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Old 7th January 2008, 10:16   #1
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Default Snow Hunt -Bombay to Dalhousie, Dharamasala, Amritsar, Bhakra-Nangal, Shimla & Manali

Am back from my Scorpio drive from Bombay to Punjab/Haryana/Himachal
to visit Dalhousie, Dharamasala, Amritsar, Bhakra-Nangal Dam, Shimla,
Manali (all to show my son snow) and a small business trip detour in
Delhi, Ghaziabad, Patiala, Sirhind and Chandigarh (in that order).

The trip schedule was as follows:

Dec 19/20 - Non-stop drive from Bombay to Dalhousie on NH8 via Surat,
Baroda, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Chitoorgarh (NH76/79), Jaipur to Delhi,
and from there on NH1 till Pathankot via Panipat, Ambala, Ludhiana,
Jalandhar, and from Pathnkot on to Dalhousie, 2100 kms.

Dec 20-22, Dalhousie Region

Dec 23 - Dalhousie to Dharamasala-Mcleodganj and Amritsar

Dec 24 - Amritsar

Dec 25 - Amritsar to Shimla via Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Una, Bhakra-
Nangal Dam, Anandpur Saheb, Kiratpur, Bilaspur, Darlaghat

Dec 26 - Shimla

Dec 27 - Shimla to Manali via Bilaspur, Mandi and Kulu

Dec 28 - Manali, left in the evening for Delhi, with overnight halt
at Bilaspur

Dec 29 - Bilaspur to Delhi and Ghaziabad

Dec 30 - Ghaziabad to Patiala via Panipat, Karnal, Ambala, Rajpura

Dec 31 - Patiala to Srihind and Chandigarh, and return to Delhi and
non-stop drive all the way back to Bombay on the same NH8/GQ route.

The trip was from Dec 19-Jan 1, and Scorpio covered over 6,500 kms.
Highlights were the first day's drive direct from Bombay-Dalhousie
non-stop, 2,100 kms. Having left Bombay at 300 am on 19th, I managed
to do Surat (640 am, 265 kms, 3h40m, no traffic jams that early),
Baroda (820 am, 402 kms, 5h20m, lost lot of time in the Surat-Baroda
section thanks to road widening work), Ahmedabad (1025 am, 519 kms,
7h25m, slower than my best 6h30m), and proceeded to Udaipur (120 pm,
779 kms, 10h20m), Jaipur (635 pm, 1,217 kms, 15h35m, with a 20 m halt
to intercept a friend Sasi Menon who was speeding from Jaipur to
Kerala!), and finally Delhi at 1040 pm (1,480 kms, 19h40m, slowed
down by heavy traffic in Jaipur-Delhi section and in the final
approach to Delhi). The Bombay-Delhi drive was smooth, although
slower than my previous best (17h), and the Scorpio stopped only for
piss halts, refuelling and brief meeting with Sasi (food on board -
dry fruits, oranges, apples, chappathis, sandwiches, biscuits). Burnt
the rubber well. Took on premium diesel throughout and returned
decent mileage (remember, we had a light load, only 2 of us) - 10.40
kmpl. Cruising speeds were 120-140 kmph throughout, with max
speed at 160 kmph.

Exiting Bombay, the first 50 kms from Ghodbunder to Manor is a patchy
road after which despite high traffic, road is excellent. Since I was
a very early bird (640 am at Surat), I did not have traffic jams on
Surat bypass - can be very messy during day thanks to 3 flyovers
under construction and poor regulation by security guards (no
policemen). From Surat to Baroda, road widening is happening at a
rapid pace (I see significant progress since the last 2 months when I
went on the road last) - additional lanes are being levelled by IRB
(Surat-Bharuch) and L&T (Bharuch-Baroda). The way things are going, I
will not surprised if we see a great 6-lane road in this leg by end-
2008. Road is patchy throughout and traffic messy - I lost a lot of
time on this stretch till I crossed Baroda. Baroda bypass has some 3
flyovers under construction, but was lucky to escape without jams -
although this is also a high-jam zone. As usual, Baroda-Ahmedabad
expressway was a dream, and bypassing Ahmedabad now a pleasure. North
of Ahmedabad, you simply take off and maintain very high velocities
as you cruise through to Udaipur and Jaipur. No bad roads at all. The
Chittorgarh bypass work is still going on, and you have to still go
through town and signages are still bad there, plus progress is slow.
Lots of petrol stations are springing up on the Chitorgarh-Bhilwara-
Kishangarh road. Reliance petrol pumps are charging Rs 4.50 more pr
litre and are deserted - most of the A1 Plazas appear to be closed
down thanks to lack of patronage.

Credit Card petrol pumps are far and too few, but happily even where
the pumps had no signages for credit cards, they did welcome cards,
hence check out before you refuel.

Keep lots of money for tolls, keeppaying - only respite is on the
Surat-Baroda section where widening work is on. All toll gates except
the one between Ghodbunder and Manor (north of Bombay) were well-
managed - the Manor one delayed me by 20 minutes - and this after I
cut in from the extreme left.

Now that the Gurgaon-Delhi expressway is almost complete, it is a
pleasure to drive through Gurgaon; even the traffic jams outside
Delhi Palam airport appear to have reduced.

Being late, I was able to take the Outer Ring Road from Dhaula Khan
via Karol Bagh and Pithampur to Azadpur Mandi and the Azadpur T
Junction. This T Junction where you join NH1 is a total mess even at
11 pm, and I saw serpentine Qs of vehicles both on Azadpur Mandi road
as well as the road coming from ISBT. Getting out of Delhi till the
Haryana border is also messy since road widening work is on, and
although there is no debris on the road, one has to be very careful.

We continued through the night beyond Delhi, hitting NH1 by 11 pm
after crossing Delhi. From Karnal onwards, heavy fog hit us (zero-
visibility conditions), grounding all traffic on NH1 to a total halt.
We were also forced to stop for an hour (135 - 240 am), and decided
to move on despite the heavy fog. I don't believe in fog lamps or
second headlights, and the Scorpio headlights were decent enough to
pierce through at least 3-5 feet of fog, and the road divider guide
was well-marked for bearing. We had to stop again at Rajpura (444 -
523 am) and Khanna (647 -655 am), but eventually managed to drive
through Ambala, Ludhiana to reach Jalandhar at 836 am (with heavy fog
still swirling around) (404 kms from Delhi, but took us from 1040 pm
at Delhi Palam, with those extra halts). The Scorpio heater is great
and gave us lots of warmth inside - and my son found the middle seat
very comfortable, he slept most of the night with his woollen
blankets, etc, without being tossed around.

All major towns are bypassed. Ludhiana town is a bit tricky since it
goes through some crowded areas, but Jaandhar is bypassed well
without any urban clutter. You appreciate the quality of the roads
when you drive in heavy fog - the road dividers and white lines are
the only indicators that give you some reference point where you
can't see the tail lights of the car in front of you. Watch out for
accidents and diversions - we had to do something like that, where I
ended up leading a long convoy of vehicles going on the wrong side of
the road (thanks to an accident that blocked our side of the road)
surprising the guys struggling towards our direction!

From Jalandhar, we reached Pathankot at 1045 am (another 118 kms from
Jalandhar). Needless to say, we had a target that day - we picked up
my friend and his family at Pathankot railway station - they left
Bombay 8 hours after us, took a flight to Delhi, and took an
overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot) - and we wanted to beat them
to Pathankot, but we were 10 minutes late! The drive from Delhi to
Pathankot totalled 522 kms (approximately 12 hours, with those fog
breaks). After that, after a leisurely brunch, we reached Dalhousie
at 300 pm on Dec 20th(total 2,100 kms from Bombay).

NH1A (Jalandhar-pathankot) road is being widened - currently a
conventional 2-lane highway - and is dual carriageway for just 20 kms
till Bhogpur after which construction has made the road a little
patchy, slows you down. In Pathankot town, elevated roads are being
built, which adds to the bad roads. For those going to
Dalhousie/Dharamsala, please take the bypass road just before town
since the Chakki Bank bridge on the main Pathankot-Dharamsala road is

Incidentally, the drive from Delhi to Pathankot gave me my best FE -
13.3 kmpl!!! Maybe that was because of the controlled slow driving
that I was forced to do thanks to the heavy fog (not exceeding 80
kmph, and with heater on most of teh time).

We spend a good 3 days in Dalhousie. There was snow all around, and
the Scorpio had a great time climbing the local hills (Lakka Mandi,
Kalatop) on icy roads - very scary without the tyre chains, but we
managed with a load of 6 persons on board. I wish my rear tyres were
not so bald, we could have done better, the car kept skidding on the
rear tyres for lack of traction. I found the standard 2WD
Mahindra Pik-Ups doing yeoman duty in these parts, including on ice.
But those drivers have extraordinary skill and you have to keep going
up crunching the ice and snow - one stop anywhere and you will slip
back and find it extremely difficult to get traction again.

While in Dalhousie, we visited Lakka Mandi, (Kalatop and Danikhund
roads were closed by snow), Khajjiar, Chamba, Chimera Lake View and
local places like Satdara. To get to Khajjiar, instead of teh short
22 km route via Lakka Mandi, one has to take the long road via Chamba
(2.5 hours) to get there because the direct road is snowed down.

The HPTDC Hotel Manimahesh is the best location to stay at - very
close to the bus stand, but equally close to nature and has the best
snow mountain views. Lots of places to walk around in.

Dalhousie was in the Minus C temperatures, but the Scorpio did not
have any starting trouble - I did not even "sweater" the car radiator.

From Dalhousie, we drove to Dharamsala-Mcleodganj (134 kms, 3hr30m),
kids saw the Dalai Lama in prayer session, and we reached Amritsar
via Pathankot that evening (200 kms, 4 hr). We stayed in Amritsar 2
nights to visit the Golden temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Pakistan Border,
Atari railway station, etc, amd some shopping. The Dalhousie-
Dharamsala road was good, as was NH20 from Dharamsala to Pathankot
and Nh15 from Pathankot to Amritsar (the latter being very congested
and in sore need of a few bypasses). Amritsar town has good signages
inside town, hence no difficult getting around. Unhappily, I found
that out-of-state registration vehicles were not being allowed to
park near the Golden Temple, we had to park it in some 1/2 km distant
parking lots and leg it to the Temple. Lots of flyover construction
work inside Amritsar on NH1, but traffic is moderate.

Leaving Amritsar on Dec 25th early morning, we drove again through
heavy fog to Jalandhar (84 kms, 2 hr). Leaving NH1 before Jalandhar,
the road to Hoshiarpur was enveloped in even more thicker fog but we
managed to reach the Bhakra-Nangal Dam (via Hoshiarpur, Una and
Nangal) by 330 pm. Remember that you have to take permits at the
PRO's office and deposit your cameras/mobile phones at the check-post
before proceeding to the Dam. This was a bit unfortunate since we
could have saved nearly 100kms by going on the Nangal-Bhakra Dam-
Naina Devi Temple-Swarghat en route Shimla istead of the Nangal-
Anandpur Saheb-Kiratpur-Swarghat road hat we took. Anyone going on to
Manali/Shimla please remember to lie or hoodwink or cajole teh
security to allow you to carry your mobiles/cameras so that you don't
have to return to the nangal Check Post. There are no facilities at
the Bhakra Dam site, not even a tea shop.

The Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur road is also very good. But there are soem
bad sections in the Hoshiarpur-Una road and I am unsure whether that
road is safe at night. From Nangal town through Anandpur Saheb all
the way to Chnadigarh, the highway is fantastic.

From Bhakra-Nangal, we reached Shimla, via Kiratpur, Bilaspur and
Darlaghat, where we spent 1D2N. Hardly any snow in Shimla region. The
Bilaspur-Shimla road is being widened and repaired, and is very bad
in some parts thanks to the heavy limestone/cement truck traffic that
goes on part of this road. While coming from Kiratpur, you can bypass
Bilaspur town.

An early morning start from Shimla town (7 am) meant that we enjoyed
Kufri/Fagu without any crowds. We also found an interesting route via
Junga to Chail. The Shimla bypass is great, helping you bypass the
city alogether especially if you are proceding directly to the
Kinnaur region. But the signages at entrance/exit at Taradevi and
after Sanjauli are poor. In Shimla town, the new Lift to reach the
Mall is terribly crowded and it is better to drive up from Sanjauli
to the RGMC (Medical College) and walk it from there to the Mall
rather than use the Lift or climb up the steep steps. Or use teh
Lakkad Bazar side (the other side of the hill) to drive down and park
teh car below the Mall.

From Shimla, we drove to Manali where th kids had a great time again
building snow castles, skiing and para gliding. And eating Maggi
noodles in the cold. Scorpio again came up with a champion's
performance - we managed to drive all the way up to Gulaba,22 kms
from Manali, almost the end of the road before the winter snows
closed down the road to Rohtang Pass. We had a tough time in one of
the hairpin curves when we encountered a Pik-Up on the way up - he
had to stop, slipped all around with us hovering above, before he got
a toehold. We also slipped around, hit his side lightly with our rear
bumper (without any damage), and scraped through. Just the previous
day, a car had gone down the valley after skidding on the snow.

The Shimla-Bilaspur-Mandi-Kulu-Manali road is in good form. Kulu town
can now be bypassed from Bhuntar onwards (again poor signages, missed
it on teh way in) - turn off after the airport into the bridge to
Manikaran, and take the left bank of the River Beas till the 2 new
brides/flyovers that recnnect this road to the main Kulu-Katrain-
Manai road. Again, signages are poor. Nonetheless, best is to avoid
the chaotic and narrow street Kulu town. As usual, the road to
Rohtang Pass is full of indisciplined drivers and unregulated
traffic, leading to huge traffic jams and edge-of-cliff encounters.
Worse now because of teh snow heaped up on both sides of the road,
making it impossible to pull over to the side to give way.

The drive from Pathankot-Dalhousie-Dharamsala-Amritsar-Shimla-Manali-
Mandi (1,800 kms) cost us 10.30 kmpl in FE, reduced perhaps because
of the higher passenger load (6 persons) and the huge luggage that we
had, plus the fact that we had mountains all throughout.

I had a business mission and pre-maturely drove back to
Delhi/Ghaziabad from Manali (leaving at 5 pm on 28th, halting
overnight at Bilaspur, 840 pm, 186 kms). The next day early, I took
off for Delhi via Kiratpur, Rupnagar, Banur and Ambala (370 kms, 5hr
30m). On 30th, I went to Patiala (on NH1 via Ambala till Rajpura),
and next day (Dec 31), to Chandigarh. Leaving Chandigarh at 230 pm, I
drove back to Delhi (630 pm at Azadpur T Junction), struggled through
peak evening traffic to reach Gurgaon at 845 pm, had dinner and left
for Bombay at 10 pm. I took teh road to bypass Mohali and Chandigarh
directly to Ambala from Karatan via Banur (junction with the
Chandigarh-Rajapura road) to near Ambala. It joins NH1 at the Punjab-
Haryana border, just after the first toll gate north of Ambala -
again, no signs direct you to this road on NH1. The Karatan-Banur
road is very narrow and nadvisable to drive at nights. It is also
full of lorry traffic bypassing Chandigarh.

After returning to Delhi, I had to go on business visits agin to
Ghaziabad, Patiala and Chandigarh. From Ghaziabad, I took a crazy
road via Hindon Air base and Baghpat to join NH1 at Sonepat. TYpical
UP village traffic, but may be worth it because had I gone throgh
Delhi ISBT, Azadpur, I would have been stuck in traffic jams for a
long time. Road condition in the Ghaziabad-Baghpat-Sonepat rute was
good. Flyover construction work at Samalka and Panipat could delay
you. It is indeed a magnificent elevated road that is being built in
Panipat town, hopefully it will be over by end-2008. I went through
Panipat 4 times during this trip, the worst traffic jam lasted only
20 minutes, that too at evening peak time of 5 pm. The Rajpura-
patiala road is a little narrow but like the other Punjab roads
fantastic - I also did Patiala-Sirhind. Chandigarh has well-marked
roads and well-managed traffic, except that at Zirakpur (entering
Chandigarh from Delhi side), flyover construction work can be messy
and confusing. You can bypass Chandigarh for both Shimla and Manali.

Happily, when you approach Delhi on NH1, the Azadpur T Junction is
not so bad since you are permitted a free left turn to the ISBT road,
but teh other roads (Azadpur Mandi, Rohtak road) are a total mess.

We had a pleasant non-stop drive back to Bombay, starting at 10 pm
Gurgaon, and reaching Bombay at 5 pm on Jan 1, almost the same 19
hours that it took us on the onward journey. Gurgaon (10 pm), Jaipur
(100 am, 250 kms), Udaipur (600 am, 426 kms), Ahmedabad (910 am, 253
kms), Surat (120 pm, 270 kms) and Bombay Thane (500 pm, 250 kms).

Mileage on the Mandi-Delhi-Patiala-Chandigarh-Delhi-Bombay sector was
11 kmpl (2,700 kms), despite the high-speed driving.

Scorpio has now completed 1,35,000 kms (started the trip at 1,28,418
and ended at 1,34,967), meaning that the trip was 6,549 kms long.

As usual, I have my detailed log book which I will be happy to share.
I also have logged the trip on my GPS, and there are markings for
petrol stations. I used Indian Oil Extra Premium diesel most of the
time, with some HPCL and BPCL. Refuelled only once in Reliance, they
are over Rs 4 per litre more expensive. In any case, most of the
Reliance petrol pumps are shut down for lack of business and A1
Plazas are mostly non-functional. Toilets in the other petrol
stations are awful to say the leas - the one thing I miss about
Reliance are clean toilets!
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Old 7th January 2008, 10:21   #2
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Terrific journey and equally well documented. As always, I am impressed by the detailed knowledge of roads & conditions and more importantly, the willingness to share the same. Thank you Mr. Kumar.
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Old 7th January 2008, 10:43   #3
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This is awesome. I have been reading your travelogue and am extremely impressed with your knowledge of the roads and locations in India. I would certainly like to know how you get the time to undertake these drives because for me taking time out is a huge problem.

Wishing you many more miles and more reading for us!! Warm regards
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Old 7th January 2008, 10:59   #4
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One additional info that I would like to share is how to bypass Chandigarh en route Manali from Delhi.

Instead of turning to Chandigarh road at Ambala, continue on NH1 towards Rajpura. Exactly 14 kms from the Ambala Contonment Railway Station Flyover, you hit the Punjab Border and the toll gate. Don't cross teh toll gate, just before teh ticketing counters, there will be a break in the divider, and you should turn right into a small road. There is no signs marking this road, but you will find lots of trucks turning rght too. At this point, you will see the overhead sign boards announcing Ludhiana 101 kms.

The bypass road is narrow (barely a 2 lane road) and not the best of roads, and avoidable in heavy fog conditions. You will find lots of truck traffic on this road. 18 kms down this road, you will hit Banur, which is the junction with the Chandigarh-Rajpura road. The signal at this junction is very congested and you can expect long lines of trucks haphazardly parked before this junction. Keep going straight 23 kms and you will go through the back of Mohali (in the next few months, expect some huge malls and townships to come up on this road), and you will reach Kharar, which is 15 kms beyond Chandigarh. At this junction, you join NH21 which is the main Chandigarh-Manali road - it is 28 kms from here to Rupnagar. By taking this bypass road, you may save upto 10 kms but you can save the trouble of navigating Chandigarh.

Thanks to some of our pals in TeamBHP who helped me plot this route for my return journey from Manali to Delhi. It took me 40 minutes to travel this route.
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:01   #5
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Wow..What a travelogue !! I guess you will consider A.B. Vajpayee as a real hero for coming up with the Golden Quad project !!
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:03   #6
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Default Great Report

Great Report Kumar. We were also at Shimla and Manali at more or less the same time and again to show snow to my family. I was there along with another friend's family. Of course we did not drive from Pune. But we too started off from Mumbai on the 19th. Will PM you later on!

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Old 7th January 2008, 11:05   #7
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Very interesting to read.

Equally disappointing not to see any picture/s.
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:12   #8
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Originally Posted by spadival View Post
Wow..What a travelogue !! I guess you will consider A.B. Vajpayee as a real hero for coming up with the Golden Quad project !!
Yes, indeed - Vajpayee's GQ initiative should be put on the same pedestal as Nehru's nation-building of the 50s - like the Bhakra-Nangal Dam - and the multiplier effect is tremendous. Share of road transport has increased, accidents rates come down and truckers are spending less time to travel between cities. Tonnages of vehicles has increased, triggering off diversification into multi-axled and tractor-linked trailer trucks. With the GQ, petrol stations have also mushroomed all over, providing excellent choices for motorists. And personal car travel between cities is seeing a huge revolution with you and me travelling more either on holiday or business.
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:21   #9
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We had a bad experience with HP Police before Manali town. We were stopped, documents scanned and the cop made this preposterous statement that my photo was not affixed to my PUC certificate! When I explained that it is unheard of, he said that it is always there, which I refuted, and argued that I am from Maharastra - he retorted saying MV Act is an all-India law!

The matter was referred to his boss who realised by then that there
was no money to extort in my case, and I was let by after a delay of
10 minutes. The first time I encountered any such cop problem in an
otherwise-friendly Himachal.

This is also to do with the problem with driving a Scorpio - you are mistaken for a taxi with private number plates and the cops extort money on some pretext or the other unless you convince them you are indeed a private car with your family in tow. I have had this sort of problem several times before all across India, including one encounter some time last year in Tamil Nadu when I had to make threatening noises about my connections before I was let off (on that occasion, the bribe demanded in "Enchanting" Tamil Nadu was only Rs 5,000).
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:38   #10
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Whoa hv, my head is spinning! What a travelogue, what a trip.
I plan to do the Dalhousie part of himachal sometime in feb probably(hopefully will see snow too!)
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:51   #11
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Whoa hv, my head is spinning! What a travelogue, what a trip.
I plan to do the Dalhousie part of himachal sometime in feb probably(hopefully will see snow too!)

Yes, you should see snow in Feb - I have driven to Dalhousie before in April and there was snow between Dalhousie and Kalatop. When I went, the Dalhousie-Kalatop-Khajjiar road was closed thanks to snow - as was also the road to Danikund. The road was open till Ahla, which is just before Lakka Mandi, some 7 kms before Kalatop. We had to go to Khajjiar via Chamba ( a long drive takes 2.5 hours one way instead of 45 minutes direct). But the locals told me that the Dalhousie-Kalatop-Khajjiar road will reopen shortly (should be open now), and direct travel should be possible.

The HPTDC Hotel Manimahesh is one of the best places to stay in, with fantastic snow mountain views from your bedroom window, besides being very close to teh bus stand and the market, but without being congested, noisy or townish.
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:54   #12
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HPTDC is always the best bet. I use their hotels whenever possible.
We were in Dharamshala 29th and 30th. Hopefully a travelogue will come up soon.
In your scorpio the Jalandhar Pathankot road must be patchy, but in the indica it was a nightmare. Luckily no bent rims.
I am scared to do that NH1A, I wonder when will the work be done? 2020?
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Old 7th January 2008, 12:42   #13
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Default Smashing Travelogue

Hai HV,

What a Travelogue!!!!!!!! That was some driving.

Needless to say, I do not approve of the 2100 KM non-stop dash, too risky..... we're only human and some sections you did are pure death-traps.

Awaiting some photos.....

Happy Driving,

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Old 7th January 2008, 12:48   #14
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@hvkumar: Amazing travelogue as usual. It's high time you compiled all these and brought out a book. Your knowledge of places / routes amazes me.

-- Torqy

Last edited by Torqy : 7th January 2008 at 13:07.
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Old 7th January 2008, 12:56   #15
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Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Hai HV,

What a Travelogue!!!!!!!! That was some driving.

Needless to say, I do not approve of the 2100 KM non-stop dash, too risky..... we're only human and some sections you did are pure death-traps.

Awaiting some photos.....

Happy Driving,


In fact, the drive was pretty relaxed, and happily since the fog became too thick and undriveable, I catually managed to nap in the car for an hour after Karnal on the 19th night. My only problem that night was a little bit of dehydration despite that I keep drinking water, electrals and Leh Berrys. On the return journey too (Patiala-Chandigarh-Delhi-Bombay), we had a fine time, I managed a 10-minute nap near Bhilwara, and that was quite refershing. My 12-year son had a good time in the middle seat, and woke up as fresh as a daisy.
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