Friday, November 02, 2007

Road Trip Through Himachal Pradesh

This might seem like an anti-climax - after all the hype and hoopla about going to Nepal and all the planning and thinking, I never went to Kathmandu because the Royal Nepal Airlines insisted on me requiring a valid passport, which sadly, I don't. So in spite of the the Nepalese immigration authorities telling me that a valid PAN card was good enough, the airlines refused to budge, and I had to cancel my trip.

Since my tickets to Delhi were already booked and non-refundable, I decided on the alternate - trip through Himachal Pradesh. Me and my friends hired an Innova (expensive, but comfortable) from Delhi and took off Saturday night. After an overnight drive we reached Dalhousie,which turned out to be an extremely pretty, small town with unpredictable weather. I considerably enjoyed walking around the town.

Tips - Hotels are very cheap this time of the year, less than half regular fare - very nice church and very well maintained church garden.

After a day in Dalhousie we drove to Dharamsala, also making a trip to McLeodganj. We visited the Buddhist monastery in McLeodganj late in the afternoon, completing the day with hot tea beside the Dal lake.

Tips - Buying trinkets in Dharamsala/McLeodganj is expensive if you can't bargain

We drove from Dharamsala to Manali, reaching there around 3 in the morning. Manali was a shopping haven, and I bought a large number of gifts (shawls and stoles) for family and friends. We made a short trip to Pirdi, near Kullu, where my friends went river-rafting (while poor 'ol me with the fractured wrist sat in the car taking photos of pretty birds). We made another trip to Rohtang the next day, taking around 3.5 hours to drive through the treacherous twists and turns in the road. It had just started snowing when started, and was a scary snowstorm when we reached there. Again, while my friends made an extremely painful, pony trek in the freezing weather and near-zero visibility, I stayed warm and comfy in the car. The journey back was quite slow but we made it back in one piece.

Tips - Manali is COLD, take lots of warm clothing - Kashmiri Pashmina and Kullu shawls available in Manali are excellent - Amigo's, the German bakery is a great brunch place - definitely eat hot Maggi noodles when at Rohtang

We traveled from Manali to Shimla, spending the day in Shimla walking around, watching the handsome colonial buildings, and shopping for wooden trinkets at Lakkar Bazaar.

Tips - The Embassy restaurant on Mall road is an excellent place to eat, and the proprietor is very kind, helpful, and nice to talk to - definitely have a drink at the Oberoi Cecil - walking rather than driving is a better option in Shimla

We had originally planned to stay in Chail for a day, having read that Chail has a nature park. But Chail turned out to be a very quiet, middle-of-nowhere village with very few tourist destinations. We visited the Kali temple on the hill and the world's highest maintained cricket ground in Chail and drove on to Kasauli.

Tips - Monkey menace in Chail, don't leave anything outside - the woods are teeming with many different species of fauna, for those who have good lenses and can differentiate between them

Having reached Kasauli in the evening, we first looked for accommodation and settled on the relatively expensive Hotel Maurice. The rooms were large and luxurious, giving us an idea of the luxuries the British must have enjoyed when Kasauli was a colonial summer resort in the early 1900s.

Tips - Kasauli is really small, and most structures are worth observing - other heritage hotels are the Alasia and Ros Commons - Monkey point is a tiring climb, don't carry anything the monkeys can snatch

We drove back to Delhi from Kasauli and spent the day shopping at Palika Bazaar and then topped it off with an excellent meal at Galina at Gole Park. After this scrumptious end to the trip, we flew back to Bombay in the evening and I have since resumed the pretense of work.

For others who might be interested in a trip like this -
1. Some of my photos can be seen here.
2. The total distance we traveled in 7 days was 1800 kilometers.
3. September is the best time to go - it's not gotten really cold yet.
4. September-October are considered off-season; you can get accommodation really cheap.
6. Carry a good camera and a telephoto lens and you will get some excellent nature shots.


Priya said...

Vinod!!!!! Imagine getting to this by googling you! Hey, I am desperate to travel to Himachal - could you please give me tips?