A trip from Delhi to Manali


Brother in Paris, one Sister-In-Law in Disney Land Miami with family and another been to Goa recently, Parents in Haridwar Camp, one colleague going to Srinagar… it looked like almost everyone around was roaming one place or another during the summer except me sitting back and planning for the longest self driving trip of mine till date, from Delhi to Manali (roughly 600 km one side).

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Thing with we tech savvy people is, we overload ourselves with information on the routes, places etc months, weeks before the actual date comes and I wasn’t different either. It was just two years before, when I started learning to drive the car for the first time and bought one for self.

Compiled somehow via Facebook Archieves

You can imagine that how big leap forward it was within two years that once a hesitant learning driver now tempting to drive on one of the toughest route leading to Rohtang (though that didn’t happen at the end as I got the cab on reasonable fares & decided not to take any risk). But it wasn’t sudden but gradual step by step evolvement by driving roughly 70 km/ day in this while.

June 18

After nine months of buying the car, the first big journey of mine was to Jaipur from Delhi at around March 29, 2013 and then next big journey was to Vrindavan by November 30, 2013 covering Taj Expressway at peak speed. Then the main confidence building journey was drive to Dehradun-Mussorie-Kempty Falls by January 26, 2014. In short, I was prepared.

January 26

After covering somewhat narrow routes to Kempty falls, I was confident that roads or traffic or hills shouldn’t pose any big issue to me as route to Manali considered to be in better shape than other hills. But longer route & no one else with me with apart from wife and 2 years kiddo means I needed to rethink from scratch over things that mattered for the long drive.

Cloths, Photography, Music, Routes, POIs, Schedules, Food, Snacks, Cost Calculations, Workarounds for schedule overruns, Health, Car Conditions… a number of things come to mind when you plan a trip like this to balance out thrills, surprises with minimized setbacks. Same time, number of purchases and advance bookings. We booked a Budget hotel for two days while two car chargers (Vista has two charging points), snacks etc been arranged though confusion on route continued till even day zero.

As our plan was to reach Chandigarh by Friday night and then to leave to Manali as early as possible from there, there were three possible main routes available to us: Direct National Highway 21 route via Bilaspur, State Highway route via Ghaghas or the ultra longer one that was Nangal – Una route. Too many experts, too much confusion… Reviews gave shout out that Main route has to be avoided at any cost due to maddening rush of trucks due to many cement factories on that route while Ghaghas route was told be narrower and winding. Question was can this be managed or longer Una route is only solution? I was leaned towards the longer route due to temptation of having a look over Bhakra-Nangal Dam, about which I read since primary education days. Even then confusion continued till last due to many in office suggesting the main route only saying its still manageable than stretching for longer route.

The Car was fine & was serviced roughly 6000 km before (one or more month), but I decided to pay for a routine check, if anything wrong or needed to be taken care of. Nothing came out and car was perfectly ready for the trip as per service center. Then on music part, for first time, I preferred CD in place of usual Pen drive as in last journeys, I noticed that it was used to restart again and again due to bumps while CD wasn’t supposed to pose this issue with Indica Vista’s slot-loading Music player. Camera part was supposed to be taken care by majorly Gionee Elife S5.5 then iPhone 5S and Sony 16 MP Cam, along with Nexus 4 for 360 Degree Panorama shots (which came out to be biggest downer as it didn’t worked for a single shot).


The Journey Begins

So finally the day came…  but as usual, things don’t always go with the plans. First usually punctual TaxiForSure driver, whom I assigned the job of bringing the wife from apartment to my office in Connaught Place to start the journey took a wrong route as per his GPS delaying the journey at least by an hour. Rather than planned 3.30 PM max, we could start by 4.30 PM around. Leave the troubles I went through due to waiting in the heat of Delhi noon.

Anyway, got the tank full, air pressure checked, journey begins for the first stop to be taken to Chandigarh. First hurdle was outer ring road traffic. Man! what the hell authorities have made out of the otherwise better infrastructure. Too many speed breakers causing complete standstill in entire stretch. Why to make a six lane road if you want to put speed breakers on like each 300mtr? Then those vehicles for whom the speed breakers looked like some such high one that they would drop their speeds to zero & then would cross in first gear. Well done….

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It was fun ride post that once I was out of Delhi. Cruised through Murthal, Karnal etc as was in no mood of any snacks in between. Priority was to reach Chandigarh as early as possible and then sleep tight till night so that could start by 3AM without troubles. But plans are… just plans. Took first break at some Pummy Dhaba to take some Aloo Paranthas.

Spotted a big Gionee hoarding on a side. Interesting!!!! The new brand is reaching out very well.

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first stop

Here I must give a special mention to Sygic, which I happened to have in my Nexus 4 thanks to the free short time offer for Android. Nokia E52 had left me a car holder which was coming super handy right now and Sygic while having its limitations was a perfect thing about knowing where are the speed traps, when I am going higher than allowed speed. Also There must be some interesting settings to hold battery life as well as it was amazing for me that how phone holding for hours even if in charging via car while Google maps kill it within two hours straight from 100% to 0%. Definitely was a near perfect experience about navigation for the first time (provided you are going through main routes than workarounds).

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Can’t blame roads, but may be cautious driving of mine or the fear of infamous Chandigarh traffic cops, didn’t allow us to reach Chandigarh before 10:30 PM, specially because of in-city Ambala-Chandigarh stretch and then…. it happened. My friend happened to give me address of IT park only, than exact location of his stay, which came out to be THE blunder. After negotiating the routes in first time visit of Chandigarh, reached to home by somewhat 11:45 PM. The plan of resting for a while was officially spoiled.

Somehow I managed to sneak in for say one hour of sleep after taking the national food that was Maggie and then despite of apprehensions, came out of building by 3AM. The place had a very narrow street, where I managed to park my car somehow, so pulling it out was same challenging task. Took a few mins and post that I guess good bye etc… and I was on roads by 3.30 AM.

After a number of discussions and re-discussions, the decided route was via Una-Bhota and I must say the start was scary for the wife at least. I must have taken some wrong turn or so because rather than straight to Ropar, the ride suddenly went through mountains for a while (roughly 20 kms or less I guess) and you can understand the fear in wife as I was driving on hills in night for the first time. Even last Dehradun-Mussorie ride was my first hill ride throughout during day. I, on the other hand, had no issues with the route till it was wide enough and was paved.

The roads went up and up, then down and down, then up and up with almost no co-traveller or traffic to pass. It was complete lonely stretch feeling like we are walking into forest, leaving a sense of vulnerability. Anyway.. it lasted for a while and we were back to plains after that. It was still night and despite of expectations, no sunshine even by 4AM and then just small by 4.30 AM.

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First stop was near some riverbank which had a typical greenish color.

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Passed through some typical Punjabi areas with beautiful Guruwaras by side of the roads and finally stopped for tea by 6.30 or earlier before Nangal. In front of the Dhaba, there was this vehicle which seemed to have met a horrible fate. It was a reminder to me to keep speed in check even when I was willing to finish the journey faster.

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Passed through Nangal but as I seen through the maps and was expecting a sight of Nangal Dam, reality happened to be opposite of that or I might have missed something. Didn’t see any picture worth portion of dam while Sygic kept on driving me for my way. It was tough part about routes as Sygic kept on pushing me on Bilaspur route while I intentionally wanted to avoid it. One minor mistake then backtrack, but finally with help of Google maps and determination, I managed to keep myself on Una-Bhota route and then that paid off…..

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A 360 degree panorama view at somewhere on Una-Bhota route

Man!! What a sight the hill ride of Una-Bhota was. Literally never thought to see such roads on any Indian hill route. It was damn Hollywood style, picture perfect route (only wish, wife would have been more interested in taking pictures than just watching & enjoying the scenic view). Perfect width, perfectly marked with paints and with rocks on a side and sometimes both the sides, it was always beautiful throughout the route. I really wished that it remains so till Manali.

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We also took a stop in between at some reservoir where we took Samosas and Tea while enjoying the view.

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It was a long long hill drive for sure and in such perfect conditions of roads that if I had any longing for hill drive then it should have been satisfied completely by now (Must have been 200 kms in hills in this journey). After having a bump free ride for at least 400-450 kms till now, finally I was to face reality.

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After Hamirpur or I would say precisely after Jahu, the roads were gone all of sudden. Literally no roads or narrow ones.. yeah.. supposed to be state highway. Anyway, I had to drive till I reach Ner Chowk then I come to reach such a stretch which was completely unpaved with very narrow width. At one side there were rocks and on other side thousands feet down. I kept on driving and wife was in no mindset to take pictures. I started driving slowly & steadily to pass that stretch hoping it would get better and then…

Despite of horns, the driver from other side kept on driving and both the vehicles came in front of each other. Trust me by no means even a biker could have gone past me at that road but how to tell this to that driver. I stopped my car & sat down idle. The driver in next car realized his mistake & started moving backward by inches and then I seen more horrible scene. A kind of small truck & a sedan were coming to this side & also an Alto was behind me. If they would have come then it  would have become an hour long nightmare but thank god they understood the situation & stayed back.

Situation wasn’t over yet. Despite of moving few fts in those dangerous terrains by the other car, it was less space for us both to pass through each other or it was narrow. Anyway, we had no choice. I took God’s name inside my mind and moved forward. Almost an inch leaving by side of rocks while the other car had to do the more dangerous part.. to inch towards the other side with thousands ft down. Gap between our cars wasn’t more than 2” & his tyres & the other side just 6”… Anyway.. it was done. Honestly, I should have give full credits to the other driver for the part. In no way, I would have done that nor I had space left to move back as it was narrow even before me. Anyway…

We took a sigh of relief & I drove ahead joking with wife that she should have taken pictures of the moment so I would have a memory of scene & others could know what I am talking about. On which she replied that she was shit scared while same time she had to take care of the kid & to tell me clearance with rock as well, so wasn’t interested in keeping any memory sort of.

The situation of roads continued like this for a good 33km at least and got better once we reached Ner Chowk. Narrow & winding roads killed the momentum & made the car to run in first two gears for a longer while till we finally reached Ner Chowk.

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We took a stop at Mandi at around 12PM to have lunch. Roughly 7.5 hrs for 265 kms wouldn’t be called as some fast ride but considering the hilly roads throughout, horrible patch of 33km (Manageable still) and stops to take a look at views on kind of Hollywood style dream roads, I would say, I maintained good.

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I was prepared in advance for the journey but still wasn’t sure that where the 3Kms long tunnel is (Its at Aut BTW), also when would Pandoh dam would come and if its on the same road or again offroad like Bhakhra one was probably. So, we asked and got to know that Pandoh dam would be roughly 20km far from the place we had lunch.

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Roads were nice to drive up Pandoh & even later on so it didn’t took long to reach there. Only one gate of Pandoh was open & it was already crowded by tourists and vehicles taking pictures. I would say, I could have taken some better shots but … somehow photographer in me wasn’t charged. We started driving after a while and found a place where cars were stopping & some sellers been selling local fruits. My attraction for the place was interesting rocks on the side of roads & big portion of river while wife went to check the fruits. She returned back after buying some as they tasted good indeed.

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The 3km long tunnel, happened to be just few kms away from there. 3Km sounded way too long in reading but didn’t last for long and then it was sudden light over eyes once it was over. Beas river banks were now together us for most part of journey till Manali.

3Kms long tunnel near Aut

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There was a great profit of Beas river for tourists, which we came to know after half an hour of crossing the tunnel. There were some tea shops on sides of roads giving access to river banks, where we decided to stop by for touching the river once. Only after dipping the feet in river, you come to know that snow might be ahead otherwise anyone coming from Delhi heat and moderate weather on the way, won’t even believe that snow might be there after just few kms. Trust me, its hard to keep the legs inside water even for 2-3 mins. But the water has some magical effect over us. It took almost all pain away from our legs. Little tired shoulders and back may be, but legs were revived as just beginning for journey.

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Around 70kms of roads through Kullu was remaining and it was already 2.45 PM, when we left after enjoying river banks. Hotel charges begun post 12PM, but that part I already knew and didn’t care about. Later on, we took some spontaneous stops to take one or two pictures (one happened to be on other side of river bank at Naggar) but target was to reach hotel as early as possible to have a sound sleep before starting for Rohtang.

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GPS made us reach close to hotel which happened to be at walking distance from Mall road and 2kms away from Hidimba Temple but reaching to it ??? It was quite a narrow route to reach hotel & after missing the place, always hard to take a U-Turn in those streets. Managed the same somehow by old fashioned way of asking people. Very narrow street, which could hold only one car by inches while not leaving even place for any person to pass by on feet when car crossing, but once we reached to the hotel then it was relaxing to find ample parking space and scenic view.

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Hotel

It was 5.15 PM when we reached hotel and roughly 5.30 PM, when we moved into the room. Solar operated Water heaters means our first job was to take a bath to get away with the tiredness. I discussed the options for Rohtang cab with travel desk, which informed me that it would cost me 2100 INR for both side journey. In last conversation over phone from Delhi, I was informed about roughly 2000 INR, but I didn’t mind as it wasn’t on higher side considering a 104 km journey with possibly toughest roads and also the driver was supposed to pick us by 2.30 AM sharp.

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Keeping in mind that we are up since early morning & have to wake up same early tomorrow as well, we decided to sleep in hotel room post 7.00 PM after a short half an hour walk in lawn of hotel while sipping tea, which we asked hotel staff to bring for us in lawn only. We woke up by 10.00 PM again. Having an electrical kettle, we had option of eating Maggie and some soups in the room only, which we preferred than going out for dinner. Kiddo after playing a little was forced to sleep.

At 1.00 AM, all three phones (Apple iPhone 5S, LG Nexus 4 and Gionee Elife S5.5) went on blazing alarms with full force and we started getting ready with warm cloths etc. Kiddo was given milk etc, was packed with more than one sweaters, inners etc and by 2.15 AM around, we received the call by cab driver (Phone number +91-9736224452 & Maruti Alto Cab no. HP 02 K 0387).

We came out of hotel with a weird incident as in the narrow street, someone had parked his SuV in middle and just 3-4 feet remaining. To my surprise, Cab driver tried to went past in even that space. I thought, do these drivers don’t care about scratches on their vehicles? But then the SuV driver also came in and it happens to be like that someone had parked in his place & so for giving him a lesson, he had parked in middle of road behind his SuV so that he can’t move his vehicle without him getting to know about it. I thought these road rages & parking troubles aren’t a Metro trait only.


Drive to Rohtang from Manali

Anyway.. journey begun and my job was to observe if roads to Rohtang would have been drivable if I had decided to drive on my own as some forums even suggested me to. Within mins, I realized that one is better off hiring a cab than going via own vehicle. The speed with which cab driver was driving in dead night was beyond my imagination. Scary if anyone would have come in his ways. I know cab drivers are like that in every city but I thought hill drivers would have been on slower side.

But as the journey progressed, I was rather impressed with driving skills of the driver. First we took a stop at a shop to rent out cloths for self, wife and kiddo. What I observed that cloths aren’t for the cold but for shielding from being wet from dead cold snow. Plastic boots and normal waterproof kinda of jackets cutout in unique way, in which lowers and top both been joined together and one had to move into it and then put the chains. Though issue with that was.. if not impossible then hard enough to reach out for pockets once you are in means I was denied taking out cameras and had to be dependent on two mobiles only.

Lesson for readers: Better to keep your purse, cameras etc outside in some bag rather than keeping in pant pockets.

Starting from 2.30 AM, we must have been among first 5-10 tourist cabs\ cars moving towards Rohtang. Not to say that we didn’t receive traffic on the way, but majority of those seem to be those trucks, oil tankers, bikers heading towards Leh-Laddakh. Also the notion that no vehicles allowed to come down before 11AM also came out to be false. As per driver, there was some festival season in Laddakh in last days so many trucks returning back after delivering goods.

Anyway, the ride was kind of fast & furious. Kind of upward slopes, winding turns & kind of overtakes he was making, we were just hoping that he doesn’t hit anyone else (our car didn’t seem to be at risk despite of going close to border of roads. I knew that there were some scenic places in between near Gulaba etc but in absence of sunlight, all we could figure out been how many other vehicles have started same early though just 15-30 mins after us so much below on route.

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We reached at Rohtang Pass by 4.45 AM means distance of 52km with an elevation of 6500ft was done within 1.45 hrs that too when apart from rush, we had to stop by some 15-20 mins at Rani Nallah (8-9 kms far from the Rohtang pass I guess). HP cabbies were provided some sort of circular stickers to their cars by administration I guess. Our driver also seems to be of little extra adventurous and helpful. Many a times, he stopped the car and walked ahead to clear out traffic, sat in Rani Nallah, removed stones, pushed stuck vehicles out of water and so. Trust me, it was a big thing to put such labor even in those conditions when Oxygen levels were thin but I observed that most of HP Cabbies been doing the same as sitting idle in cars\ SuVs like tourists wasn’t helping either.

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At the top, not many were there before us as private vehicles don’t prefer the hilly ride in dark & only experienced ones drive through night. When we reached to top, then sunshine had hardly begun. Snow wasn’t all white as we might have pictured in our mind nor spread all over like it happens to be in may or august, but land spots were looking out from snow layers. Tourist footprints had made snow dirty a little and even after those boots, keeping the feet on ground was chilling.

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But cold was among least worry of mine. My worry was my two year kiddo with me, who due to sleep wasn’t much active & connecting it with our breathing issues a little, I was restless if she feeling any trouble. Usually she tells us if any issues by making noises or cries but her silence even though natural due to sleep at that hour of day, didn’t let us go off the guard.

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A 360 degree panoramic view of Rohtang Pass

Another 360 degree view of Rohtang Pass

We ordered tea from a shop which was just opening there but when the tea reached to us then it was almost cold. Wife argued a little with the shop owner but after having read through many travelogues, I was aware that it was very natural at such temperatures. We did little snow play out there, some slides, some walking, throwing snow, took some selfies, enjoyed views though I was desperately waiting for sun to show up as had some ideas about the charm of golden snow once sunrays hit them. I tried to check the network in the way, but at this height, neither of Vodafone Prepaid or Airtel Postpaid had any signals. I remembered those claims of theirs in ads but can understand the business reasons.

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The number of vehicles coming upwards was growing exponentially & so was the jam near Rani Nallah. Same time, wife had given up standing in snow as legs were freezing out there, not to say breathing issues weren’t letting us do much of running etc. Holding kiddo in hands was also a labor stressing us. I had to take the call to come back before the route becomes too crowded. I would’ve stayed if kiddo wasn’t wish us, but decided to move back.

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We came back to our cab where roughly four of drivers been sitting inside the cab. These guys don’t even prefer much of jackets etc on. Our cab driver had only thermacoat & Sweat shirts on. He happily became ready to drive back and in this way, we became one of those first 5 cabs, which moved back first. Rani Nallah was waiting for us for a long jam. Took at least an hour in which cab driver of ours & of the one in front of us putting hard work to help out others to come out that water logging at Rani Nallah which is a norm due to both side snow walls constantly melting. I still think that BRO can sort this issue by creating a slope kind of but they are the experts out there & know their jobs better, so let’s wait when this issue gets sorted out.

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After an hour or so, we moved. Apparently our cab driver was waiting for certain trucks & bigger vehicles to pass through first and then figuring out his ways. Once those trucks were past, he started cutting his ways from narrow space left by vehicle on that narrow road. We realized that real trouble wasn’t the climbing but the part when we drive back in the rush which was sure to be continued till late evening. Though once we passed through the clot near Rani Nallah, it became easier to drive down.

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Our driver was driving at 50-60kmph even at those narrow and sharp turns and I was looking at the view at our disposal. It would have been great to stop & take some snaps but same time, we wanted to reach as early as possible so that full day remains at our disposal. The greenery and views near Gulaba was really breath taking at some places and so were the view of winding roads from certain points when looked down. When half an hour route remained, our driver asked if we wanted to stop & take tea etc, but I preferred him to drive till hotel. (Only later I realized that he might have been asking for self as well).

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We reached to our hotel by 7.50AM after giving back cloths to rent shop (Rs 250/- each, paid Rs 700, which seems normal rates though I seen one shop in the way offering it for Rs. 50 only) and then kiddo was fully active & playing. I regretted if we weren’t scared due to kiddo then we would have stayed a little longer even if that was meant to face much longer jams. Also the fact that cloths from those rent shops weren’t needed apart from those plastic boots (which could have been bought at same rates & cloths were needed only for avoiding dirt on own jackets or cloths.


The Hotel : Tourist Hotel

I should give some words about the hotel as well.

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While choosing the hotel, I had four things in mind; Cost, Parking facility, location and good reviews. While the rates may vary over time, Rs. 1150/- per day was quite reasonable for the season even if late of June and one doesn’t expect five star facilities but trust me, there was nothing left to us to wish for.

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Cozy & clean room, water heater in bath room, really warm soft blankets (not one but three of them), wooden floors making ambience perfectly suiting to the hills. Being at first floor, even if it wasn’t a family suite kind of with balcony but a sofa outside the room with kind of views, one won’t have any complaints either.

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Then comes to hotel staff, we happened to meet only four of them; one at reception, one at Traveldesk, one attendant & one in kitchen. From taking our luggage to room to proving water, serving our orders etc, I had no complaints. They always been detailing as well like our Traveldesk guy suggested us against starting from 2AM than 2.30AM. Informed us about keeping alarms on as wakeup calls won’t be available from hotel side as reception staff resumes by 6AM. The attendant also happily agreed to wash my car by next day at an expense of Rs 50/-.

Overall, services been perfect & location of the hotel was at walking distance from Mall road, while 2km away from Vashisth Temple & similarly short distance from Hidimba Temple. If I had to visit the place again, then I would gladly chose the same hotel again than any other place. Only if there was Beas river around the hotel, then it would have been even great and may be wider road to reach the hotel.


Vashisht Temple and Hot Springs

As we had skipped other hot springs in the way, we had to visit Vashisht temple, for which I started by 9.30AM after resting a while & then having bath at hotel. My choice was taking an Auto though wife wanted to continue with car, later on it came out that I was right. A paid private parking in the way informed us that it would be hard to drive further in very narrow street, but I thought that it’s just marketing ploy, just to realize my mistake within mins when I was to hold my vehicle again and again on steep slopes to start again with efforts. Managed to park it only somehow.

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While walking towards the temple, many shopkeepers tried to sell us some sparrow blankets but we walked ahead of them only to find that the temple wasn’t of that spectacular view. Too crowded, narrow place with hot spring. We taken a look over the hot water, which was even flowing outside from the temple and then walked backwards. In the way, we checked out Shawls etc & almost bought Cashew from a roadside shop but left the idea as it didn’t tasted good. We also paid to a local there for giving their Angora rabbit to have a snap.

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It wasn’t easy to drive back as one truck was there on this narrow road where two vehicles couldn’t pass together and then long chain  of other vehicles, but somehow the saga ended and we were back. It was no point roaming with the car after that experience and we were back to hotel.


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After some rest at hotel, we walked out to have lunch. I took Chicken Fried Rice while wife had a plate. I also thought to give kiddo a ride over Jhulas there but wife warned me against it. We took an auto to Hidimba Temple then (Rs 80/- for just 2km but it was at an elevation like Vashisht Temple).

Hidimba Temple

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Next stop was Hidimba temple & we were thinking if that also doesn’t come out the way Vashisht temple was, but thankfully that wasn’t the case due to scenic view & pine trees around. Though we missed to keep the mattress with us (it was left at hotel room), which would have been even better as we sat over the grass for a while there as Wife said no to me for walking insider the temple due to non-veg food that I took few mins back.

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Same Angora rabbits been here as well and kiddo wanted to play with them. Wife had some other doubts in mind about these rabbits that why they don’t run away and why this much lazy against the nature of normal rabbits. But nothing of these had to come in the way of Kiddo and rabbit.

A 360 degree view of trees around Hidimba Temple

We sat there and looked at various couples wondering freely thinking what if we would have came here before the kiddo birth.

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After Hidimba temple, we took auto back to Mall road and then spent a long while there. Rs 100 for 8 pieces of Chicken Momo, a bubble maker for kiddo and similar small items. The view of hills from the mall road was kind of perfect with clouds and little sunshine left of the day.

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Done with Mall road, we wanted to sit nearby river and asked that which side it might be. Someone suggested us to go nearby park. There was a ticket to enter the park and then it greeted us with lots of Jhulas and Pine trees around. Some better ones were occupied as the place was well crowded. After spending a while, we walked at end of park where there was pool which would have been of interest to us but due to crowd, we left that part. On the riverside, some were offering sports & adventures while people were just roaming around. We took sips of tea and coffees.

While coming back from there, we tried to find Aaloo Paranthas at Mall road but it wasn’t available there and if it was then it was only Tandoor ones. We decided to come back to hotel and take the dinner there only as it was getting late and our plan was to hit the road early as we had a satisfying day so far and rather than spending one more day, we decided to come back and then have a day in hands to take rest before joining office life again.

Hotel food was ok type. No complaints, no special mentions either. So far the lunch we had in Mandi was the best as per taste but we didn’t had much outdoor food in this journey either. The rest was almost eventless apart from the fact that less air in front tyres of car was worrying me and I was thinking about morning time availability of pumps etc.


Long Drive Back to Home

We had informed to reception that we would be moving out early morning though still it felt strange leaving hotel without informing anyone in person. I mean what if some guest decides to walk out with blanket or towel or anything else? Did we miss some step there or the reception didn’t got the point when we informed in night that we would be moving tomorrow morning?

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After hitting the roads with car finally at 5AM in morning, first task was to find ATM, as I might have needed Diesel in car. Unfortunately, I got a working ATM only in Kullu as whichever came in way at Manali, came out to be faulty. Another trouble was to get Air as none of Pumps seems to be 24×7 and no attendant was available at any Patrol Pumps. Finally I myself had to fill the air in tyres by guess at some Indian Oil Patrol Pump.

In whole journey, I made a point of keeping the tank full all the time and filling it back whenever it went down by an amount equivalent to Rs. 1000/-. Apart from initial oil status, we filled tank by Rs 1000/-, Rs. 500/-, Rs. 900/- and Rs 1000/-. 

Drive back home was supposed to fast and furious as this time, we had to take no stop like we didn’t in first journey. I was changing route to take the main route of infamous Bilaspur to save at least 70kms. By 8AM, we had crossed Mandi and by 10.26AM, we had reached to Bilaspur means roughly 200kms in 5 hrs.

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We took a brief break for lunch at Bilaspur, where we also seen glimpses that why Bilaspur stretch is so infamous. Hilly ride with steep slopes and so many trucks carrying too much load, means trucks had to slow down at each turn bringing all following vehicles to come down to first gear. Same time, hilly area with both side truck traffic means overtaking wasn’t easy either. Apart from minor hiccups, I don’t think there was any major issue with roads even though it wasn’t like Manali ones or Karnal ones. Without taking rest, I drove for the major part so that Bilaspur – Kiratpur stretch can be finished as early as possible.

Major trouble with roads was just 10km before Kiratpur where roads were damaged for few kms. Despite of cautious driving, I managed to hit the bottom of car at one patch though it didn’t felt any big then. Once past Kiratpur, the dream roads were suddenly back and so was the speed of 80-90kmph.

Though I would say, the Kiratpur – Bilaspur stretch might be good for coming back from Manali but would sure cause trouble while coming from Delhi to Manali considering the upwards slopes are plenty and so are number of trucks. It always depends that at what time you are passing that stretch. If around 10AM, then doeable and if around 12PM onwards then it goes bad and bad.

Kind of road signs in Chandigarh- Ambala are nightmare. At one place, there were two ways, one leading to Chandigarh and one bypassing it, but the sign was so much away from the actual splitting that wasn’t readable from distance. Finally I took the bypass and through state highway, finally merged into GT road. Oce back on GT Road, the speed was a norm at 90kmph though at one stop for water, I found that bumps of car had been hit at Kiratpur and now making noise. The sound of car at lower speed felt like car is crying in front of me and I felt really irritated if I was careless in driving for last mile despite of keeping in slow, steady and safe throughout the journey. But then.. I had no choice but to drive on.

Many diversions for under-construction flyovers snatch much of fun of GT roads, yet the average speed easily remains on higher side. We seen three cars bumped into each other in the way and bought fruits from one place. I was waiting for Haveli Restaurant to come and made a mistake of not taking flyover before Panipat, just to feel irritated cutting city traffic for next hour than cruising at 100kmph which would have been the case otherwise.

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We reached Haveli by 5.30PM and for that I had to take a tough turn at high speed highway. Don’t know how its possible to cross roads either by feet or by vehicle at such fast highway for others. It was first time of mine at the place and somehow I didn’t found the place worth the fame it has got. Ambience was ok but food wasn’t some extraordinary kind of that might pull people from Delhi to come there… but it happens.

Cutting traffic through Delhi on a Monday evening was gonna be the worst part of journey, specially when the car was giving noise at lower gears irritating the hell out of me. It took roughly 2.5 hrs to reach back home at Faridabad, which was a distance of 83km.

Finally it was end of the longest journey by me via car at 8.45 PM around after buying essentials groceries like milk etc.

back

Had one additional day off left in hands while plan to submit the car for servicing at very next day. Nothing came out major from that and it was just a minor bump at the Engine Shield thanks to Kiratpur roads. It was taken care in the service and car was brand new again.

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Author: Nitish Kumar

I love to write and raising voice, sharing thought and heated debate is a kind of passion for me. Jobwise I am just another Computer professional handling Infra and designing solutions for a big Indian Media house but I love to write, sketch, photography and a lot more.

81 thoughts on “A trip from Delhi to Manali”

    1. I ve gone through your journey story to Manali from Delhi. Really enjoyed and plan to go to Manali from Delhi this June 2015. Is it ok at that time to go to Manali . The Tourist Hotel where u stayed do they have vehicle parking facility I vl going by my own car i10

      1. Answer for both the questions are in the writeup itself.

        Is Manali worth visiting in June? Totally. I myself visited in the same month. It’s the only place to get snow in that month at Rohtang.

        Does tourist hotel provides parking? Yes.. They have place to park at least one or two dozen vehicles. On May 24, 2015 9:13 AM, “Nitish Kumar's Blog” wrote:

        >

  1. Woooooooooh……………………………Fantastic……………………..I felt as if I am driving and enjoying…………Great job in Indica.

  2. Great article. Thanks for sharing! I also went to Manali recently and tried to capture the snowfall in the below mentioned video.

  3. Really loved your writing. I am planning to visit Manali with my family from Ahmedabad by Grand i10 Petrol car. Do you think it will be good to drive own car or should I hire? I am like you. I love driving and had bought car a year back and drived more than 20K in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

    Should I follow your route or better suggestion? (I want to avoid your 2 inch – 6 inch away driving in dangerous road otherwise its ok.)

    1. The particular incident which I mentioned happened because I was little off route. Otherwise the same wouldn’t have been the case. It was my first such long trip so I guess my feelings were a little exaggerated. The route is perfectly fine. Traffic may vary though

      On Saturday, May 16, 2015, Nitish Kumar's Blog wrote:

      >

  4. Hi nitish,
    I like your driving experience, even i am also planning a trip to Manali by own car in August 2015, although i had never visited the hilly area by own car except morni hills near to panchkulla . Just to ask your suggestion , it would be a good time to visit manali in August ?.

    1. Honestly speaking, I am not really sure.

      Roads are great all the way but August month gets peak of rains and Himachal side terrains though solid but there are areas prone to landslides in the way post Mandi. Risks and traffic jams. Rohtang pass side road anyway remains closed post June due to landslides.

      If experienced about hills then it won’t pose much issues but won’t be perfect scenario otherwise. For Rainy seasons, Nainital side might be a good choice On May 28, 2015 12:52 PM, “Nitish Kumar's Blog” wrote:

      >

  5. Loved ur experience! Was looking for something like ur article which would help us with our trip. Can we take the same trip in a sedan like city!? It would b really helpful if u revert!
    Thanks in advance

    1. Definitely. As roads are in perfect conditions, there shouldn’t be any issues except if you want to take it to Rohtang where one particular point Rani Nallah can pose issue. One of the colleague just came back from Manali two days back in his Tata Manza

      On Thursday, June 25, 2015, Nitish Kumar's Blog wrote:

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  6. Rahul you’re the lucky one been to all the places that spell anrdetuve my section was tame good roads all through Gujarat except one really bad patch even that does not compare with the roads you have experienced in the hills

    1. Hill roads definitely face more wear and tear than the plains and Gujarat side, I don’t think faces that kind of rain snow etc like hills so understandably better shaped along with prompt authorities there. Heard a lot about the roads that side but not been lucky enough to drive myself considering much far from Delhi

      On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 5:07 AM, Nitish Kumar's Blog wrote:

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  7. kya baat Nitish bhai…. Nice blog… i was just searching road conditions from delhi to manali. and found you :))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))). NIce clicksssss. i am also planning to go there in january.

  8. Hi Nitish. I am Suhas from Gurgaon. Thanks for the detailed description of your Manali travel. I am planning to drive from Gurgaon to Manali in April. Thought of taking your advice. My driving experience is 11000 km in 3 years mainly in Gurgaon and Delhi. 2-3 trips of around 300 to 500 km. The longest one is to Agra & Sikri in one day (550 km). Should I drive on my own or or prefer Volvo? I own Wagon-R, which is 3 years old.

    1. You should definitely drive. Remember, when I drove to that route, My hill experience was just one off that too from Mussoorie and sub 300kms journeys

      Also there are two other posts of mine to same destination since that June 2014 trip. July 2015 trip during Monsoon and December end Winter trip to same destination. Would give you a better idea over the same. The one of July 2015 has video descriptions as well. Last drive of mine was with my same car which had driven 65K kms till then and was almost 3 and half year old

      https://nitishkumar.net/2015/07/28/after-one-year-delhi-to-manali-a-monsoon-drive-a-night-drive/

      https://nitishkumar.net/2016/01/08/in-search-of-snow-another-drive-to-manali-covering-all-seasons/

  9. KYA BAT HAI NITISH G….REALLY AMAZING DESCRIPTION GIVEN…REALY HELPFUL FOR ME ….FOR MY COMING MANALI JOURNEY ….THANKS…

  10. Is it good going in month of april,i have been to Keylong but skipped going to Manali ,how far is it from delhi. As per as the media for travelling i trust only going Chandigarh Car rentals services from chandigarh to delhi taxi
    as it sounds affordable,safe n reliable but i dont know how to go from delhi to manal

  11. Amazing writing and well placed pictures in blog.. I must say, you gave me complete insight for road trip to manali and rohtang which i am planning in may and would surely share my experience once done.. Great work brother.. Love to meet you in person.. You are an adventurer like me..

  12. Hii nitish,

    Thanks for sharing your experience… It is very informative and helpful.. Nice writing too… It helped me a lot during my trip to manali..

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  14. Great Nitesh…Terific job by capturing the minute details of your journey. I was contemplating to drive or not to drive but your article has helped to make my mind. Will drive in Jun.
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
    Satish

  15. Hi Nitish.
    I also planning a family trip to manali from ambala by own car. I was looking here for the same and found ur blog. I read ur entire trip experience. All in details. Vry impressive and useful. Wow. U did a great job of uploading here ur experience. God bless u and ur family.
    Regards

  16. Going to manali this weekend. Would be reaching manali on sunday in order to have relief from the weekend tourist rush. Co-incidentally i have booked in Tourist hotel but i booked it a month back. Good to see your review about the hotel.
    I prefer driving at night so would be starting at 10pm from delhi so that i reach Manali by 11-ish because the checkin time is 12.
    Recently, heard there’s hell lot of rush in manali due to bad summers in plains and also some road widening going on post Mandi, and too much of traffic congestion post kullu due to less wide road till manali, so preferring to take Kullu-Naggar-Manali route, have any idea about that route?
    Any updates on that?

    1. I have written about three Delhi to Manali trips (last one was in December 2015) and apart from this blog one, rest two are via the main route. Naggar route should be ok but roads are regular types than NH21 like and might be narrow at place. Traffic that side used to be lesser in usual times but not sure during peak rush.

      1. Ok thanks Nitish. I first read your trip on Devilonwheels, never knew you also have a website for your trip logs..
        Anyway, one of my colleague is in manali and he confirmed that rush has receded and now it is not that crowded so got a big relief after hearing this. And he also confirmed that the traffic is absolutely normal post kullu, he met with no traffic jams between Kullu-Manali stretch which means no need to take Naggar road now. So, now can drive can in peace. Thanks.

      2. Hi Nitish

        Just came back from manali yesterday. Thoroughly enjoyed the drive from delhi to manali and vice versa. There is a bad patch of 7-8 kms just before Sundernagar (when going towards manali) otherwise the drive is a cream.
        Here is the below summary drive between Delhi-Manali-Delhi
        Delhi-Manali
        10:oo pm – started from delhi (home)
        10:40 pm – Karnal Bypass
        11:40 pm – Panipat Toll
        11:54 pm – Gharaunda ( Before Karnal) Toll
        01:05 am – Shambhu Toll
        01:15 am-01:45 am – 1st break just after shambhu
        02:45 am – Kurali Toll (recieved by very heavy rains here till Ropar)
        03:30 am – Kiratpur turn towards manali (No rain here)
        04:00 am – Swarghat hill top (Heavy rains started post Swarghat, but i continued driving in the rainy night as i kept following milk van who are champion drivers in hills, so really cruised in the rains)
        06:00-06:30 am – 2nd break 8 kms before Sunder Nagar
        07:25 am – Crossed Mandi (cloudy skies but no rains)
        09:05 am – Kullu Bypass
        10:15 am – Manali Entry tax barrier
        10:25 am – Hotel Tourist
        .
        Return Journey Manali – Delhi
        05:05 am – Departed
        05:55 am – Crossed Kullu (took the route from within the city, as it is a shorter than the bypass, but only advisable if crossing kullu late night or in the wee hours as the market is closed then)
        07:15 am – crossed Mandi
        07:25 am-07:45 am – 1st break for breakfast
        08:20 am – Crossed Sundernagar (7-8 kms of bad patch starts)
        The patch was full of slush/muddy water when i going to manali because of heavy rains, but while coming back it was a dust bowl)
        09:40 am – Crossed Bilaspur amidst heavy traffic
        10:55 am – Swarghat Hilltop
        11:30 am – Kiratpur
        11:55 am – Ropar
        12:05 pm – Kurali Toll
        01:05 pm – Shambhu Toll
        01:15 pm – 02:10pm – 2nd Break at Ambala Haveli for lunch
        04:45 pm – Karnal Bypass
        05:30 pm – Finally Home.

        Few key points i would like to mention that apart from patchy road before Sunder Nagar the whole stretch has beautifully tarred roads and can be covered in monsoon as well.
        Try starting from delhi a bit early at 7-8 pm so that you start climbing the hills at around 1-2ish am because the distance which you will cover at night in hills will average more than what you will cover in the day.
        I was overtaking trucks and volvos (at night) more easily than in the day because i could see at turns if there is a vehicle coming from the opposite side because you can sense from the lights falling on the turns means there is a vehicle coming from the opposite side and if no light is falling on turns means the road is all yours and you can overtake the trucks/volvos from wrong side with ease.
        Whereas in the day you have to wait for the side to be given by the vehicles in the front in order to overtake them and proceed further as the overtake on the turns in the day is a STRICT NO NO.

        1. Sahil, After this blog post, I been to Manali twice. Once in end of July under rains and in winters last December. Both of those also written about.

          Last monsoon drive was done overnight fashion. We started by 00.30 AM and must have reached around 3PM (thanks to landslide area and lunch etc in between). Though for me, driving over hills is about the journey than destination so I would not prefer driving up in dark as that makes me miss the views, which is the sole motive

  17. Hello Nitish..
    It was such a wonderful blog, very informative. I want to know one thing from you that is it okay to visit Manali,Rohtang in the monsoon season. We are planning a trip between 06 july 2016 to 10 july 2016. We have our own car (Tata Safari Storme)

    Advice from a experienced person like you will be highly appreciated
    Thanks

    1. My blog has one other post about the trip which I did in last week of July. It’s totally doable and as per current update, there is little bad patch of around 8-12 kms around Sundernagar due to road widening work and rest of roads in perfect conditions.

      During July, snow would be least and not even in Rohtang. Some patches likely one km ahead of Rohtang. But lush green environment gives another level of feel along with relatively lesser crowd. On 30-Jun-2016 11:58 pm, “Nitish Kumar's Blog” wrote:

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  18. Hi Nitesh, nice to see your trip photos, also i need to know from delhi to Mussorie to shimla to manali to keylong to delhi total 1600km is this possible to drive our own because friends are told the roads are very dangerous like that so can you plz suggest me the same.

    1. No idea about Manali to Keylong though yeah on that side there are issues due to seasonal water crossings. Rest of part, like Mussoorie, Shimla etc shouldn’t pose any issues

    2. delhi
      to Mussorie – ok
      to shimla – ok
      to manali – ok
      to keylong – ok with conditions.
      Manali to keylong the road is ok & doable with precaution don’t take the drive for granted. Would be toughest among all the drives you listed.

  19. Nice travelogue Nitish. I co-related this to my journey done in 06/2014. It was fantastic…It was like I am seeing a flashback of my journey. I did this journey with my family in my santro xing 2005 model petrol version. I did delhi – kullu – manali – shimla – delhi. 5 days in total. Still remembering those fantastic moments…..thanks for giving those moments again……
    Where you work in TOI noida or gurugram? I too worked in TOI in past.
    Great pictures and videos….. your up-bihar statement was making me laugh out loud. 🙂

    1. Interesting as our dates coincide as well (june 2014). After that particular trip, been to Manali twice, once in Monsoon and once in Winters (travelogues on this very blog).

      I am not with TOI, but with Hindustan Times. Frequent between Delhi and Gurgaon both offices.

  20. Sir, i with some of my colleagues are planning to visit manali, kasol by driving my own car….so are the roads ok ? …i mean can i drive if i have not experience driving in hills?

  21. hi Nitish,
    Wonderful blog! We are planning to visit manali in Novemebr 1st week.Will we be able to enjoy snow sports in that season and will Rohtang Pass be open?How about snowfall?Please suggest

    1. Majority of these things depend. If there is snowing in Manali then Rohtang pass definitely ruled out and only Solang Valley would be accessible and most likely would have snow by then.

      Usually Rohtang pass closes by second week of November though snow in Manali or Solang is on chance. Last year we stayed 3-4 days at end of year yet couldn’t get to see snowing in Manali though it did snow in Solang.

  22. Thanks nitish for share very informative blog with all details and photos. I am planning to visit in manali. your blog help me to make my schedule and my budget .

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