Here is what happened on our way back. While returning from Darcha, we were better equipped to stop and enjoy the snow at Rotang. Spent some time there and headed back to the wretched road to reach Manali in around 3 hours. Guruji, our beloved host, suggested that we bathe at the Vasisth temple hot water spring and we had a gala time obliging him. Felt hungry right after the bath and had a great dinner in a hotel in front of the temple.
Himalayas for you
We woke up early the next day and headed to manikaran, a hot water spring around 80 kms from Manali. The hot water spring here is hot enough to cook food for lots of people coming to the gurudwara where it is located. The few brave souls who entered the water didn’t linger as the acidic water causes a burning sensation and make you feel giddy if you stay there for a long time. We had a light breakfast at Manikaran and later stopped over for tea at Kasol on our way to Chandigarh. Kasol is infamously known as the local drug den and we could see a few people smoking joints here and there.
On our way down, we hit a major traffic jam and could only go until Bilaspur before light faded. Stopped around 10 kms before Bilaspur city for tea where the dhaba owner came forward with local information regarding that place. I would like to thank all the very helpful people in Himachal Pradesh who generally come forward for help if they realize that you might need it. We stayed at the Bilaspur local fisheries guest house. The respect and salaams make you wish you worked for the government; almost.
Leaving Himachal Pradesh
We left for Chandigarh early after thanking the officer in charge of the fisheries. We had to travel until Delhi that day. Until then, I knew Srini to be a rider who didn’t take a lot of risks. But seeing him step on the gas trying to reach Delhi before sunset, I realized he could step it up if the situation demanded.
Chandigarh is a model city where there is no need to ask for directions. There is a board at every junction indicating which part of the city you are in and explaining all routes and directions. The heat did dampen our enthusiasm, but I found that the rock garden in Chandigarh to convey the message that ‘art doesn’t need brushes and canvas or soapstone, even broken household stuff would do’. The master pieces that Nek Chand created in a shack are now the cynosure of the entire city. Reached Delhi at around 9 p.m. and settled into our friend’s place for the night.
At Rock Garden, Chandigarh
We started off the day with a visit to Qutb Minar, the earliest and most prominent example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The 72.5m long tower is the world's tallest brick minaret and was completed in 1386 by Firuz Shah Tughluq almost 200 years after work began. I would suggest the audio guide for any first timer there who is interested in the history of the place.
Cousin Srini at Qutb Minar
Very close to the Qutb is the Alai Minar, an unfinished tower that if completed would have been twice as tall and broad as the Qutb Minar. Alauddin Khilji, the driving force behind the Alai Minar died before the first floor was completed and his successors did not deem it necessary to continue work on the tower.
Alai Minar,Qutb Minar in the background
The nearby 7m tall Iron Pillar is one of the world's foremost metallurgical curiosities as it 98% pure wrought iron and a testament to the skill of the ancient Indian blacksmiths. It was built at the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya and has withstood corrosion for more than 1500 years.
We next visited India Gate, one of the largest war memorials in India. It commemorates the 90000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I fighting for the British Empire. Now it is just a place to hang out with friends and have ice-cream. We bought lots of litchis that served as our lunch. Srini wanted to take a picture with one of the jawans but was asked to ‘bugger off’. Entertaining.
We later visited the Red fort and stayed for the Light and Sounds show which explains the history of the city from Shahjahan’s time to Nehru giving his speech of freedom from the ramparts of this fort. The show gets pretty boring with time and one advantage of having an SLR camera is that things never get boring. Srini used the time to catch up on lost sleep. Later visited Chandini Chowk for shopping and stopped by at Parantha street for dinner. Fabulous kulfis you get there.
Our second day in Delhi and the weather had been great so far. I wanted to visit the Delhi Metro once to find out how the entire system worked. Srini flatly refused to accompany me and told me that he was prepared to wait until the Bangalore metro was up and running. One thing I noticed is that even though the infrastructure in Delhi is way better than most other Indian cities, there are way too many cars on the road. And that’s why the Delhi Metro is such a vital cog in the city’s infrastructure.
One possible reason to seeing so many cars on the road here is that petrol is cheap here and CNG is cheaper. Enabling your car for CNG fuel ensures that taking your car out is almost as cheap as taking your bike out. And what would you prefer considering Delhi’s extreme climes – car or bike? This seems to have resulted in a strange fetish among Delhi people to own a car that is at least one level more than the neighbour. Strange! In comparison, Bangalore folks don’t care or don’t know who the neighbour is!
We moved to Srini’s friend Sagar’s apartment for our last day in Delhi. We knew we were in safe hands when the first place he showed us in Delhi was Khan Market. Torn between gazing at the amazing cars and the hep crowds; the cars proved just too irresistible. We later had authentic North Indian chat at Haldiram’s. We were all set to leave the next day, but by that point in time, I was totally in love with our capital city.
P.S: Thanks to the gods of Delhi for the great weather while we were there. You can now revert to the usual.