Himachal Pradesh Wander Tales 

Hi wanderers, It’s Neha here and I am gonna share with you my crazy stories of travelling to DALHOUSIE (I got the opportunity to travel that way). 

First off, I am an architecture student and am doing an internship with this amazing company called Grapevine (it’s a youth internship thing). Well, I joined it almost a year and a half back and somehow found myself playing the role of the city head of the entire Guwahati city. Yes!!! Even i couldn’t believe my luck. And soon after, came the offer to go on a trip with them to Dalhousie. 

This excited me to no end. But I also had a mountain to cross, i.e. convincing my parents and family. 

Grapevine, as I mentioned earlier, is a youth marketing brand and it emphasises on online marketing. You do an internship while also studying side by side. It’s basically all online. I never met my boss. I met only the representatives of Grapevine and heads of zones.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the other 40 or 50 ambassadors who are going to be on the trip too are complete strangers to me. And the occasional one or two I know, are only acquaintances I made through calls or whatsapp messages. They are genuinely great people though, easy to make friends with, and the representatives I met were also very friendly and fun. 

The trip was scheduled to start on 3rd January from Kolkata. (On a side note, I had recently flown there to visit my relatives on 27th December last year). When I met the zonal head there, he was in an MTV meeting with the interns, whom I also got to meet. I also got some free goodies, much to my delight. 

It was also there that I met Enakshi, who will be joining us for the trip. The second person I met was Arnab, who is from Bhubaneswar. The three of us have planned to go to Delhi together as we were told to reach Delhi on our own. 

With most of the details chalked out, I decided to go forward and talk to my parents about the trip. 

The first thing they said was a big NO 😑. But I insisted and boy did I insist. It was personal, this trip. It was a means for me to be one step closer towards being independent. What better adventure for exposure was there than traveling with unknown people for someone as socially akward as me? 

So I called my dad up and said, ‘I will pay for the trip on my own, Papa. Please allow me to go.’ He was not willing to listen so I made him talk to Zainab, the head of Grapevine. She talked to him, cleared all his confusions and told him she was taking responsibility for me. My dad, apparently, was impressed by that. And sure enough, I was allowed to go. 

The trip was not exactly a bed of roses though.  Here are some of the problems i had to face or was yet to face. 

Problem 1 : Train delayed for 16 to 24 hours due to fog.  But the scene was mesmerising so i’m not complaining. 

Problem 2 : we are planning to stay in a camp. This idea sounded exciting to me but my mom went on and on about how I was asthmatic and how in the world would I stay in a tent at -2°C and go trekking the next day after 16 hours of travelling.

Problem 3 : My tickets are not confirmed yet.

Problem 4 : Demonetistation, due to which dad can not send me money. Even tough I had said I would pay the fare till Delhi (and after that it’s all on Grapevine), I don’t have money of my own to spend and this did not make my mom happy. I don’t blame her. It’s a tough thing to do, going to the bank to stand in line and send me money as online banking is tough for dad.

Problem 5 : I am a vegetarian. So wherever I go, mom is always like, the food wont be right, will they serve good food and so on.

Man, I had to ask the organizers about the entire plan, from food arrangements to travel arrangements to every other possible detail. No topic was left untouched. I’m afraid I might have pissed them off  a little with that. 

My plan was 50-50 sure with everyone in the family opposing and me dying to go there. I suppose their objection was fair. I am a girl; How could they leave me with a bunch of strangers in Delhi, where rape is so common? 

Well, with these ifs and buts I was almost sure that my plan would be cancelled. Sad, I was but still, I gave it one last try, insisting that I  would share my location from time to time, keep my phone charged and take all precautions. Somehow I managed to convince mom , nana (Maternal grandfather) , nani (maternal grandmother) , Mama (uncle) , mami (aunt) and of course, my dad 😂. Finally, the heavens parted open and they said yes!

 They gave me numbers of all the people they knew were staying around that area. I’ll admit, I am glad, so glad, to have such a great and big family who cares so much and puts forward so many opinions and options. Perks of having a big joint family.

 So my train is scheduled for the tomorrow, which is 2nd January  2017 and I am supposed to reach on the morning of the 3rd. I will blog about how my journey goes. 

Totally keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t change their minds in the last minute and praying they have no second thoughts at all. If they do, I will stay back. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip, so fingers crossed.

I am (anxiously) looking forward to a trip with strangers.

Part 2

 Here comes the confusion of packing.

With the hassle of getting permission out of the way, I now have a trip to plan. As I want this trip to go as smoothly as possible, organisation is key. So of course I make a checklist of all the things that would be necessary for the trip.  

The check list goes on as such:

1) An oversized bag even though I’ll be travelling only for 4 days. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. No compromise there. 

2) An extra over sized hand bag because one cannot put their trust on an oversized bag alone. Sure, why not?

3) Food because who can say no to food. 

4)A reliable winter cream because -2°C. Skin damage? Nope,  cant do. 

5) 3 pairs of exactly the same colour of jeans because I absolutely love the colour. 

6) An over sized coat so that i can wear it above the 5 layers of clothing I am planning to wear. 

8) Boots because it’s the only exceptionnal occasion mom will allow me to splurge on those pretty boots. 

9) Medicines for I am asthmatic. And I might not find any medical stores nearby. 

10) Perfume. It’s a must. Smell good, feel good. 

P.S. Even the cute pyjamas with bunnies on 😂. Because it’s cute and comfort comes first.

With that, we come to the end of the packing list.

The train journey passed by with an episode of selfies and getting to know my two travel buddies Enakshi and Arnab

The train was 12 hours late but hey, I got no complains because I got to eat here 😍

Can you believe it? They actually call it a dhaba. Wuuttt….. 

We reached there the next morning at around 11 and the weather! Oh my god, the weather.

Need I say more?

The hotel, Mohan Palace, exceeded my expectations thanks to the view from the balcony. 

Damn, I am in love with the mountains.

I got to meet new people from all corners of India. Also made a lot of new friends. We had this game where we had to guess each other’s names, along with two qualities we observed about them. 

The meeting was held around a bonfire. We discussed about the conception of the company, it’s present scenario and future plans. Then, started the hookah and drinking session for which I was too drunk to take pictures.

The drinking session was the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Drinking with people I barely knew, for starters, was crazy enough. Add to that my no-going-back decision to drink to my fullest capacity. So there I was, drinking a mixture of rum, vodka and wiskey (raw!) just to test my limits. 

One of the heads, Anurag, made us sit in a group of eight. We had to make a toast to something and drink it neat. After drinking 8 pegs, he left and we were left on our own to drink to our hearts content.

 I made friends with a group from Mumbai. We talked shit about anything and everything. There was a guy, Akash, who offered to make fire shots and I took 2 shots, leaving all astonished by the size of my pack. 

The next morning, I took a bath reluctantly and had a breakfast of Maggie and momo with Enakshi and Nikhil, my two newfound friends. I also did shopping. Got gloves, scarves, my souvenir of Gautam Buddha and some gifts for friends. 

We headed off to Khajjiar which is also known as the ‘mini Switzerland of India.’ 

It does live up to the expectations of a mini Switzerland, dont you think? 

The way to Khajjiar was beautiful with lots of snow covered landscapes. There was a green meadow with a lake taking centrestage. 

There is a lot of fun activities one can do there like getting photographed in the traditional Himachali attire, paragliding or horse riding.

However, I decided to simply sit and submerge myself in the exotic scenery. Then I went on to treat myself with Maggie and coffee, and embarked on an adventure to explore the nearby shops. 

One of the very interesting shops I saw was of a lady who was selling feng shui stuff. I got charms for love, career and wealth for my friends. After packing them, she took a crystal and started circling it around my gifts. That freaking scared the shit out of me. Then she  went on to predict something about me which i don’t remember because i was so bewildered by what she was doing. Recovering  from the shock, I attempted a smile but seeing her face made me realise that I had already offended her. 

That left me with no choice but to go back and find my friends. I found them making a group and having another drinking sesh. It was biting cold so even I joined them. 

We took a lot of photos and then, a group of us decided to go on to Dayankhund, which is a place where we can see ice. Needless to say, we were all super excited as headed towards it. On the way there, we were discussing the name ‘Dayankhund’, why it was named as such and tried to relate it to all the horror movies we saw. To our dismay, there was no such story the driver had heard of.

While  going up, we saw the Kashmir and Punjab border from high up there. The cold was unbearable even with four layers of clothing and I was freezing. I had a small internal debate on whether I should leave the warm comfort of the car for the sake of photos. Me being me, I submitted to the latter and got out albeit very reluctantly. 

The snow was not freshly fallen so it was very slippery. I made a dash for the car as soon as the photo session was over. Aniket and I were talking as he was also in the same condition as me and Enakshi was busy being everybody’s photographer.

We reached the hotel and again a drinking and hookah session started after a short meeting. We danced and smoked and enjoyed to the fullest as it was the last day there. I was too into it that i didn’t even realise when a mannequin challenge video was being made. Zainab dropped me back to my room but I was too out to realise it only until the next morning. 

 I woke up early and went to eat Maggie as that was now my daily routine. We headed for a meeting but very little people had turned up and there was a lot of chaos. We were taken again to the same hill top to see the snow. Much to our surprise and delight, it was snowing. The feeling of soft newborn snow falling on my hair and skin was one to remember. Tasting it was fun too. I now look back on those memories fondly.

     It goes without saying that there was some crazy photo-session action. The other group was having a snow fight but I was too cold to join them. So I clung to the car seat  with Nikhil and Enakshi at the back. Apparently, I overestimated the powers of two layers of thermal sweater and jacket. I ended up literally feeling like a character from Frozen.

After every one was done, we were set to go back. There was a group of people who stayed back and we bid them goodbye in Dalhousie. We stopped, on route, to have dinner and then i reached Delhi early in the morning. 

Bidding goodbye was really tough. I learnt that even four days were enough for people to take up little niches in your heart. With promises to stay in touch, we parted ways.

 And I left with millions of memories and lots of friends all over India.

NOTE: All these lovely pictures were clicked by Enakshi.

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