of this place. After the eventful day, we headed back to our guesthouse only to be met by a special dinner from the owner as it was her daughter’s birthday that day. Kasol with its uncountable stars becomes spectacular at night, with the outline of the high towering Himalayas faintly visible.It’s like from another world.

Kasol The next day we continued our journey to Manali and reached around noon. We spent the day exploring the beautiful hill station. The landscape here is breathtaking. We could see well-defined snow capped peaks, the Beas river with its clear water meandering through the town. With fantastic scenic beauty all around, Manali fully justified what its popularly called as, “the valley of gods”. In our day’s excursion here, we visited the famous Hidimba Temple. The 500 year old Dhoongri temple is built with wood and has a wooden pagoda with three tapering roofs. The doors and the outer walls are carved very beautifully and intricately. Apart from its enchanting beauty, Manali is also known as an ultimate spot for trekking and we were really looking forward to it. But it was something we had not expected. Unlike the usual trekking expeditions that start early morning, our’s was planned in moon light and amidst the villages. I guess we were literally redefining the whole “Shoes on Loose experience”. It was commoving and enthralling to be a part of it. We walked our way, into the villages meeting the locals, talking to them, listening to their stories. It was an absolute joy to have that experience. The night concluded with a bonfire in the hotel.

Hidimba Temple The next day we had an early start as we had to indulge in paragliding. Being a total superman fan since childhood, I had been fascinated with the idea of flying. So I was very excited to take it on. All geared up, just a few seconds before the big leap, I hesitated a little. But taking a deep breath and letting all my fears go, I lurched. The feeling of flying like a bird, soaring upwards on the currents of air, with the most spectacular view of the city, is something I’ll always remember. After the enthralling experience, brimming with an energy that cannot be explained in words, we headed forward to our next stop, the Rohtang Pass.

Rohtang With -7 degrees celsius, and heaps of snow to be viewed as far as the sight allowed, we reached our destination. The entire place seemed to be cloaked in a white spotless calico. As we got down from our vehicles, we saw the locals engaged in their monotonous activities, totally unaffected by the extremeness of the weather conditions, which was absolutely astonishing. Enjoying the most classic mountain-top combination of tea and maggi, we started with our snow adventure activities. We did skiing and travelled down the slope of the mountains on the ATV. The frost biting wind right at your face as you travel your way down. With the entire day filled with high doses of adventure, we returned to our hotel for a quiet evening.

Manali The morning sun brought the day when we had to say goodbye to this beautiful paradise. With amazing memories and a personal rapport with the mountains, none of us wanted to go back to the reality of life. But as they say, don’t be sad its over, be glad it happened; we left from Manali, taking all those little moments of this very special trip in our hearts, that will be cherished forever
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