Delhi – Manali (The Long Way Round)

It had been quite some time since I rode long distance on BB.  being out of action due to a bike crash, has a damping effect on a rider’s life. 

The effects of the nearing D-day were numerous… swinging between excitement and some feeling of fear as well… the knee was still on its way to being mended and I cannot strain it beyond a certain point as I start feeling the effects of the ligament rupture… Pain and then a very visible Limp when I start walking.  But a man’s gotta ride when he has the urge to ride… You cannot keep a biker down for longer than necessary and that dictates my life as well :-)

Day 1 – Delhi – Mandi (500 KMS)

The day started early… at 0400 Hrs.  Santosh one of my co-riders was at the designated spot and we started our wait for Sumit, another gentleman who was riding with us… Finally at 0600 Hrs, we saw Sumit riding on his iron steed and we exchanged some not so good pleasantries… all was forgiven as he had pulled in a triple shift to be able to go for the ride…

Filling up fuel and oil, we start riding… Pretty boring and nothing to write home about till the time we rode in plains.  One flat tyre at Panipat flyover later, we rode again…  The road condition varied from good to bad as we rode through.  NH-1 being very good and then alll hell broke loose… The road from Chandigarh to Manali was closed due to landslides along the road from Swarghat to Bilaspur.  Once this news was delivered to us, out came the map and an alternate route was found… we would ride on NH 22 for shimla, take a left from Dharampur and then on the Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojna’s link road to Sabathu, Arki, Sallaghat and exit upon the NH 21 at Ghaggas riding on the link roads of interior Himachal… a total detour of 90 Kms.

We managed to reach Dharampur by 12:30 and we considered it to be a good time with all that was going wrong with the ride… Flat Tyre and Closed Roads…  Stopped for lunch in Dharampur and by 1400 Hrs, we were well on our way to ride to Mandi.  Took the left from Dharampur Chowk and started riding on the link road… the first 15 kms were pure hell… both for the bikes and our backs… no road to speak of, which had been washed out due to heavy rains… but things changed for the better and we had our first break in terms of luck.  We reached Sabathu and thanked God for showing mercy on our poor souls.  Subathu had good roads for us and after riding for about 6-7 kms, we exited from Subathu.

Sabathu is one of the oldest cantonment areas in India, in Solan District of Himachal Pradesh. Situated at an altitude of 1437 m, it was the quarters of the British soldiers during British Empire. There is a Gurkha fort built in the early times of the 19th century by the Gurkhas.  Now a days, Sabathu is the head quarters and training centre for the Gurkha Rifles regiment of the Indian Army.

Riding through Sabathu was a pleasant experience… Excellent roads and some eye popping scenery and architecture, dating back to British Raj times. Although we wanted to stop and enjoy the locale, we had to keep riding through as we had very little time before the sun hit the deck and vanished for the day.  No touristy bit to be done today… It was a day of hard-core riding to be able to reach our destination well in time… Pretty soon we crossed Sabathu and we were crossing Gamberpul, and then into Kunihar, which extends from Kuni Khad (stream) to the Tukardia village, is located in Solan District, Himachal Pradesh. It has an average altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level.

The back roads were an eye opening experience… you could see the quaint houses built in the typical Himachali style and people still living like they used to way back when there was no electricity and phone connectivity… people walking and those who can afford a cycle, they ride.  This was the most raw and untouched area I have ever visited in Himachal Pradesh. 

But they were a nightmare to ride on… Narrow and winding, they were playing host to Buses, Trucks and various commercial traffic which was destined to reach Bilaspur or beyond… but were unable to commute on the regular NH 21 due to closure of the highway from Swarghat.  This unusual traffic rush resulted in us taking 5 hours to cover the 90-100 km detour and exiting at Ghaggas… not a very pleasant situation, given the fact that riding in the mountains at night is fraught with danger and accidents just waiting to happen, not to mention the landslides which had devasted any road surface left… While riding from Brahmpukhar to Ghaggas, we saw a stretch of 5 kms lined with boulders the size of a small hatchback… these had been recently cleared of the mountain side which had caved in and come on to the road in the area.

The detour we had to take was as follows:

NH 22 till Dharampur, left from Dharampur Chowk till Sabathu (15 kms), PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram sadak Yojna) Road from Sabathu to Gamberpul (7 Kms), Kunihar (9 Kms), Batalghati (11 Kms), Arki (4 Kms), Shallaghat (7 Kms), Darlaghat (12 Kms), Bhararighat (5 Kms), Namhol (5 Kms), Brahmpukhar (9 Kms), Ghaggas (15 Kms), exiting on the NH 21, 11 kms ahead of Bilaspur.

From Ghaggas, the roads unsurprisingly, were also not in good condition… the incessant rains had taken a toll on the road surface and it would be some time before it would become as good as it used to be before the heavy monsoons lashed North India.  However, we made up for some time we had lost and pretty soon, we had crossed the ACC Cement Plant at Barmana.  From Barmana, the next landmark was the Kol Dam bridge, followed by Slapper and then Sunder Nagar.  Taking the left turn for the Manali road, we rode through Sunder Nagar and then along the canal… Mandi, the destination of the day was just a mere 25 kms away…

18 hours of non stop (well almost) riding later, we were all tired and exhausted…

18 hours later... that's me

we decided to stop over at a road side food joint and have a cup of tea to awaken the deadened nerves and give our well numbed butts a rest… the stopover extended from 15 minutes to 30 minutes and then it was time to haul ass… had to reach Mandi in time to be able to get a room as the hotels usually do not let out rooms late at night…  Managed to reach Mandi at about 23:30 and the hotel in Bijni (6 Kms from town) on the Mandi Pathankot road by mid night…

Unstowing the luggage and checking into the hotel took us 15 minutes and soon, the geyser was switched on for a hot shower, followed by a booze session… thankfully, one of my friends had already ordered food for us, which was a feast for empty stomachs.  Pretty soon, we called it a night and conked off…

Day 2 – Mandi-Manali (110 Kms)

When we woke up at 1000 Hrs, the lingering effects of the hard riding done yesterday were still visible with all three of us looking haggard and drawn… but after a quick shower, all of us started resembling humans and decided to depart for Manali… 110 kms away.  As soon as we started getting ready, it started pouring and then came the bad news that the road from Pandoh to Manali had been closed due to a huge landslide… That dampened our spirits some and we slowed our getting ready process… but then decided to ride anyhow… if the road was closed, we would return to the hotel or else we would keep on riding till Manali.

Donning the rain gear, we kick started our iron horses and mounted the saddle… ready to take on the wrath of the Rain Gods… getting out of Mandi, we took to the NH 21 and soon were lashed with heavy rains… thanksfully, the riding gear and the rain gear on top ensured that we did not have to halt for the rains to stop… the riding was slow as there was a chance of the tyres losing their grip on the roads, resulting in a skid and a spill, which would have dampened our spirits as any crash does.  Soon we were near Pandoh Dam… stopped over to see one of the sluice gates open, sending a thin stream of water down into the valley… a beautiful sight to see… the raging water with all that force coming crashing down… Soon, we started riding and we crossed the Hanogi Mata Temple… a bow of the head for a safe journey later, we were riding on the dream stretch.  Winding roads amidst green mountains and a raging river beside us… Perfect setting for a rider.  However, since we had left Mandi without having breakfast, we started feeling the pangs of hunger and decided to stop at a Tea Stall for Bread Omellete and tea…

Tea Halt on the Mandi Manali Stretch

The Road from Pandoh

The Road to Manali  The Beas River seen from the tea stall

  Post a longish halt, we started moving and the tunnel came and we thundered through it.  One of the most amazing engineering feats of boring 2.8 kms through the mountain to make it an all weather route…

Exiting the tunnel, we rode on covering destinations like Aut, Larji Hydel Station and then onto Raison and katrain… As we neared Bhuntar, we took the right turn and started riding on the right bank of Beas.  This was not intended but happenstance… Sumit came up and asked “Shouldn’t the river be on our right side?”  It was then I realized my mistake and asked one of the locals for the way… he said that this way would also take us to Manali… but from the Naggar side rather than the usual route. 

Decided to ride on this road itself and see where it would take us to on our way to Manali… Although it was dark and the roads not so good, the riding in itself was fun… We rode through quaint little settlements with its usual quota of old structures and some friendly people walking on the road with torches… soon we lost our way and took a road going down from an intersection… when asked, a local told us, this would also take us to Manali, the only difference being that this route would be longer by about 5-7 kms.  We did an about turn and took the road going up… taking us through the town called Naggar… we also bypassed the road which goes to the famous Manala Village, where people claim to be the direct descendants of soldiers from Alexander’s Army and that their ascendants were “Rakshashas”.  It so happens that the language which they speak is also known as “Rakshashi” language…

Coming back to the ride, we are halted by a guard, at a check post where you are supposed to pay a “Green Tax” which is utilized by the governing body of Manali for its betterment and to ensure that the environment is not hampered by the horde of tourists who flock this “Heaven on Earth”.

3 kms ahead, we pass along the bridge which connects Manali with its neighboring settlements of Prini, Naggar and Vasisth… A couple of kms later, we ascend into Vasisth, which has a plethora of cheap and good hotels… they usually cater to the foreigners who come to Manali on shoestring budgets… for the well heeled and well off people, there is a long list of resorts with names like Holiday inn, Sterling Resorts, Apple Valley, which line the road when you enter Manali from the NH 22 side and then on the Prini Naggar Road.  since we did not fall in the bracket who could afford these properties, we ended up in Vasisth… located a cheap hotel with a clean room and the most important, clean bathroom, and checked in.  Unhitching the luggage and sorting out the sleeping arrangement, we ended up with the ever present alcohol and reminiscing the ride till Manali.  Plans for the next day were made and we started to knock ourselves into La La Land.

Day 3 – Manali and around (25 kms)

After a comfortable resting period, we all woke up fresh and then the mood started declining for the worse… the sky was overcast and it was raining heavily. 

 The View from our hotel in vasisth  The Beas River as seen from Vasisth

We all could feel our plans for the ride to cross Rohtang and head into Kaza going for a toss… no visibility and to top it up, chances of landslides ensured that we stayed indoors and not entertain any thoughts of crosssing Rohtang. 

Decided to act like tourists and got ready to roam around in Manali… descending from Vasisth, we ended up at a Tibetan Food Joint called Phuntsok… A mom and pop joint which dishes out some amazing tibetan fare… We had a Rosti – Potato Pancakes with a filling of Chicken/Mutton inbetween, fried with potato juliennes as garnish… To wash it down, we ordered a Lemon, Ginger & Honey Tea… Yum Yum I say.

At Phuntsok - THE Tibetan Eating Joint in Vasisth

After this fare, it was time to get started with visiting the touristy places in Manali… we started with Hadimba Temple… a temple where they used to sacrifice animals…  This is well documented by the number of skulls hanging on the periphery of the temple… dunno if this practice is still on or not. 

The Hadimba Temple 

The Hadimba Temple and its skull decoration in the background

No one was there to answer our questions about the importance of the temple or its history… all we could see was a signboard which prohibits photographing the interior of the temple and declares it as a national monument…

From here we rode back to the main road and parked our bikes near the bus stand… queried a lot of drivers whether it would be advisable to travel on the NH 21 till Swarghat… we were told that the road was opened now but the going would be slow…  Post this news, we decided to go on a nature walk in Van Vihar, bang on the Manali Main road… entry fee of 5 bucks per adult paid, we entered the place… just a sort of a park with its usual crowds of tourists making noises, a small pool for paddle boating and a trail going to the riverside… we took this trail and ended up here…

Living Dangerously @ Beas Riverside 

While on our way out, there was an old gentleman who was holding a rabbit and charging 10 bucks for a photo with it… We asked him to get his photo clicked for us…

The Rabbit Man 

And his Rabbit

While clicking his snaps, we got talking and found out that this particular rabbit was 1 year old and cost him 5-6000 rupees per animal and that their life expectancy is about 5-6 years.  This gentle creature was a delicate one… dont be misled by his size… its mostly the fur.

Post this discussion, we headed out to the tibetan market in order to pick up souvenirs… close but no cigar… could not find anything worthwhile… so we ended up in the HPTDC Hotel on the Main Road… since the mall has been closed to traffic, the parking lot of the hotel has been converted into a Bistro of sorts… tables with Umbrellas on top dot the parking lot and we ended up guzzling beers there… while waiting, we were again lashed with rains… and we thanked our lucky stars that we were not riding up to Rohtang… it had suddenly become cloudy and the clouds up above looked ominous… The beers downed, we started walking towards our bikes and rode to the hotel…

Again the usual session of booze and food happened… only this time, we were in the rooftop cafe called World Peace.  Live Music and a kickass television set to entertain you by airing the Beijing Olympics…

 Sumit @ World Peace cafe - On the roof of the hotel  Me on the phone @ World Peace Cafe

With plans to start riding for Bilaspur as early as possible, the alarm was set to ring at 0700 Hrs… and we moved on our way towards sleepy land.

Day 4 Manali – Bilaspur (290 Kms)

The Alarm rang and was shut by Santosh… and that was that… We finally stirred at 0900 Hrs and realized what a fiasco it was going to be… we had not booked any hotels before the start and were banking on the lean season to get rooms and good rates along with it… Till now our luck had been with us but I was a little worried about the scene at Bilaspur.

Sumit started getting ready and me and Santosh decided to check on the bikes… fortunately as it turned out… BB was running low on oil and her clutch was as hard as a rock to operate… opened the gear box to figure out what could be wrong and found the cable to be twisted, resulting in no movement at all… The cable would have snapped if I had forced it…  A quick change of clutch cable later, figured that the running would be good as the other bikes were fine, we also got ready and got out of the hotel by 11:30 hrs.

As we headed out of the hotel, it started pouring… Halted on the Manali Vasisth road to catch up santosh’s other mechanic friends and got the gear oil topped up and the bikes’ chains tightened up. 

Santosh & Friends

Finally started to move at about 1300 Hrs and with no breakfast to speak of, we stopped over in Raison for some food and the result was a Brunch which lasted for almost 1 hour… consisting of Parathas, Maggi, Sandwich and some more parathas, we had our tummy filled to the brim… and soon the rains stopped their lashing and we were finally blessed with some sunlight. 

Rode till the entrance of the 2.8 km long tunnel, and stopped for a photoshoot and a helpful local clicked our snaps… 

The Tunnel Entrance - From Manali Side  Us @ Tunnel 

Riding thru the Tunnel

As soon as we exited the tunnel, we saw a very high seasonal waterfall, the water making its way down to the river…

The Seasonal Waterfall The Waterfall

Some clicks later, we rode on till we reached Pandoh.  The dam had two of the 4 sluice gates opened to half and the sight was one to behold… the mad rush of all that water resulted in a torrential display of the water’s force… truly an amazing sight…

The Pandoh Dam

 

Only 80-90 kms separated us from our destination of the day – Bilaspur.  Rode a little hard to be there by daylight, but Sumit started having some problems with his bike.

 We stopped, checked up the bike and found that the only problem was that of loose tappet/pushrods.  adjusted them and moved on…  The riding was just awesome… not only was I riding after a 3 month long absence but I was riding on a road which is perfectly suitable for the “Man and Machine working like One” situation.  Taking turns and bending into the curves, it felt like BB was responding to me as if she was just an extension of my body… That bit of riding was just fabulous and a moving experience… It is very rare that one would get a road perfectly suitable with barely any traffic and to get the machine to heed to your mind… This was a case of perfect “Jugalbandi” till Slapper.  Then all hell broke loose.  Trucks and cars and local traffic ruined the perfect movement.  With the concentration and focus gone, the ride became mundane again…

A biker would give his all to be in that “Zone” whenever he is riding… that is what makes all the efforts, pains and difficulties worth it… The feeling of oneness with the machine is so overwhelming that it can make you an addict… As I have become.  Finally, with the Jugalbandi over, decided to brake and indulge in some photography… really liked the scene of the cement factory being lit up against a darkening mountain, decided to click it… did some adjustment to the camera and this is what came out of the effort…

ACC Cement factory @ Barmana

 Post this creative effort, decided to ride the next 20 kms without halting… but at the first sign of a hotel, all of us stopped and checked out the place… looked neat but the rooms were a disaster… dark and dingy… did not even think of checking out the bathrooms… was sure of what I could expect there… decided to ride on further and another hotel was checked out with similar results. 

Finally managed to reach the outskirts of Bilaspur and a hotel called Sagar View was checked out… this was a surprise as it had the look of a modern business hotel in a place where there were none.  Checked it out and was pleaantly surprised to see the amenities and the immaculate state of the place… seems like it had been recently renovated… Decided to check into this place and relax for the night… it was already 2100 hrs and the going had become a little difficult… the truck traffic and the condition of the roads made the decision for us… we halted, got ourselves into the room, had a quick shower and the ritual started… booze, food and music.

Decided to move out of the hotel by 0900 Hrs the next day to ensure that we would not have to ride in the dark and we should be in Delhi by 1800 Hrs if we rode at a comfortable speed.

Day 5 – Bilaspur – Delhi (350 Kms)

1000 Hrs and we were still asleep… finally woke up at 1100 Hrs, opened the door to the rear balcony and was astounded… the view was just awesome….

View from the Hotel Room in Bilaspur

Hustled to get ready and were out of the hotel by 1130 Hrs.  already late, we were further delayed by the condition of the roads… the roadside was lined with the remnants of landslides for a stretch of atleast 15 kms.  We took a breakfast halt about 4 kms before Swarghat… 30 minutes later, we started riding.  The 43 kms from Bilaspur to Swarghat took us almost an 2 hours to cover and we finally limped into Kiratpur by 1330 Hrs. 

The road (NH 73) from Kiratpur to Rupnagar is being converted into a 4 lane highway… finally the high and mighty in the NHAI got the brains to do this… earlier, this stretch was a pain to travel on… due to the construction work, loads of diversions have popped up… but the road condition has improved and that helped us some in covering up on some of the time lost.  We finally hit Chandigarh by 1600 Hrs and now came the crucial decision of whether to travel on the Chandigarh Ambala Road or should we take the Panchkula Saha Road…

Most of us would have taken the Chandigarh Ambala Stretch but for us, this it was the difference between a comfortable ride on a tree lined road (Panchkula – SahaRoad) or a harrowing ride on a barren stretch where the heat would be unbearable and the only place where there would be a shade would be the numerous dhabas lining the road (Chandigarh – Ambala Road).

We opted for the tree line and decided to cut across Chandigarh, going through the VIP area, the Governor’s house, Golf Course and finally exited in Panchkula.  Delhi from this spot was about 240 kms and we decided to make a break for Delhi with as less stopovers as possible.

We covered the Panchkula – Saha stretch quickly and halted for a sunset shot. 

Sunset in the fields of Saha

We finally exited at the turnpoint about 5 kms before the Shahbad turn and then it was a free ride on NH-1.  With a snacky halt at Mayur Dhaba in karnal, we were comfortably on our way home.  Managed to cross the Panipat Toll Plaza and this is where confusion happened… Santosh did not take the overhead bridge and managed to venture onto the city road which had loads of red lights and the rush of traffic due to the Janmashthami celebrations…

A quick conversation from across the barricades later, we all decided to catch up once the barricaded roads were over… Confusion and chaos resulted in Santosh venturing ahead of where we were waiting for him.  when we managed to get through to his cellphone, he had already crossed us and was just 40 kms short of Delhi.  It was decided that it would be a waste of time if he waited for us… we adsked him to carry on and if possible we would try and catch up with him.  Post this decision, we started riding and managed to reach Delhi by about 2300 Hrs.  Thankfully there was no jam on the entry point to Delhi, which meant that we would be home comfortably and well in time. 

Thundered our way into Paschim Vihar to find a throng of people on the Jwalaheri market road due to the Janmashthami celebrations and we could see the rowdy crowds on their motorcycles… blaring horns, shouting idiots, general rowdy behaviour and rash riding… These were enough to tell us we were truly and finally in Delhi.

30 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Dude is back. I have just read till Day1 and would read later in the day.

    Its a small world. Few years back, I was at Subathu. family-vacation. And on one of the days, we drove till Gumperpul, just like that, and had lots and lots of water-fun in the river. We were a group of 5 (I believe) in water and it was shallow stretch and the bed was lined with small round pebbles, we would just sit on the bed and raise our legs , with hands holding , we would get driven on our bums over those stones :) great fun.

    I somehow thought that I would probably be never able to find any one who had been to Gumperpul but I was wrong.

    The other thing was that we saw a large iguana from close quarters just before the pul. It was a very very quaint setting.

    Subathu is a cantt town , very clean. Also its a pretty old town, so if someone ever gets a chance to be there, try its narrow alleys and the market, its a different experience.

    Long ride , so I would take a rest in Mandi before I start again with you. I have not read the whole thing but I guess Leh didn’t happen.

    Himmate Marde, Madad-ein Khuda !!

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan you guessed right… Leh did not happen :-( time constraints and then work commitments came in the way of allocating more time to this ride than just the 5 days…

    Both me and Sumit were tied for time He had to return to office and then go for a scheduled surgery and as for me… well clients do take preference over everything :-)

    It was just by luck that we had to take the Sabathu Gamberpul route… but it sure did throw up some surprises… Never expected that it would be as peaceful as it seemed…

    As for eyeing an Iguana we did that too… the dude was just crossing the road when we happened to see it and then hearing us thumping near, it scampered in its usual fashion… But I doubt if they are Iguanas… I am of the thought that these are Monitor Lizards.

    I have stayed in Himachal for a good 6 months and that is what I have been told by the locals… they call it “Goh” and that when it swishes its tail, blades of grass get cut to pieces… My dog also had a gash cut out on his muzzle when he tried playing with one…

    The first day’s ride surely was long as it took us 18 hours to reach Mandi, thanks to the traffic jams on the Sabathu – Kunihar – Arki – Shalaghat road…

  • nandanjha says:

    Ok, so now I read Day 2 and Day 3. I do not want to read the full story in one go, eating one candy at a time.

    Dude – This is super writing. You always had your quote in your stories (close but not cigar) but the expression and narration in this story is, I would think, really very good.

    Now to your last comment, we thought that its a Iguana, I am sure that crew in the car-cabin didn’t have big names and we could have easily goofed up a Monitor from a Iguana.

  • Rajeev says:

    Great, engaging account, with beautiful snaps. The snap of the cement plant at dusk has come up superbly. I read it in one go and your oneness stretch was a clear delight to read – beautiful expressions.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan, a lizard is a lizard… lets just call it a BIG lizard… I for sure am not qualified to determine whether it would be an Iguana or a Monitor… As for reading in parts… its your prerogative :-)

    Rajeev, thanks for your comments… it toook me about 10 minutes to click the cement factory snap… about 5-6 attempts (all botched) but this one just came out perfect.

  • poushali says:

    hey manish …that’s a fantastic write up…was totally glued to the screen…it was more like reading some adventure story!!

    it is strange that though i’ve been to manali…this was like travelling all over again…lovely snaps and such interesting descriptions…makes me want to visit manali again…

    wht shocked me though was that you guys travelled in bikes…phew!!!!…sounds dangerous…but then what would i know about the thrills of biking…have riden the bike only when cousins gave me a lift home…haha..!!

    i shouldn’t be writing anything here…where everyone seems to be sharing travel experiences…but couldnt resist writing …. :)))))..
    thanx for sharing…

    poushali.

  • bikerdude says:

    Hey Poushali,

    Now that you know the website… how about posting the Pangarh Trip on this forum? Been waiting for it for ages now…

  • ajay setia says:

    Hi everybody…….

    i loved this writing on Manali,

    i was regular visitor of Manali for last few years,but fail to go after jan
    2006 , now am going to Nainital ,

    Friends after crossing tunnel if you take right turn from Aut you will enjoy real hill beauty ……deodaar trees of 70-80 feet highet and cleanest air. i steyed in villiges and enjoy local hospitalit on payment. people are very friendly….on that way there are so many two-three room small hotels , there are so many routes to go,normaly forgen tourist go there……..go to Banjar……Saujha pass.from there you can go to Rampur-kinnaur and you can also to Shimla.

    chill

    ajay setia

  • bikerdude says:

    Hi Ajay,

    Glad to know that you liked this post. Nainital is also a good destination for a vacation, albiet a little on the crowded side… but asthe saying goes.. “to each one his own”…

    As for the route you pointed out… we were planning to hit Narkanda after Manali from the same route you suggested… but the news doing the rounds around those parts at that time was that the road to Jalori Jot was closed due to a heavy landslide and a part of the road had been washed away by rains… Since safety is always a prime concern when you are travelling on a motorcycle, we decided not to venture on those roads…

    There are some famous joints along that road… Raju’s Cottages, Banjara Camps’ Shoja Retreat, Himlayan Trout House etc etc and numerous other small properties which offer shelter to travellers… the exact route would be Aut – Banjar – Shoja – Ani – Luhri – Jalori Jot – Sainj on NH 22. About 30 kms away would be Narkanda on your left and 30 kms on your right would be Rampur.

    I would be posting about this route as well once I have travelled in these parts of Himachal… Hopefully, it should happen in September.

  • ajay setia says:

    dear bikerdude.

    am familiar to this rout,which you reffer……i travelled on this rout from 1998 to 2004 every year by driving……not bike,but LMV…….i stayed in Shojo for at least three days twice in 1998 and 2000. Shoja is very beautifull place, you will like to stay in jibhi……….very beautifull place on the bank of river.

    on the left side you will see a beautiful hut ,made by a Holland guy,who married with local girl,but now both are living in Holland, and father of the girl look out this Hut…….he runs hotel in front of the hut.

    you will see another properity on the foot hill of shoja,very good place for spending night……..best of luck for your Jalori Pass drive.

    ajay

  • nandanjha says:

    Day 4 and Day 5 has the best snaps. I can imagine that it would have taken a lot of patience to shoot that cement factory. Assuming it was a high exposure, and you didn’t have a tripod.

    When I was coming back from Manali, this particular fall was at its fiercest. We were there in 15 Aug weekend (2 years back) and probably monsoons added to it.

    I liked the bit about ‘jugalbandi’ and ‘man and machine’ connection. I would again suggest that you read the first chapter of ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle….”, may be just pick it from a road-side vendor and read first 20 odd pages there.

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan,
    Had loads of time on those days to be able to click those snaps. Less of a distance to ride. Regarding the exposure settings… hell i use a high end digicam (a point and shoot) the Olympus SP500 UZ… auto settings mostly. I did change the settings to Landscape while clicking the Dam and changed it to available light portrait for the cement factory… yeah the missing tripod was a factor but improvised… used the ledge of the road with some stones under the camera and used the self timer setting to avoid any camera shake while pressing the click button… “Jugaadbaazi” at its best i guess… and the waterfall… I did not do justice to it… it was a fabulous sight but… well there would always be a next time for it though.

    The book “Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”… Gotta get my hands on it now… Have heard a lot about that book but haven’t been able to go thru it… will do now that I have some time… but not just the first chapter… it has to be the whole hog or else its a case of “Close but no Cigar” :-)

  • bikerdude says:

    Ajay,

    Thanks for the wishes for the ride…

    M

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Phew, so finally I completed the feast of beautiful pictures and raining biking account :) What a beautiful piece of travel account !

    You started the trend of posting such big page size photos, lets see who follows you. I know that I will not dare to do so as to post such a big photo, it must be extremely beautiful as is yours. All three bigger ones are marvellous. In-fact the day you wrote the post, I and Jaishree saw it and we got pretty impressed by the photographs (by the size and the content too).

    Its a very big account, it seems when Manishdude is on his bike or holding a pen there is no stopping in both the case :)

    Its very interesting to read about Manalla village and Hadimba temple. Its a travel account filled with sheer adventure, but I am glad that you alwyas point that adventure is an important part but safety is a must too :)

    I love your interesting quotes: Man and machines working like one …

    Keep going Manish and keep sharing as I am sure that for many of us the journey to these beautiful places it would only be possible through your account, . I only wish that next time there would be less rains or no rains as I am sure that we will see many many more of these beautiful photos.

  • bikerdude says:

    Manish, thanks for the encouraging words… I hope the entire Ghumakkar community is behind them… But I would like to address this to all… Please do not wait for any one person to visit and post details… get in/on that vehicle and start exploring… the world is filled with some extremely enticing and exciting places which are beautiful as well… So go explore, dream, discover…

    A word of advice though – If you are able to do this on Two Wheels, do not hesitate… Two Wheels are the best way to experience a lot of this country… the smells, the sights and the wind in your face. This mode of travel also invites the locals to interact with you in a friendly way… this comes through a personal experience I have had on all my rides… be it a breakdown or just a rest break… people are willing to talk and help you out.

    If anyone needs help in planning a motorcycle tour, I am here to help…

    As for the large sized pics… I guess you can say it was just to massage my ego :-) Had previewed with small images but it did not look as beautiful… so decided to increase the size to large…

    As for the quotes… well I write what I feel… I never would mince words to express my experiences and feelings just coz the word count is going high…

    Hope I have not offended anyone with my posts and comments… If I have, I sincerely apologize.

  • Krishan says:

    I really like the writing style. i felt that some one is narrating the whole trip story in front of me and it is supported by very nice pictures. i do visited manali on different modes of travel like dtc bus,hrtc,sumo, car, truck , bike etc but the thrill and adventure is on bike rride so keep writing your new stories of adventure so that instead of doing unnecessary stunts, new biker generation starts exploring our incredible, beautiful india.
    thanks.

  • Sameer Kumar says:

    Dear Manish,

    Did you ever get a chance to watch “Motorcycle Diaries”. Its a must watch for people like you. Although, I am not an avid biker as you are but still I liked this movie to the fullest. Its based on a true story of Che Guevara and his frnd who leaves on an aging motorcycle to travel through South America: from Buenos Aires to Chile, Peru, and on to Venezuela.

    Happy biking

  • Bindaas Traveler says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Great to see all this information assimilated together!

    I need your help in planning my trip. I am planning to drive down from Delhi to Manali and then back in a week around Mid July with my wife.

    Right now it seems that the following route suggested is the best one to opt for.

    Chandigarh > banur- Kharar- Ropar- > Bilaspur Route> Sundar Nagar > mandi > Bhuntar > Kullu > Manali

    Any latest updates on the road conditions. I have a few concerns listed below. Can someone help me with these?

    (1) I have slightly tinted glasses on my car..maybe 30%..any idea if this is an issue? If yes where all do I need to be watchfull.

    (2) I will be driving in Swift VXi, since the car has a low ground clearance. Are there any areas where I could experience problem.

    (3) What are the places around Manali, where it is advisable to take my car. For places like rohtang, I will prefer a taxi.

    (4) Doing the total journey in a day seems to be too much. I would like to break it somewhere and spend the night there. Any suggestions where we could stop? Any hotels which are neat clean and safe. Most important they have proper car parking.

    (5)Should I expect rain somewhere, Is that a cause of concern?

    (6) Depending on the current route conditions, is it recommended to take some other route. It’s ok to take a longer route. But I would not want to take a road which doens’t have a railing or boulders on the side, to stop a car from falling and most important I would like to skip any kind of traffic.

    I know I have a lot of questions, Hopefully all you experienced guys would be able to help me out.

    Manish – AWSOME PICS! Can’t wait to reach this place after seeing your pics!

    Regards,
    BT

  • DJ MADDY says:

    THIS IS AWESOME…..IM GETTING THE FEEL SITTING IN MY OFFICE RIGHT NW….MAN I WILL TRY THIS ……
    MANAAAAAAAAALI…… HERE I COME….

  • pb says:

    Hi,

    Very well written. Im planning to visit Shimla, Manali, Kasol & Kasauli this winter, my itinerary is :

    Day 1: I will be reaching Kalka from Kolkata around 4.30 am & from there I will be taking toy train to reach Shimla on the same day at around 11.00 am. I will stay there on that day.
    Day 2: Shimla to Manali, Visit Hadimba Temple, Night Stay at Manali.
    Day 3: Kothi, Vasisth Spring,Rohtang Pass,Solang Valley, Night Stay at Manali.
    Day 4: Manali to Kasol via Mannikaran & Rabbit Farm, Kullu, Naggar, Night Stay at Kasol.
    Day 5: Kasol to Kasauli, Sightseeing at Kasauli, Night Stay at Kasauli
    Day 6: At leisure in Kasauli, Night Stay at Kasauli.
    Day 7: Kasauli to Ambala Cantonment to catch train for Kolkata.

    Please suggest whether this Itinerary is good or not & please answer my queries

    1)Whether Day 4 will be a hectic one ?

    2)How much time it will take to reach Kasauli from Kasol by taxi

    3)How much time it will take from Kasauli to Ambala Cantonment.

    Thanx in Advance

  • bikerdude says:

    Dear PB,

    Your entire itinerary is kind of snaking around on Hilly Roads. A better option would be this:

    Day 1: Kolkata to Kalka – Kasauli

    Day 2: Kasauli – Shimla

    Day 3: Sightseeing in and around Shimla

    Day 4: Shimla – Manali

    Day 5: Excursion to Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley & Vasishth. If time permits, do the Manali local sightseeing today.

    Day 6: Excursion to Manikaran and Kasol via Naggar. You could return back to Manali for overnight stay, or hole up in Kasol. (I would suggest driving into Mandi for the overnight halt)

    Day 7: Manali/Kasol to Ambala Cantt

    In this itinerary, day 7 would be hectic and a bit tiring. However, if you get into Mandi, Ambala Cantt is about 260 km away, and easily doable even after leaving from Mandi a bit late, depending on what time is your train from Ambala… (since most of the trains arrive in Ambala post 2300 Hrs for Kolkata, you will have enough time to visit Mandi, with its 80 temples and the Rewalsar Lake and a Buddha statue…)

    Hope this helps… if you need any assistance, let me know on manish [at] himalayanvacaton [dot] com

    Manish

  • uks.ava says:

    Dear Friends,

    Is it good idea to start from Delhi in the Night at 11:00 PM and reach Manali by 1:00 PM in one go? Actually, I am planning to leave for Manali on Oct 2nd from Delhi and reach there by 1:00 PM. I have opted below route and any suggestion from you experts will be appreciated:

    NH1-Sonipat-Panipat-Karnal-Ambala- then instead of taking towards Chandigarh take the Rajpura road and before the toll gate (Shambu toll tax centre) take right turn towards Banur – Kharrar – Ropar -Kiratpur – Bilaspur – Sundarnagar – Mandi – Kullu – Manali

    Please note that I’ll be sole driver in my Maruti Ritz (ZXI). I have completed Delhi to Patna trip in 2012 (1200 KM’s) in one go in same car, so driving long distance in a go is not a big deal for me.

    Please guide me for this tour.

    Warm Regards,
    Umesh Singh

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Umesh – Yes, please take the Kharar route. This is much faster, cleaner and there is no need to get into Chandigarh. If you start early (say by 4.30) then you would reach Manali before it gets dark. I never advise anyone to travel in night but to each his own. If you are comfortable driving and feel that you can safely do it then night is fine. If you start by 11 PM, then I think you would reach for a late breakfast , say by 1100 hrs.

    I personally prefer an early morning drive. All the best.

    • uks.ava says:

      Thanks Nandan for the guidance,

      You are the one who helped me in my first ever long trip of non-stop (1100 KMs) Delhi to Ara route :)

      Actually, I’ll be travelling with my Son (11 years) and wife on this date. I’ll sleep atleast for 10 hrs in the day on 2nd October and would start at 11:00 pm so that I should be around Banur/Kharar in the Morning. I have other option to start at 4:00 PM from Delhi and reach Banur/Kharar by 8:00/9:00 PM and stay at some budget hotel (hotels name will be appreciated for the stay). Next day I would start early in the morning (4:30 – 5:00 am). Will this plan work for me? Your guidance and suggestion will be most welcome and I’ll try to get abide by your genuine suggestions.

      Also, I’ll leave Manali on Oct 6th. Is there any other option to visit during return (as I’ll be left with two more days in hand – until Oct 8th for my holidays to end).

      Warm Regards,
      Umesh

  • bikerdude says:

    Hi Umesh,

    Personally, I like an early morning departure too. It always is good to have atleast 8 hours of sleep before driving long distances. if you leave by say 0400 Hrs, taking the Banur – Kharar Road, I peg your arrival in Manali by say 1800-1900 Hrs, just in time for a relaxed evening tea at the hotel. This would give you a chance to enjoy the beauty of the road as wll as enjoying the feast which usually is only available during the day time. If the going becomes a bit much more than you can handle, you do have the option of checking into a hotel as well.

    Given the fact that the time when you intend to travel would be a long-ish weekend, I expect a lot of traffic happening on the NH 21.

    Please make it a point to adhere to the speed limits put up at all times. It not only saves you fuel, money, the hassles of having to take care of that speeding ticket, but also your life. Also, driving in the plains and driving in the mountains are two different monsters.

    Plains driving is a long movie frame on repeat where everything is just passing you by and mountain driving is filled with “Oh Shit!!” or “Oh My God” moments which will take your breath away. My tuppence worth of advice is to be slow. It is not only safe, but you will enjoy more. So what if you took 4 hours extra to reach a destination? What matters is you drove safely and arrived where you were supposed to be. This ain’t no rally or race or an attempt to prove a point.

    I run my tours with this mindset and it has held me in good stead every time.

    Life is short and we just seem to be rushing through everything, checking things off on the To-Do Lists… this time around, take life in the slow lane, enjoy the beauty of the mountains and the wonders of Mother Nature.

    Regards,

    M

    • uks.ava says:

      Hi M (Bikerdude),

      Yes, I completely agree with you and your suggestion is full of your peculiar verisimilitude :)

      I have been working in a MNC for past 14 years in the Night shift and I am too cool in the Night as compared to Day :) That is the reasons I choose to drive in the Night (the Delhi/Kharar stretch). Oct 3rd to 6th will be long weekend and Dushera will fall on 3rd Oct. I prefer, to start climbing mountains in the Morning and reach Manali by 2 to 3 PM (with all enchanting scenes captured in daylight). Your suggestion with above points considered will be most welcome and yes, I’ll not be driving on hills to get acknowledged as a fast driver but would enjoy my ride. Your each point is noted and I’ll make sure to abide by your suggestions without fail. Any Idea, about the halts on this long stretch?

      Best,
      Umesh

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Umesh – I think you are all set then. Some people have stayed at Rewalsar Lake and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is close to Mandi so you can look at 1 day/night at Rewalsar.

    If you start by 11 PM, then you should be crossing Khara before the day breaks, which is good because then you would get past Ropar, Una by early morning.

    All the best.

  • bikerdude says:

    Hi Umesh,

    Leaving at 11 in the night would see you hitting the mountains near Kiratpur by early morning.. say 0500 or so with breaks included. From Kiratpur to Swarghat is a 19 km uphill drive, which should not take you more than an hour at max. The first HPTDC hotel on this route would be The Hill Top at Swarghat. Another 40 km would see you in Bilaspur with the HPTDC’s Lake View. From Bilaspur to Sunder Nagar, there is nothing decent in-between for a halt. 25 km from Sunder Nagar is the town of Mandi, which has 3 decent hotels, namely, Visco Resort, Valley View Resort and the Raj Mahal in the main town, which would be my choice of a place to halt for the night.

    From Mandi to Manali, it is a scenic 110 km drive best undertaken in the morning. Since you would have been traveling non stop and would have covered close to 450 km, this would be the ideal place to halt for the night, however, if you feel like it and are up to it, then by all means carry on. Do remember to halt on one of those restaurants/eating joints right on the banks of the Beas River.

    Since you would be crossing Kullu on the 3rd, which is the day when we would be celebrating Dussehra, avoid passing through the town and opt for the bypass instead. It will be really crowded due to the processions and the mela which happens annually during the Kullu Dussehra.

    For pitstops, Haveli @ Ambala makes a lot of sense. Second place to take a breather would be at Swarghat or perhaps another 40 km ahead at Bilaspur, where you could have breakfast @ the restaurant of the HPTDC’s Hotel Lake View. Amazing Parathas to be had coupled with breathtaking views of the Govind Sagar Reservoir and some fresh mountain air, blowing across the valley. Follow this up with a halt at Raison/Katrain for a snacky bite and perhaps a cup of tea along the banks of the River Beas.

    Road Conditions:

    The NH 21 is being converted into a 4-lane highway and the road widening work is in full swing, so expect road crews, bulldozers and dumper trucks and a lot of potholes, especially between Swarghat and Bilaspur. Once you cross Bilaspur, the road is more or less in good shape till Sunder Nagar, where it again goes to the dogs as road widening works are in full swing till Ner Chowk.

    This update was accurate till July 24th, which was when I rode back from Mandi to Delhi.

    Hope this helps. If you need any more information, please feel free to ask.

    Regards,

    M

  • DINESH says:

    Thanks for above useful information.I am planning to visit manali on 24th April and return on 28th April from Delhi .please update latest road condition besides route to be followed
    Thanks

  • DINESH says:

    I travelled to shimla manali from Delhi on 23 to 27th April 2015.the route was Delhi -Chandigarh(night halt sightseeing)-shimla (night halt sightseeing )-manali (via brahmpukar) two night halts at manali then to Delhi (via bilaspur rupnagar bypassing Chandigarh )the latest update of road is that worst stretch of bilaspur to swarghat has extended up to rupnagar .at some places patch work on road was going on but seeing progress of work it seems that it will take minimum 6months to complete it.

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