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Old 11th September 2017, 17:49   #1
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Default V-CrossedŽ - The introductory summer escapade to Himachal

After living a Jeeper’s life for quite a few years, we had to part with our beloved MM 440 Jeep (The story of my jeep: MM 440) around two years back because of the 15 years’ rule in NCR. Although it left a big void in our life, the good thing was that the Jeep found a new owner with even more experience & passion, an ex-Navy deep-sea diving stalwart. We were living without a tourer/off-roader vehicle for quite some time since then, simply because none of the options available in our budget was able to convince us fully. The Summer holiday of 2017 was approaching and I was sort of determined to have some good time off on a driving holiday with the family, post the rigors of official work in last couple of months! Lots of deliberations here and there and at the end, we ended up booking a relatively new entrant in the Indian market, a pick-up truck, which is probably not a very practical vehicle for the city dwellers from few angles, but something which our hearts really couldn’t resist even though it was stretching our budget from the initial estimate. So that’s how we got the new boy home in May 1st week, a silver Isuzu D-max V-cross 4x4.

Sincere thanks to few eminent Tbhp members like SS-Traveller, roy_libran, 4x4addict, n.devdath, tazmaan etc. along with my good old friends Mandeep & Shibu, who helped in the decision making process. More on the vehicle purchase may be in a separate ownership thread.

Coming to the travel destination, it had to be the Devabhumi, Himachal, with some tentative planning on few of the known and relatively less-known places which we haven’t hitherto covered. Nothing block bluster like Leh or Spiti but some adorable places on a leisurely note. The initial plan was tentatively to start from Shimla side, move towards the old silk route at Daranghati, off to Jalori, a pass where surprisingly we still hadn’t been, crossing over to Tirthan valley, covering areas around Jibhi, driving to the fringe areas of Great Himalayan National park & Seraj valley, coming back to manali for a drive through snow cladded Rohtang (which was about to open in a few days) for a trip to Jispa and start the return journey back home. Although it was a summer holiday season I didn’t do any prior hotel booking as such primarily because we prefer the basic forest & PWD rest houses wherever possible and also the itinerary was kept flexible because of not-so-promising weather predictions. Most importantly our plan was to have a road trip in the new member of the family with the journey being more important rather than the destinations. Off-course, for the worst case scenario we had the tents and associated camping stuffs. And indeed the relatively early monsoon spell in Himachal actually made us alter the plan to a good extent almost throughout the journey! But at the end we completed a trip covering a wide variety of landscapes, fulfilling our hearts and souls. Being the introductory trip, the truck wasn’t pushed much and also would have needed a bit more experience on my side to handle it in an even better way. But it gave a hint of what it is capable of and reassuring us about the right choice made, promising a long association in the days to come.

And here is a summary of the trip before the elaborated day-wise log.

We started through the lovely winding highways
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Stayed in some beautiful places
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Passed through some nice green foliage
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Made some new 'friends' on the road
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Experienced some magic of nature in the form of waterfalls & heavenly meadows
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Travelled in some less-ventured routes
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Enjoyed the fall of day on the road
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Saw the mountains from close vicinity
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Received warm welcome in the valleys
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Crossed over to the ridges on the other side
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Seen the color (and monochrome) shades of nature
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And humbly received the admiration
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Warning: This travelogue may be an overdose of photographs of a silver colored V-Cross more than the people and the landscapes !

Many of the photos have been clicked by my brother Dr. Souvik, as watermarked, and rest by myself and wife (and a couple by my daughter as well!)
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Old 11th September 2017, 18:13   #2
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Hi Kandisa awesome to see your travelogue, very inspiring to see the variety of trails you've gone through. Do keep traveling and sharing, I'm looking forward to seeing more V-Cross stories on this forum!
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Old 12th September 2017, 06:46   #3
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Congratulations on the Isuzu D-Max. Must have been quite a different experience from driving the 440, I am sure. Would love to read about a comparo of chalk with cheese!

The monochrome picture of the V-Cross looks ethereal - like a silver lining on the ground for the grey clouds above.
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Old 12th September 2017, 10:14   #4
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Congratulations!

I saw the car a while back in the neighbourhood , and was wondering if you had bought it .

How does it fit into the parking slot . I tried fitting one into my parking and had to drop the idea since it doesn't fit and juts out into the driveway.

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Old 14th September 2017, 17:31   #5
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The Prelude
My dermatologist-photographer brother from Kolkata initially planned to take a few days off from his routine and join us for the trip. He was to come to Delhi, go to Brussels to attend a conference and join us for few days after returning to Delhi, before going back to Kolkata. However, our start date from Delhi was coinciding with his date of flight to Brussels and somehow it was not possible to postpone the travel window for us because of already sanctioned leave in the office. So we decided to pick him up from around Shimla (where he would reach after landing at Delhi), mid-way through the trip. As luck or ill luck would have it, his visa got rejected at the last moment and he ended up joining us on the trip right from beginning, from Noida itself because the Kolkata-Delhi air ticket was already done!
Now, coming from a petrol hatch and Jeep background, adjusting to the dimension and behavior of a new turbo-diesel pick-up truck does take a bit of time and I tried to do my best by using it as a daily drive to my office. The odo reached 700 km before the starting day and although I would ‘ve been more comfortable to start the long journey with a bit more kms on the odo, the journey through the plains till Zirakpur was to be a good opportunity to reach around 1000 km mark without stressing the new engine.

Day 1: Noida to somewhere around Shimla
The day before starting the journey was not very helpful as I expected to be. I planned to get a big bag stitched so that all the luggage could be put inside, zipped up and locked and simply kept on the bay area of the truck as otherwise it would be problematic to keep the luggage in order. This is something I used to do in the Jeep as well, with the entire thing put on the roof rack. So I told the trusted upholstery person at the garage which had been looking after my vehicles for last ten years, to make me a similar enclosure. This was to be taken in the evening from the garage, approx. 30 minutes from my place. Also on the agenda was picking up a set of generic transparent mats in nearby sector 16 auto market to put over the carpet mats. I actually wanted to do a full black carpeting to protect the vulnerable beige layer provided in the truck, but there was not much of time to do that post taking delivery of the vehicle. I returned home around 6 in the evening completing the two tasks above, but due to some last minute report preparation for office it was not possible to fully concentrate on loading the truck before 9.30 at night. Also the notorious jam in the ring road ensured that my brother finally reached our place at Noida from Airport just around dinner time! Nevertheless, with some of the luggage dumped in the truck, I had a quick dinner and went to bed around 11 with the alarm set for 4.
But it was not before 6 in the morning, the entire group, consisting of myself, wife, our 5-year-old daughter and my brother, was ready. Not to mention, this, being the 1st trip in the truck, took bit of time to adjust the luggage. Finally, we could start from Noida around 6.30 in the morning. Crossing the Delhi border without much of congestion we started cruising on the GT Karnal road without pushing too much.

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The breakfast stop was planned at Murthal as usual. Though we have been travelling on this route for quite some time, we never stopped at the ‘famous’ Amrik Sukhdev dhaba. So thought to have the breakfast stop at this place this time. The truck received a VIP treatment with a group of security guards escorting to the non-congested area of the parking lot, with a strange look from most of the people around!

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We had a mix of Aloo-paratha, Puri-sabzi & Chole-Bhature and except a bit of difference in the ‘chole’, none of the items was worth remembering. Tummies filled, fuel topped up, we were back on the road. The V-Cross is an excellent highway cruiser and compared to our earlier vehicles it was nothing sort of a luxury to move through the highway in a comfortable and steady speed.
A picture from inside the cabin
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Thankfully there was no confusion with the ‘commercial category’ fees in any of the toll booths, probably because of the awareness about the vehicle because of a reasonably decent numbers on the road. A light lunch stop was at Monty Millions near Dharampur with a good platter of tooty-fruity in the desert. Now, the destination for the day was not fixed and I planned to stop somewhere around Shimla, though definitely not in the crowded touristy areas. A few calls here and there and finally the night stay was arranged in a detour to Shimla, in the rest house of Junga, a place where we had been earlier in a trip with our Alto. So we left the main highway at Kandaghat and took the narrow route to Chail. There was occasional car & bus traffic but things were manageable for the truck. The final stretch of route to the rest house was not in good shape and we reached there late in the afternoon.
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A nasty surprise was waiting after opening the rear door! We had a 5 L Bisleri water jar (not of good quality) which had started leaking and the water in turn seeped into the luggage bag through the stitching area, making few of the stuffs wet! So a considerable amount of time was spent to take things out and put on the railings of the rest house to dry up!

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Finally, around evening, we were able to put the camp chairs on the compound and the evening was spent through chit-chatting with the caretaker preparing some nice tea. My daughter utilized the opportunity to try her hand on the camera.

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After having a leisurely walk around, we had an early dinner, much better than what we had here last time, along with few ‘kesar’ mangoes we were carrying. There was some chill in the air and it was very refreshing coming from the summer heat of NCR.

Last edited by Kandisa : 7th October 2017 at 21:22.
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Old 14th September 2017, 17:35   #6
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Day 2: Junga to Sainj

Re-packing the luggage into the bay again took some time in the morning. The leaking water jar was thrown out as we already had a sturdy 20 litres jar. Breakfast with paratha-sabji was gobbled up and we hit the road after 9. The approach road to Shimla was congested and finally we reached Narkanda around lunch time. As I was waiting inside the food joint, saw a familiar face relaxing on the driver seat of a green gypsy, parked on the other side of the road. It was fellow Bhpian R K Bharat, who was returning with his travel convoy from a Himachal trip. It was a nice surprise catching up with him and I got few updates on the road conditions and weather. After bidding goodbye to RK, had a tasty lunch of chicken curry and roti and started the journey towards Rampur side. This was a season of Cherry, apricot & plums and there were plenty of temporary stalls on the side of the road selling freshly plucked fruits from nearby orchards. We picked up few boxes which kept us engaged nicely during the journey. The weather was bright and sunny and I thought it would remain so. But just after crossing Sainj, things started changing drastically! Seeing heavy cloud covering up, we stopped the truck and thought of doing some ‘jugaad’ to cover up the luggage area as it was evident the bigger bag alone wouldn’t be able to tackle the rain and save the luggage.

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Thankfully we were carrying a Quechua Tarp and with a combined effort of ten minutes we could cover up the bay area more or less decently. And then the fury of the rain god was unleashed with full force! After around half an hour, things settled down a bit but I already had some bad feelings about the road condition towards Daran in such a weather. And this was confirmed after talking to the nodal person in the Rampur PWD office. He strongly advised not to venture on the route amidst such rain. Now question was which direction to proceed. The next day we had plans to move towards Jalori with a night stop at Khanag, just before the final climb starts. So thought to come back to Sainj and move towards Anni just to be in the same route for the next day’s journey. But just after crossing the bridge at Luhri, it again started pouring heavily. Now, the stretch immediately after the Luhri market, till the next couple of kms by the Sutlej, is extremely landslide prone. And there was every possibility to have some big rocks coming on to the road in such heavy rain. So I made up my mind not to proceed any more and come back to Sainj to settle in the only proper hotel at the junction for the day. It was not difficult to get the rooms though the rate was somewhat on the higher side.
The truck at the only 'covered' parking lot:

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Nevertheless, with no more journey planned for the day we settled down and had a leisurely stroll in the area once the rain stopped completely after around an hour. A local religious procession just ended in one of the buildings in the area and it was nice to watch the same, most interesting being the big metallic flute like musical instruments.

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There are few family-run dhabas in the adjacent area and the evening was spent chitchatting with couple of round of tea, trying out some local snacks and finally a okayish dinner with rice-dal-vegetable. So this was the 1st change to the ‘proposed plan’. The weather forecast didn’t look promising at all. Also the local people unanimously informed that it had been raining every day in the afternoon for last few days! With prayer on our lips for some clear days ahead, we went to the bed by 10.

Last edited by Kandisa : 7th October 2017 at 21:26.
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Old 14th September 2017, 17:50   #7
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Day 3: Sainj – Khanag

The morning started on a bright, sunny note. All was not well though. Looking through the window of the restaurant while waiting for the breakfast, the road on the back side caught my attention. It was the other route bifurcating from Luhri towards Nirath. One big chunk of rock had fallen on the road, thereby completely stopping the traffic from both the directions.

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By the time the breakfast was over, an earthmover had already reached the place to clear it out. I was hoping nothing major had happened on the other route from Luhri towards Ani & Khanag, where we were going. Taking few of the things out from the rear bay revealed quite a mess with water all over the place! The quechua tarp and the cover did hold up to some extent but those were nothing compared to the force of the rainfall the previous day. So a round of clean-up followed and I decided the 1st job after returning home would be to get a proper solution at the rear bay area but without sacrificing the openness permanently. (As on date, this has been done after lots of planning and trial & error at a shoestring budget!) So finally we were back no the road around 9.30, retracing the last couple of kms of yesterday’s journey towards Luhri.
Just after crossing Luhri

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The narrow road after the market area has got proper side railings now. But with frequent bus movement, it was a routine affair to reverse the truck in an interval of almost every 5-10 minutes. And I must say it was not a comfortable experience with the utmost fear of not to get scratch on the brand new vehicle while trying to reverse on the narrow stretches! But all thanks to my navigators, both my brother & better-half, things were manageable.

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Few kms down the line we came across a place with water stream flowing through rocks and lush green vegetation and thought to spend some time here. Next hour or so was spent by seating on the stream side, enjoying the rejuvenating atmosphere. My daughter was more than happy to try her skills of throwing stones in the water at varied distance and pattern with the uncle being the constant companion.

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A chameleon

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Life at the cross-road....

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Time well spent, back on the Vcross, we slowly surged on the beautiful road towards Ani. In one of our earlier visit we went to a place called Chowai by taking a right turn from a place called Samsher, IIRC, after Ani. This time we continued straight. The greenery kept on increasing as we moved forward and it was a wonderful journey.

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On the way we stopped at a small grocery shop in a small village to pick up some ration for the night, manly rice, daal, potatoe, egg and few spices. Finally we reached the rest house at Khanag around 3 at a leisurely pace.

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For a moment I thought to carry on and make the halt somewhere after Jalori, since there was plenty of daytime left. But somehow the place was so beautiful, thought to rest here for the day. The friendly caretaker (who actually was a temporary person in-charge as we found later) prepared maggi which we were carrying and it was a nice late lunch seating on the lawn in the front.

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Last edited by Kandisa : 7th October 2017 at 21:31.
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Old 15th September 2017, 15:02   #8
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Day 3: Sainj to Khanag Continued...

The ambience of the place was perfect for relaxing. It was a perfect setting with dense trees all around, sky was thankfully clear with bluish tint.

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This memorial is placed at the boundary of the lawn.

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The truck happily posing

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The peace was temporarily broken though when few local fellows (including few drivers) decided to have some afternoon booze session in the adjacent area, thankfully maintaining a safe distance. The caretaker though took care of them before things started getting a bit more ‘happening’! My daughter opened her bags of toys including an exhaustive kitchen set and a mock five course dinner was under preparation in the lawn.

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There was a school at the backside of the rest house and the school was in full swing. Chitchatting with the guard of the school, I was reminded that there is no summer holiday here. The students get break during the winter season. While talking a walk outside, somehow few of the students spotted me and seeing the camera in hand started shouting ‘say cheese’!! Obliged them with a few pictures and they were more than happy.
Just when evening was about to fall, this fellow joined us.

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He is the pet dog of the ‘Pradhan’ of the village and usually comes around quite frequently. He appeared to be a very well behaved dog and very interested in getting his photos clicked. All of us were enjoying his company till my daughter decided to offer him few handfuls of ‘khatta-meetha’ of Bikanerwala. The fellow had couple of grubs and somehow probably the sweet-tangy taste of the mixture tickled his senses and he became super-excited and playful. So much so gradually he started aiming mock bites (?) at everyone. I was the 1st one to leave the lawn and take a safe refuge in the drawing room with the door of the balcony shut. In 5 minutes, all my gang members also ended up doing the same and the doggy was waiting patiently for people to come out sitting just outside the door! Thankfully he decided to leave after waiting for half an hour or so and we got our freedom back!

Inside the drawing/ dining room

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Meanwhile the ‘actual’ caretaker came back and we handed over the food stuffs to him requesting for an early dinner, which was finally served around 8. Simple dinner of rice, daal, potato curry and egg bhurji always tastes divine in such type of ambiance and this time also it was no exception. My brother was trying out few night shots outside after dinner and I joined him for some time.

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But the weather already started getting chilly and post the heavy dinner, there was not much of energy left. So after half an hour we packed up and went to bed.
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Old 15th September 2017, 15:44   #9
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Day 4: Khanag to Jibhi via Tirthan

Going by the reputation of Jalori, I wanted to start bit early in the morning to avoid as much traffic as possible. It was not due to the ‘in’famous incline but due to the width of the road and that this was the first time for the truck to be on this route. After taking the morning tea and reloading the truck we could start the journey to Jalori around 8.30. The climb started immediately after the exit road from the rest house. However there was some holy ritual in the seolsar lake which is a short trek from Jalori top and hoards of local devotees were around! So it was a routine to reverse every couple of minutes to give way to the local vehicles ( being at the receiving end due to out of state registration). On top of that in most of the cases the drivers of the oncoming vehicles were so engrossed in watching the truck they couldn’t pay full attention to the road condition and where their vehicles were going! Amidst all of these my heart was in the mouth with the utmost fear of getting scratches on the truck (call it a new car syndrome).
Vistas on the route.

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Finally reached the top and it was big mess due to huge no of vehicles parked, supposedly of the devotees who had been camping overnight at the temple in the serlosar lake. Thankfully got a ‘parking space’ and visited the temple before going for a maggi-egg breakfast at one of the food joints.

Truck parked at the jot.

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The temple and surroundings

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Track towards seolsar lake

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I was just about to have the 1st spoonful when there was some noise outside. A local govt bus was coming uphill and had to stop because of lack of width due to space occupied by an innova just parked couple of vehicles before the Vcross. The bus-driver was getting impatient and the local folks were searching for the Innova driver with the fear that the bus-driver might decide to park the bus on the middle of the road if there is too much delay! Thankfully he was found and the vehicle was moved. I could see the Vcross also could pose some difficulty for the bus to go ahead. Thankfully one of the parked vehicles at the top was moving and the Vcross was slotted there. After finishing the breakfast and the chaos settled down a bit, we started the downhill journey. I heard a lot about the slopes on the Shoja side and the greenerie of this region but this was the first time to experience both. And none of these disappointed! It was lush soothing green all around and the slopes of the track was really major ones! Jalori might not have a height to boast but the inclines, particularly on the Shoja side are challenging particularly after one or two spells of shower and one needs to be careful. Incidentally few days after we came back from this trip a Fortuner fell off the road while climbing from this side.

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Finally we got down to Shoja, crossed the famous Shringi Vatika and proceeded towards Jibhi where we had a last minute booking at a homestay.

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Since there were plenty of time we thought to move towards Tirthan & Gushaini via Banjar and come back to Jibhi in the evening. Enroute stopped at the GHNP office at Sai ropa. The small newly made office at the complex was a beautiful property and the extremely helpful gentleman at the counter happily obliged quite a good number of queries thrown by us for the various trips inside the park.

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Gushaini was around 10 kms from here and the commercialization at Tirthan area was evident looking at the increasing no of homestays and properties and the huge no of tourist taxis plying on this route. Shortly it won’t be a secluded destination any more. We went till Gushaini and turned back on the same route.

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Tried to have some trout fish on the Himalayan trout house but the plan was cancelled after getting to know the enormous waiting time. Finally had a late lunch at one of the shops at Banjar market which thankfully was devoid of traffic being a Sunday. Else the narrow stretches within the market area could have given nightmare to make a safe passage in the behemoth! On the way back came across a black V-Cross from the opposite side. It was a rented vehicle driven by a gentleman all the way from Bangalore (sorry i forgot his name), with family. It was nice to know that the V-cross was already getting stocked in the list of self-driven cars. Keeping its daily pattern intact, the weather turned cloudy and it started raining by the time we just reached the Jibhi home stay, affectionately run & maintained by an ex-army medical corps personnel Sh. Giridhari Lal & his family. The truck was parked in the space by the side of the road and we kind of ran to the rooms downstairs as the intensity of the rain increased drastically. The rooms were nice and cozy and it was refreshing to have piping hot tea after getting freshened up. While the rice & chicken curry for the dinner was getting prepared, we settled in the comfort of the quilts to enjoy some laid back conversations. The rain finally stopped after two hours and it was evident the trend of the bad weather was going to continue in the next few days.

Parking lot in front of the homestay

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The home stay (photos taken next day morning)

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Now as per initial plan we were supposed to go towards Manali from here for th drive through just-opened Rohtang and spend a day or two at Jispa. Permit for Rohtang showed ample vacancy and rooms were also availabe at Jispa. But the weather prediction clearly mentioned heavy rain in the next three days for almost entire duration. There was no point to venture under such a circumstance as one could hardly enjoy the places. So I turned my attention towards Kinnaur and it looked much better relatively in terms of sunny days ahead. So within next one hour it was decided to change the next course of journey to Kalpa and subsequently to Sangla & Chikul. Also I heard a lot about Jibhi from few of the fellow travellers and decided to stay one more day at Jibhi itself to explore the nearby areas. The homestay happily agreed since there was hardly any occupancy. So next day’s plan was to go towards the nearby village of Bahu, pay a visit to the Baloonag temple and come back to Jibhi. I must acknowledge the travelogues of Mr Vinay & Alok (Alpha) in bcmtouring actually inspired us to venture into this area.

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Old 23rd September 2017, 11:47   #10
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Day 5: Jibhi to Bahu and Baloonag temple
The morning breakfast was special just not only because of very delicious aloo parathas, one of the best we had in our tours so far, but also for the special pickle made out of ‘lingdi’, the beloved saag of this region. Overstuffed with the delicacies, we slowly started moving on the other side of Jibhi.
The 'parking lot'.

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The road goes towards a place called Bahu and then to another village, Gadagushaini. The journey is through decent inclines amongst lush green ambiance absolutely soothing for the eye. And it demanded frequent stops to admire the scenery.

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Barely a km in to the road and we came across this elderly shepherd with his ‘convoy’.

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It was some good time spent for my daughter who was more than happy to feed the sheeps. The elderly man enquired whether this was our first time in this area and few other generic questions. After half an hour we again started on the road, which was not in the best of shape but since it was not a long journey there was nothing to complaint. The Jibhi area was looking beautiful once we gained some height. Soon we reached Bahu and the truck was parked in front of the school there. Right behind the school the PWD rest house was there on a short incline. This was under maintenance though.

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The trail to the temples start by the side of the rest house. Now the trail is just wide enough to accommodate a car as heard previously and now seen in reality. In the morning I discussed with the home stay owner Giridhari ji and his son regarding taking the truck on to this trail. I knew a THAR (of bcmtouring member Alok) has made the journey but was very apprehensive about the dimension of the Vcross. The father categorically told it woudn’t be wise to take it through because of the size whereas the son encouraged to give it a try, at least till the 1st temple, the Bahu temple. On one hand I was very excited to test the truck on this trail and on the other side the heartbeat was increasing at the possibility of a coming across even a local vehicle or procession from the opposite direction! Asking few locals, they also encouraged to take the truck at least to the 1st temple. Road was just wide to accommodate the truck and slowly we traversed through the trail to reach a small pond by the side of the temple, which was a small wooden structure. While my team was roaming around I thought to walk through the subsequent trail on feet to see possibility of further going ahead with the truck.

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It seemed possible and with careful navigation from the passenger seat we came to the bifurcation where one road was going downhill to the village and other steep one going up towards the Baloonag temple.

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This is where we met a local person who was carrying a bag of fresh local peas and asked for lift. He mentioned that we could proceed bit more but should leave the truck approx. one km before the temple as a huge tree has fallen there, blocking the entrance and there is aboslutely no space to turn around. So we took his suggestion and parked the truck after going ahead for 5-6 minutes. It was a big exercise reversing the behemoth in a trail like this but thankfully we could do that in the 3rd attempt. So leaving the Vcross there we started walking through the narrow stretch ahead through beautiful rock formation on one side and valley on the other side. The local person was also going to the temple and gave us few peas to taste. It was probably the sweetest variety of pea we had ever tasted.

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Old 23rd September 2017, 14:05   #11
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The route is fantastic and the energy level was high as all of us were moving along for this short trek.

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We reached the entrance part and saw the road block the person was telling about.

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It would have been impossible to reverse from here had we brought the truck all the way! The temple was visible now.

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Like many other in this region, this is beautifully curved out of wood, although I was told the original upper structure was replaced by a new one few years back. Pictures of the temple complex.

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There was another shrine in the vicinity, a Shani temple IIRC, though it was completely different with iron materials at the place of worship. The entire area was breathtakingly beautiful with deep forest all around.

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We spent close to an hour in this place. The weather was turning cloudy and it was evident a heavy downpour is about to start in a while. So we started back in the same route to our 'parking lot'.

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Some wild flower

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The truck on the return journey through the narrow trail

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As soon as we reached back Bahoo, the rain started. Thankfully no other vehicle was encountered in the way and I was extremely happy with the trail capability of the truck.

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Since the weather wasn't good we didn't proceed towards Gadagushaini and started driving back to Jibhi. The mountains were looking even better after getting soaked in the rain. Few kms before Jibhi we stopped at one of the homestays for a very late lunch. The rain had stopped and there was a hint of sunshine from behind the green cover
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Old 23rd September 2017, 14:58   #12
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And we saw a rainbow

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The food was nothing to write about but nevertheless it filled our tummy for the time being. Daylight was very less by the time we reached Jibhi.

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But the waterfall nearby was not to be missed. So Giridhari ji accompanied us till the place which is a short distance away. It is deep inside woods, although the initiative by the forest department to make it a 'touristy attraction' has introduced some degree of artificialness. While we were discussing about the plan for a light dinner we got to know lingdi is being prepared for the dinner for the Israeli couple who had liked the dish very much. So we also requested to make the same for us as well. While Giridhari ji left to arrange for the added portion, we spent time in the misty surrounding till almost evening came. My brother spent some time standing in the water to capture some nice shots of the water fall and the surroundings.

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Coming back to the rooms, I utilised the geo connection of my brother to decide the next halting point. Manali-Rohtang-Jispa was already discarded and while searching for accommodation option in Kinnaur, thankfully a room was shown to be available at the HPTDC Kalpa. It was booked before going for the dinner. The lingdi dish was tasty as usual and we were in bed by 10.

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Day 6: Jibhi to Sainj
Since the destination for the next to next day was supposed to be Kalpa I tentatively decided to do the night stay at around Rampur making a dash from Jibhi early morning. And the return route was decided to be through Janjehli / Karsog valley. Though I was very tempted to try a very less-ventured track through the Gadagushaini area, I was advised not to venture alone in this route at this monsoon season. There is always a next time and so it was tagged for some other journey.
So we woke up early, had our morning tea and rolled on after bidding adieu to our great hosts.

It was good to move through the morning roads devoid of much of traffic and the serene atmosphere. Banjar market area was totally empty and soon we started moving on the other side of the river. Around 9.30 or so we stopped at the small market place of Larji for the breakfast. While the aloo parathas were being prepared I casually strolled in the market and tried to talk to few local people. Now there was this long term ‘hidden’ agenda of making a visit to a beautiful meadow in the Seraj valley and I enquired about the road condition at our stay at Jibhi. The information I got was not very encouraging as the final 7 km ‘kachha’ road to this place, Shangarh was not in good condition because of the continued rain and hence I dropped the plan. However here at Larji , while talking with the people they highly encouraged looking at the Vcross and told the onwards & return journey back to Larji (because the route to Aut branches off from here itself in the other direction) would take not less than 4-5 hours including the time spent at the meadow. This meant a major deviation in the time schedule for the day and surely we were not supposed to reach around Janjehli before late evening or night. So this was discussed among the travelmates and they wholeheartedly agreed to go for the detour even though it meant a very long journey for the day. Decision taken, we started the journey through the freshly laid tarmac around the Parvati hydro project of NHPC. The route had very less traffic and thankfully the weather was excellent. Green pastures, girgling river on the backdrop of mountains, it was picture perfect setting. This road goes through few places called Salwar, Siund and finally reaches Ropa, the entrance to the Great Himalayn National Park. The main road continues for another few kms to Neuli while a kachha but wide road branches off uphill towards Shangarh, at a distance of 7 km. This entire zone is breathtakingly beautiful with the river in full force and totally surrounded by thick green vegetation. Although we thought to have a non-stop journey, there were frequent stops enroute because of the beautiful landscapes and we ended up spending lot of time on the road itself even before reaching our destination! We went all the way to Neuli and came back to the branch off for the journey to the divine meadow. The road was in shambles because of the rain and there were minor landslides at many of the places including few sharp hairpind bends and the PWD people were engaged in clearing out. Surprisingly there is a bus service in this stretch and 2-3 buses ply daily on this route. With few photography breaks we reached the village around 12.30 or so. The truck was parked just outside the approach road to the meadow and walking few meters we entered heaven! Snow clad himalayas in the background, the huge meadow was such a soothing treat to the eye with a typical wooden temple in the corner. Except two foreigner ladies and a bunch of school kids who came in a day excursion, there were no visitors. We had some random walk and finally sat down to have some snacks we were carrying. There was another temple outside the meadow area, in the main village, though we didn’t have much of time to walk all the way. One can spend hours and an entire day just by lazying around in this area. Though no one was willing to leave the meadow, we were reminded of the journey ahead and dragged ourselves to the truck, which was nothing sort of a mega attraction amongst the school kids and the locals.
The pictures are not organised properly but it broadly covers the picture of the homestay at Jibhi, the journey around the GHNP, route to the meadow and the magical meadow itself.
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After answering quite an exhaustive sets of questions on the truck and having tasted a local ice cream, we started the return journey through the same beautiful route to Larji. Reached there around 3 and had a late lunch in one of the eateries. They insisted on having a mutton curry dish which turned to be extremely yummy. Resuming the journey, next on the agenda was to fill up the truck to prepare for the long drive for the day as it was evident we were not going to reach the destination anytime soon. Got some idea about the rush of summer holiday to manali by seeing the volume of traffic in the opposite direction, after crossing Aut. Thankfully our side was much more empty and soon had a halt at a roadside IOCL outlet for the tank up. The relatively narrow road to Karsog branched off uphil from the main manali highway soon after. Sticking to its trend, the weather started turning bad with heavy cloud accumulation in the horizon and what started as a drizzle, turned into very heavy rain while we were on the uphill journey through the not-so-wide road. It continued for almost the next couple of hours with some breaks in between. The rain soaked vistas were amazing although we were restricted very much interms of speed due to low visibility and road condition. Finally we reached Janjehli around 9.30 at night! There was probably some occasion as there were good no of people out on the road, probably returning from some rituals at the Shikari mata temple, the goddess of this region. We briefly thought to stop here for the day since all of us were feeling slightly tired. But partly due to the conditions of the hotels and partly due to the fact that next day we will start the journey towards kinnaur, we decided to move ahead and stay at Sainj itself, the same place where we had to break our journey on the 2nd day. But not before having our dinner at one of the small dhabas in the market. Now, the route ahead was partially known to me in terms of some landmarks but I was not sure how well marked the route is. And there wouldn’t be anyone at such point of time in the hills to guide. So took a detailed turn by turn direction from one elederly gentleman who took pain to explain it multiple times since there were some crucial turns in between. And thank god I did so, as it was found later the route was much more difficult to travel through at night under such a weather and the road markings were missing in between! It passes through a small pass called Magru gala and a google search later revealed that it was part of the ‘Raid-de’Himalaya’ route back in 2011! Now this part was probably the most adventurous spell of our journey. Firstly it was a completely moonless night with pitch dark all around. Secondly the road was narrow and there were few hairpins to start with. For the first time I realized the importance of off-road lights as the stock lights were not sufficient at all for such journeys. So much so that at some point of time my brother had to use a small flaslight to see the road from passenger side for the corners! A brief confusion regarding which of three roads to take at the Magru gala top was thankfully resolved thanks to a local pick up truck plying late at night. Few kms down there was another bifurcation with the good road going straight and a relatively bad patch going down. Thanks to the Jio sim in my brother’s phone, we could figure out the correct route which was the second one! Around 11.30 or so we could join the main road on the Ani-Luhri stretch for some better roads. As usual, the strecth just before Luhri market, had good no of rocks fallen on the road, surely the aftereffect of the rain. Finally well past midnight we reached the Sainj junction at the same hotel, which this time had a good no of cars parked outside. The main door was closed and there was no one awake. A couple of horns, shouting and finally a window opened on the upper floor with affirmative response on the room availability albeit only the premium one! Since there was no energy left to venture further towards Rampur, we settled down here itself. Dead tired, we felt asleep immediately after going to bed, after all this was a really long journey for the day.

Photos of the meadow, the journey back to Larji and the route description of the Raid mentioning the Magru Gala
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Day 7: Sainj to Kalpa
There was no hurry to wake up in the morning as we wanted to be as rejuvenated as possible to enjoy the route ahead. Kinnaur was on agenda for a long long time and we were very excited to start the journey on this stretch on the inaugural sojourn with the new truck. The breakfast served at the hotel wasn’t very good as we experienced last time and hence we thought to have it on the way. It was just before Rampur we had the break at a small punjabi dhaba and the food was reasonably good. The road was superb and soon we passed through the busy town of Rampur. Except being stopped once as a part of routine check for driving license check there was no interruptions.

Entering into the divine zone
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The famous photoshoot point

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The route by the side of the Karcham-Wangtoo hydel project was a pleasant surprise. I ve seen countless travelogue in the past describing the nightmarish road condition in this stretch and now it is nothing sort of a super smooth highway except few of the patches where road construction and widening is in progress. This type of stretch gives an idea about the true condition of the terrain of this area which is barren, rugged and rustic. The snow capped mountains started appearing more closely once we were on the way to Reckong peo.

V-cross on its maiden Kinnaur journey
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The weather was fluctuating between sunny and cloudy and the kinnaur kailash peaks were getting engulfed with clouds occasionally.

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After quite a good no of stops to admire the beauty, we finally reached Peo late noon and stopped for a maggi-tea break just after crossing the main market. Journey from here to Kalpa was even better though the road becomes much narrower. Slowly and steadily we reached the HPTDC Kinnaur Kailash at late afternoon. The hotel was full to its capacity though we got a parking space for the truck in the main parking area itself. Surprisingly most of the occupants were from my native place, Bengal and for a moment it gave a feeling as if we were in some place within West Bengal only! Since ours was a last minute booking, we got the 3-bedded room in the cottage at the back side, furthest from the main reception area. But the room was quite spacious and at a rent of 1100 rupees it was nothing sort of a bargain.

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The afternoon and evening was spent in lazying around, seating in the front area of the hotel, taking some random photos and sipping tea with finger chips. The dinner order was given in advance since we wanted to have an early dinner at 7.30 and it was a sumptuous one with soups, grilled & roasted chicken, noodles, fried rice. The dining hall of the hotel is probably one of the most picturesque setting to have your food with the mountain range directly visible from the seating chairs.

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The season of kinnaur kailash yatra was just starting and we spent quite a good amount of time in conversation with the gentleman who was serving us. He happened to go on this trek few years back and was sharing his interesting experience with us. Coming to the room we settled inside blanket by 9.30 and kept on chitchatting till falling asleep.
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