India days 34-39: final days in Manali + Jogini waterfall + Hadimba Goddess festival + trip reflection

Final India post! I can’t believe my 6 weeks in India are over. I have a recap of my final days in Manali as well as my usual post-country reflection below. πŸ™‚

One activity I wanted to do before leaving Manali was to visit Jogini Waterfall, a popular attraction for visitors. A small group from the hostel was interested in going, so we made a day trip out of it.

The waterfall required a decent hike. We started early in the morning and had the trail to ourselves. We were greeted with huge rock formations, pine tree forests, and views of Manali below.

hike in Manali to Jogini Waterfall

The actual waterfall was gorgeous! It was HUGE and more epic in person than in the photos. The water was so strong that it was splashing all over us.

Jogini Waterfall

Group shot. πŸ™‚ This was the group that I originally met in Kasol and who came to Manali afterward. We all bonded the past week; it made for great vibes at the hostel.

Jogini waterfall group shot

It was Isha’s birthday – I’m so glad we got to spend it together with an activity. ❀

After the hike, we stopped for some chai. I also tried parle G for the first time, which is a popular cookie in India. The inside joke among Indians is parle G doesn’t taste great on its own, but it’s amazing dipped in chai – I can now attest to that. πŸ™‚

Parle G cookies with chai

After tea, we found lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Tibetan spot near the waterfall. The space was SO cute, with Tibetan flags and a cozy seating area. I ordered chicken momos and they were the best momos I had on this trip. They reminded me of home. ❀

Tibetan food

There was a 3-day festival going on in Manali during the week dedicated to Hadimba Goddess. This was an anticipated event for the village, as everyone took off work to attend the festival and spend time with their families. Naturally, the center of the festival was the Hadimba Devi Temple (right next to our hostel) so we were in the middle of the action.

Hadimba Dev temple festival

The temple area came to life with vendors, street food, games/activities, and performances. It was pretty crowded, so we just spent a little time there.

I got to try some new Indian street food – thankful for my hostel friends for showing me their favorite ones!

Indian street food

One highlight of the festival was watching the procession. All the men in the village walked for miles to the sound of drums and horns. They all took turns carrying Hadimba Goddess – apparently, they had no idea where they would march, as it was up to the Goddess to lead the way. It was quite special seeing everyone’s devotion.

Rocking the traditional Himachal hat – all the men in the village wore this on the festival days.

Hamachal hat

Another day, Febin and I visited one more waterfall – Sajla Waterfall. It was small and kind of lackluster, but we still got some nice photos from the visit.

Sajla Waterfall

Besides these activities, my days were spent relaxing at the hostel. The Kasol group as well as some newcomers gave lots of life to the hostel. We also had a record number of digital nomads last week – so I spent a lot of the day reading while everyone was “working from mountain.” πŸ˜‰

digital nomads in Manali India
Wrong Address hostel

We had some not-so-productive times too. πŸ™‚

Other than that, my final days were spent doing a bunch of “lasts” – last morning hike, last walk on Mall Road, last desserts at Super Bake…even though I did these things almost every day for weeks, I enjoyed them up to the last day.

Nasogi village in Manali
Mall Road Manali

Saying goodbyes in Manali was more emotional than other goodbyes, especially since I spent more time in Manali than in any other place. I will miss the Wrong Address family so much!! But at the same time, I have my eyes ahead and I’m excited for the next chapter. More on this below.

After goodbyes in Manali, the final days were spent traveling to Delhi on a 13-hour night bus. I only spent one day there to get my PCR test, and then I flew out. I’m definitely happy I minimized my time in Delhi as it was just as chaotic as I expected.

Delhi stret

I traveled to Delhi with Febin and Himanshu from our hostel crew. Having their company in Delhi made it much more enjoyable. It was so great to bond with these two over the past 2 weeks, from Kasol to Manali to Delhi.

Now for some reflection…get ready for a longer than usual one. πŸ˜‰

It’s hard to put into words how much this chapter meant to me. I can honestly say India was my favorite country during my gap year so far, and the main reason was because of the people. India was unique in that almost every traveler I met was Indian – in other countries, other backpackers were typically Europeans/Australians. Connecting with natives meant I learned so much more about the culture – so many talks about our families, relationships, careers, travel dreams…in the end, I realized how similar we all were.

India was also special because I spent the longest time there yet; specifically, I am SO glad I stayed in Manali for one month to volunteer at Wrong Address hostel. I truly enjoyed the volunteering gig and am so proud of all the progress we accomplished. But most importantly, I got plugged into the community and felt like I was truly “living” there, which was exactly what I wanted from the experience. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Moreover, I simply fell in love with Manali as a city. The Himalayas were on my all-time bucket list, and they were even more magical than I ever imagined. I loved waking up every day to epic snow-capped mountains, going on my morning hikes, and living authentic village life in the Himalayas. As a place itself, it checked all my boxes and truly felt like a dream come true.

At the same time, my Manali experience was not perfect. I was quickly taken out of vacation mode with drama from the old hostel where I started at, and then toxic events that continued after my departure. I haven’t shared specifics on this blog as I wanted to focus on positive things – but there were some difficult moments as certain members of the previous staff made personal attacks on me and continued to reopen wounds, despite my trying to create space from these individuals and move on.

All this said, I experienced more personal growth in the past month than I have in a while. I basically got a crash course on how to deal with difficult people, and I wouldn’t trade this learning experience for anything. I feel like a stronger person because of it, and I’m proud of standing up for myself during confrontations (something the old me struggled with). I’m also proud of staying in Manali to the end, even though I seriously considered leaving early a few times due to these incidents. Running away is the easy route, and I’m proud of having the courage to stay.

I’m so grateful for Joe, Chetan, Uncle, and others who were my support system during these difficult times. The entire Wrong Address family had my back, and it made me feel so loved and validated. At the same time, I have taken time to look inward and think about how I could have handled conversations differently. I think it’s important to have self-awareness while not being too hard on ourselves.

I feel like our minds have a way of remembering the positives over time. In the end, the amazing people and the experiences from Wrong Address will be in my memories till my old age.

Moving along – before coming to India, I was very anxious as I struggled with harassment in Sri Lanka/Cambodia, and I also heard ample warnings about India from friends. To my surprise, I actually found this was the easiest place as a solo female yet! I think a big reason is that India is more developed than the rest of South/Southeast Asia, so people weren’t in complete shock when seeing an Asian female traveling alone. While there was some harassment in Rajasthan, it virtually went to zero when I reached Manali. It helped that I looked like a lot of people there given the large Tibetan population. The past month was a breath of fresh air as I felt completely free and anonymous again – a small pleasure I will value for the rest of my life.

I feel like western media tends to portray India as a dump (e.g. Slumdog Millionaire), but there is a whole different side to this country that is so special and vibrant. I just want to shout to the world to VISIT INDIA!!! I mentioned before I came that traveling solo in India is considered a “badge of honor” in the backpacking community, and I feel so darn proud of myself for making it through, and even more, for genuinely loving it along the way. ❀

As for what’s next…after 4 months on the road, I’m heading back to San Francisco for some time. I miss Joe like crazy and we are so excited to spend quality time together, especially during the summer which is always a happy time in the city. I’m hoping to recharge my batteries after being on the road for so long while figuring out what’s next. Right now, the plan is to return to Asia later this summer, but I’m taking things one day at a time. πŸ™‚

Love and light to you all!!

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