Sunday 11 August 2013
After a good night's sleep, I woke up to a wet morning. I woke at 7ish, hoping to start early but the rain made me have second thoughts. Fortunately, by 8-8.30, the Rain Gods got tired and dark clouds withered away. Surprisingly, it was bright and sunny now.
I started from Ambala hoping to cover 350 km. and reach Manali but thanks to my super-late start and a wrong turn through the village in-roads (or should I say no roads) on NH-21 where I averaged 20kmph for 2-3 hrs, I only managed to reach Mandi by 8pm. My poor plight wasn't helped by the fact that I missed a left turn towards Swarghat and went all the way upto Kalka - which happens to fall enroute Shimla - which is in a totally opposite direction to Manali. Owing to that mistake, I wasted about half an hour doing a 20 km. u-turn. If I'm not wrong, that inner road was NH 21A - an offshoot of NH 21 covering all the villages upto Swarghat - from where the uphill climb (ghaat) towards Mandi/Manali starts. While traversing through that lost road, I landed up at a Jaypee Cement Factory. I have no idea how and why?
|This was definitely not on the cards - A JayPee Cement Factory!|
|Not a very pretty picture to have in your rear-view mirror, but certainly an interesting one|
By the time I reached this quaint little town of Mandi, it was 8ish, dark and had started to pour. I start counting the hotels and guest houses, one after the other, looking for a place to rest my butt for the night. But, no luck. All occupied. It seemed, all of a sudden, all the bikers decided to stay in Mandi (which has traditionally never been a stopover for Leh bikers) instead of riding all the way to Manali. Well played, Murphy! I found one heritage hotel - Raj Mahal Palace Hotel, which had a room available, but it was super expensive, twice my budget. Since I was yet to reach Leh, I didn't wanted to spend a bomb on hotel stay, so early on in the trip, that too in a town like Mandi where I was barely going to stay for 12 hrs. I passed the offer. Again went out hunting for a room. After 1 and half hour, I realized there were no other rooms left in the entire town. Tired, dejected and drenched I returned to the Raj Mahal Palace Hotel and checked in to the last available room in the entire Mandi at 9.30pm.
After a hot shower, I decided to relax in my luxirious room. My companions - beer, starters & cricket match on the TV. While starting from Ambala, aunt had packed some delicious food for me, I had that post drinking and hit the bed. Next day, Manali!
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