The Trip Of A Lifetime
I woke up this morning to the robotic yet soothing sound of rhythmic beeps. Slow, but persistent. I struggled to open my eyes. When I finally managed to, I realised I’m in a hospital! How did I get here? I am not sure.
The last thing I remember is having the time of my life on vacation in Manali. And yet here I am, in a grim room with my mother waiting patiently beside my bed for me to wake up. What happened? Had I been in an accident? I have no memory of any injury, so I will start from the very beginning.
After two tense years in the pandemic, my family and I were packing for our much-awaited vacation. We kept way too many sweaters and snacks, barely adequate toiletries, and no life jackets (a big mistake).
With tickets and passports and enthusiastic spirits, we left for the airport. The check-in process was surprisingly cakewalk. I guess not many people fly at 11 a.m. The airport itself was quite dull and quiet. It had lost all of its vivacity post-Covid. However, nothing, and I mean nothing could dampen our excitement. We waited for an hour or so and then boarded our flight.
After take-off, I slipped into a relaxed nap. Dozing off miles above sea level, I dreamt of the snow-capped mountains I was headed to. I dreamt of snowfall fights and skiing, of a cable car, and rides through Himalayan peaks.
Our brief time in Delhi after landing is all a blur in retrospect. All I remember is our bus arriving late, drowsily having dinner at midnight in the middle of nowhere, and sleeping through most of the bus journey. Now that I think about it, I slept a lot on this trip.
The next morning, I woke up to the serene beauty of the foothills, we had just crossed the border to Himachal Pradesh and I have to say, what a gorgeous state! My wonder was short-lived though, as I got severe road sickness very quickly. Well, it was not that quick considering we had been on the road for eighteen hours.
Despite my nausea, I enjoyed the ride. The cool breeze, the gentle rays of the sun, and the green hillsides make the atmosphere extremely pleasant. My mind stopped thinking; all it did was absorb the positivity around me. I wished I could stay there forever.
We got to our hotel and ate breakfast. It was packed full of iconic Manali flavour and we couldn’t stop eating! Throughout our trip, we relished local dishes like Siddu, Aktori, Babru, Bhey, and more. Our planned itinerary for the day was a visit to the local museum and a famous temple carved entirely out of wood.
The museum was an excellent collection of household items used by the earliest settlers in the mountains. The temple was breath-taking. Firstly, it is the only one of its kind, because it is built in honour of a demoness. Not the evil kind, of course, but not Divinity either. The carvings that decorated the walls and pillars were so intricate they might even be microscopic. All on a mountainside.
The next was the time for all my dreams to come true. Have you guessed yet? We were going to the snow! I was so restless I hopped out of bed at 6 a.m. We drove 2 excruciatingly long hours to Rohtang Pass, which is over thirteen thousand feet above sea level. That sounds high enough to be snowclad year-round, right? Wrong. It was cold, and hard to walk due to low atmospheric pressure, but not snowing. Disappointed beyond words, we stayed a while and returned.
We still had half a day of free time so we decided to prepone our visit to the local market to buy souvenirs. I got a few handmade trinkets for my friends and mom did loads of shopping for shawls and locally made mittens and more warm clothes than our family can wear in a lifetime in Hyderabad. She might secretly be planning to shift to Canada soon though.
The third day in Manali is when an interesting ‘event’ happened. I still can’t recollect what it was but it must have happened that day. This was our designated day for adventure sports. We had paragliding, zip-lining, and river rafting scheduled before boarding our bus back to Delhi. Rafting seems to be the culprit, but I’m not sure yet.
We checked out of the hotel early and drove to the zip-lining starting point. It was a 500metre round trip between two mountains on a rope. Spine chilling? Yes. Absolutely, life changingly, splendid? Also, yes.
Next, we travelled further towards the foothills to paraglide. A thirty-minute ride up a steep mountainside later, we were ready to glide over the river valley. It was ten minutes of pure joy. I was gliding through the sky. I felt like an eagle overlooking the stunning Beas river, white as milk, flowing with all its fierce energy. Its roars audible even in the sky. And just as an eagle swoops in to catch its prey, we swooped as low as possible and landed in the blink of an eye.
Now, the most fun as well as the most consequential part of the day, river rafting. We geared up for the rough waters with our helmets, wetsuits, and life jackets. Each boat had an experienced lifeguard onboard. The water was flowing impatiently, eager to make its way to the plains. The rocks and boulders on the riverbed created what can only be described as miniature whirlpools in a few areas, called rapids. This is as far as I remember, having a blast on the adventurous ride over the rapids.
The doctor came into my room to check the cast on my leg and whether I was healing well. He was satisfied and returned after prescribing rest and a few vitamins. I immediately and almost aggressively asked my mother, “What happened to me?”.
Apparently, one of the rapids was so strong that it had rocked the boat over and I had fallen out into the freezing water. The life jacket prevented me from drowning, but it had a hole in it causing it to gradually fill with water. Meanwhile, I had fainted from the cold. My leg crashed against a rock due to the water pressure and my bones cracked like an egg against the countertop. I was rescued promptly, but an egg once cracked can never be the same.
Hypothermic and unconscious, I was rushed to the nearest hospital. This brings us to now, as I sit here in the hospital wondering whether this will be the biggest adventure of my life. So far, it is, without a doubt. After all of this, I think I’m ready to go home now.
We stayed at the hospital for a few more hours while mother booked flights and buses and then we were on our way back.
I was uncomfortable but at peace as we got on our bus back to Delhi, thinking we had left the adventure behind us, but boy was I wrong! All buses shuttling from Delhi to Manali and back stop somewhere on the deserted highway around midnight for dinner, as did ours.
We stopped next to two close by restaurants and while everyone rushed into one of them, we thought we were smart enough to go to the other one and enjoy faster service (another big mistake). As it happens, the restaurant we went to was understaffed and took way longer to serve us.
While everyone else finished dinner and was safely back in the vehicle, we were still eating, clueless that we had been left behind by our bus. We had dinner and went back outside only to realise that we were pretty much stranded, with no cell service and no way back to Delhi until the next bus came around.
Thankfully though, our calls to the driver got through in a few minutes and the restaurant owner felt sorry enough for me to give us a lift to where our bus was now waiting a few kilometres away. And thus, two adventures later, we were going back home!
I was melancholic and ecstatic at the same time. Sad to leave behind the stunning town and mountains of Manali but relieved to know I would soon be in the comfort of home. Not to forget missing school owing to my injury (speaking of the bright side of things).
And just like that, we were back in Hyderabad. A city whose fast-paced life and noise I had never appreciated more. A city with internet and warm weather, but most importantly, a city of MY people (and SO many of them). It had never felt more like I belonged here. The peaceful hill station was great too, but I would rather be right here.
A few weeks later I went back to school. Glad to meet all my friends and even more glad to be the centre of attention as I told them tales of my adventurous trip.
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