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Old 18th December 2015, 12:08   #1
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Default The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Hello All,

Iíve been a lurker on Team-BHP for a long time and have often utilised the wealth of information contained in itís forums to take several important decisions, mainly related to purchasing cars (new & used), their subsequent maintenance and planning long road trips. Having been on a longish road trip to Himachal recently, I thought Iíd post a travelogue and and give something back to the community.

About Me: Iím an ex-offshore oil industry worker, turned independent filmmaker and I reside in Mumbai. I usually write, shoot, direct and edit my projects.

Purpose of the Trip: Iím making an Independent Horror Feature Film and needed an old, British Era Bungalow, located in an isolated, hilly location for the shoot. Iíve lived in several old British built Dak Bungalows, during childhood vacations in the hills, so those came to mind immediately. There are several of these bungalows in the states of Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand. Being short on time and resources, I couldnít scout both the states. But something told me that I would find what I was looking for in Himachal Pradesh, so I decided to go on a 14 day recce to that state. This travelogue is a collection of the various Dak Bungalows I visited during the trip and my learnings during the journey.

Cars Used: Swift VDI & Tata Nano Twist XT (Both Self Drive Rentals from Myles Cars)

Route Outline: Delhi - Shimla - Kraignano/Mashobra - Narkanda - Nirath - Nogli - Taklech - Nirmand - Arsu - Baga Saraun - Rampur - Gaura - Dharanghati - Sarahan - Luhri - Dalash - Chowai - Khanag - Shoja - Jibhi - Palampur - Dadh - Kotla - Dundara Bangla - Sundla - Chandigarh - Shimla - Rampur - Gaura - Shimla - Chandigarh - Delhi

Journey Dates: 02 Oct 2015 - 14 Oct 2015

Total Kmís Covered: 2,336

Fuel (Diesel) Expenses for the Swift VDI: Rs. 3,700/- (1,703 Km Covered)

Fuel (Petrol) Expenses for the Nano:
Rs. 1,690/- (633 Km Covered)

Myles Car Booking Amount for Swift VDI:
Rs. 26,230/- (For 15 Days)

Myles Car Booking Amount for Nano Twist XT: Rs. 2,700/- (For 4 Days)

Food Expenses (For Two): Rs. 8,646/-

Accommodation Expenses: Rs. 7,200/- (3 nights were spent sleeping in the car)

A Bit About Dak Bungalows: Dak Bungalows are Raj era government bungalows (usually having 2 or more rooms), which were used as rest houses, when the only means of long distance travel were either Horse Drawn Carriages or Palanquins. Because mountain roads back then were bad or non-existent, the average distance that used to be covered in a day was limited to 10-15 Kms, so it was usual to find a Dak Bungalow every 15 Kms or so, especially in hilly, difficult terrain.

By some accounts there are nearly 250-350 such rest houses in Himachal Pradesh itself. I donít know how many of those have actually survived, but it is a substantial number, nonetheless. After independence, these Dak Bungalows have been taken over by either the PWD or the Forest Department of the district, in which they lie. The bungalows that belong to the PWD are called PWD Rest Houses and are usually located inside, or close to villages and towns and the bungalows belonging to the Forest Department are called Forest Rest Houses (FRHs) which are located in more isolated, forested areas.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-1.jpg
Your typical Dak Bungalow (Usually in colour and not half as creepy).

Trip Abstract: This was a hurriedly (but not hastily) planned trip. Last time I went to the hills up North, for a vacation, was 15 years ago to Shimla. I had very little practical knowledge of the area, but after doing a lot of detailed research on the net, I felt confident enough to embark upon the journey.

I had prepared some reference draft maps, using Google Maps and had made a list of locations, that sounded/looked good. I decided to reach Shimla and then start visiting locations, starting from the East and going counter-clockwise, all the way up to the North of Himachal. I had a list of about 100 locations - no way I would be able to cover all of them in 14 days, but I wanted to keep my options open. Eventually, I managed to cover about 20 good locations and a few more unsuitable ones, which are not part of this travelogue.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-2.jpg
The red markers indicate the locations of a few of the Dak Bungalows in Himachal Pradesh. The centre is Shimla, which was my starting/reference point.

I had decided to hire a Self Drive Rental Car for the trip. Iíve tried Zoomcar on a previous occasion and found their service pretty good. However, Myles was offering a Swift VDI for a price that was nearly Rs. 10,000/- cheaper than Zoomcar. Thriftiness (AKA Kanjoosi) got the better of me and I decided to go with Myles. I made the booking online and things were proceeding pretty smoothly. In September, when I made the booking, the Security Deposit being charged by Myles was Rs. 30,000/- I had no problem with this, because as far as I was concerned, it was money in the bank - After all, who goes on a fun-filled Himachal road trip and has an accident, right?

Wrong.

I was involved in a head-on collision with another car, in the heart of Himachal. The accident changed my plans significantly and that is also the reason I had to take a detour to Chandigarh and pick up a replacement car (Nano XT) and then head back to Himachal. Anyway, more on that later in the post. I also intend to make a detailed post listing the pros and cons of hiring a vehicle from Myles vis-a-vis Zoomcar, which Iíll be making out and posting later.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-3.jpg
No, this wasnít me (or anyone I know), thankfully. But macabre scenes like these are a very common sight on mountain roads.

I had a male Assistant with me during the trip and our main objective was finding a suitable location - so we ate food whenever we found a decent eatery and also had to spend three nights in the car, because the areas we were in, were really remote and finding suitable accommodation was near impossible. Besides accommodation, finding eateries can be a real problem, especially in the remote regions of Himachal. I know it sounds kinda obvious, but it was a bit of a revelation to me, having never really done anything of this sort before. All we could find were tiny Bhojanalays and most of the time they were either shut or looked really seedy. We had a stock of snacks with us, but chips and chocolates are only going to take you so far. Anyway, it wasnít anything life threatening - we usually managed to get at least one decent meal per day, so we did fine.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-3.1.jpg
One of the Bhojanalayís we ate in. The ambience was kinda creepy, but the food more than made up for it, fortunately.

I donít usually make Hotel Reservations when Iím going on a road trip - partly laziness and partly due to the fact that I manage to find good cheap accommodation by looking around a bit. However, this strategy of mine didnít work all the time and we had to spend 3 nights in the Swift, in the middle of god-knows-where, with my Assistant whining about dacoits slitting our throats and what-notÖto be honest, after driving 16 hours a day, I didnít really care about dacoits slitting my throat - I just wanted to sleep. Besides that, I had heard/read that Himachali people were really nice, so I had put a lot of my trust in that fact/belief. I am happy to say, that none of the Himachali people whom I encountered, gave me reason to doubt that fact/belief.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-4.jpg
Whoís got time for dacoits after dealing with roads like these?

The Swift handled the roads brilliantly - I have never driven a Swift before and I really liked it. At first, I was bit apprehensive about it being able to handle the mountain roads (or the lack thereof, in certain areas), but the car put my doubts to rest, every single time. It never felt underpowered and handled even the non-metalled roads (of which there are plenty in Himachal), with ease. Comfortable, powerful, fuel efficient and reliable. I was in love with the car. When the accident happened, I was genuinely sad to see the car wrecked and still feel bad thinking about it.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-5.jpg
Brilliant car. Now I know why this is one the top selling vehicles in our country.

The Nano was a different story. I picked it up as a replacement car for the Swift, from Chandigarh. My assistant got a scare after the accident and I sent him home to Delhi, deciding to complete the rest of journey on my own. At first I was apprehensive, but later realised that it was a good decision - the Nano wouldnít have been able to tackle mountain roads with two grown men and their luggage. There was a time when I picked up a couple of local hitch hikers and the damn thing just stalled on a steep incline. Not only did my passengers have to get out of the car, but they had to push it too! This could be because the car was not in top shape - it had about 30,000 Kms on the odo and felt a bit rattly - but itís the last time Iím taking a Nano to Himachal - itís underpowered and is not built to handle sharp curves. I know some of you are probably going to think that I sound like a road-going noob. Well, some of you are probably right.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-6.jpg
The photo makes the Nano look way more badass than it actually is.

Alright, time for the travelogue proper -

Kraignano FRH - 03/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-7.jpg
Kraignano FRH - A really beautiful old, building in Kraignano/Mashobra.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-8.jpg
The whole of Kraignano has a quaint old-world charm about it. Itís only 13 Km from Shimla, but it is totally devoid of the tourist bustle and pollution of Shimla.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-9.jpg
More than driving, it is more suited to long, leisurely walks. This place is probably the closest to what Shimla probably used to be like, when it was first established by the Brits, all those years ago.


Nirath PWD Rest House - 04/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-10.jpg
Nirath is a small village on the banks of the Sutlej River, with NH-22 passing through it. It has a nice, well maintained PWD Rest House, though the facilities are pretty basic and you might want to carry your own linen.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-11.jpg
The Sutlej River - not sure if this was near Nirath.


Nogli FRH - 04/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-12.jpg
Nogli is another small village, about 13 Km away from Nirath - it too, is situated on the banks of the Sutlej. Being off the highway, the FRH is very quiet and hardly gets any visitors.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-13.jpg
One of the highway roads at sunset.


Taklech FRH - 04/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-14.jpg
Taklech is a small village, about 22 Km from Rampur. Located in the interiors, in a forested area, it is really remote and gets hardly any tourist traffic. This is the new building of the FRH.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-15.jpg
The original rest house is made entirely out of wood and located behind the new one.


Arsu PWD Rest House & FRH - 04/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-16.jpg
The village of Arsu, has a brand-spanking-new PWD rest house, which is basically a heavily refurbished Dak Bungalow. Itís done up pretty well and has all the modern amenities - electricity, hot water, reasonably clean linen (yep, those count as 'moderní amenities in my book).

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-17.jpg
The FRH, which is nearby has been abandoned and is not in use any more. It does look like a nice olí Bhoot Bangla, but unfortunately thereís a bunch of well stocked kirana shops, right next door, which totally ruin the vibe.


Baga Saraun PWD Rest House - 05/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-18.jpg
Baga Saraun is located about 20 Km from Arsu. The first 10 Km make for a very pleasant driveÖthe last 10 Km are straight out of a NIGHTMARE. The road is non-metalled and is composed of sharp, broken stones which will make your vehicle chassis (and your bones) rattle and shake till kingdom come.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-19.jpg
But itís worth it.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-20.jpg
Baga Saraun is located in a natural gently sloping valley/meadow on the top of mountainsÖat least thatís what it looked like to me. Itís a unique place, stuck in time and you can be forgiven for thinking that youíre back in the days of the Raj (but thankfully without having to give salaam to the resident Gora Sahib).

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-21.jpg
The Rest House itself was built in the late 1800ísÖthe caretaker told me that the geyser in the bathroom was a 100 years old - I donít know how true that last bit is, but it sure sounds fascinating.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-22.jpg
The 10 Kmís in and out of Baga Saraun are going to take you a minimum of 1 hour. It could be less if you have a hardcore 4x4 and both you and your car have an appetite for punishment.


Gaura PWD Rest House - 05/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-23.jpg
Beautiful, peaceful, awesome place. Thatís the description that comes to mind automatically, whenever I think of Gaura. Itís a small village/town, about 17 Km from Rampur and the PWD Rest House is situated on the Mountainside. Like literally, on the mountainside.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-24.jpg
The caretaker has maintained the grounds very well and entering the gate of this Rest House, takes you back in time (Yes, I know Iím using that a lot, but itís true). The view is unbeatable and so is the price - I paid the princely sum of Rs. 450/- for a night. I was/am in love with this place.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-25.jpg
The Brits sure knew how to pick their spots when they built their Rest Houses.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-26.jpg
This Wild Rose bush is more than a 100 years old. The caretaker told me a very interesting story about it - This year in May, the Great-Granddaughter of a British Naturalist came down to Gaura to see this rose bush - it was sketched by her Great-Grandfather in a Picture Book, more than a century ago, in this very rest house. Just Fascinating.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-27.jpg
Another shot of the beautiful view.

Contd...
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Old 18th December 2015, 12:38   #2
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Dharanghati PWD Rest House - 05/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-28.jpg
If there is one Dak Bungalow that qualifies as being built in ďThe Middle of Nowhere,Ē itís the PWD Rest House in Dharanghati. The whole of Dharanghati mainly consists of a tea shop, the PWD Rest House and a Devi Mandir, which is situated on a peak, a few kilometres up. Thatís it.

The rest house is in a pretty good state, despite the remote location.

One thing I noticed was that the PWD Rest Houses were always better maintained than the FRHís - perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that it IS the Public Works Department, after allÖI guess they have an image to maintain.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-29.jpg
The old kitchen of the rest house, now abandoned.

We tried taking the Swift up the road to the Devi Mandir, but it was too dangerous - the road has several white, slippery sandstone like sharp rocks and the tyres werenít able to get enough traction, so we discarded that plan and continued back down, on our merry way.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-30.jpg
View of Shrikhand Mahadev Peak, from near the Dharanghati Rest House. Iím not sure if I got the name of this peak right - everyone I asked had a different name for it, so I just wrote the first name that I remembered.


Sarahan - Maharajaís Palace and Devi Mandir - 06/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-31.jpg
Sarahan is famous for it's Devi Mandir and we happened to stop over here by chance - it was not a scheduled stop. But we visited the Devi Mandir and payed our respects, anyway.

If you are in Sarahan, make sure you eat at the Nepali Restaurant, near the Bus Stop. Good, clean, simple food, at very reasonable rates. Believe me, you shall not regret this.

The Maharaja of Himachal Pradesh (now CM), has his Royal Palace in Sarahan.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-32.jpg
It is a beautiful building, built in the traditional style.

Itís not in use anymore - I wasnít able to determine why itís not being used anymore, but itís still maintained pretty well.

We couldnít go inside and took a few snaps of whatever we could from the outside - I guess, theyíre not too keen on letting the riff-raff in, especially two dudes who looked like they hadnít shaved (or bathed) for a while.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-33.jpg
A random shot of the Sutlej River.


Highway Car Washing

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-33.1.jpg
After 4 days on the road, the car had gathered a LOT of dust - we stopped by at one of the many highway-side car washes and gave the Swift a good clean.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-33.2.jpg
The exteriors were dust free for a grand total of 15 minutes after the wash, but it was worth it.


Luhri FRH - 06/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-34.jpg
Luhri has a nice, well maintained forest rest house, 70 Km from Sarahan. Being out of the way, it gets little to no visitors.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-35.jpg
Road to Luhri FRH


Dalash PWD Rest House - 06/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-36.jpg
This is a new rest house that has probably been built about 30 years ago. Well maintained property, with plenty of rooms and a nice garden out in front.


Chowai FRH - 06/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-37.jpg
Now this is a nice, old FRH, about 70 Km from Rampur. The Rest House is really well maintained and if you feel like staying in a remote location, bordering a forest, then this is it. I think it falls under the purview of the DFO Rampur, so you will have to apply there for permission to stay.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-38.jpg
One of the older, abandoned buildings in the property.


Khanag PWD Rest House - 07/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-39.jpg
Now this is a proper Dak Bungalow. Really well maintained PWD building with 3 guest rooms.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-40.jpg
Itís even got this beautiful Memorial Stone, dedicated to the memory of a British Lady, in the front lawn.

Hereís the inscription, in case you cannot see the wording clearly -

"In memory of, Penelope Valentine Hester Betjeman - writer & traveller, born 14 February 1910. Wife of John Betjeman, Poet Laureate and daughter of Field Marshal Lord Chetwode, Commander in Chief of the Indian Army (1930-33) and of Lady Chetwode. She died in these hills, she had loved so long.Ē

A quick google search revealed that this particular lady was very fond of the hills in North India and had actually traversed almost the same Dak Bungalow trail that we did (albeit with ponies and porters), several years ago. She died during one of her sojourns, in a place very close to this rest house, in 1986.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-40.1.jpg
Some old barracks near the Khanag Rest House.


Shoja PWD Rest House - 07/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-41.jpg
This is another Beautiful PWD Rest House in a place called Shoja, after Jalori Jot and quite close to Khanag.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-43.jpg
What I really like is that a lot of these Rest Houses are being maintained very well, keeping their original charm intact. Often times, it is the work of a single caretaker, who does not only does maintenance on the grounds and looks after the gardens, but also doubles up as the cook or Khansama.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-42.jpg
The road from Khanag to Shoja is a nightmare - just as bad as the one which goes to Baga Saraun and then some.


Mom & Pop Eatery (Shringi Vatika) - 07/10/2015

A bit ahead of Shoja, we stopped for a very nice breakfast at a small restaurant called Shringi Vatika - itís run by a husband-wife duo, who also operate a cozy looking home stay on the premises. Though I have to admit, that I found the prices to be a bit on the higher side; the plus side is that they give all the creature comforts that one usually does not find in such remote areas - cozy heated rooms, comfortable beds with clean linen, hot water in bathrooms and power backup too.

The food was excellent and they apparently have an arrangement for guests to sleep in tents, if they so desire - check it out if you are ever in the area.

Iíd like to clarify that this is not a sneaky marketing trick - the couple were really warm and hospitable and I felt that their establishment certainly deserved a mention in my travelogue.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-44.jpg
While at Shringi Vatika, we met up with another fellow traveller and hardcore Himachal enthusiast - Mr. Anshul Kaushik (pictured here in the middle between the owners of Shringi Vatika).

The badass Pajero belongs to Anshul and is actually the kind of car you need to tackle mountain roads in India and make those monstrous Sumo/Force Motors taxis give you some well deserved right of way - I think heís a member of Team-BHP also.


Jibhi PWD Rest House - 07/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-45.jpg
Jibhi is a small hamlet, about 7 Km ahead of Shoja. The rest house is not very well maintained, but still liveable. Itís located right off the highway and probably does not see any visitors at all.


Saurabh Van Vihar, Palampur - 08/10/2015


After Jibhi, we reached Baijnath by nightfall and spent the night in the car, because we were unable to find suitable accommodation. The "HomestaysĒ were just seedy lodges and in the interest of hygiene, we thought it would be better to spend the night in the car rather than risk a bedbug infestation by bunking in some dirty bed.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-46.jpg
In the morning, we checked out Saurabh Van Vihar - The authorities could have done a better job. Itís littered with weird gazebos for families to frolic in and swings and other contraptions for children to play on. Thereís also trash lying around, discarded by litterbug picnickers.

Pretty sad. With a bit more planning and initiative, this could be a really beautiful and unique park.


Dadh PWD Rest House - 08/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-47.jpg
This is a well maintained Rest House, but it is a pretty busy place. There were scores of people going in and out of the premises and I think the PWD has some kind of an office located in the premises.


Kotla PWD Rest House - 08/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-48.jpg
This is also a very quaint and decently maintained Rest House. Itís located in a busy town, so it sees plenty of visitors.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-49.jpg
A shot of the verandah.


Dundara Bangla PWD Rest House - 08/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-50.jpg
This PWD rest house is situated in an isolated location, off the main highway and close to Chamba.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-51.jpg
Itís a decently maintained, big bungalow and sees the odd visitor every now and then.

The Khansama/Chowkidar is a pleasant, enthusiastic gentleman called ďGirdhari Lal.Ē

Contd...
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Old 18th December 2015, 12:50   #3
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Sundla PWD Rest House - 09/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-52.jpg
This is another very nicely maintained bungalow, which sees plenty of visitorsÖmostly PWD officials.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-53.jpg
This one looks like a proper Raj Bungalow, complete with cane chairs on the verandah.


The Accident - 09/10/2015

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While on the way back from Sundla, towards Chamba, this happened.

I was on the left side, in my lane and just as I took a blind right hand turn, I saw a Sumo Taxi coming straight at me - it was in the wrong lane.

To my left, was a sheer drop, a few hundred meters deep and to the right was the mountain face. I turned to my right and the Sumo guy also turned to his left at the same time, in an attempt to get back in his lane.

We collided head on, but fortunately we had both braked and the speed was low enough to not cause any injuries to the occupants of either vehicle.

Everything was going great and this accident happened in exactly 2 seconds - I must add that I was well rested and totally free of alcohol or any other narcotics. I guess it was one of those things that just had to happen.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-55.jpg
We had done about 1700 Kms over the last 7 days and I think it was natureís way of telling us to slow down and appreciate the hills a bit more.

Natureís plan worked out pretty well, because we were forced to wait on the highway for a grand total of 10 Hours, waiting for the roadside assistance from Myles, while they ďGoogledĒ stuff for a couple of hours - this was an ordeal in itself. Iíll save that experience for a later, more detailed post.

The saddest part was seeing the Swift lying wrecked. The Sumo also suffered a cracked oil sump and some ruined bodywork.

I wasnít feeling too great after this, but apparently these accidents are very common in the hills - all the passers by, who stopped to take look and offer assistance said the same thing - ďGaadi toh theek ho jayegi, accha hua kisi ki jaan nahi gayi.Ē

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-56.jpg
So long, buddy :'(


The Aftermath - 09/10/2015 - 10/10/2015

I wasnít willing to let the accident disrupt my schedule. So I got on the phone with Myles and managed to book a replacement Nano from Chandigarh for pick up at 0800, the next day.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-57.jpg
We had seen several of these small shrines throughout Himachal roads - theyíre built at sites where there has been a fatal accident. Almost all of them are built at blind turnings.

I chose to book a Nano, because it was the cheapest. I knew Iíd have to shell out from my security deposit to Myles for the accident and I wasnít in the mood to spend any more than I had to. Yes, I was being kanjoos again; I donít learn my lesson that easily.

After 10 hours of waiting, the Swift was finally towed, and we hitched a ride to Chamba and then took a ST Bus to Pathankot at around 2300 Hrs.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-56.1.jpg
ďBuri nazar waaleyÖ"

We reached Pathankot early in the morning and took a bus to Chandigarh, where I collected the Nano and packed my partner off to Delhi, by bus. He was pretty rattled after the accident. So was I, but since it was my money and time on the line, I was a lot more motivated to take the risk.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-58.jpg
This ainít over, yet.


Chandigarh to Rampur - 10/10/2015

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-59.jpg
On the road again.

I had seen some suitable locations near Rampur and wanted to go check them out. So, I just typed in Chandigarh - Rampur in Google maps and followed whatever the App said.

Itís not the best approach, but it worked out fine for me - I went past some really good roads, which I hadnít driven down on my earlier trip.

I reached Rampur in the evening and checked into an MTDC Hotel over there.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-60.jpg
You know what they say about that one rotten apple, right?

Rampur - Gaura - Shimla - Chandigarh - 11/10/2015 - 13/10/2015

The next three days were spent talking to authorities for the requisite permissions and gathering information about the sites that I had liked.

As I had mentioned previously, I donít think the Nano is a car that is suited to extensive Mountain usage.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-61.jpg
But it is pretty photogenicÖor maybe, itís the Ďbainganií hue.

There were instances when trucks would overtake me and I would feel the whole car shake. Taking a turn above 60 Km/Hr is downright suicidal - the tyres frequently squealed in protest, the few times I did take somewhat high speed turns.

The good points were that the AC was really effective and the music system was surprisingly good. Also, it is really manoeuvrable and because of itís small size, finding parking in Shimla was not a hassle.

I returned the car back to the Chandigarh Hub of Myles on the 13th of October and then took an AC Volvo to Delhi on the 14th.

With that, the trip ended.

The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue-62.jpg
All in all, it was a fruitful, interesting trip with several experiences and learnings.

Hope this travelogue makes for an interesting read - Iíll be posting a detailed review of my Myles Car experience also, so stay tuned.

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Old 19th December 2015, 13:47   #4
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th December 2015, 14:49   #5
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

very well written travelogue. You explored places in Himachal which very few people do. Waiting for ur update on Myles vs Zoom car. Recently, I had hired a Myles car (swift vdi) for a self drive trip from Mumbai to Goa and my experience was a pleasant one.
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Old 19th December 2015, 15:05   #6
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Now that's a very intriguing trail you have completed. There are innumerous bungalows scattered around the hills in the lesser Himalayas left behind by the British, waiting to be discovered. Beautiful locations and pictures of the bungalows are lovely; I quite like the subtly elegant architecture of these buildings .
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Old 19th December 2015, 15:49   #7
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

I am in love with the pics! HP is my favorite place to explore. Given your purpose, I'll highly recommend visiting Kasauli and Dalhousie. Although the British era cottages in these places are now in private hands, I believe.

By the way, I'd also like to know your opinion on Swift Vs. Nano on the hills. Good to note that Nano was only 40 paise more expensive per km in terms of running.

Last edited by rrsteer : 19th December 2015 at 15:52.
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Old 19th December 2015, 16:04   #8
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Dear ads1485,

I have a feeling your film will do well! The way you seem to do your 'homework' is impressive. And, so is your ability to 'present' it.

Can I ask a stupid question - Why did you take a 'male assistant' instead of a 'male standby driver'?

I have not visited too many dak bungalows, however, I have found quite a few of them in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh too. You need to see if they suit your needs.

Girish Mahajan
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Old 19th December 2015, 18:00   #9
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Hi ads1845, Have always been tempted by the PWD bungalows and FRHs which always are in beautiful locations, however the problem is how does one book them, they are always shrouded in red tape of officialdom, they are located at far off places and generally have to be booked physically from district headquarters which are at least 4 to 5 hours away..., or else do favours to the resident caretaker.
So how did you manage, assuming that you are not from IAS, IPS etc...
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Old 19th December 2015, 18:53   #10
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

@ads485: Brilliant! On a different thread, compile information about each of the bungalows. That thread should deserve to be sticky.

@YTM: Add circuit houses, SEB and Irrigation dept guesthouses. In Bengal these were essentially used by the power oligarchy (politicians and senior bureaucracy) for their personal escapades! There was some talk (post 'poriborton') of making these accessible to the public. Expectedly, nothing has come of it. Also in the Darjeeling region, most of the old bungalows were burnt down during the Gorkhaland agitation.

Regards
Sutripta
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Old 19th December 2015, 20:46   #11
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Very nice travelogue. Also to add to what YanTra Makto mentioned, most of time these properties do not get care, attention and upgradation due to paucity of Govt Funds.If these are opened to public as mentioned by Sutripta, it will be beneficial to both. By the way, I didn't notice as to whether ads1485 got his location for movie or I missed that while feasting on the snaps?
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Old 19th December 2015, 20:50   #12
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Hi, Its such an off-beat travelogue. Kudos to you.

I just want to ask, can these bungalows be rented by general public as well? and are they available even without prior booking?
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Old 19th December 2015, 23:19   #13
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by anubshar View Post
very well written travelogue. You explored places in Himachal which very few people do. Waiting for ur update on Myles vs Zoom car. Recently, I had hired a Myles car (swift vdi) for a self drive trip from Mumbai to Goa and my experience was a pleasant one.
Thanks, anubshar. Yes, it was quite an experience. I'll be putting down my experience with Myles pretty soon, stay posted!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gosu View Post
Now that's a very intriguing trail you have completed. There are innumerous bungalows scattered around the hills in the lesser Himalayas left behind by the British, waiting to be discovered. Beautiful locations and pictures of the bungalows are lovely; I quite like the subtly elegant architecture of these buildings .
Yes, Gosu...staying in these bungalows is like travelling back in time - they're literally dripping with history and interesting experiences. I'm glad you enjoyed reading the travelogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rrsteer View Post
I am in love with the pics! HP is my favorite place to explore. Given your purpose, I'll highly recommend visiting Kasauli and Dalhousie. Although the British era cottages in these places are now in private hands, I believe.

By the way, I'd also like to know your opinion on Swift Vs. Nano on the hills. Good to note that Nano was only 40 paise more expensive per km in terms of running.
I'm glad you liked the pics, rrsteer - they're a carefully selected few of the literally hundreds I took while on the journey. I did consider Kasauli and Dalhousie, but abandoned the idea because I felt that finding a really way out/isolated bungalow in those places might be hard, considering the fact that they are well known tourist destinations. Plus I was limited by the time I had, so I elected to cover only the places which were certifiably (at least to me) obscure.

As for the Nano Vs. Swift opinion - the short version is that the Swift wins hands down, on all counts, by a long shot

Quote:
Originally Posted by GKMahajan View Post
Dear ads1485,

I have a feeling your film will do well! The way you seem to do your 'homework' is impressive. And, so is your ability to 'present' it.

Can I ask a stupid question - Why did you take a 'male assistant' instead of a 'male standby driver'?

I have not visited too many dak bungalows, however, I have found quite a few of them in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh too. You need to see if they suit your needs.

Girish Mahajan
Dear GKMahajan,

I really appreciate your kind words about my film doing well - "Aapkey muh mein ghee shakkar!" I sincerely hope I am able to follow through on it. Thanks again.

As to your question about the Male Asst. vs. Male Standby Driver - Well, I was looking for a multi-tasker who could drive, navigate, take notes, offer useful suggestions and use a DSLR, hence the need to hire a "Assistant" vis-a-vis a plain ol' driver. Though looking back, sometimes I think that a plain ol' driver may have served the purpose better, but that is another story.

You are right; MP & Maharashtra do have a wealth of Dak Bungalows. I did eventually look for them in Maharashtra and have finally settled on locations within the Melghat Tiger Reserve - it is closer to Mumbai and frankly speaking, much more suited to my film, than the ones that I saw in Himachal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by YanTra Makto View Post
Hi ads1845, Have always been tempted by the PWD bungalows and FRHs which always are in beautiful locations, however the problem is how does one book them, they are always shrouded in red tape of officialdom, they are located at far off places and generally have to be booked physically from district headquarters which are at least 4 to 5 hours away..., or else do favours to the resident caretaker.
So how did you manage, assuming that you are not from IAS, IPS etc...
Hi YanTra. You are right - getting permissions can seem a bit daunting, but I believe a lot of states now have an online booking system, in which you can book via e-mail. I went to a couple of Forest offices in Himachal and the officials were quite helpful and friendly, so that is one state that I can vouch for personally.
I didn't have any prior bookings, I used to just walk into the nearest PWD Rest House or FRH, when I couldn't drive anymore and ask the caretaker if I could stay. In my experience, the PWD Rest Houses are far more open to spot bookings and in fact, a lot of them have it mentioned on their signboards, that they welcome tourists.
The FRH's are far more strict and the caretakers usually don't let you stay without prior bookings.
However, if you're with family, don't count on the spot booking strategy; on days that I couldn't get any accommodation, I had to sleep in the car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
@ads485: Brilliant! On a different thread, compile information about each of the bungalows. That thread should deserve to be sticky.
Thanks, Sutripta . Unfortunately I don't have very comprehensive information on every bungalow that I went to, because I wanted to cover as many locations as I could, in the limited time that I had. So, I only documented those Bungalows in detail, which I felt were really suitable for the film and that is very small number.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Voice View Post
Very nice travelogue. Also to add to what YanTra Makto mentioned, most of time these properties do not get care, attention and upgradation due to paucity of Govt Funds.If these are opened to public as mentioned by Sutripta, it will be beneficial to both. By the way, I didn't notice as to whether ads1485 got his location for movie or I missed that while feasting on the snaps?

Thank you Inner Voice, I'm really happy that all of you have liked this travelogue - it provides encouragement for many more long winded posts!
About the maintenance part, as I mentioned, the Forest Dept. & the PWD are really doing a commendable job as far as maintenance of these structures goes, in Himachal. Sometimes the 'renovation' work does tend to destroy the character of the buildings, but on the whole, they are pretty well maintained given their age and the limited resources available to these departments.

As for finding a suitable location - no, you did not miss it, I missed putting it in the post! I settled on locations within Maharashtra itself. Specifically, the Melghat Tiger Reserve and am in the process of applying for permission to shoot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shootokill View Post
Hi, Its such an off-beat travelogue. Kudos to you.

I just want to ask, can these bungalows be rented by general public as well? and are they available even without prior booking?
Thank you, shootokill. It was a very off beat journey, also.

To answer your question, yes, they can be rented by the general public. Most states have an online application process, by which you can visit the appropriate PWD or Forest Dept. website and send an e-mail requesting a booking. As I mentioned previously, the PWD Rest Houses are far more open to on-the-spot bookings, but only if rooms are available. Hope that helps.
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Old 20th December 2015, 00:29   #14
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Now this is a travelogue crying desperately to be developed into a book.

May be, one day, when you have finished your movie, and want a temporary break from movie making, you can write this book? If you need a collaborator, I will be glad to be considered!

Brilliant pictures too. Good luck with your movie!
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Old 20th December 2015, 19:08   #15
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Default Re: The Dak Bungalow Trail - Himachal Travelogue

Awesome travelogue and snaps. One kind of a vacation it would be hopping through some of these dak bungalows in HP.
Taking a Nano was a brave decision IMO in the hills. Have never tried Myles. Would be waiting eagerly for the Myles vs Zoomcar comparo.
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