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Old 24th January 2008, 19:17   #1
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Default 6000 kms road trip travelogue (Mumbai-HP-Punjab-Jammu-Raj.-Ahmedabad-Mumbai)-PART-1

THE TRIP: MUMBAI-CHITTORGARH-PANIPAT-MANDI-MANALI-ROHTANG PASS-DHARMSALA-AMRITSAR-VAISHNO DEVI-NANGAL-KALKA-SHIMLA-JAIPUR-RANTHAMBORE-AHMEDABAD-MUMBAI
THE CAR: FORD FUSION, July 2005 Model
THE TEAM : My Cousin Rajan, my four & half year old devil Sarthak, My wife Neeta & me, the driver
DURATION: 25.10.07-11.11.07

This one was the trip which was on our mind since we concluded our central India trip last year. Just after the monsoons were over in September, we started planning for the trip. Ultimately we decided to start the trip from 25th October’07 & to conclude by 11th Nov’07 considering my work assignments, kid’s school vacations & the weather. And since then, information gathering started about the route maps, distances, road conditions & tourist attractions. Then obviously our machine was to be made ready for grueling sessions & as always I wanted to get it done at least 2-3 weeks before the start of the trip, so as to avoid last minute anxieties. So, I took regular service of car in first week of October itself…got all fluids changed, battery checked up…brake pads changed, alignment done. Tyres were changed couple of months ago….so now machine was ready for the job. Also took care to keep tubeless tyre repairing kit & two headlight bulbs. Then, we bought few new music CDs suiting the taste of all of us. Specially cut a CD having fav collections of my little devil. After making all the tiny-mini arrangements, we anxiously waited for the D-day.
But then suddenly on 10th October, a new assignment popped up from nowhere. Worst, for that I had to go to Melbourne for a week or so. We thought that we may have to change our plan if I couldn’t fly down before 17th Oct. Now spirits were little dampened with ifs & buts… But then I could secure the tickets on time & had a whirlwind trip back from down under on 22nd Oct. Now the start date looked achievable if something untoward doesn’t come in way. So, on 23rd I tank up the fuel at Reliance gas station. So came the 24th’ Oct, all of us were pretty excited. My cousin, Rajan, also came from Vasai to my place at Kharghar on 24th afternoon to join us for the trip. He has always been with us for almost all long trips which we took in the past. Though he doesn’t drive but he is our support system for such trips & enjoys every bit of it.
My wife & brother completed all the required purchasing of snacks, medicines, bottled water etc & then packing. I came back from office around 7:00PM. Though we had planned to go bed early so that we can wakeup by 4:00 AM next day but it never happened as I had to attend a farewell party of one of my very close friend & colleague.
Came back around 11:00 PM after couple of Laphroaig & went directly to the bed. Had a nice sleep. My wife woke Rajan & me up around 4:30 AM. She was up around 4:00 AM & readied the tea for us. My little devil also woke up around 4:45 AM & was raring to go.
Final plan was to reach Manali first, keeping the night halts in between open to changes as and when required basis. We thought to do fine tuning of plans for other destinations once we reach Manali.
25th October’07
So by 5:15am we were packing the bags in car & about 5:30 , left Kharghar. Me being the only driver, was on driver’s seat while my brother was on side seat & odo at 44136. My wife & son occupied rear seats. Barely would I have driven 15 minutes, I realized I h’v left my mobile at home. Came back & collected the same. Whole process set us about half an hour behind the schedule. Somehow we wanted to get out of Mumbai-Thane traffic before it sets in, so I started driving a bit fast & in no time we were passing by Thane. By the time traffic started building up on Ghorbunder-Vasai road. Due to bad road condition near Vasai, it took us a while before; I started cruising at my normal speed (110km/h) on NH-8. Fusion is such a smooth operator at higher speed. Complete solid feeling & lot of power under the hood raring to go with little press of the paddle. This car has been winner; in all my trips I never faced any problems with the machine. So the car was having my complete confidence. Reached Charoti toll around 8:30 AM. So far this was 4th toll gate since we started (all previous three were in Mumbai-Thane). Now we knew that we are now off from Mumbai traffic. My wife & brother started taking up the travel log notes. My little devil was busy in completing his remaining sleep.
Now we started looking at end target destination for the day, which we had pegged down at Chittorgarh. In past, I have done Mumbai-Udaipur in a day & also knew that Udaipur- Chaittorgarh road is one of the best streches of GQ & it will take hardly 1.5 hrs to reach there from Udaipur. It also made sense that for the next day it will give us some flexibility for start time as we would have covered 120km more & since hotels are readily available close to highway in Chittorgarh, it will save some more time in comparison to if we would have broken our journey at Udaipur. But then it was just a plan & execution was needed. We worked out fragmented times for major streches. We knew if we can reach Ahmedabad by 4:00 PM & then we can reach Chittorgarh by 10:30 PM. The only expected hindrance to the plan was bad road & traffic in Surat-Bharuch- Baroda strech. But all of us were quite determined to make it to Chittorgarh even if it takes couple of hours more than planned.
Since morning, we had already covered close to 200kms & so thought to have a break for breakfast around 9:20 AM at Nandigaon at A-1 plaza. After Dosa-Idli-Puri, refreshing & refueling, we again resumed our journey arnd 9:50am. AC fan knob was moved to no.2 as the day was beginning to get hotter. While crossing Surat around 11:45 am, heavy vehicle traffic started building up. And then suddenly we saw huge traffic jam. Hundreds of trucks line up on our side of GQ. Oh God..it is going to take atleast three hours to clear up. By then Rajan noticed that small vehicles are slowly moving on the left most lane. We also followed up. After 200mts away smaller vehicles were being allowed to take the incoming lane. So we moved to other lane & slowly kept on moving keeping car to right most lane to avoid incoming vehicles. It took us 15 minutes to reach the crossing where flyover work was going on. From there we again came to our lane. Relax… we left the jam behind though it took some time.
Again target started kicking up. Kept on driving at moderate speed of 70-80 km/hr on Surat-Bharuch strech…bad road surface. Passed Bharuch around 1:15pm. Next target was Baroda. With mixed traffic & road condition, we reached Baroda-Ahmedabad expressway around 3:00PM. Now we were feeling hungry & lunch time was almost over. Good thing was that my wife had arrangements made for little devil’s lunch. So, no problems for us & can wait for another hour so kept munching on Bharuch peanuts. Expressway…& throttle open, avg 120-130 km/hr by 3:45PM we were again at A-1 plaza of Ahmedabad side of expressway. Veg. puffs & Dosa again as lunch time was over…after tea & refueling we readied ourselves for next strech. While going I didn’t know about the new by pass road so we took right from T-junction where expressway terminates & slowly started moving towards Himmatnagar due to city traffic.
Reached Himmatnagar around 6:00pm & then onwards, very good road & thin traffic made driving a bit comfortable for me. In no time we crossed GJ-RJ border & now we were in Rajasthan, yet we were not feeling tired. Perhaps we took plenty of water, which kept us hydrated all through. Still we were left with five 2 litres Bisleri bottle. Next time thought to take new box of 1 litre bottles & not the two litres bottle as it is easier to drink from 1 lit bottle while driving. AC was running all through the day & now again fan Knob was brought down no.1. Slowly after passing through ghat section & tea break in between (after HP, every other ghats seems straight one), we reached Udaipur around 9:00PM. We were going as per plan so we were quite happy. My son was also enjoying the journey & kept his Mom busy with his naughty activity. We slowed down while taking Udaipur bypass road..a bit narrow one.
Then we left NH-8 & took NH-76 strech of GQ. I always loved driving on this road. With 120km/hr we reached Chittorgarh around 10:30pm. Ramparts of massive Chittorgarh Fort were well illuminated & one can easily gauze the massiveness even from quite a distance. We had seen the fort earlier so was not planning to do it again…though illuminated fort was quite tempting. Now Odo was reading 45046. 910 km. in a day…not bad…
Now the next job in hand was hotel hunting. We stayed in one Hotel Meera during our last trip & felt the VFM proposition with clean room, beds, toilets & good food. Little bit searching through our memory lane we could locate the Hotel quickly. After telling the Hotel manager that we shall be staying here for the second time, my wife & brother struck a good deal for family room on charge of double bed room. Fixing hotels during such trips is responsibility of my wife & brother..I am very pleased of not interfering with them. Got clean room & beds….now it is time for long awaited diner….Chicken-Rice-Nans-veggies & then the bed. By 12:30 we were all in deep sleep. Target was to leave hotel by 9:00 AM so wake up at 7:00 AM.
Halt destination: CHITTORGARH
Total distance covered on 25th’07: 910 km
Toll Nakas crossed: 14

(At A-1 Dhaba- my son)
26th October’07
We got up as planned. After completing all morning activities & breakfast we could only start at around 10:00 AM. Also stocked up Bisleri bottles for the day. Target destination for the day was still floating & was dependent on how quickly we could reach Jaipur. It took us a while before we got four lanes GQ from outskirts of Chittorgarh as four laning is still in progress in Chittorgarh. Once on four lanes GQ we got refueling done at Reliance, again started cruising at 120kmph & reached Kishangarh around 1:15PM. Now the road ahead up to Jaipur was expressway and part of NH-8. So it was all smooth cruising upto Jaipur listening to Yesudas’s collection & munching in between. Around 2:25 PM we were bypassing Jaipur towards Delhi.
Since morning we covered around 300+ kms so stopped to take lunch break at a roadside dhaba on Jaipur-Dehi GQ strech around 3:00pm. Though it took us little more time than usual to get the food but it was quite fresh & satisfying. Dal Makhnai was really sumptuous. After lunch, it was time to have a relook on map & distances. We didn’t want to enter in Delhi limits because of traffic congestion of Metropolis, so it was important to us to locate the exit from NH-8 towards Rewari.
After lunch, again we started around 4:00pm. Heavy traffic of trucks & tourist vehicles. Truck drivers were driving in right lane & won’t give the pass & keep on going on same lane. A bit strange as upto Jaipur most truckers drive in left lane & would give the pass in case driving in fast lane. It took me a while to realize that the only way for me is to overtake from left lane……& then after a while, I found that this is the only way I can cope up with the problem. Now we were approaching Shahajanpur around, from where on left side road emanates for Rewari. We left NH8 around 6:00pm for Rewari which was 23km away.
The road to Rewari is typical rural road, single lane at many places with loads of spead breakers. Good thing was that road was not potholed. So we could quickly reach Rewari but then we got hold up in chaotic town traffic. We wanted to get out of Rewari ASAP as we targeted for Rohtak. Since now we were off from GQ, so not quite sure of road conditions ahead of us. From Rewari to Rohtak, road though two laned was in general good. So amid planning, chatting, munching we covered another 75 kms to reach outskirts of Rohtak aound 9:00 PM. There we came to know that road bridge repair work is in progress & will have to take diversion towards Jind bypass from where we can enter in the city. By the time we also revised our target desitination to Panipat which was another 70kms from Rohtak. Asking locals about way & passing through narrow bylanes of Rohtak we approached the Panipat road. We got refueling done (only 20 literes) at IOC dump as I was not sure of getting Reliance pump in the vicinity and tank was running out of fuel.
After refueling, we were again on the road. Though the road was good, driving wasn’t easy as incoming truck lights were causing trouble. So we cleaned the the glass with newspaper prints & headed for Panipat. Driving through moderate speeds (70-80kmph), we entered Panipat around 11:00 pm. With the noisy heavy truck traffic & NH-1 bypass overbridge construction activity, we felt that suddenly we have entered in some kind dusty industrial workshop, not a pleasant experience at all. Anyway, Odo was reading 45693…just 647 km in a day.
Quickly my wife & brother could locate a hotel “Maharaja” just side by to NH-1 highway. Though a shade expensive than Chittorgarh but not well organized & a bit rough. Anyway, we were tired & wanted to retire to bed after dinner. On dinner we chatted for next day’s plan & decided to leave hotel around 9:00AM & have our morning breakfast in highway side dhaba. After that the next thing we heard was wakeup alarm.
Halt destination: PANIPAT
Total distance covered on 26th’07: 647 km
Toll Nakas crossed: 05

(The machine- In Chittorgrah)

(Banana Time: My son & wife at back seat)


27th October’07
Around 9:00 AM we were ready for next strech of journey…fresh & excited. Target was to reach Mandi in Himachal. In meantime we could know through a dirver in the hotel that cars having sun filmed glass are not allowed in Chandigarh & may attract chalan as cops are very strict about it. Unfortunately though, my car’s window & rear glasses are having sun film. Though a bit frustrated with different rules in the same country, last thing I wanted to have these kind troubles. So after quick rethinking, we decided to work out a route bypassing Chandigrah from its outskirts.
Left hotel around 9:15 am & got caught up in traffic jam because of flyover by-pass construction activity in Panipat. Somehow got through it and stopped at a dhaba for breakfast of Aloo Gobi paranthas. Thereon started again on NH-1 (GT Road). Very good 4 lane road with moderate traffic & we were again doing 100-120kmph. Quickly we passed Karnal & were approaching Ambala. I knew from net searches that Ambala-Chandigrah route is having frequent traffic jams owing to flyover construction activity so we decided to take Rajpura-Chandigrah road. For that we kept on driving past Amabala on NH-1 for another 30-35kms to reach Rajapura & thereon took right turn towards Chandigarh. Refueled at Reliance pump at Rajpura-Chandigarh road. The road was very good and so were the scenes of rural Punjab. In no time we reached outskirts of Chandigarh- Panchkula junction. Very heavy traffic & jam again due to flyover activity. Since we wanted to avoid Chandigarh, we took turn towards Kalka road via Panchkula.
In Pinjore we faced traffic bottlenecking due to narrow roads in town. Negotiating the traffic, took left turn toward Nalagarh. Road was narrow & potholed at many places. Now it was already 3:15 PM & we were feeling hungry. Took lunch break at a newly inaugurated garden restaurant before starting for Nalagarh. Couple of broken bridges forced us to cross the river in knee deep water. Nalagarh as such was in our mind because from there we were expecting to get the NH-21 to Manali. Reached Nalagarh around 4:45 PM. There we made a big mistake. When we asked the locals for the way to Mandi, they told us the road which goes all through Swarghat before it joins NH-21. We thought perhaps this one is the NH-21. So we took the road towards the Swarghat.
Initial stretch of road was okayish. Soon landscape started changing. We were very excited to see mountains & green jungles everywhere. But one thing was clicking on back of our mind yhat traffic flow was very thin on this road, leave apart occasional one or two trucks & pickups. By then we started climbing steep hill roads. Gear no. two & three became quite frequent. I must say Fusion was handling the climb very steadily. After half an hour of drive through mountains, we were quite up in the mountains. Spine chilling steep valleys & gorges on side & ultra narrow roads were giving us the taste of hilly roads after days of GQ driving. About 15 km before Swarghat, road condtion started becoming worst from bad. Potholed to the extent that road became virtually non existent. I hated low profile tyres of Fusion at that moment…thuds sound became too frequent on edgy potholes. Now we started realizing that what mistake we have made from Nalagarh. Sun was about to go down. I was a bit scared but my wife was busy with handycam. At one moment my wife & brother wanted me to stop the car for some still snaps but I was too anxious to reach swarghat first. We all decided to reach Swarghat before the sun light goes off completely. Occasional trucks coming down the road was making our life difficult, more when the valley was at our side. 15 kms seemed too long a stretch & took a toll on my driving confidence. We were still 2 kms away from Swarghat when sun light went off completely. Driving through very cautiously, we reached swarghat around 6:30PM. Our breathe returned when we saw NH-21 with typical highway truck traffic. Now we knew where we went wrong. We took NH-21A instead of NH-21.
It took me while to recollect my wits after driving through the bad & dangerous road. After that we decided to move further to Bilaspur. Thought to break the today’s journey there. 70-75 odd km distances took us about two hours as overtaking trucks in ghats was quite difficult especially when the traffic from other side was equally high. Added to that, I was not a regular driver through such kind of terrain. But one good thing driving in night through such mountainous terrain is that you don’t notice the sights of deep valleys & gorges thereby keeping spinal chills away. Through curly hurly roads at 40-50kmph, we reached Bilaspur around 8:45pm. Took a small driving break. After discussions among ourselves, we decided to keep going upto Mandi for night halt. Another 65 kms to go. When we saw a Reliance gas station near Bilaspur, we decided to tank up again. Amid chatting, munching we reached Mandi outskirts around 10:30pm. And then we saw this nice looking hotel “Valley View”. Now we decided to call off for the day. Though we just covered 355 kms, it was a tiring day. Now we know that what to expect in coming few days while driving through Himachal. Hardly we can exceed 40-50kmph. When we came out of car, cold & refreshing winds reminded us that…hey now we are in Himachal!!!
Hotel as such was really good…clean & cozy. Staffs were quite responsive & they knew the basics of hospitality well. After well deserved dinner in hotel room; we were on with blankets discussing next days plan. Plan was to touch Manali which was just 140km. away. We decided to cover this distance lazily so as to see & appreciate scenic landscapes through the way from Mandi to Manali via Kullu.
Halt destination: MANDI
Total distance covered on 27th’07: 355 km
Toll Nakas crossed: 04

(Play time: Sarthak at Dhaba halt on Pinjore-Nalagarh Road)

(Cold!! Coming out of car at Mandi Hotel)


28th October’07
We had fulsome sleep last night. After all the rituals, we were ready to leave hotel for Manali around 10:00AM. Outside weather was very pleasant….the serene scenic beauty of Himachal...we wouldn’t have asked for more. Driving through Mandi town, in no time we were on Kullu Road. Stopping here n there for snaps & videos. Enchanting sights of blue–green water of Beas river …..deep valleys & imposing mountains all through. Near Aut, we passed through this new tunnel about 3 km long. Entered in Kullu town, a bit chaotic though because of Kullu Dussera Mela. Kullu town has a separate bypass road which somehow we missed. It took us a while to cross Kullu town before heading towards Manali. Slowly Beas river valley started flattening out and snowcapped mountains started emerging on horizon….Yes, we were about to reach Manali. While entering in Manali we paid up Rs.200=00 toll.
Once in Manali around 3:00 PM, we quickly landed up in Hotel LeGrand, a very good standard hotel, about a km before Manali town. Plan was to stay in Manali for two nights. We got the room facing towards the Beas River & mountains at quite reasonable rates, probably due to off season. In side the room, everything was well appointed. Linen & toilet were clean & hygienic. So, overall good hotel for comfortable stay without draining the pocket too much.
We hadn’t had the lunch and it was 3:30PM, so first thing we did, was to rush Manali town for a quick lunch. After lunch we took note of our plan for next couple of days. I was a bit apprehensive about taking our car to Rohtang but talking to concierge at hotel, who convinced me, that the road, is good enough for our kind of car. After discussions among ourselves, we decide to take our own car to Rohtang, so next day was reserved for Rohtang Pass.
Carried on to do local destinations like Hidimaba temple & Vasishta temple for the day before landing at Manali mall road around 8:00 PM for a long stroll & shopping. Needless to say, it was quite cold there especially to us who came from dusty, warm & humid place like Mumbai. But everyone among was enjoying to the fullest. My little devil has kept everyone’s spirit high by keeping his spirit high even after grueling road travel we had so far. He was so excited about the fact that tomorrow is going to be snow day which so far he had seen only in cartoons.
Came back to hotel at around 9:00 PM and had fulsome dinner in hotel room. Later, we all slipped into coziness of blankets, discussing our plans for next few days. Decided to leave Manali early on 30th October towards Dharamsala and doing Manikaran in the way.
Halt destination: MANALI
Total distance covered on 28th’07: 117 km
Toll Nakas crossed: 01

(Beas River Valley- Mandi-Kullu Road)

(Religious procession-near Kullu)

(Snow capped mountain view from Manali)

29th October’07
We got up a bit late than usual. Slowly followed our routines before realizing that we will get late for Rohtang. So quickly we concluded our breakfast & rushed into the car. We made it sure to have enough sancks & water for the day. It was closing to 10:00 AM & next immediate job was to have rented snow wear before we start our ascend to destination. There are many shops in the way who offer snow wear kit on rent. We took our sets after trial & dumped in car’s boot.
Now we started our ascend. Enchanting natural beauty all across but I had to keep my eyes firmly on the road. Though the road surface was manageable but the narrowness & steepness of bends was keeping car mostly in 2nd gear. All down coming vehicles posed a challenge to negotiate & kept all of us in higher sense of alertness. I guess so far I didn’t exceed 35kmph. It took us close to an hour to do first 20 kms of 50 kms climb. Slowly, green vegetation started disappearing from horizon. Instead barren snow capped mountains with crevasses filled with snow started occupying the horizon. Being a practicing geoscientist, my geo instincts started coming up to have interpretation of this folded & faulted structures of now extinct, Tethys ocean sediments. But I tell you, spine chilling sight of deep gorges & narrow road bends without any cladding kept my geo instinct at bay while driving. Now I started realizing why the road to Rohtang is considered challenging & dangerous. Single mistake and you are gone.
And now the problem, world’s highest altitude traffic jam. A truck got stuck up on one of the climbing bends. Land slide debris and soil all over the road to the extent that it was not visible for 50m ahead. Slowly vehicles from each side started moving one by one by passing stranded truck. To keep my car stranded on such steep slope & later to drive across this rubble & soil debris was making me nervous. Using my driving experience, specially the coordination of hand brake, accelerator & clutch, slowly I passed the patch. We sighed of relief and thanked high ground clearance of Fusion & its motor power for taking us across.
Thereon, kept on driving with utmost caution, giving pass to those hurriedly driven tourist Sumos & Qualises. My wife & brother kept on joking on me that we would be last to reach Rohtang with this speed. Bend by bend, mountains by mountains we kept on ascending. Around 1:30 PM we were in Rohtang standing pretty excited and delighted after adventurous 52kms of ascends. Now we were at 4000 m above MSL; & glaciers, semi frozen lake, snow bounded mountain slopes all around. The divine sight was worth all those efforts we took.

The wind was freezing cold at the top. So, after parking the car, we were quickly on with snow gears. Many tourists from different parts of the country were enjoying their day at Rohtang. We also joined them. Fixed up three ponnies to take us to snow point. Riding ponnies to snow point was equally adventurous in those rocky & rubbly terrains. Once on snow covered slopes, we virtually became kids. In meantime my son had mild nausea. We also felt short breathiness due to oxygen thin atmosphere. After few cups of tea at nearby stall & hot noodles for son, we spent some more time playing on snow slopes. By the time Sarthak started feeling severe cold as some snow has gone inside his snow boot while playing. We removed his snow boot immediately & covered his feet with another spare snow coat before heading towards the car parking. This time ponnywallah took another way. We passed by the frozen lake & nearby temple before coming to parking place. All in all, we had a wonderful & memorable day at Rohtang. Once inside the car & blower in warm position, slowly we started to regain our composure after chilling cold; specially my little devil who, at the end, wasn’t quite comfortable with chilling wind & snow.
It was already 4:00PM & the next thing on mind was to get down to Manali before Sun sets. Now I knew the road condition while ascending so was quite comfortable. Kept the car in 2nd gear only. The only problems while descending was the of setting Sun rays which come and go from mountain shadows at different bends. You do feel almost blinding effect & could be quite dangerous at places. Somehow, we managed it and kept on descending at steady pace. Again vegetation started dotting the horizon & gave us comfort that we are closing down to Manali. We were back in Manali town around 6:15 PM; safe & sound. Again headed for a long stroll in town before landing to hotel.
Rohtang Pass is certainly going to be on our mind in years to come; not only for spectacular sights of Himalayas & its glaciers but also for the adventure involved in this road journey. Driving through one of the world’s highest altitude motorable roads gives you mixed feeling of fear & natural divinity at the sametime.
Back to hotel, asked for dinner in the room, and kept on talking about Rohtang & next day’s of plan. All had a well deserved wholesome hearty dinner after the day in snow world. Next day we decided to checkout from the hotel & drive to Manikaran first & then head towards Dhramsala.
Halt destination: MANALI
Total distance covered on 29th’07: 129 km

(View of majestic Rohtang pass)

(Majestic Rohtang)

(View of Himalays from Rohtang)

(Glacier view from Rohtang)

(My son, wif & me on snow slopes)

(My brother- Busy with handycam)

(Road condition - Rohtang manali road)

30th October’07
We checked out from the hotel at around 9:30 AM. After refueling at Reliance pump just on the outskirts of Manali, we took the same road back to Kullu. From Kullu, road emanates on left side which goes to Manikaran. About 3-4kms before the Kullu town, we crossed the bridge on Beas River and came on left side of it. Road from there, runs almost parallel to Kullu town with not much of traffic. It saved us from driving through chaotic Kullu town. Ultimately this road takes you to a junction from where heading left takes you to Manikaran & right to Mandi. Manikaran is about 35kms from this junction.
The road to Manikaran is unexpectedly good surfaced but narrow. But the bends on it are almost U shaped. Parbati river valley on left side of the road is almost vertically steep and enough to scare at the mere sight of it. Freshly graduated from Rohtang road, kept on driving cautiously at 30-40kmph to reach Manikaran around 1:15 PM. Even from a distance you can notice the hot spring water gushing into Parbati River creating fog all over.
After parking the car, we headed straight for darshan at Gurudwara & Shiva temple. After darshan, we went ahead for langar at gurudwara premises. For the langar boiling hot water from spring is used to cook rice & clean utensils. Obviously hot spring in such a cold climate is a boon to the locals & vsistors. After divine food at langar, we headed back to our car. It was already 3:00 PM.
Traced back same road to Kullu. Once in Kullu, we took the Mandi road. Driving through picturesque landscape, we reached Mandi around 6:00PM. From Mandi, we took the road which goes to Pathankot. After a break for tea at road side stall we fine tuned our plan for our journey ahead. Decided to drive another 100kms to Palampur before taking night halt.
The road from Mandi to Palampur is a typical mountainous road. This road connects Mandi to Kangra valley and overall traffic level is moderate. I kept on driving in 50-70kmph range. Some stretches of this road are very lonely but at many places you have this typical Himachali villages side by this road. It gave us glimpse of evening time rural HP. We reached Palampur around 8:30PM. We thought to give a chance to Dhramsala in same breathe itself but after seeing a good hotel, we decided to stay back in Palampur for the night. Recently opened hotel Vishal Residency came out to be quite a good place to stay in Palampur. Had our dinner & kept talking about the plans for coming days. Once dinner was over, we headed straight to bed. Next day we had to leave for Dharmsala, another odd 50kms.
Halt destination: PALAMPUR
Total distance covered on 30th’07: 266 lkm

(At Lungar : Manikaran gurudwara)

(Hot springs at Manikaran)

31st October’07
We started around 10:30 in the morning for Dharmshala. The road connecting Palampur to Dharamsala was in quite bad shape at many stretches though road laying activity was in progress. We reached Lower Dharamsala around 11:45 AM. Very chaotic town & narrow road. After passing the town we kept on ascending for Upper Dharamsala. Majestic Dhauladaur Mountain range dominating the horizon. We were in Dharamsala around 12:45 PM. First we went to old Church & then went to see the Tibetan Monastery & library. After Monastery visit, we walked through narrow by lanes of Mcleodgunj to get a glimpse of Tibetan culture & taste of momos. We didn’t had any plans for trekking, so there was not much left to be seen in Dharamsala, so by 4:00 PM, we changed our plan & decided to leave for Amritsar about 250kms away. Overall, it was a nice experience to be in Dharamsala.
We traced back same road to Lower Dharamsala. Stocked up water bottles & snacks there. Just outside the market area, on right side the road emanates for Pathankot. As such road was quite potholed. I kept on driving at moderate 40-50kmph. Eventually this road merges with Palampur-Pathankot road after 20 odd kms. Once on Palampur-Pathankot highway, driving became lot easier as mountainous roads were almost over except for a few ghats. I kept on doing 80-100 kmph on this stretch. Once out from mountains, we started feeling so nostalgic about the mountains & Himachal that we decided that in this trip itself we will go to Shimla though earlier plan was to skip Shimla in this trip as we had been there in past. For this to happen, we abandoned our return route Amritsar-Bikaner-Jaipur. Instead decided to do Amritsar-Chandigarh-Shimla & then back to Jaipur on the same route by which we came.
While we were discussing the details of our new plan, suddenly we saw the board that Jammu just 105 kms. My wife said that we are passing by so closely from Vaishno Mata mandir. With this new twist came to our plan. All of us wanted to go for Vaishno Devi darshan but the only problem was to climb up to Mandir with my four year old devil. After a few calls to my relatives who had been to Vaishno Devi earlier, we learned that it won’t be much of problem if we hire a “pithoo” from base station Katra. Next thing we were discussing the plans to adjust Vishno darshan & Shimala visit in our schedule. Ultimately, we decided to head towards Amritsar first & then comeback on same route up to Pathnkot & then take Jammu highway for Katra (36km from Jammu).
We were in Pathankot around 7:00PM after some traffic snarls due to diversions. In outskirts of Pathankot, refueled the car & took the road to Amritsar via Gurdaspur. As such good road except for truck traffic though managed to keep driving 70-90kmph range. Around 09:30pm, we were in Amritsar. Quickly we located our selves in Hotel Randhawa international. Though the hotel looked great from outside but the rooms inside didn’t match the outside decor. Since all of us were tired, so decided to stay in this hotel itself. For one thing, we all were very happy that we had a smooth journey so far.
During dinner we fine tuned our plan for next day. Golden temple, Jaliyanwala Baag, Durgyani temple & Wagah border post were narrowed down as the prime destinations to be visited in Amritsar.
Halt destination: AMRITSAR
Total distance covered on 31st’07: 255 km

(View of Dhauladar range- Palampu-Dharamsala road)

(Wishing for good luck- Tibetan monastry at Dharmsala)

(Lord Budhha)
PART2 (to be continued)- (Amritsar-Vaishno Devi-Nangal-Shimla-Jaipur-Ranthambore-Ahmedabad-Mumbai)
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Old 24th January 2008, 19:25   #2
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Long exciting report, without any html codes

Good review with great experience. I will soon try to complete reading entire post. Please post more photos of nature's beauty (snow, hills, river etc..) if possible because the places you visited are really nice!

Ravi.

Last edited by ravibhat : 24th January 2008 at 19:41.
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Old 24th January 2008, 19:32   #3
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another mother of all trip. Very good writeup. Superb Car, beautiful drive, himachal as destination, what else one wish for.

Three cheers to Pankaj.
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Old 24th January 2008, 19:37   #4
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Pankaj, that is one long and helluva report. Glad to see increase in the number of people doing these cross state trips. We are getting people on board here who could be serious competition to Kumar

However, if possible please edit the post in readable paragraphs, now its all a long bunch of text pasted together with very minimal formating.

Also, do post more pictures of the nature as Ravi mentioned. Again, great account.
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Old 24th January 2008, 19:50   #5
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Very well written pankaj, nice pictures and a lot to read.
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Old 24th January 2008, 22:04   #6
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Default Awesome journey!!

Pankaj thats one awesome journey you have had. Great Car. Please do post more pictures as it makes reading more fun..

Anyways good write up (please format it in paragrphs so that it is less stress for the eyes..

Cant wait for the other half also!!! Keep em coming.!!
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Old 24th January 2008, 23:30   #7
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I read the whole report in one shot. Amazing stuff so far. Looking forward to Part II
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Old 25th January 2008, 10:20   #8
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Awesome is the only word. The journey itself is more exciting that the destination, and plans are bound to go off once in a while. You handled it pretty well
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Old 25th January 2008, 16:25   #9
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My apologies for poor formatting. Will certainly improve upon this next time.
Some more pics. of the trip..



(Houses on hill slope-Near Mandi)

(Beas River- Mandi-Kullu Road)

(Beas river Valley- Kullu-Mandi road)

(Green water of Beas river- Kullu-Mandi Road)
URL=http://img107.imageshack.us/my.php?image=cimg0056an1.jpg][/url]
(Beas river flattening out - Near Manali)

(Sun & shade in mountains- in Manali)

(Snow capped mountains just after sunset- Manali)

(River bed boulders-near Manali)

(Sight of Rohtang from Manali)

(Road to Rohtang & Barren mountains)

(Road to Rohtang & Barren mountains)

(Road condition- Manali-Rohtang)

(Snow covered slopes in Rohtang)

(Himalayan View from Rohtang)

(Himalayan View from Rohtang)

(Parbati river valley in Manikaran)

(Tibetan Monastery-Dharmsala)

(Rocky hand?? Manikaran hot spings)
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Old 25th January 2008, 18:06   #10
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Pankaj, very nice pics. Seeing them reminded me of my Dec2006 Trip to Manali. It was in peak winter and we had great fun in those extreme chill conditions. A few pictures ( Canon Powershot A70) taken enroute Rohtang Pass, look at the road conditions, absolutely the pits :-



By



By


By


By


By
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Old 25th January 2008, 18:22   #11
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Very Nice pictures thanks a lot,

Regards,

Ravi.
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Old 25th January 2008, 19:28   #12
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Written excellently and thanks a lot for the very nice pics. This trip reminds me of the trip by ferrari_fan's Driving Trip across India covering 8000 Kms, 25 Days - India by Road @ SkyScraperCity.

@Mods: Please delete the link if linking to external sites / forums is not allowed.

Last edited by TrueDreamer : 25th January 2008 at 19:34. Reason: Added Link to ferrari_fan's Driving Trip.
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Old 30th January 2008, 12:48   #13
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@mobike008- Great pics mate..the hair-pin bend & frozen water fall photo refreshed my memories of Rohtang. Btw ,did you manange to scale the top of Rohtang in peak of winter??
@hondadude & @CorsaLove- Soon I shall be posting Part-II. Thanks for your interest.
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Old 30th January 2008, 13:25   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pankaj1126 View Post
@mobike008- Great pics mate..the hair-pin bend & frozen water fall photo refreshed my memories of Rohtang. Btw ,did you manange to scale the top of Rohtang in peak of winter??
Yes, ofcourse, very few drivers were willing to scale up to Rothang during that season. We went till the spot you see in pictures in a Qualis and from there hired a Sumo ( supposed to be better than qualis, tavera) for scaling until Rohtang pass which was another 20km upwards. Mind you, it was a scary trip with we tailspinning all the time. If you ask me, i would not like to do that again
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Old 30th January 2008, 16:26   #15
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Very well written and nice pics. Good show.
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