“Outside of a dog, a book is Man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx.
Had it not been for the Outlook Traveller Gateways (on HP) , Naggar would not have happened.
A note on books and blogs Books (e-books or paper bound) are still much superior as compared to host of blogs and websites. Online forums, at best, are good for an “occasional tip” and that too happens cause people “speak” about the content which is quite recent. Books, on the other hand, need to re-published. The Outlook Traveller Gateways (on HP) which I referred to was published in 2008. Two years down the line nothing much had changed….
And Naggar did happen…thankfully.
This last part I have covered in following three phases: –
Phase One- Manali-Naggar, stay at Naggar.
Phase Two – Road back Home – Naggar-Chandigarh-Rock Garden-Rothak-Ajmer Road trip and a quick visit to Ajmer-e-Sharif.
Phase Three – Road back Home continues…Ajmer-Ahmedabad-Mumbai Road trip
Phase One- Manali-Naggar, stay at Naggar
Till now the experience was like visiting a huge, natural amusement park with time-lines for everything….. both the stomach and the restaurant demanded, like the bosses back home, for the deadlines to be met … the Rhotang Pass travel agent too had it’s pound of share!!
Naggar gave us the peace and calm and let us experience idleness that the mountains are famous for.
Post Rhotang Pass, after a short 21 km drive and we arrived at Hotel Naggar Castle with only reservation as part of the plan. Rest all was to unwind on its own. That evening after many rounds of teen patti and dinner, we all slept like logs. The descent from 13500 ft to some 1300 ft too was having its effect.
The morning next day started with some good coffee and ginger cookies from the german bakery ( made possible by the friendly waiter), in the verandah in front of the room… wow it was a coffee I still remember…..
The coffee savoured, steward and the manager befriended, the cook spoken to (a must ritual at all hotels), I settled down with my novel…. but the camping gear and the angling box that my friend was carrying started making queer noises.
In came the manager, with a “impossible-to-say-no” plan. How about catching some trout at the river followed by himachali-styled lunch at a trout farm? he gleefully asked with a big smile…. and if we failed, he added with a wink, we could catch the fish at the farm and eat them too!!! an “impossible-to-say-no” plan … certainly it was!! After a casual walk-around of the castle we proceeded for the angling-point .
A quick hunt for the shade, camp established, the cans were then chilled. Nature provides everything….
The angling began with full gusto.. it was noon and the fishes were having a siesta deep below but our enthusiasm wasn’t damped.. 200 metres up stream and a same exploration down stream..the final score NIL…
The clock had easily ticked two hours when the call came from the trout farm for the lunch… no, not a deadline.. just a request… we could take all the time… but the stomach, justifiably so, answered and we proceeded for lunch at the trout farm
It was a lavish spread…himachali rajma with red rice, paneer (for the strict nature lovers), fried trout and trout curry. Oh!!… what to eat and what not to … discerning that … was certainly not even thought of as the lunch was progressing (much later in the hotel it was a different feeling though!). The quantity of trout served was unlimited… they caught, they fried we gobbled…. and it continued for quite sometime……grudgingly we proceeded back and enjoyed a evening siesta (our last day before the trip back home was nearing completion!!).
Phase Two – Road back Home
Naggar-Chandigarh-Rock Garden-Rothak-Ajmer Road trip and a quick visit to Ajmer-e-Sharif
1100 hrs, At Naggar, have travelled 2397 kms, and are 2153 kms from home
Teen-patti went on till late night and next day, we obviously, woke up very very late. The original plan was to head for Delhi but that seemed quite impossible and it was changed to Chandigarh / Mohali. As we moved along my friend’s car tyre required a change due to a puncture.
1430 hrs, At Hotel Valley View Mandi, have travelled 2496 kms, and are 2054 kms from home
averaging 33.5 kms/hr
Lunch was at Hotel Valley View, on the outskrits of Mandi. With lunch came sleep, unavoidable and inescapable. I have always, as a roadie, respected my body’s need for rest and many a times pulled the car near a shade or the roadside for a quick nap.. This was to be no different. We requested the manager for a one room at half-day charges and he was kind enough to oblige. Whilst the ladies sat on the easy arm-chair, the “drivers”, me and my friend, (read not MCPs) took a good nap.
At 1745 hrs, we started from Hotel Valley View for Chandigarh. This would be the only part of the trip that I would have traversed in the night. I had no other choice, all the fun and frolic had forced such a occurrence.
2220 hrs, At Swarghat, have travelled 2647 kms, and are 1903 kms from home
averaging 33 kms/hr
Mandi to Chandigarh was a nightmare. Fast and rash or slow and steady, the trucks kept company till Swarghat where we finally bid them a bye. At a petrol pump I learnt that there are many factories near Mandi and Swarghat which is the reason for such volume of traffic.
0010 hrs, At Chandigarh, have travelled 2727 kms, and are 1823 kms from home
averaging 41 kms/hr
Chandigarh atlast!! bone tired, and very very hungry, we hunted for a dhabba. Finally at 0100 hrs were pleasently surprised to find a fully functional dhabba. As the ambience was not so suitable for the ladies, we got the food packed and headed to our friends house, where despite much protest, all of us enjoyed a hearty meal.
Next day, 1220 hrs, at Rock Garden, Chandigarh
The Rock garden didn’t excite me. It was either, that I was homeward bound or had, had experienced much better fun the day earlier. The idea, of the 80’s, was certainly novel one but in today’s context……. Post this visit we headed towards Delhi. Lunch was planned at Savoy Greens. At around 1400 hrs my car experienced a puncture. I decided to change the tyre myself. At 1320 hrs we were outside Chandigarh
1600 hrs, At Savoy Greens, have travelled 2837 kms, and are 1713 kms from home
averaging 30 kms/hr
Savoy greens was standard Mall stuff. The major plus was the location, middle of nowhere on the highway (after Ambala). And very unlike Vapi, near Surat, the loo was good. Here I decided that instead of Delhi, at Panipat, I would detour towards Rhotak. Though would not save much kilometres but entering Delhi and exiting it next day was certainly not a very exciting plan. One of the few occasions when Google Maps came to help. At 1700 hrs we headed for Panipat.
1815 hrs, At Panipat, have travelled 2879 kms, and are 1671 kms from home
averaging 38.5 kms/hr
After bidding farewell to our companions from Delhi, I proceeded towards Rhotak. It was gamble which did pay us well. The road, NH 71A, was in a very good condition and the traffic – scarce.
1930 hrs, At Rhotak, have travelled 2960 kms, and are 1590 kms from home
averaging 64.8 kms/hr
I touched Rhotak at 1930 hrs. In the meantime my wife had made quite a few calls to arrange for accommodation… chahchi’s second cousin’s bhua’s, elder bhabhi’s, youngest daughter……!!! I didn’t care the relationship angle. They were large hearted, liked ghumakkars (which Indian dosen’t!), were curious to see a couple who had driven from Mumbai and gave us a warm welcome. That mattered. The occasion demanded a wine bottle. I opened the himachali apple wine. Sweet it tasted, suiting the moment.
averaging 61 kms/hr
We missed the Jaipur bypass. It was not well marked thus had to enter the city so as to exit it at the other end for Ajmer. This did waste quite some time.
averaging 40 kms/hr
On hitting NH 8, around 1515 hrs we saw, with much delightful, the sign of “Cafe Coffee Day”. This gave us much respite from hunger and tiredness which was creeping in slowly.
1645 hrs, at Ajmer, have travelled 3369 kms, and are 1181 kms from home
averaging 58 kms/hr
It was a quick check-in at the hotel, change and a rush to the Ajmer-e-Sharif. All such places have their own charm and this one too was no different.
Phase Three – Road back Home continues…Ajmer-Ahmedabad-Mumbai
0745 hrs, At Mangaliyawas, have travelled 3394 kms, and are 1156 kms from home
averaging 34 kms/hr
Next day at 0700 we left for Ahmedabad. This was the first occasion when G Maps on my mobile came to much aid. Post-Ajmer I got stuck on the NH 8 which till Udaipur was in a bad shape. This I already knew from my experience on the up-leg. With signal strength still quite strong the Gmap application indicated that at Mangaliyawas a state highway connected NH8 to NH 79 at Nasirabad. Apprehensively I turned towards the state highway and much to our surprise it was a well maintained tolled road!!
0835 hrs, x-ing Nasirabad (NH79), have travelled 3427 kms, and are 1123 kms from home,75 % journey completed!!!
averaging 28 kms/hr
This was the road I had wanted to take on the down-leg, and thus was quite happy once the car touched NH79. Thereafter it was a very smooth ride till Udaipur. This also meant no eating joints and very few petrol pumps.
insert map ajmer ahmedabad here
1245 hrs, At Matts hotel on NH8, have travelled 3716 kms, and are just 834 kms from home
averaging 73 kms/hr
The name indicate something delicious, but that was not the case. It was quite average and we ate quite perfunctorily. Oh! the journey back home!!
1610 hrs, crossing Tropic of Cancer, have travelled 3888 kms, and are just 662 kms from home
averaging 49 kms/hr
If nothing else this did mean less heat. Quite a consolation!
1745 hrs, at Ahmadabad, have travelled 3996 kms, and are just 554 kms from home
averaging 69.4 kms/hr
Journeys back home, no matter how planned, are always a sombre event. The whole focus shifts to safety and the only excitement is that of reaching home. Thus our visits to location Ajmer-e-Sharif earlier and now to the bazaar near IIM Campus at Ahmadabad were quick and simple.
1240 hrs, crossing Surat, have travelled 4357 kms, and are just 193 kms from home
averaging 69.6 kms/hr
Post Surat, we again gave Macdonalds a go and again were throughly disappointed. The manager on duty was spoken to again and much shockingly, his reply was a verbatim copy of the earlier manager!!!
1600 hrs, at Dahisar toll, have travelled 4502 kms, and are just 48 kms from home
averaging 44 kms/hr
Home Home Home. The first stop was at Jini’s (our Labrador) lodger. Whilst she climbed all over us at the lodge, however, in the car, she displayed her disappointment. Sad faced and grumpy she didn’t eat properly and threw every tantrum in her book. She took her sweet time to show her true self. We resolved – next trip would certainly be with her!!
1930 hrs, at home, have travelled 4550 kms (Mumbai – Manali – Mumbai)
Presently scrounging the net for hotels/ motels/ homestays where pets are allowed. All ya ghumakkars, I request thee… help!