Last weekend, I drove to Kalka, rather Parwanoo, on my way to Timber Trail Heights, its one of those hotels perched on a hill top and the only good way to reach their is through a cable car, good nice clean place and more on that in a later post. This road further takes you to Simla and probably that would have made a better headline, thats why I named this as Delhi-Shimla review. I have been to Shimla once and few times to Chail, Kasauli, Subathu so would fill from past experience.
Delhi – Shimla drive can be divided into 4 sections.
1. NH1 (Delhi to Ambala) – 200 Odd KMs. 3.5 hours.
2. NH21 (Ambala to Zirakpur) – 30 odd Kms. 1 hour
3. Zirakpur to Kalka – 60 odd Kms. 1.5 hour
4. Kalka to Shimla – 80 odd Kms.3 hours
Get out of Delhi from Azadpur Bypass, more popularly known as just Bypass, this is on ring road which circles Delhi so hop on to Ring Road and go North from Bypass. Now you are on NH1, its one of those dead-long-monotonous stretch of tar on which you can drive on Auto-Pilot. There are towns and cities on the way but you can easily clock an avg of 60-70 Km an hour for this stretch. So depending upon time of day, it might take you anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. First stop is Murthal, the place which is more popular for its Paranthas then anything else. A motley of restaurants which are all named as something no 1 (Ahuja no 1 is one of the popular joints) where truckers enjoy their evening meal with that yellow-golden Mcdowell drink (well why only Mcdowell, because there is this McDowell No 1, have you ever heard of Black Label No 1 or a Glenn-Phiddich No 1). Avoid eating. Keep driving. Then you have Sonipat, Panipat. These days a real city long fly-way is being constructed in Panipat so if possible, avoid 9-12 AM and 5-8 PM. Sundays are better. Panipat is famous (apart from that old battle thingie) for this chain of Panchranga (five colored) pickle shops. There are at least 3 million Panchranga pickle shops on this stretch. There is this famous joke that in Panipat, if you ask for directions, they tell you with reference to Panchrangas. The converstion goes like this
Kaaru :Hey, where is the battle ground of that big fight between Mr. Akbar and Ghazni saheb ?
Tau : Well, go straight for next 12 Panchrangas, take left and after 3 Panchrangas, take another left, cut to your right through the 2nd Panchranga on your right and ask for 36 Panchrangee Lane. Once you reach there, head towards Panchranga Maidaan, then there is this Panchranga Towers, pass that, cross Panchranga gate and you would find yourself close to ………….
I must have been to this stretch zillion times and boy, how many panchrangas are there. I guess that Jat sting of humor has some thing to do with this chain of pickle stores. May be…. Any way, dont bother to stop and keep driving. You would now reach Karnal. If you are a dairy fan then ask for NDRI and have some good lassi, ghee, butter, milk products, really worth it, else keep driving. On your right you would find ‘Haveli’, its a pretty good option to stop and eat and while around. After a while you would now be at Ambala, if you are lucky you might see some sorties for Ambala is also a cantonment.
At this point, you would need to look for directions and go towards Chandigarh. Now we are out of NH1 and this road is called NH21. These days this exit is closed and you would need to further go on NH1 for a while and then take a right. This road is being done-up so while it gets done, you lose on speed and most of it is single road so you would need to be more careful. Go straight till Zirakpur and take a right towards Panchkula. Keep driving, pass the railway fatak and you are now in Panchkula Cantt area, good wide clean roads, press the throttle.
Keep going straight, and you would find the famous ‘Pinjore’ garden on your left. Its not one of those great places to halt but it might not hurt too much to actually spend some time here. They have this funny reverse big clock (yeah this place is in Haryana) and the garden is done at 7 levels, ok ok fountains, lots of trees, some flowers and lots of kids. There is this eating joint just outside of Pinjore, well colored and inviting but this guy takes years to get your orders, ok food. Also there used to be this huge bee-hives hanging from tall trees just outside of Pinjore.
Be on the same road and you would get into a congested market. Be careful on how you drive. Good place to buy stone or china vessels. There is this tribe of traffic Policeman who are on look-out. I was stopped as recently as last week and I have heard from many people so simply avoid eye contact and keep driving straight. You are now on your last few furlongs of Haryana, get into HP. They charge money to allow you an entry and now comes the beautiful part of this whole trip.
From Kalka, hills start. The roads are well laid and well kept. Enjoy the scenic hills, take a quick stop to enjoy that corn (saada bhutta yaar), buy some stutter wines and keep driving. The same road would take you to Shimla. It would be about 80 odd KMs from Kalka and Dharampur is one of the big places on the way. Enjoy Naan and Dal at “Gyani Da Dhaba”. If you want to go to Kasauli then take a left just after Dharampur. For chail, go till Kandaghat, and take a right. For Shogi, go straight till Shogi. For shimla, simply keep going.
I think I got carried away with stretch one but really you need to see those hundreds of Panchrangas to believe me. Write back if you want to know more on this route and I would try my memory. There are some detours which can be utilized. For example, you can take a right at Shahbad (before Ambala) and directly reach to Panchkula. Or when you are on Ambala-Zirakpur road, you dont need to go till Zirakpur, rather get out from Dera Basti but I told you about the default route.
One other thing I would want to share that I had lost my power brakes so it all needed sheer raw power to stop the car and at times, a Scorpio tends to get a really bulky and I had to really use all my power to press the brake paddle :). Enjoy !!