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Old 12th January 2009, 14:24   #1
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Default Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!

The biggest mountain to cross was to convince ourselves that we could do it.

First Let me bore you guys with a backgrounder.
Me and my wife are absolutely new to driving. I have been on a Pulsar for the past 7 years and she has been on a Kinetic (at least ever since she moved into my neighborhood, my heart and then my home!!!). Our Wagon R was a purchase borne out of circumstances. Though both of us are hard core two wheeler lovers, an accident when we were expecting our first kid made us buy the car.

Coming back to the point, we were very new to driving, though we had been visiting hill stations, we had never driven in the hills. We knew it was a question of time before we would give in to the urge. Couple of years ago (even when we did not have a car) we googled "Tips on Hill Driving" and stumbled upon Team-Bhp and ever since then visiting the site daily and looking, re-looking at travelogues, has been a routine.

Finally, we decided to do it. Sanity demanded that we try something simple, like Kasauli or maybe do a Shimla or be brave and hit Manali. After all we had been to Manali a couple of times before and knew the roads were in decent shape. "should we go? or should we not?" "Should we wait for some more time? Maybe do it after getting a bit more experience!!" Hell, we could not even back in a straight line yet!!!

But deep inside both of us harboured a secret desire! A decade ago in an issue of Outlook Traveler, we had seen the pictures of a beautiful village. We had promise ourselves that one day we would definitely go there, together.

On Nov 13, Me, my Wife and my 1.5 year old son, Rahul sat in the car and gunned the engine for our maiden voyage into the mountains, our first drive outside a city and our long postponed trip to a village called CHITKUL!!!

Experienced tripers adviced us against it, they said we should do something nearer and simpler first. They told us that it would be too much for a baby and I am happy that to a very great extent due to my friends on Team-Bhp, we did it.

And for anyone worrying about tripping in the mountains with a baby, please dont, they are far more durable than you think. Our son enjoyed the most and imagine we returned from Chitkul to Chandigarh in a single 16 hr drive broken with only two stops of half an hour each and the guy took it all!!

We set of at 5.30 am aiming to cross Shimla by 9.30 am to avoid the rush hour.

Man!!! It was scary at first!! I remembered all that you guys had recommended, Keep to the left, do not overtake on bends but let me tell you, doing it the first time, it was scary to say the least. I faced the following problems:
1. Tendency to overcompensate on curves turning left and wheels hitting the drain.
2. The early morning sun!! Especially when you are driving up hill, it does create a blind spot for more than a couple of seconds.
3. Headlights of oncoming traffi
c.

But an hour later, I was comfortable. Crossed Shimla in time and were thankful that the roads were far better than we expected. Turning left from the tunnel we did encounter rush and narrow roads though.

Stopped for tea and Milk for Rahul before Kufri.

We reached Narkanda by 11 am and as you guys have all recomended, Hotel Hatu it was. But you guys forgot to mention the approach to the hotel from the highway is rather interesting!! I must admit that I found Hotel Hatu to be a wonderful place for a quick weekend getaway. Amazing location, great lawn and decent food!

By this time, I had become a bit comfortable and tummy full, Rahul awake, I decided to speed up a bit as we had planned to stay put for the night at Sarahan. I was a bit worried if the decent roads would continue to remain"decent".

To all those who have not driven from Narkanda to Rampur and beyond, let me tell you, The road from Narkanda to Rampur is probably the best maintained road I have seen in the Hills. Amazingly beautiful, wide and wow!!

Took a break and the mandatory pics by the Satluj at Rampur. Amazingly the highway is probably at its narrowes in Rampur and they decide to park a "mela" right on the road! We were was so flabergasted and pissed off that we forgot to capture those wonderful moments for posterity!

Anyway, we reached Jeori by 5.30 and Sarahan at 6.00 pm. All my confidence of "it being easy" vanished on the drive from Jeori to Sarahan. All the way, I keep honking on turns and praying nothing comes from the opposite side. You see, for a person who has learnt driving in Chandigarh, the road between Jeori and Sarahan will be a nightmare, especially if you expect speeding maniacs at every turn!! We did come across few of such occassions and to my surprise the road which did not seem wide enough did let us cross each other though uncomfortably close to each other.

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-5.jpg

On this road I noticed this as a newbee:

1. You know you are supposed to stop for up coming traffic. But judging when and where you should stop is critical and not at all easy.

But we reached Sarahan safe and sound and again as was the consensus in many threads, Hotel Shrikhand it was to be. Again decent rooms, small balconies though! One word of caution about Hotel Shrikhand (or is it for any HPTDC place). We had plans of moving out really early but to our dismay we discovered that the hotel staff initiate the proceedings only after 7 am!! Even looking for a cup of morning tea was not easy. lost a good couple of hours there.

Had read so much about the Bhimakali Temple and it is a very unique architecture, at least on the inside.
Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-8.jpg
We paid our obeisance and moved out of Sarahan at 9.30 am.

Now the fun began!! The moment we reached Jeori and turned right to head into Kinnaur, we knew we were probably stretching our luck too far. But the kick we were drawing out of the drive and the sheer pleasure meant that we did not turn back. Actualy we had decided that we would "reconsider" our plan to hit Chitkul at Sarahan based on our experience till then and most importantly how Rahul would behave. We were ready for a crying, disturbed kid throughout the journey and look at him after the really tiring drive to Sangla (I know I was tired when I clicked this pic):
Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-rahul.jpg

The road to Sangla is Exciting to say the least! Thankfully the traffic was quite sparse but even then, I had to really concentrate hard. We used to love it when we would come across certain landmarks we had seen in almost all travelogues. Like:

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-9.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-10.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-11.jpg

We took it slow and honked at every turn and by now, I was begining to feel at home. We stopped at Taranda Mata shrine too. Isn't it amazing how we come across such "must stop" shrines in mountains!!

The road was ok except for all the dam building by the Jaypee group. Though narrow at many places, it is comfortable at most and fully metalled like this sample:Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-15.jpg
We reached Sangla by around 6 pm and headed straight to Prakash Guest House again as per the recomendation by some Bhpians. the news is that "Prakash Guest House" is now "Hotel Prakash"! Evidently the government was not very happy with them having so many rooms and still calling themselves a guest house!! Spent very stimulating moments discussing marketing, taxation, media and investment climate with Mr. Om Prakash.

Sangla is not exactly a happening place. If you have a choice, you should head to Kalpa and stay there. Sample this: We had to ask at least 8 guest houses and restaurants to locate something to eat!! The reason: "Sir tourist to khatam ho gaya"!!!
Hotel Praksh though boasts of an incredible view and approach to the Baspa river. Accomodations are modest though and if you are travelling with a kid, you might find the non availability of room heaters to be slightly uncomfortable. But I must say that the guy is very warm and interactive. He presented us with apples from his orchard and offered a guided tour next day.
Here is some of Sangla:

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-16.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-17.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-18.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-19.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-20.jpg

Next day we checked out at 8 am and headed for Chitkul. We had already run out of time and the decision to drive to Chitkul had to be squeezed in. The dive from Sangla to Chikul is best described in a word my student used when I asked him of the route: Awesome!! Driving to Chitkul is one experience all should savor. Amazing place!!

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-21.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-22.jpg

We reached Chitkul at around 9.30 am and the sight of the gates meant that we had finally completed a journey we had set on almost a decade ago when we were younger, single and the emotions we experienced were beyond description!!

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-24.jpg

Everything was closed!! Everything!! We stopped our car at the what obviously was the entrance to the village and I got out for the victory smoke. I was wondering whom to talk to for the location to the almost mythical "Hindustan Ka Aakhri haaba". You see guys, I am not a very ambitious person. I am a teacher!! But ever since I saw the place, one of my ambitions had been to reach the place and get myself clicked next to it. Lost in thought I stepped over to the other side of the road and to my shock (almost filmy shock!!), I saw that I had parked right next to a shack, with the so famous sign "Hindustan Ka Aakhri Dhaaba". Man!!! i could have danced for joy!! and guess what I clicked the board at least 20 times, in various modes, at various zooms, I clicked my crew next to the place and in the end, I forgot myself!! So that ambition remains pending and is my motivation (pretense!!) for another drive to Chitkul.

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-26.jpg

Thankfully found Rani Guest House open. Hema Negi, the lady of the house was such a warm and gracious host. Had a filling breakfast of Paraanthe and Omlette, lazed around for a while, had a tea and quite unwillingly turned back!

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-25.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-27.jpg

Three First Timers & Mountains to Cross!-r-28.jpg

We had decided to stay wherever we would reach in the evening. We thought we would have to stay at Rampur, then we upgraded to a decision to stay at Narkanda. In the end, We ended up driving straight from Chitkul to Chandigarh.

Why was our trip worth writing about?
There are amazing triplogs on Team-Bhp, amazing pictures but most of you are seasoned drivers. This was the story of a lot of firsts!! first car, first drive, first time.....and of course first wife and first kid!!!

We thank the support, motivation and inputs by the Team-Bhp family.

Last edited by Samurai : 12th January 2009 at 15:15. Reason: don't post attachments next to eachother, do it one below the other
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Old 12th January 2009, 14:44   #2
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Very nice. Everybody has a first time :-)
Can you please do something about the pictures? Make them appear below your sentences rather than at the end (extreme right)?
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Old 12th January 2009, 15:00   #3
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Quote:
There are amazing triplogs on Team-Bhp, amazing pictures but most of you are seasoned drivers. This was the story of a lot of firsts!! first car, first drive, first time.....and of course first wife and first kid!!!
And your first thread which is quite nice with amazing pictures worthy of being my desktop backgrounds. Nice travelogue.

1 & 2
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Old 12th January 2009, 15:46   #4
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man. that was a really nice writeup. lovely pics as well. the 4th and 5th ones were my favourite
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Old 12th January 2009, 16:25   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashpillai View Post
This was the story of a lot of firsts!! first car, first drive, first time.....and of course first wife and first kid!!!
same thing happened with me in dec 2006.
first car, first drive, first time.......two kids and of course only wife[i will not dare to call first though first]. it was drive to mahabaleshwar.

nice writeup and pics.
remembering my trek during june 1989 from sarahan to sangla.
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Old 12th January 2009, 16:27   #6
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Great writeup - and superb pics...
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Old 12th January 2009, 17:28   #7
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The writeup is good for the 1st timer posting the travelogue on T-Bhp, i guess you are not a 1st time photograper by seeing the pictures they are ultimate the 4th & 5th are mind blowing.

Keep driving more and more to such kind of remote places and keep posting the Pics.

Buddy you took a long time to post this on T-Bhp, why is that ???
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Old 12th January 2009, 17:46   #8
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Ash, simply loved your style of writing. Great travelogue & wonderful pics. Congratulations on the many "firsts"

You appear to be a very seasoned photographer - which camera mate?
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Old 12th January 2009, 17:54   #9
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An excellent first effort, with good photographs to boot. I really like the 6th one.

Couple of crop suggestion from my side for that shot.
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Old 12th January 2009, 19:00   #10
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Congrats on a first trip well done, great writeup and damn good pics. I'm sure that after one amazing trip now you will be itching to do more. Welcome to the 'trippers' club. Happy driving.
Regards,
Hari.
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Old 12th January 2009, 20:53   #11
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Really nice pics, and hats off to taking the plunge and travelling with a toddler, I'm still vacillating.
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Old 12th January 2009, 21:13   #12
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Nice Place with very good pic. Why dont you give the Route and the Accommodation in Brief.
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Old 12th January 2009, 21:15   #13
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Hey, Masterjee, this is such an awesomely humble and touching travelogue!
While you think it is very 'simple', to me it has such a ring of truth and intensity!
Kudos to you. You're the 'original' travellers! Go where you wish; your passion and wisdom will make it successful!

Thanks for sharing this.
Looking forward to your next!
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Old 12th January 2009, 21:21   #14
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Amazing pics and a well written log
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Old 12th January 2009, 22:02   #15
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Quote:
A decade ago in an issue of Outlook Traveler, we had seen the pictures of a beautiful village. We had promise ourselves that one day we would definitely go there
Now your travelogue has the same effect on me.
The mountains always mesmerized me and thanks to you for capturing the beauty. Have read stories of people getting stuck, warning not to go without a 4x4 and all sorts of things, somehow you made it look so simple.
Please post more pictures of this wonderful journey.

Regards,
Krishna.
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