Getting to Manali

Date: 21/06/2007 | Author: Dave

Gabby found Nature Notes on Trip Advisor and everything pointed to it being the best place for Florence's birthday. Cabins right next to the River Beas in the beautiful Kullu Valley. The web site and Gabby's conversation with Amit sold it to us and we paid for our five days in cash as we left Rishikesh to secure the last two cabins. Nature Notes sounded like an Indian version of Centre Parcs with all inclusive facilities and "five star nature". At 6400 rupees per day it will easily be the most expensive place we stay at in India on this trip. Florence is a bit sad that she won't be seeing any friends for her birthday, so we want to make it as special as we can.
It has been a gruelling journey from Shimla and we arrive at Nature Notes in time for a late lunch. I am a little confused and not sure if we are in the right place as we get out of the car. The location is nice but we can see at a glance that we have arrived at something less than we were expecting. You know that sinking feeling. Owner in your face asking what you think of the place. "Great location" is all I can say. Gabby's only words to me are "F***ing hideous". I try to make sure the kids can't see her crying but Ella spots it. It had meant a lot to her to get this right for Florence and it is looking very wrong. We knew the rooms would be small but they are tiny, dirty and characterless. The promised facilities do actually exist. The children's play area is a small plastic slide and the pool is a direct feed from the river. Only members of the Bondi Icebergers swim in water this temperature. They seem to have an easy answer for any questions we have about their establishment. We are majorly disappointed and although the place grows on us a trip up to Manali on day three seals our destiny.
We find Jimmy Johnson's Lodge, the eighty year old building in the grounds of Johnson's Cafe. We look at a space with two large bedrooms (one with a fireplace), two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living space opening onto a garden. Very neat and oozing with charm, all for 4400 rupees per night. Still expensive by local standards but worth every rupee. For Gabby and I the choice is clear but we do the right thing and let Florence chose where she would like to spend her birthday.
She ponders this over lunch and excellent chocolate cake at Johnson's Cafe.
The following morning we pack our bags and check out of Nature Notes. I receive a bill for all of our non-veg food but in a conversation with U.S Chawla (Amit's dad and onsite boss) he not only tears up this bill but gives me 6400 rupees in cash. We are very happy to be leaving and this partial refund takes the edge off our disappointment. U. S. Chawla keeps repeating "so our account is closed, yes?" I agreed, so true to my word I will not be going back to Trip Advisor to leave a review. He did not have to give us anything. Our cottage at Johnson's is fantastic for three days and Florence has a wonderful birthday. They made her a superb chocolate cake.
We were invited that night to the hotel of a very nice Sikh family from Delhi. They were aghast at our Indian trials and tribulations so far and to my surprise had U.S.Chawla's phone number on their mobile. For a moment there was a fervency to make a call! An interesting evening with a very nice Sikh family. These encounters with Sikh's are becoming a welcome and quite regular occurrence for us.
Our tide of bad luck has turned in India and we are literally headed for the hills. The Himalayas beckon.

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