K5 is an unofficial club made by five of us (Gaurav, Randish, Arun, Vipul and I). The name K5 is because, most of the time we used to cruise to Kasauli. As our college days at RIMT engineering college were approaching an end, we were getting really nostalgic. So, we planned a cruise to Kasol (Kullu) which is about 320 kilometres from Chandigarh. Vipul was unavailable for the trip, so Amritpal accompanied us, and made it a 5 again. We were having two Enfield Bullets and a CBZ.
The plan was to leave early in the morning on 21st of March, 2008. But Arun got some urgent piece of work which delayed our departure. Randy had to come from Chandigarh on his CBZ, Gaurav and Amritpal were to come from Nabha and, Arun and I were to come from Patiala. We decided to meet at Kurali which is 26km from Chandigarh on NH21. We all had early lunch in Kurali’s Lee Rose Restaurant/ Dhaba. As we had strong adrenalin reserves in our bodies, we decided to leave our helmets at Kurali itself (which, I do realise now, was wrong).
So, we all left with our spirits as high as Himachal hills. We were eagerly waiting for Kiratpur Sahib (from where plains are left behind) which is about 72km from Chandigarh on NH21. The road up till Kiratpur Sahib was not in best of the conditions. Repair work was going on, so it was pain (don’t ask me where ;-)) to drive along all those dusty roads.
We finally reached Kiratpur Sahib in an hour. There was some religious procession going on, so there was a huge rush on the turn which would have taken us uphill. To add to our woes, some problem occurred in one of the bullets. Gaurav has a good experience with Enfield, he fixed it himself. Anyhow, we crossed Kiratpur Sahib and started sailing on the smooth asphalt of NH21. Bilaspur is about 54km from Kiratpur. But, as there’s an ACC cement factory in Bilaspur and warehouse in Ropar, there’s a continuous plying of cement trucks on this route. So it became difficult for the eyes to look through. As they say, love is in the air, it was not love this time. It was cement. One should not even think of cruising on this route without proper glasses .
It was a great relief when we crossed Bilaspur. Next big milestone was for Sunder Nagar which is about 43km. It was my first trip on this route. I had heard all the names of the places en route, but never visited one before. I was as excited as a child must be when he gets his first summer vacation. But, I had observed that Bollywood movies do not adopt these hill stations, they only adopt their names. The place called Kasauli in ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ was in no means Kasauli. So I assumed that Sunder Nagar will not be the place called Sunder Nagar in the movie “Main Prem Ki Diwani Hun”. I was absolutely right, it was a different place, and yes it is beautiful. We stopped there for a while. There’s a bridge (I don’t know where it leads to), there were many ‘kulche wallahs’ along that bridge. Arun could not help but to satisfy his pallet. Sunlight had started diminishing by now. Birds can be seen in groups, returning to their nests. We decided to cover one more stretch i.e. Sunder Nagar to Mandi which is about 40km.
To our dislike, the headlight of CBZ stopped working on the way. But these things often happen on these kinds of trips and did not dismay us much. I decided to drive CBZ. Gaurav, on his bullet, showed me the path by staying just ahead of me. We, somehow, reached Mandi. It was totally dark by then. We got a room for 4 (kinda family suite!) for Rs.800/-. After having Dinner in the room itself, we left for a walk up till the ‘Bhima Kali Mandir’. It was closed by now, so we sat in its premises. Its built on a bridge which is built on a river. One can clearly see its reflection in the river. It was one of the most beautiful views, I have seen till now: White Marbled temple, lit by the moonlight, with hills on all sides and a river below it. We got a good night sleep and were ready to hit the roads again.
No one, except Arun, was an early riser among us. We visited the Gurudwara at Mandi and then the Bhima Kali Mandir. So we started at about 11 AM, had some paranthas on the way. The next big milestone was for Bhuntar (where the Airport is located). It is about 55km from Mandi. There is a tunnel en route. It is (or may be was) said to be the longest tunnel of Asia. It was really long. As we oozed out of the other end of the tunnel, it felt that we have entered into a different world which is much more beautiful than the previous one. The green fields reminded me of Srinagar. It is one of the best experiences to drive on this route. There is a dam called Pandoh Dam on the route. We also stopped at a small Mandir before Bhuntar. All of us sped at leisure and reached Bhuntar in about two hours.
Finally we left NH21 and took a right turn from Bhuntar. It’s a dreamy stretch beyond Bhuntar. It’s still 56km up till Kasol. Malana Hydro Electric Project is also located on this road. It gives a look of the dam built by SRK in Swades. There’s a very nice restaurant on this road (I forget the name, its Saanjha something). So, we had lunch over there. The panorama all through the distance is breath taking, one can see some beautiful streams, snow capped mountains of the upper Himalayas and that too in a single look. Slowly and steadily, we reached Kasol.
We decided to visit Manikaran Sahib (which is about 5-6 km from Kasol) first and to return back to Kasol by the evening. As we passed through Kasol, I felt that I am on the sets of Dev Saab’s ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. There were hippies all around. Chain set of one of the bullets gave up 3km ahead of Kasol. Gaurav went to Kasol to get a mechanic; we stayed with the sick bike. But it was a beautiful place to hang. Seeing upwards, one can see White Himalayas, and seeing downwards one can see a beautiful wooden bridge over a blue stream. Mechanic fixed the bike in an hour, and we left for Manikaran Sahib again.
Manikaran Sahib presented a portrait of unity of Sikhism and Hinduism, as the same structured contained Holy Guru Granth Sahib as well as Shiva Lingam. Places like this should be promoted to promote tolerance among various religious sects. There were various hot water fountains, around the main Gurudwara, and a den like structure called ‘Garam Gufa’ which is warm inside, in spite of the chilling temperature outside. I was awestruck to see so many wonders of Mother Nature and that too simultaneously. We stayed at that abode of God till evening and left for Kasol.
We got two rooms at Hotel Holiday Home. I think we were the only Indians in that hotel or in fact, the only non-hippies. I was surprised to see Marijuana puffs going on so openly. We had coffee in the restaurant of the same hotel and left to explore the streets of Kasol. There was one restaurant named Little Italy. Its atmosphere was completely hippy. Again, we were the only Indians present over there. Even, the numbers playing over there were about Om or Bob Marley’s, they also played some Hebrew songs, as most of the hippies are from Israel. The menu was purely international having Israeli platter, French Breakfast and stuff like that. But we managed to get some Indian food, for dinner. Then we played some pool at a local club. Before calling it a day, I stood in the balcony of my room and watched a hippy party going on in the upper mall. It was pink house, music was high as the spirits.
The next morning, I got my beard shaved from a local naai. The place was different in the morning. You can see even more hippies with various hairstyles and beard styles, on cruising bikes, which one never can see in Indian plains. We again went to Little Italy and had some ‘international breakfast’. There was one more hall in the restaurant which I couldn’t observe last night. I saw inside it, through the glass window, I was surprised to see myriads of hippies sitting on mattresses and fagging the holy smoke. Anyhow, I loved the chocolate balls after the meals, so I got some packed. We left for home at about 12 noon.
On the way back, we came across a lake at a place called Aut. The water of the lake was of greenish complexion. Its bank was full of pebbles. One has to go downhill from the highway on a self made way. We, somehow, managed to get our biked downhill as well and spent some time there. From there, it was no breaks drive till Kurali, where we had dinner and collected our helmets.
It was a trip to cherish forever, as those days can’t get back now. The reminiscences of this trip often come along with a wave of Nostalgia…