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4wdrifter 21st September 2009 23:41

Bombay to Himachal & back - a long excursion
 
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Hey guys
This has been a long time coming, but here it is finally. Family & I with some friends decided to drive to Himachal. We knew it was going to be a long trip but we had been preparing (mentally!) and some last minute stuff on the car!
I had my Forester, filled to the brim (we Indians travel light!) and also the Thule roof box - filled to the brim again!
Besides our personal belongings, we carried a cooler, chocolates, dry fruits (both give instant and sustainable bursts of energy), milk in tetra packs for my boys (aged 11 & 7), maggie noodles, dry snacks etc. and of course the ubiquitous theplas!. A jerry can of water, a jerry can of fuel, camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags, torches, et al), a steel rod for safety and another spare wheel.
The route I had planned was to drive to Delhi via Rajasthan, Delhi - Dehradoon, Dehradoon - Rohru, Rohru - Chanshal, Chanshal - Sangla, Sangla - Narkhanda, Narkhanda - Naldhera, Naldhera - Delhi, Delhi - Bombay.
We planned to drive only in the day as driving on our roads at night is akin to suicide, what with no lights on trucks, vehicles driving in the wrong direction, two wheelers without ANY kind of lights, and dark clothed villagers crossing roads completely misjudging the speed to approaching vehicles.
We left Bombay (home in South Bombay) around 5 am to rendezvous near Vasai with another friend and his family in a Skoda Octavia.
As is my nature, hunger pangs started around the same time - 50 kms out of Bombay, so we stopped for breakfast at Kamath's near Manor.
We were doing a good clip - roads were very nice and we planned to reach Himmatnagar (70 km out of Ahmedabad on NH8) for our night halt.
After a few proper loo breaks for the ladies, we crossed Ahmedabad around 2 pm and Himmatnagar shortly thereafter, so we decided to carry on to Nathdwara in Rajasthan. I know of a beautiful erstwhile rest house belonging to a maharaja which has now been taken over by RTDC and we decided we would stay there the night. They have wonderful HUGE rooms which used to be air cooled earlier, but are air conditioned now. It is a small place and the staff is very helpful but don't expect any professional service!
We reached Nathdwara at around 3.30 pm, driving almost 850 kms till then (wonder of wonders - it IS possible to average 80kmph+ on some Indian roads).
Tired, we staggered into the hotel - my wife wanted to visit the famous Shrinathji Temple the same day but luckily the darshan closed early so we decided to rest.
After a quiet evening, spent part in the room and in the serene garden and helped in part by other heavenly spirits, we decided to call it a night after a vegetarian meal.
This travelogue goes on - we spent about 3 weeks in total and drove almost 5000 kms totally.
Will put new posts as per days for travel and destinations, one day/destination at a time. Not many pictures on day 1, but here are a few of my car and the RTDC place (Hotel Gokul).

Akadian 22nd September 2009 15:51

Seems like an interesting trip. Do keep updating this travelogue. Nathdwara is an interesting place to stop by for the night. I never knew about that. Thanks for sharing the bit about the palace

Cheers

genesis 22nd September 2009 17:28

@4wdrifter: Thanks for sharing your travels.
Question for you:Where did you get the thule rack from? And how is the driving experience on the expressway with it on the roof.

vkochar 22nd September 2009 21:08

Nice. Will look forward to the entire travelogue.

Please put some more pics. Why only 2 for the start ?

4wdrifter 23rd September 2009 00:34

@genesis - Thule roof racks are available with Methods Automotive - their dealer in Mumbai is Four Seasons Automotive at Tardeo. They will be able to sell you one if you are interested.
@vkochar - didn't take too many pictures on day 1. Will post some of day 2 in the next post but since we were on the highway, not many pictures taken.
It does get interesting once we get out of Dehradoon but that will have to wait, I'm very sleepy now. Tomorrow, more posts!

genesis 23rd September 2009 11:07

Quote:

Originally Posted by 4wdrifter (Post 1496905)
@genesis - Thule roof racks are available with Methods Automotive - their dealer in Mumbai is Four Seasons Automotive at Tardeo. They will be able to sell you one if you are interested.

Thanks. How is the driving experience at high speeds on an expressway with a box on the top. Do you feel a difference with/without it?

4wdrifter 23rd September 2009 17:55

Quote:

Originally Posted by genesis (Post 1497301)
Thanks. How is the driving experience at high speeds on an expressway with a box on the top. Do you feel a difference with/without it?

yes, definitely. The CG moves up and body roll does come in and I feel it - especially in my car which corners more or less flat. If you are planning to fit a roof box and load it, you will have to deal with roll, extent depending on your car.

4wdrifter 24th September 2009 00:46

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Day 2 saw the wife & I waking up early to catch the first darshan at the temple. Nathdwara is a small temple town, which has its own charm. After the darshan, we had hot chai from one of the many vendors there. Chai here is usually served in an earthenware cup, which you throw after use. Most eco-friendly! Hand made with no use of electricity or any kind of power except human!
Reached Hotel Gokul to wake up our boys and friends. While everyone was getting ready I saw a garden hose ready and washed the Forester down nicely. She was then gleaming and ready for the road!
Started off towards Ajmer, Kishangarh and Jaipur to reach Gurgaon, our stop for the night.
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Had another breakfast at a road side dhaba.
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Lunch was at the highway near Jaipur, where we waited for a long time as I had to attend to some office work ad needed to access mails etc. Reliance Netconnect Broadband+, promising speeds of up to 3.1 mbps worked - and fast!
Traffic was heavy on NH8 out of Jaipur with truck occupying all available place and swapping them in turn. Frustrating! I guess the traffic had something to do with the time as trucks are allowed into Delhi only at certain times.
Sheer madness, which only gets worse with the dark! I am surprised how we survive the dangerous driving conditions on our roads.
Got lost trying to find our friend's place in Gurgaon and eventually reached there at 9 pm or so.
Relaxed the next day and met up with old friends.

Day 3 and another friend and his family joined us in their Ford Endeavour. Family of 3 and a maid and I thought I was heavily loaded.
We were headed to Dehradoon where we were to spend the night. The route I had planned was to hit NH1 till Kurukshetra and turn off towards Paonta Sahib, so we would get there fast. However, our friends decided to go through Meerut and Saharanpur, so consensus prevailed. Horrible road, full of traffic and passing through towns all the way and road construction work in many places. :Frustrati
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The only open stretch of road we got must've been 200 metres at a time. However, the climb up to Dehradoon was lovely with lots of twisties. The Forester comes into her own with her precise handling, on roads such as these. Checked into a hotel and visited the Doon school. Some pictures from there.
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It was very interesting for our boys to see a big campus and how hostel life was. Tomorrow we start our ascent to Chakrata - this is where the holiday REALLY starts!clap:

vkochar 24th September 2009 11:23

Wow - that's a nice looking 3 cars - The Forester looks very neat with the Thule ( Looks like a surfboard :D )

Do visit the Cheetal Grand midway from Doon & Delhi - it's a neat place !

4wdrifter 29th September 2009 00:32

Quote:

Originally Posted by vkochar (Post 1499349)
Wow - that's a nice looking 3 cars - The Forester looks very neat with the Thule ( Looks like a surfboard :D )

Do visit the Cheetal Grand midway from Doon & Delhi - it's a neat place !

Thanks. The Thule has been indispensable on long trips. This particular model holds quite a lot.

4wdrifter 29th September 2009 01:45

Doon-Chakrata-Kanasar
 
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We left Dehradoon the next morning and had breakfast at a small restaurant just outside the town.

Our plan was to hit Chakrata, pick up supplies and camp for the night at Deoban.

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The drive was nice & easy up to Kalsi. We had been informed that you need permits to drive through Kalsi, however, none were required. There is an army check post at Kalsi and they checked our cars & papers before letting us through. This is NH123 which later becomes SH-1.
SH-1 skirts the Govind Pashu National Park.

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The drive up to Chakrata was lovely through beautiful forests. We stopped in Chakrata to pick up food supplies. We planned to camp at Deoban and were carrying our tents, sleeping bags etc. I also picked up a BSNL simcard in Chakrata as the private gsm networks did not work in the area.

In Chakrata
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Spent way too much time in Chakrata and as usual, the girls found something to shop there too!

During our long stop, one of my friends started talking to the locals about driving to Deoban. They advised him against it and said the road was too rough for the Skoda to make it.

I said let us go as planned and if the road is rough we will turn back. Of course a difference of opinion arose with my friend developing cold feet - his fear was he wouldn't find place to turn around!

Anyway, I suggested we drive further up and find a camping place in Kanasar. Incidentally, Kanasar is a beautiful deodar forest which it seems the forest department is inordinately proud of.

The woods are lovely, dark & deep...
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Since Dehradoon I had taken the lead, so was looking for a clearing in the forest where we could camp.

After cresting another ridge, I saw a beautiful clearing made in the forest. It was getting late in the evening, so finding this place came as a relief.

Arriving at camp site
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We quickly setup camp and the children gathered firewood for the barbeque while the women marinated the food.
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No, I'm not posing!
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The night was chilled and after some fine spirits and good food, our sleeping bags beckoned and we called it a night.

Lots of landslides on this route.
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Like a painting
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Local pahari women
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Woke up rested the next morning. Next stop - Tiuni-Hatkoti-Rohru

Packing & cleaning up
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Indian Ranger 9th October 2009 15:17

Dear 4wdrifter,

This thread is almost dead since Sept 29th and with such wonderful coverage of locations, do you think this is right. Have you finished this trip or still doing it?

Do post some more photos and share your experiences.

4wdrifter 9th October 2009 15:27

Quote:

Originally Posted by Indian Ranger (Post 1523417)
Dear 4wdrifter,

This thread is almost dead since Sept 29th and with such wonderful coverage of locations, do you think this is right. Have you finished this trip or still doing it?

Do post some more photos and share your experiences.

Sorry, you're right.agree: I've been extremely busy and haven't been able to post. Will do so soon. In fact, the exciting part of the trip begins now.

4wdrifter 9th October 2009 17:10

Kanasar to Rohru & Chanshal Ghati
 
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The next day saw us waking not to early to drive to Rohru, in the apple belt of Himachal.
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After a breakfast of chai and noodles, we packed up and drove towards Tiuni. Stopping several times en route to take pictures, we reached the village of Tiuni, where we had lunch in a small dhaba. Weather was hot, the dhaba was grimy and the kids were grumpy! Not one of the best parts of our trip!
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The River Tons
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We crossed Hatkoti which has the famous Hatkeshwari Mata temple. There is no fuel station in Rohru, so we filled fuel here.
Reached the Circuit House at Rohru early evening. It was a typical circuit house, with one caretaker and one helper. The caretaker was all in one - the manager, the cleaner, the cook etc., however, the place was nice and well laid out. We took three rooms for three families, however, one of the rooms had a broken flush, so our friend decided to move into the nearby Hotel Chanshal. Turned out it was just as run down and cost about 10 times more than what we were paying at the Circuit House, so finally, we all stayed at the House.
The caretaker cooked a lovely meal and we tucked in early.
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The Rohru Circuit House
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Hotel Chanshal
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After a hearty breakfast of eggs, we decided to drive to Chanshal Ghati. As we did not know what the roads were like, we decided to leave the Skoda at the House and went there in the Endeavour and the Forester.

The drive up was lovely, though the roads were not very good. Nothing that these cars could not handle though!
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First view of the Kinnar Kailash
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Driving on a seemingly isolated road, we were surprised to see a big green field appear with a village attached to it! A cricket (what else? This is India!) match was in full swing between two villages. After cheering them we moved on to tackle the mighty Chanshal!
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We met a jeep load of people on the way who were on their way down. We were wondering if there was any snow on the top and in confirmation, they reached inside and gave us lumps of snow they had picked up there!
I guessed that if the snow had survived their drive till they met us, the summit may not be to far.
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Our Skoda owning friend already was getting cold feet and wanted to turn around and beat a retreat and I was raring to reach the top!
The drive was through thickly wooded forests and really secluded. There are not many places in India where you drive and not see people and I was really enjoying myself!
By this time Skoda had convinced everyone in the Endeavour to turn around, so once again, in the spirit of consensus, I reluctantly turned around. So near yet so far...
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This tree had been cut but did not fall - it was resting on the tree on the other side of the road!
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4wdrifter 12th October 2009 16:52

Drive to Sangla Valley
 
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After spending a couple of nights in Rohru, it was time for us to hit Sangla valley. The route I had planned was Rohru - Sungri - Nogli - Rampur Bushair - Jeori - Wangtu - Karchham - Sangla.

Hunger strikes!
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The drive through the jungles till we reached Rampur Bushair was very enjoyable, with little villages dotting the way.

The weather, which was cool all the way till we reached Nogli, turned all the worse at Rampur. To top it, the Skoda started leaking refrigerant and it's a/c turned useless.

We stopped for lunch at the HPTDC hotel on the highway - Bushair Regency. I remember having stayed there during one of the Raid-de-Himalayas.

Dev Bhoomi Kinnaur!
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Trailer trying to fit itself on the bridge!
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It's backing up and banging into the mountain wall caused a few minor landslides!
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Anyway, soon after we left Rampur, the weather started getting better and the roads - lovely! Steep drops and narrow roads meant careful navigation.

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Jeori incidentally is the last place for fuel. The next pump (for petrol) is in Rekong Peo.

After Jeori, the road was broken in many places due to landslides. Wangtu - Karchham - Sangla was amazing with the road getting really narrow.

We stopped for a view of the Nathpa Dam, part of the longest power tunnel in the world!
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After Wangtu, construction of the Wangtu - Karchham Hydro Electric Project is in progress by the Jaypee Group and the roads were terrible. I will let the rest of photos do the talking now.

Our bravehearts!
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Just some of the good work the army does there
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These articulated haulers from Volvo were huge!! Here is one in perspective.
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The climb!
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A small temple on the way. The pandit there spoke to us in Marathi! HE had spent many years in the Konkan and was fluent in quite a few languages! Also very resourceful and it seems quite popular with the hippy crowd! Ahem!
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Exiting the temple.
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Ah my beauty past compare!!
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Speckled!!
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Ah! Resting place for the next few days!!
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