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Old 6th December 2011, 11:01   #1
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Default Pune-Delhi-Sangla-Back to Pune

The events in this travelogue have happened during April 28th 2011 till May 31st 2011. The journey experience was shared with my wife and 2 year old son Himaank. Total distance covered is approx. 7000 Kms. I would divide the travelogue into 3 parts.

Part 1: Pune to Shimla
Part 2: Shimla - Kalpa - Kaaza - Sangla and back to Shimla
Part 3: Shimla to Pune
PART 1 Starts:

some dreams are meant to be realized. And when you have support from your family, there is nothing that could stop you.
It all started some 2 years back. I am still not sure the genesis of this idea, but it was always a dream to go out on the endless highways and drive long distance. Dissect all across Maharashta, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, and Punjab and reach Himachal. Go further north and enter J&K through Leh.
However all this required a detailed planning w.r.t. equipment (A trustworthy Car) and leaves. The preparation started somewhere in middle of 2009 when we started checking out the cars. The budget was 10L with a cushion of 15% either side. SUV was a preferred option because of their ability to take all kinds of roads. Within a span of 3-4 months there was no showroom in Pune who did not identify me. We had shortlisted Safari, Innova and Scorpio. After a lot of comparison and test drives etc, we finalized on Scorpio SLE and got it delivered in first week of Jan 2010. Meanwhile leaves were also planned and May 2011 was decided as the month when I would take an off for one month.

We had ensured the first servicing was done. We had upgraded tires to Yokos. There was equipment for tire inflator. GPS was enabled with maps from Map My India. We had ordered the book ‘Highway on my Plate’ to check out all the places to eat.
Here it goes.

Day 0 – Pune to Mumbai
We started on April 28th in the afternoon from Pune. Drive till Mumbai was usual cursing on expressway. Within no time we reached Mumbai and checked into Infosys Guesthouse located in Andheri. Driving Scorpio into those narrow lanes in Andheri was easy and did not require any additional skills.
(This was an official visit aligned with the journey to add more leaves to our plan)
Day 1 – Mumbai to Surat
The official work finished by 12 noon and we started for Surat. Moving out of Mumbai itself took us 2 hours when we stopped for lunch. Highway joints for food falls under 2 categories – extremely good or very bad. This one was good. After a nice heavy meal, we started towards Surat. The distance was close to 300 Kms and with some sections of highway under the enablement of 6 lanes. Some sections were closed for repair. The drive was nice and pleasant and within 6 hours approx. we reached Surat boundary. It took us another 1 hour to reach Ginger Surat which was located in the heart of the city.

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Surat scores high on infrastructure. My comparison is w.r.t. cities in Maharashtra which I thought to be best in India. However Surat was way beyond my expectations. We checked into the hotel and stretched our legs for a while. Himaank also got himself loose, and we moved out again to check out the city. That is the intent of doing a road trip. We went to all the recommended eating joints in the city. Had traditional Gujarati dinner and came back.

Day 2 – Surat to Udaipur
With no alarm clocks we were up by 8 and checked out by 8:30. While moving out of the city we stopped over for breakfast at ‘Jani Pharsan’ (Recommended by Rocky and Mayur). This was the most popular joint among locals too. I took stood up in the queue and ordered for what everyone was eating- Locha. It looked like a thick creamy paste made of gram flour scoring not too high on visual appeal. However as they say, looks could be deceptive. When we started eating it we were amazingly surprised of the simplicity and tastefulness of these traditional dishes in India.
Since we had to travel 600 Kms this day, we started our journey. Surat to Barauch is a nice and easy stretch. Then came the worst 4-5 Kms of the entire journey, the Narmada bridge at Barauch. This 3-4 Kms of stretch could take 3-4 hours on a weekday and even more in the weekend. We tried some off-roading capabilities of Scorpio and were able to cut across 1-2 Kms, for the rest we had to be a part of the queue and spend some 2 hours to cross the bottleneck.
The journey post Barauch is nice and easy. And once you hit NE1 (Vadodara- Ahmedabad Expressway) there is nothing that can stop you. Even the legal speed limit is 100. We drove at 120 average and cruised the highway. For a while just to test the capabilities of the car I took it to 160-170 types and stayed there for 2-3 Kms. It was an experience to drive at that speed.
We reached Udaipur around 6:30 in the evening with enough of daylight. Checked in the hotel “Padmini Palace” which we found out easily using the GPS. First impressions of hotel is pathetic. The pictures in makemytrip and looking at it in real had huge variations. However there was nothing much we could do, so we checked in and immediately came out for city tour. Udaipur is a city with narrow lanes and small roads. It made more sense to hire a rick and do a city tour, providing some rest to our Scorpio which has still a lot of distance to cover. We went for some local shopping and then went for dinner at Hotel Ambroi. Anyone who goes to Udaipur should not miss this restaurant. Excellent ambiance.

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Day 3 – Udaipur to Gurgaon
We were up and ready by 7 AM. Wife had some unpleasant arguments with hotel staff related to breakfast for our two year old son. Those buggers were not ready to make anything not in the menu card even when we had our own raw materials to cook. Somehow we kept our patience and moved out.
As soon as we were moving out of the city, we realized that one of our travel advisors ‘Rocky and Mayur’ were missing. By mistake we dropped then on a local jeweler store in the evening. We decided to check it out and try our luck. We had already used this book for making choices for eating joints which had worked perfectly. While we reached to the shop we found it closed. It was supposed to open at 8 AM and the same was also confirmed by the shop owner on phone. We used the time for local breakfast and diesel refueling. There is a small sweet shop named ‘Jodhpur Mishthan Bhandar’ which sells local breakfast. I have never had better chaurois in my life.

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After having a good heavy breakfast we went back to the shop to check the book. It was around 9:30 by this time. Surprisingly the shop was still closed and was supposed to take another 30 mins to open. We decided to let it go and start our ongoing journey.
Road from Udaipur to Delhi is full of patches of good and bad roads. The road till Ajmer and Kishangarh is full of some rough patches. Also the month of May is not a good time to travel in Rajasthan specially with a 2 year old. The mercury was touching 48, however the A/C in Scorpio works like a wonder and keeps you cool. While we stopped for lunch on highway the sun was at its peak. To make it more worse, the restaurant had some issues with power. We were losing more water through sweat than replenishing it with mineral water. We swallowed some food without enjoying the taste and immediately got back to car.
It was already dark by the time we reached Jaipur. We were repenting our decision we made in the morning. I was also tired by then. Vidisha took over the wheel and drove for some 2 hours. While she was driving I was handling our kid, answering his questions, playing his favorite songs etc. I realized that getting back to the wheel is a comparatively easier job
With traffic jams all along the way we managed to reach Ginger Gurgaon around midnight. There was no available dinner so we had to eat some biscuits etc which we had kept as SOS.

Day 4 – Gurgaon – Shimla
I was expecting this to be the easiest stretch for this journey. Also since I was grown up in this region I was more comfortable with roads, people, food etc. Unfortunately we misinterpreted the GPS and went on wrong direction resulting in getting inside Delhi roads and loosing 2 hours. It took us quite a while to move out of Delhi and take the highway for Chandigarh.
We had heard a lot of hype/fancy about ‘Haveli’ which comes near Panipat/Karnal. We were calling all our friends to understand the location but it was not helping much. Also another interesting thing on Indian highways is that once some restaurant/dhaba becomes popular all other dhabas in close vicinity rename their hotels to same name. This adds to lots of confusion for people like us who want to go to the authentic one.
After a lot of effort we finally located this, and ate like pigs. This place rocks.

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The drive post lunch was fun. Driving in the hills is an entirely different experience. We rolled down the windows and enjoyed the fresh breeze. Kalka to Shimla is an extremely scenic and pleasant drive. Finally we reached home by evening 6.

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The first part of the journey had come to over.
Part 2 and 3 to come later.

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Old 7th December 2011, 13:06   #2
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Default Re: Pune-Delhi-Sangla-Back to Pune

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Forum. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th December 2011, 14:22   #3
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Default Re: Pune-Delhi-Sangla-Back to Pune

I am surprised that you took NH8 from Udaipur through Ajmer to Jaipur when there is the fantastic NH76/NH79 (GQ route) via Chittorgarh & Bhilwara! Pitfalls of relying on GPS devices.
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Old 3rd January 2012, 14:51   #4
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Sorry guys for taking it so long to come up with part 2. Some work pressure and new year celebrations. Here it goes.
PART 2 (Shimla- Dharmashala- Narkanda – Kalpa – Sangla)
This has been the most interesting/challenging part of the journey. In fact all the the effort of self-drive to Shimla was done to experience the tribal places in Himachal and J&K. We had specifically selected the month of May since by this time most of the roads/passes opens for traffic and roadtrip to such remote places becomes possible.
There at home in Shimla:
We had spent a week and a half home in Shimla relaxing ourselves to regain the energy. During this time there was also a function for hair cut for my son (An elaborate Hindu custom). Such celebrations are quite extravagant in North India and needs weeks of efforts to organize the same.
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Small trips to Dharmashala and Kangra Valley:
While all this was going on we also made small road trips to Dharamshala, Kangra Valley, Hamirpur etc. Himachal is a beautiful state and wherever you go, you find lush green forests with very minimal human population. While we were in Dharamshala we went for a long trek to Triund and Ilaka. These places are 3000 meters above sea level. The trek was quiet steep, and carrying my son on the shoulders made it even more difficult. But once we reached the top, all the fatigue was forgotten
(View of Dhauladhar Mountain range from Ilaka)
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(Paragliding at Billing)
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Shimla to Kalpa: Fun begins
We started from Shimla morning 5 AM. Our first break was scheduled at Narkanda for breakfast, Lunch at Wangtoo and dinner at Kalpa.
As soon as we left Shimla and reached Fagu and beyond, the landscape became beautiful. The roads were not wide like expressways and our average speed was ranging from 60 to 70 Km/Hr. However the view was mesmerizing. There were places of bad roads and very bad roads. Travelling on a Scorpio on these roads was easy and it did not take much effort to reach Narkanda. It was still quiet early for breakfast so we kept going and decided to have breakfast at Rampur instead. Rampur is a comparatively big town on the bank of river Satluj and a common stopover for all the villages living nearby.

(On the way near Rampur)
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The road from Rampur to Wangtoo runs along with river Satluj and has been created with a lot of effort and money. The rocks have been carved like a sculpture to make the roads through. One has to drive on these roads to have the first hand experience on them. It is very difficult to put them into words. Pictures might do some justice.

Once you reach Karcham, you can either go to Sangla or keep going straight to Recog Peo and thereafter to Kalpa. We also decided to keep going straight and come to Sangla the next day. We kept going straight and reached Kalpa by afternoon 2 PM. We have a nicely cooked Himachali lunch at our arival.
The only place you should stay in Kalpa is Himachal Tourism Hotel. Though it is slightly expensive that other local options but in terms of ambience, room service and food quality, it has no match.
(Further ahead near Wangtoo)
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(From Hotel Room)
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The view of Kinner Kailash from the room is very picturesque. We spent the rest of the day in hotel itself with a small tour to town Recong Peo in the evening. It was so cold that we had to use room heaters and quilts. In addition I also had nice 2 ounces of single malt to avoid catching cold and spoil the rest of the joirney. (Remember this was the month of May)
(Hotel Parking)
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Kapla – Sangla – Chitkul and Back
The next morning we got up slightly late, probably around 9 AM and had a heavy breakfast. After consultancy with hotel staff and locals we concluded that Sangla is a must see and if time permits we should go till Chitcool, which is the last village on Indo-Tiber boarder. We were given enough warnings on road condition. Under NO circumstances the road to Sangla should be taken after it becomes dark.
We started towards Sangla and within 1 hour reached Karcham dam where we had to take the diversion. Till this place roads were not very bad. As we started towards Sangla valley, the roads became narrow and narrower. For an inexperienced driver these roads can give goose bumps. At many places boulders were falling down and we had to quickly run through so as to avoid them from falling down on our car.
(IRT Deadliest roads - History Channel)
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Once we reached Sangla, we realized that all the risk we had taken was worth it. Sangla is a small village and extremely beautiful. I had not seen such landscape till now. Watching the mountains, greens and river was like watching a perfect painting. While we tried to put our feet into the streams, we realized that the water was more freezing colder than what comes out of our refrigerators.
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We kept moving and reached Chitkul by afternoon. It snows as much as 30 feets while in winters here. Pictures can do some justice in describing the beauty of this place. There is a small river flowing through the village which origins in China. All this makes it even more beautiful. We stopped here for few hours, had lunch at a local shop and came back to Kalpa for the night halt.
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Kalpa – Sarhan- Shimla
While coming back, we took the same route as going and in addition took a small detour to Sarhan. Sarhan is an extremely sacred place in Himachal with bhimakali temple. This is thousands of years old and is also connected with former CM of Himachal Pradesh (Vir Bhadra Singh) which makes it even more popular.
(Bhimakali Temple)
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We were back in Shimla around 8 PM IST.

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Last edited by Jaggu : 3rd January 2012 at 15:10. Reason: Removing [Font] tags, please avoid copy paste from external font editors. Also do a Preview before Submitting posts. Thanks
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