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Old 7th October 2014, 16:41   #1
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Default With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

This travelogue is dedicated to the recent vacation I took with my wife and 11 month old daughter in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.

Prelude

Wednesday last week, a day before the start of the long Holiday weekend, wifey decided it’s time for us to take a vacation. Well, the plan was completely impromptu, spur of the moment decision. We hadn’t done any preparation or decided even which place to head out to. All we knew was that this is too good an opportunity to let go, hence we are taking off.

Preparations

With the navratra puja at home on Thursday, we figured we can only leave Delhi around afternoon, which is not a pleasant thing to do due to the traffic buildup. Since both of us love the cold weather, hills like Manali, Dharamshala, Shimla, etc were natural choices. Of course I knew that all these places and the hotels within 10 kms of each place will be sold out by now (half of Delhi’s population had decided to head to hills for the weekend!!). In fact I got first idea of the maddening rush when one of my colleagues tried to book a hotel in Manali for 03 – 04 Oct and had a tough time doing so a full 2 weeks in advance. Anyway, we decided to take our chances with last minute booking. So, here begins the search.

We initially zeroed in on Shimla and Manali as the places we would like to visit this time around. I googled few hotels and started calling the numbers to find out the accommodation status. Our initial plan was to head to Shimla where we stay one night enroute to Manali (since we had already been to Shimla couple of times the place had lost its charm on us), head to Manali the next day and spend couple of days there. Since I was 100% sure I would not get any hotel reservations, I kept the plan fluid in order to accommodate any changes. I couldn’t believe my luck when the first hotel I called in Shimla said that they have one and only one room available for 02 Oct, Thursday. The guy who answered the phone (turned out to be the manager / owner of the property) was very pleasant, soft spoken and agreed to reserve the room for us. I told him that since we would leave Delhi at around noon, we would not be able to reach Shimla before 10 pm. He was fine with it. Though he actually tried to dissuade us by stating qu
ite frankly that this is going to be the busiest few days with hordes of visitors expected, that the room is only available for one day and all the hotels are packed to capacity over 03 / 04th Oct, on my part I stuck to our plan telling him that we only needed a room for one day and that we will drive on to Manali on 03rd. With Shimla out of the way, the next number I called was for hotel in Manali. Again, unbelievable luck as the first guy to answer the phone readily said that they have a room available and that he is happy to hold it for me till I reach there on 03rd evening. So, with logistics in order, we were all ready to set out on our vacation.

Day 1

02 Oct – Delhi to Shimla – Distance 392 kms. Time taken: 10.5 hours.
Start time: 2 pm approx.
Arrived: little before midnight

Having a small child just doesn’t help with keeping the timelines and we could only manage to leave home at around 2 pm after the puja and early afternoon siesta for the baby.

Before setting out, I did the initial check – oil level, coolant level, air pressure etc. along with getting a full tank of fuel. We drove to Shimla using NH1. Our first stop was at Murthal for some refreshments. Resuming our journey, our next stop was at Ambala for tea followed by couple of more stops at different points for knick knacks. Finally at around 11 pm we entered Shimla. From that point it took us approx. 30 minutes to reach the hotel in Mashobra approx. 14 kms from Shimla. The gentleman at the hotel, Mr. Ravi Thakur, who I spoke to earlier in the morning, was actually on the phone guiding us safely to the hotel. He must have called me 6 – 7 times within the interval of 30 minutes and was actually guiding me through each turn. The drive to Shimla was mostly uneventful though with very heavy traffic. Mr. Ravi had already warned me to this affect and I also knew that the traffic would be bad. Reaching the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised to find the hotel staff had prepared and kept the dinner ready for us which they served within 20 minutes of our arrival. The dinner itself was simple yet delicious. We quickly settled down, put the baby to sleep and talked a little about the plans for next day before retiring to bed ourselves.

Day 2

03 Oct – Shimla to Manali – Distance 265 kms. Time taken: 10 hours
Start time: 10 am
Arrived: 8:30 pm

Next morning, we started our journey to Manali. I wasn’t able to meet Ravi as he was not in the hotel but I thanked him for his pleasant hospitality over phone. I also called the hotel owner in Manali to reconfirm our booking in his hotel, telling him that we will reach around 6 – 8 pm with the drive to Manali not expected to take more than 8 – 9 hours. The drive from Shimla to Manali was uneventful though with heavy traffic. After crossing Kullu, we were actually stuck in a massive jam lasting close to 1 hour 30 minutes. Here I decided to again call the hotel owner who I had earlier spoken to in morning. As pleasant and delightful my previous experience was, this turned out to be equally horrendous. The guy told me plainly that he has already let out the room he had reserved for us and there is nothing he could do now apart from offering me a higher priced room at twice the cost. I blasted this guy, actually stopping short of only swearing, but then there was nothing much I could actually do. I even thought about reaching his hotel and calling cops there, but then decided against it. I took the details of the alternative accommodation that he again assured me is reserved for me and kept driving looking for hotels’ sign board and numbers along the way. After having tried about 10 – 15 numbers, stopping at 4 – 5 different hotels among the way, and everyone turning me down, I came across a small hotel along the banks of beas approx. 19 kms before Manali. To our surprise this guy had rooms available and we quickly lapped up the opportunity (I also did manage to negotiate the price down by 500 bucks, go figure! ). This place is a restaurant in fact, the owner had built only three rooms on the property, hence not many people even know of its existence. Further surprise, the room that we were given was a huge two room suite, worth at least 2 times more than the price we paid. For obvious reasons, I can’t reveal the name of the property here, but if anyone is interested, please PM me and I will be happy to provide details.

The time was around 8:30 pm. After settling down and unpacking the luggage, we ordered some food. Once again the place offered limited but deliciously prepared choices. Post our late evening tea, we decided it’s time for a short run to Manali (since the town is only 18 kms away) to see what is still open. Once we entered Manali, we found the place to be packed to its capacity, bustling with tourists and taxi drivers and vehicles all around. It actually resembled Sarojini Nagar market at 7 pm on a busy evening, a nightmarish serpentine long queue of vehicles, with vehicles parked on one side of the road making the road narrower, except that the time was 10 pm and we were actually in Manali. Finding nothing of much interest, we headed back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, we finished our dinner early, and once again made some initial plans for the next day. We decided to head to Rohtang pass, if the weather and traffic is fine, we may as well go a little further, and head back in the evening. Since this was our first trip to Rohtang pass, we thought leaving at 9 am or about should be good. Next day I realized how wrong was I.

Day 3

04 Oct – Manali to Rohtang pass – Distance 52 kms. Time taken: 10 hours
Start time: 10:00 am
Arrived (back at Manali): 08:00 pm

After having spent a night in the relative calm surroundings away from the maddening crowds around the main Mall road, the next morning we headed out to Rohtang pass. We ended up starting quite late at around 10 in the morning. The road leaving Manali offers pleasant view of the surroundings. Post climbing about 25 kms, or halfway to Rohtang pass, we got stuck in a massive traffic jam all the way up to Rohtang pass. Literally thousands of vehicles were stranded up the winding roads all the way to the top. The movement was made worse by the huge convoy of approx. 150 – 200 army trucks going down to the valley. After waiting about 5 hours for the traffic to make any headway, we decided to head back since it was already 4 pm. We managed to reach back around 8 pm encountering heavy traffic on the way down as well, the drive down itself taking close to 4 hours. There was another jam right before entering Manali quite obviously caused by the scores of vehicles trying to enter Manali. I have some pictures of the impasse, of what seemed to be an unbelievable traffic line up, though to people acquainted with the area I believe this kind of experience is routine. Stranded were vehicles of all makes and sizes, from many Boleros and few Tata Xenon, to Qualis, Xylos, Fortuners, couple of X1s, and state transport buses, apart from hundreds of military trucks, most were headed to Rohtaang pass, while few were headed further on to Rekong-peo and other places, some as far as Leh. When we turned back at little after 4 pm, the traffic was showing no signs of easing up and we could see the long serpentine queues of vehicles on the mountain sides. I can only imagine how all these people would have fared with nightfall quickly approaching.

A little disappointed at how the day turned out, we decided to spend the evening on the Mall. Starving after the 9 hour long ordeal, we entered the first restaurant that we saw to have snacks. We roamed around a bit, did some souvenir shopping, packed our dinner and headed back to the hotel.

Day 4

05 Oct – Manali to Delhi / home – Distance 598 kms. Time taken: 14.5 hours
Start time: 09 am
Arrived: 01:30 am

The next morning it was time to head back home with unfinished business. The drive to Delhi was marred with heavy traffic and multiple traffic jams all throughout the way. First up, it was the drive to and through Bilaspur that proved to be a spoiler. The journey criss-crosses through mountain ranges and with broken roads and heavy vehicles climbing steep ascents slowly, the drive is a pain. Next, there was a huge traffic line up just after entering Punjab leading to the town of Kiratpur. This one costed us close to 2 hours spent in crawling traffic. Few minor jams were also there at certain patches along the way. I am not very familiar with the routes here and I assume there is another way to Delhi after crossing Mandi that doesn’t take you through Bilaspur, but I had little leeway to experiment. What was expected to be a 12 hour drive ended up being a 16 hour journey. The only saving grace was the comforts of GV which I truly realized on this trip.

All in all, this trip ended as a mixed bag. While we like traveling, hills are our first choice any day and driving is a passion, the maddening traffic and crowd everywhere spoiled the fun somewhat. I guess many other people who headed to these parts during the same time were left with similar feelings.

Total fuel expenses: close to Rs. 12,800
Avg. FE for the trip: 10.2
FE On highways: >12

In the end, the average fuel efficiency gage on the car showed 7.2 up from 6.8 - 6.9 it had been displaying till date.


Some shots

With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0001.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0006.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0019.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0050.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0027.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0048.jpg
With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0058.jpg

view of the valley

With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0185.jpg

The white spots along the winding road are vehicles stranded

With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-img_0057.jpg

Last edited by rattanw : 12th October 2014 at 17:33.
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Old 13th October 2014, 18:03   #2
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Default re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

Moving out. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 14th October 2014, 15:31   #3
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

That is quite a lot of hours on the road for a quick weekend getaway + over 1300 kms! Did you also get a chance to stop by and take in the scenes and sights of the places you visited? Do post more pictures.

How comfortable is the Vitara over longer journey? Being from the Maruti Suzuki stable, does it rattle? Pardon my ignorance, I have very less idea about this SUV.
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Old 14th October 2014, 15:43   #4
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

I have only one question - Where are the pics of the Vitara???

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
How comfortable is the Vitara over longer journey? Being from the Maruti Suzuki stable, does it rattle? Pardon my ignorance, I have very less idea about this SUV.
The Vitara is a very comfortable vehicle and one of the best built from the suzuki stable. There should not be any rattles.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 14th October 2014 at 15:45.
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Old 14th October 2014, 19:59   #5
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

Wow, that picture with traffic jam. *shakes head ruefully* I hope the idea of 'staycation' reaches India soon and people realize that staying at home and spending time with loved ones (or 'me time') may actually be more relaxing than following the herd. Delhi was empty over the long weekend, like empty. It was beautiful to have reclaimed the city for a couple of days.

I am glad I did not head to the hills on those four days and saved myself (and others, and the hills) the torture. Like the saying goes, 'There I sat in the jam, cursing the traffic. Without realizing that I am the traffic'.
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Old 15th October 2014, 22:23   #6
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

Nice Travellogue but as said earlier, where are the pics of the Vitara. Are you starting an ownership review on it soon. Please do
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Old 15th October 2014, 23:34   #7
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

Quote:
Originally Posted by rattanw View Post
snip...
Well, the plan was completely impromptu, spur of the moment decision.
snip...
only one room available for 02 Oct, Thursday.

snip...
The guy told me plainly that he has already let out the room he had reserved for us and there is nothing he could do now apart from offering me a higher priced room at twice the cost.

snip...
04 Oct – Manali to Rohtang pass – Distance 52 kms. Time taken: 10 hours
Start time: 10:00 am
Arrived (back at Manali): 08:00 pm

snip...
Day 4

05 Oct – Manali to Delhi / home – Distance 598 kms. Time taken: 14.5 hours
Start time: 09 am
Arrived: 01:30 am

The drive to Delhi was marred with heavy traffic and multiple traffic jams all throughout the way.
First Point a.k.a. Moral of the escapade?
Never underestimate the 'Bher Chaal' of the tourist during Navratras. Stay where you are, and enjoy the views until Diwali is over and the Bhers have gone back to what they do best during the rest of the year.

Second point
If you have to book a hotel in advance during this time, do so with one of the branded travel portals-at least they guarantee your accommodation.

If you have a certain disinclination towards using these , research travel experiences at sites such as indiamike.com to unearth lesser known B&Bs - particularly those which the Bhers have no clue about , and more importantly are not run by Bheriyas.

Third point
Hills are meant to be enjoyed in peace and quiet. What was the earth shattering need to visit Rohtang? It will always be there. The time spent with your family in solitude at the hotel room balcony overlooking delightful views are infinitely more precious than looking at cars and trucks stuck ahead and behind you on Rohtang pass.

Fourth point
For those looking for pics of a Grand Vitara...
http://www.marutisuzuki.com/grand-vitara.aspx
The OPs GV won't be much different to look at - except maybe the color.

Fifth point
Was it truly a vacation?

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th October 2014 at 23:47.
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Old 16th October 2014, 00:33   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
[b]

Fourth point
For those looking for pics of a Grand Vitara...
http://www.marutisuzuki.com/grand-vitara.aspx
The OPs GV won't be much different to look at - except maybe the color.
Of course it will be different, the moment captured in a person's camera is his/her very own and cannot be compared to a few photo-shopped pics on a manufacturer's website.
So my humble request to the thread opener, please do post pictures of the Vitara.
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Old 16th October 2014, 17:03   #9
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Default Re: With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh

I am sorry for posting reply late to your queries. We actually didnt click any pics of the GV, however I still searched and found two. These are attached at the end of the post. I'll definitely be more careful to have more pics with the vehicle in future

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
First Point a.k.a. Moral of the escapade?
Never underestimate the 'Bher Chaal' of the tourist during Navratras. Stay where you are, and enjoy the views until Diwali is over and the Bhers have gone back to what they do best during the rest of the year.
You can say that again. I did anticipate a rush, but not of the magnitude that we actually encountered. At that point however, there was little we could do other than turning back and heading home. We decided to hang on though since we were traveling after a long time and didnt want to miss whatever little goodness was there in it. As I stated earlier, both me and my wife love traveling especially those long road trips. At many times in the past, before the baby though, we'd just pack our bags and leave home, often to change directions midway and head to a place in the opposite direction. To us, its always been the roads and the joys of traveling together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Second point
If you have to book a hotel in advance during this time, do so with one of the branded travel portals-at least they guarantee your accommodation.

If you have a certain disinclination towards using these , research travel experiences at sites such as indiamike.com to unearth lesser known B&Bs - particularly those which the Bhers have no clue about , and more importantly are not run by Bheriyas.


Well my experience most of the times has been good / excellent with direct owners / managers of various properties I have stayed at. Only on few occasions I actually faced the kind of trouble I had in Manali. But then, it all adds to the experience and adds to your judgement skills. I also do realize the value in your point - surely on my next vacation I will give indiamike a shot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Third point
Hills are meant to be enjoyed in peace and quiet. What was the earth shattering need to visit Rohtang? It will always be there. The time spent with your family in solitude at the hotel room balcony overlooking delightful views are infinitely more precious than looking at cars and trucks stuck ahead and behind you on Rohtang pass.
You can say that again as well. The tranquility and serenity was totally missing on this trip. But then as I said previously, this is the first road trip / vacation or call it what you may, in the last almost 24 months, except for one 1 day short trip to Ajmer. With an one year old baby its excruciatingly difficult to manage. Hence we were just trying to make the most of it. Also, the attendant at the hotel (not the hotel manager who I met after reaching back from Rohtang pass) misguided us by stating that leaving for RP at 9 am should be fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Fourth point
For those looking for pics of a Grand Vitara...
http://www.marutisuzuki.com/grand-vitara.aspx
The OPs GV won't be much different to look at - except maybe the color.

Fifth point
Was it truly a vacation?
Maybe it wasn't, maybe it was all a waste, maybe it was something else. But anytime spent with family is good time, right!! Yes, the timing, choice of place, etc could have been better. But all these are regrets at the end of another experience. For me, the experience holds more value.


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With a Grand Vitara to Himachal Pradesh-wp_20141004_011.jpg

Last edited by rattanw : 16th October 2014 at 17:06.
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