Car Trip-Delhi-Leh-Srinagar Part-1

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving- Lao Tzu

Prologue :-
Once upon a time I used to roam around on bike in 1978-79. I am not young anymore, now I roam in car, although I get tempted at times to go for bike. Had a car trip in Sep-Oct 2009 to Delhi-Kotdwar-Lansdowne-Pauri-Khirsu-Badri-Kedar-Jakholi-Rishikesh-Haridwar-Delhi. 1700km, 17 days. That was a pleasure trip. Me, 62 yrs, my wife 59 yrs and car i10. That encouraged me to go for an adventure trip this time in Sep-Oct 2010, and what better adventureous section than Delhi-Kaza-Leh-Srinagar. This time got a partner as well. My long time old friend, Shyam Da, 67 yrs , retired Railway Officer and Boudi 59 yrs. Only one driver in the group, me. The group of two men and two mem-sahebs with brave hearts.

08/09/2010
Delhi

Shyam Da and Boudi arrived from Kolkata by Sealdah Delhi Rajdhani Express to accompany us on this ambitious trip. I went to receive them at the station. Met Mangloo after long many years ( Shyam Da’s younger son ) at the station.

09/09/2010
Delhi Kurukshetra ( 178 km )

Started from Delhi in the morning. Set the trip meter to zero. Topped up fuel tank just out-side Delhi.
On the way, visited Panipat battle field and Karan Lake Tourist Complex. It is a nice and beautiful little place with a lake, developed by Tourism Dept. Perfect for a lunch break. Had lunch at the restaurant there, in comfort of AC as it was quite warm and we had to run car AC all along from Delhi.

At Kurukshetra, stayed at Birla Mandir. Just an ordinary dharmashala, nothing special. OK for one night and it is best place to keep the car safely. There is all around high boundry wall and gates are closed in the night. The way guards were advising guests to return early in the night by 9 pm, closing the gate even before 9pm, it gave impression that Kurukshetra is not safe like Uttarakhand or Himachal.

Brahma Sarovar, Kurukshetra

Visited the Brahma Sarovar. It is a sacred water tank covering a large area. It is a center of pilgrimage. Huge crowd gathers here on Solar eclipse. Hired an auto-riksha and visited all places of interest. Most important amongst them is Bhadra Kali Temple which is a Shaktipeeth, one out of 51 in India. It is said that the right foot heel of Devi Sati fell here. Here Pandvas are stated to have worshipped the Goddess and performed sacrifices for their victory before the commencement of Mahabharat war. Next, visited Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple at Thaneswar, it is another holy center. It was here that the Pandvas prayed to Lord Shiva and received his blessing for victory in the battle of Mahabharata. The temple of Sthaneswar is the abode of Lord Shiva, say the devotees. It once formed an important part of the kingdom of the King Harsha Vardhan. ( Not seen – Sheik Chilli Ka Makbara – It was closed ) . At two of the sarovars, we found people feeding the fishes, it seems that people consider it a holy and good deed.

On return back from Auto tour, visited Dakhinmukhi Prachin Hanuman Mandir. The best site, liked by the group most, turned out to be Brahma Sarovar which we visited many times, on arrival, in the evening, before dinner, after dinner. However, the Birla Dharmashala’s rule to return early became an impediment. The weather was warm and it was a pleasure walking around the Sarovar or sitting on the steps on the bank during night.
 
10/09/2010
Kurukshetra Pehowa Chandigarh Kalka Parwanoo ( 178 km )

About three km, from Thanesar on Kurukshetra-Pehowa road lies a tank named Narkatari. It is here, say legends, that Bhishma Pitamah of Mahabharata epic lay on a bed of arrows and his idol is there in the temple, lying on Sharsaiya. Also Bhism Kund made by arrow of Arjun is nearby. There is a temple with 40 feet Hanuman. Proceeded to Jyotisar after this.

One of the most revered of holy centers of Kurukshetra is Jyotisar, 5 Km from Kurukshetra. A ‘butta’ (Banyan) tree stands on a raised plinth here. It is believed that it was under this holy Banyan that Lord Krishna delivered the Geeta and also showed His Virat Roop to Arjun.

Then we visited Pehowa, 27 KM west of Thanesar. Inscription on a temple proclaims that Pehowa was built as late as 895 AD. This was during the reign of King Mahenderapal. Excavations done here from time to time have revealed a number of ancient sculptures made in buff sand stone. The town finds special mention in the Vaman Puran and the epic Mahabharta.

During the period of ancient India the town was known as Prithudaka after King Prithu. Legend has it that King Rasthangu, the father of King Prithu lay dying. As a last wish, he called his son to his beside and asked him to take him to the banks of the holy river Saraswati. King Prithu did as he was told . But on his father?s death, he was filled with great anguish. He sat for days on the bank of this river offering Shardha. Ever since, the ritual of offering shardha of fathers here has come into vogue. This place where the unhappy King prayed for the salvation of his father came to be named Prithudaka tirtha. Ghats and temples were built here.

Since we had moved far away from Grand Trunk Road (NH1) by which we came from Delhi to Kurukshetra, and to Pehowa by a cross road SH6, we took NH-66 and moved on towards Chandigarh. Took NH-22 (which is also known as Tibet Road in Himachal), from a major road junction. This Tibet road is going to be our companion for many days to come. We reached Chandigarh, paid fine for not using seat belts and then visited famous Rock Garden by Nekchand. Next, we visited Kalagaon which was on our way to Shimla.

On way, near Kalka town, landed in heavy traffic, and moving at snails pace, passed through Kalka town, and could not visit Kalki Devi Temple, the only thing worth seeing in Kalka and reached Parwanoo, a short branch road from main road, some 6-7 km from Kalka ( 22 km from Chandigarh ). Here, my friend and ex-colleague from NEEPCO, Manoj Kumar had booked guest house of his company ( Satjuj Jal Vidyut Nigam, SJVNL, previously known as Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation Ltd (NJPC). Since, we had gained some altitude ( Parwanoo 470 met or 1542 feet ) , there was some respite from warm weather. We did not know at this time but we were destined to avail his GH at many places in days to come, more than we had thought. It was comfortable GH with courteous staff and we had good time. Had dinner as per our choice and slept sound.

11/09/2010
Parwanoo Kasauli Solan ( 64 km )

In the morning, had breakfast and started from Parwanoo GH. After a few km, enjoyed ropeway ride, belonging to Timber Trail Resort. They have resorts on both ends of the ropeway. Proceeded to Kasauli. This is a hill station with panoramic view and small mall, although not to my liking due to crowd of tourists. Had lunch and then visited Monkey Point which is within Air Force area and hence quite a few restrictions. ID is required and what not to carry etc. etc. I volunteered to stay outside the gate with bags, cameras etc.

Ride on Rope Way of Timber Trail Resort at Parwanoo

Returned back from Kasauli on to the Shimla road and proceeded towards Shimla looking for a hotel for night halt. Halted at Solan. Not a proper place, crowded and congested market. Normally, I like to stay away from town, away from main road to avoid traffic noise, and at a secluded place. However, got an authorised Hundai agency at Solan who attended to minor adjustment to the car without any charge.

12/09/2010
Solan Tara Devi Shimla ( 90 km )

Took a branch road to visit Matoli Shiva Mandir. Nice old Temple but renovation is going on. From there to Bon Monastry, first of many monasteries that we will be seeing in this trip. Then returned back to Solan and proceeded towards Shimla.

Matoli Shiva Mandir

Visited Taradevi temple on a hill. Very stiff gradient and narrow single lane road, not for faint hearted drivers. Tara Devi Temple is a very famous tourist attraction around. It is situated at a distance of around 11 kilometers from Shimla on a hill top and the lush green environs surrounding it give the temple a very peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. One must visit this temple to check out the breath taking views all around from a height.

Langar Prasad at Tara Devi Temple

Fortunately it was Sunday and langar day at the temple. Lots of devotees sponsor langar when their wishes are granted by Devi. Long waiting list of such devotees that they have to co-sponsor jointly as the Sundays are very few and if people are made to wait for a Sunday, they may have to wait for months before their turn comes. And hence the co-sponsoring system. Memorable experience, taking prasad with large number of locals and the way they serve, each item one at a time. Reached Shimla by evening and halt in Manoj Kumar’s GH, (SJVNL)

13/09/2010
Halt at Shimla

Enjoyed local site seeing. Boarded Toy Train, went upto 3-4 stations (Shoghi) and back to Shimla by bus. Hired a taxi and visited Jakhu Hanuman Temple where monkeys create nuisance by snatching away spectacles. One of them took my spectacles so smoothly that I did not even know that my specs are gone. Came to know only when others pointed out. Monkey chewed its ends which rests on the ears. It is still causing problem while wearing and I have yet to change the frame. You have to purchase some snacks like murhi or some thing, pass it to them then only they drop the specs. Seems to be a deliberate caucus with shopkeeper selling these snacks. Afterwards taxi took us to Advance Study Centre which was Viceregal Lodge, earlier Residence of Viceroy and later, Presidents. Presently, it is Advance Study Centre, post PHD, the scholars reside here and study. It is more than 120 years old building. Details are fascinating. For example, a wall clock with calendar is still working fine. There was no electricity in those days anywhere in India but this building had electrical wiring done and was supplied by generators imported in those days. The Taxi dropped us near lift for going to Mall as vehicles are not allowed in Mall. To cover the height to Mall, there is two stage lift due excessive height to Mall. Spent the evening at Mall and returned to GH by taxi

14/09/2010
Shimla Kufri Chail ( 77 km )

Proceeded to Chail but got struck up at Kufri due to traffic jam caused by rain and mud, trucks getting struck up. Finally passed through Kufri which is a skiing resort. Reached Chail, booked in a hotel. Visited all sight seeing spots such as Kali Tibba, Sidha Temple, Highest Cricket Ground located inside army area. Chail is a beautiful hill station worth a few days stay.

Beautiful Maha Kali Mandir at Hill Top – Chail

Chail lies at a height of 2,250 metres above the sea level. Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, when he was facing exile from Shimla, due to scandal involving his daughter, he decided to create his own summer capital, at higher altitude than Shimla which was Chail. The palace of Maharaja has been converted to hotel under charge of Tourism Deptt. King?s room rent Rs. 12,000 and princess’ room rent Rs. 8000. There are other rooms with mid range tariff. Entry fee of Rs. 100 is charged but it is worth a visit, even the big compound is beautiful.

15/09/2010
Chail Kufri Mashobra Naldera Sunni Tattapani Sunni ( 78 km )

It was Manoj Kumar’s suggestion that we avoid Tibet Road for some distance as 50-60 km road was in exteremely bad condition due to rain. We had a taste of this road from Shimla to Kufri. As per his suggestion, we should take an alternate route via Mashobra, Naldera, Sunni (can visit Tattapani), Sainj. Sainj is on Tibet road. Also that SJVNL has an establishment and GH at Sunni. I readily agreed as Naldera and Tattapani was on my list of spots, if opportunity permitted.

Our Ever Smiling Host Naveen Jha and Shyam Da

Tattapani Hot Spring

Again Manoj Kumar’s GH, hospitality taken care of by Naveen Kr Jha, ex-NEEPCO colleague of Manoj and mine. Jha gave us extensive tour of the area and hot spring at Tattapani. New hydro project is coming up by SJVNL and the hot spring will be submerged under reservoir. Jha showed us Mahadeo Gufa temple, saw from a distance in the valley. Difficult for us to go down slope and then come up and daylight was fading. Walked around in the local market in the evening. Wonderful and memorable stay.

16/09/2010
Sunni Luhri Sainj Nirath Nogli Rampur Jhakri ( 95 km )

Despite strong objections from me, Jha did not allow me to pay the GH bill. We took our leave after breakfast. Started our journey on a narrow road described by Manoj as ‘char chakka ka road’, i.e. just wide enough to accommodate four wheels of the car and advised me to drive cautiously. Exaggeration but no doubt, narrow road with blind and sharp turns.

On Way From Sunni to Jhakri

We reached Luhri. From here, one road bifurcates for Jalori Pass, Kullu and Manali. At Sainj, road connects to our companion, Tibet Road and we proceeded towards our target Jhakri, where Manoj lives. At Nirath, visited Sun Temple, took lunch at Nogli. Nogli is a road junction from where one road goes to Uttarakhand via Rohru and Hatkoti. Proceeded to Rampur, visited Raghunath temple , Old Palace , market etc. Reached Manoj Kumar’s residence at Jhakri by evening. In spite of my insistence to stay in GH, he kept us in his quarter. The colony of SJVNL is well planned and has lot of trees. Manoj gave us a tour of the underground power house in the evening, Shyam Da enjoyed the visit and asked a lot of technical questions. For me it was nothing new, just another power house out of many, I spent my life in Hydro Power Stattions, either building it or running it.

17/09/2010
Jhakri Sarahan Jhakri ( Office Car of Manoj )

VISHWAKARMA PUJA — Manoj provided his car and we visited Sarahan Temple which is 20 KM away. With its unusual architecture and wealth of wood carvings, Shri Bhima Kali Temple at Sarahan is the major monument that is duplicated no where else. It is situated on hill top at an altitude of 2150 mtrs. This historical temple is a multistoried structured building, a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture. The tall tower like structure and unusual roof of the temple dominate the complex. The centuries old temple is now locked and in the newly built temple, the goddess Bhimakali is worshipped. The place that I liked most was a view point one km or so, further up. Locals call it Hawa Ghar. Entire Sarahan and the valley around could be seen from here.

Good place with beautiful scenery, worth 2/3 days stay, I thought at that time. As the fate would have it, I had to come back later and halt for two days here. On return, joined Viswakarma Puja, had community feast, same style as Taradevi langar.

18/09/2010
Jhakri Nathpa ( 51 km )

Although, too short a distance for halt, but to reduce the journey to Sangla next day, and on suggestion of Manoj, we halted at Nathpa dam site. The small reservoir is located here and water is conducted to Jhakri PH through a long 30 KM tunnel for running six hydro-turbines of 250 MW each. SJVNL has a nice small guest house here. This type of GH is always pleasure to stay due to remote location and scenery.

19/09/2010
Nathpa Wangto Tapori Karcham Sangla (10 KM) Tapori ( 49 km )

And then the problems started, resulting into the program going haywire. In the evening, got information that Sangla road is closed due to land slide. We were told that the security guard will inform us in the morning if state transport bus comes from Sangla. That will confirm that the Sangla road is open. At 10 AM, the guard confirmed that the bus has arrived and we may proceed. It was drizzling when we left for Sangla and contiued to rain whole day. Although the road was in bad condition, we did not face any major problem and at Karcham, left Tibet road and took right turn for Sangla. Could go about 7-10 KM, when we came across some muddy road. The car got struck up with wheel slipping. Took us 15 minutes circus to get the car moving forward. Saw no car or pedestrian on way, apprehension crept in. Then we came across road blocked by big land slide. There was nothing to do but turn back the car and return. After some distance, found minor block on the road by boulders. When we crossed that place, the landslide was not there. The slide had occurred during last half an hour after we crossed that point. Fortunate for us that it was minor, a few boulders, some large size and some small. Shyam da got down and cleared a few larger boulders to enable the car pass through. No bets for guessing the thoughts of the passengers. If a big boulder falls on the car? If it had occurred at the place where we were rescuing the car struck up in mud? If? and if?……….There is no end to if. But then the life is like that, and pleasure, pain and suspense of it. I do believe, as the soldiers say, name is written on the bullet if it is meant for me. Worse was yet to come. When we reached Tapori, we came to know that road was blocked towards Rampur near Wangtu and also in the forward direction towards Tibet. We were trapped at Tapori, all available three roads blocked by land slide. There was no hotel anywhere except one GH of M/S Jay Pee who had two hydro projects going on in the area. As usual, our savior, Manoj came to our rescue, pulled a few strings to get us two rooms in the Jay Pee GH. Good and standard GH with lot many rooms, some foreign engineers were also staying.

20/09/2010
Tapori Nathpa ( 50 km )

In the morning, the roads were still blocked but expected to be opened by 10-11 AM as machineries of M/S JP were already working to clear the block. Moment of decision making arrived for us. Should we move backward or should we move forward, towards Leh, skipping Sangla Chitkul valley? Finally, it was decided to go to Nathpa Dam site GH and wait a few days for road and weather to clear. At Nathpa dam site, in the evening, we went for a walk. During discussion it was found that Boudi was adamant and not prepared to go towards hills at any cost. That settled the matter. I booked Shyam Da and Boudi’s tickets from Kalka to Delhi by train on internet for 23-09-2010 and a train booking from Delhi to Kolkata by Duronto was standing on 25/09/2010, done by me for such an eventuality. Manoj was requested to find out if any office vehicle was going to Kalka with in a day or two.

What a Gateway ! Road with a difference

In retrospect, it appeared that it was for the better that Shyam Da and Boudi returned back to Kolkata. Although, at this point of time I did not know but as it turned out later, the rest of the trip upto Leh was fulfledged adventure trip, not at all suited to sick or weak hearted. If a list is prepared of difficulties, it would be long starting from extremely bad roads, only gravels in some stretches along the Chandra river, non-availability of food, very few hotels on the way, altitude sickness, low oxygen level in atmosphere, exteme cold weather, forced long drive ( 2 days , 180 km each day – Keylong-Leh), stay in tent, possibility of snow fall and road block, etc. etc. It no longer remained a pleasure trip. I am inclined to say that my last year’s trip from Delhi to Kedar Badri was definitely a pleasure trip in comparison, although people may not agree.

21/09/2010
Nathpa To Jhakri ( 30 km )

After overnight halt at Dam site, reached Jhakri and halt at GH that Manoj was pressurised to book in order to avoid halt at his residence except Mem-saheb. Anamika (Manoj Kumar’s wife) would not leave her Bhabhiji.

22/09/2010
Halt at Jhakri

Shyam Da and Boudi were put on an office vehicle going to Chandigarh in which Manoj had requested for two seats to be kept for his guests. There were two official passengers in the car. Shyam Da and Boudi were dropped at a hotel in Kalka for night halt. They reached Delhi in the evening next day, 23/09/2010. After halt at Dellhi for two nights, they left for Kolkata on 25-09-2010, I continued my stay in the GH.

Contd……..Part-2

28 Comments

  • ajay kumar says:

    this is lession for others. If a retired person is able to do it than others should also do.

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks. If you don’t think too much of difficulties, it is easy. When difficulty comes, we face it. No point in fearing beforehand. We are not going in rocket, its car only. After all, what can happen?

  • Raghav Narang says:

    thumbs up :) :)

  • meranaamjoker says:

    waiting for the next part eagerly !!

  • Sahil says:

    Mr. Singh , Welcome to the team of Ghumakkars.

    Brilliant Narration and nice pics.
    Hats Off to You. You are a great inspiration for the fellow Ghumakkars.

    Sahil

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks. To speak the truth, those young boys who go on such trips on bike all the way from Bombay or Bangalore or some such distant places, some of them solo, are my inspiration.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Singh Saheb,
    Great post, great narration, nice pictures. Appke hounsle ko salaam.

    Thanks.

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks for your liberal appreciation even though the picture are not nice or standard. It has been taken with an ordinary 1.3 MP mobile camera. I never thought that I would post it on web site. Anyway, now I am going to buy a good camera.

  • I am Speechless after going through your post. Hats off to you Sir !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There is a correction in the very first line ” I am not young anymore ” :-) , you are much younger than us.

    Looking forward to see your next post.

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks, Mahesh. u r right. I keep on telling others that old and young is a state of mind. u r as old as u think u r.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Wow! Amazing trip.

    Used to wonder what one would do post retirement; would there be enough energy left for long drives? Thanks a lot for providing me the answer. I like the relaxed manner in which you did this in contrast to the ‘rush job’ that we undertake.

    • V P Singh says:

      There is time and space for both in life Patrick, ‘rush job’ and leisure trip. u have to be in the office on a certain date, I have all the time in the world. Just enjoy what is at hand. I did. you’l have your time.

  • Hitendra Kr. Sharma says:

    Sir,

    It is a thrilling and amazing story of a really fantastic tour. Descriptions are awesome.

    I knew your zeal for life and happiness. But, I think, after reading this story, I now know you better.

    Regards,

    Hiten

  • Yes, I second Hiten’s opinion … keenly looking forward to part II of the trip …

    Great going Sir …!!!

  • jha says:

    You are having the same stamina as in your teens.It is good and go ahead.But I could not recognize you in the photos.

  • Dolonchapa says:

    Such a wonderful trip you have undertaken, Sir, and that too at your age. Your courage and zest for life is mindblowing. You are an inspiration to us all. Hats of to you, Sir!

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks Hiten, Madonnna, Dolon my ex-colleagues. This made u remember me. This is my way of surfacing in your life once in a while so that u don’t forget me.

  • Namita (munmun) says:

    gr8 narration nd awesome pics ……….

  • vinaymusafir says:

    You are a HERO for us, Ghumakkars.
    A true inspiration. Eagerly waiting for rest of the story.

  • venkatt says:

    Reading your post was so inspiring, Sir. Congrats and keep travelling.

  • V P Singh says:

    Thanks munmun, vinaymusafir and venkatt. Your reading and liking the post has made it worthwhile for me, i mean both, the journey and the writing

  • Nandan says:

    Mr. Singh, Welcome to Ghumakkar.

    I am very late to the party but looking at the endurance which the young couple and their equally young friends demonstrated, I am keen to make-up (as they say in Railways lingo) for the lost time.

    I would have probably driven 20 times (may be more) on Delhi-Ambala road and always zipped through Kurukshetra, at times we decided to stop and at least try to make a quick halt, but the rush to reach Manali/Shimla/McLeod/Kaza was hard to rein. Its rewarding to read your journey, tight enough to keep you on and still detailed enough to not make you rush :-)

    I know that the 2nd part is published but I would give some break before I read that. Let me ferment this story for at least a a couple of days before I bite the apple.

    Jai Hind Sir. Salute.

    • V P Singh says:

      Thanks Nandan. Its nice to see a comment from someone who has been there. Without that its difficult to understand the pleasure of those unique places. Its not as difficult to travel there as it is made out to be. You are lucky to get chance to go there, even if it is on a tight schedule. I never got a chance while I was in service. In fact, I am making up for the lost time, not you.

  • varun says:

    Hats off to u Sir … This just proves anyone with the will to travel can do this trip with any vehicle :)

  • Prashant says:

    Sir…i SALUTE your will and enthusiasm for such a mammoth journey.
    As some fellow-member has rightly said, its the horse power of the driver and not the vehicle that gets one going.
    Your story has stolen the sheen from the trips of those who do this journey in SUVs and 4WDs.
    I wish every leh-bound first timer seeks your blessings before embarking on an experience of a lifetime.
    It shall be a serious ommission if i dont appreciate the support of your better half in taking such journey at this point in life. Her enthusiasm is as commendable as yours.
    With the strength of your spines and the courage of your hearts, you two made it to the roof of the world.
    Its an achievement not only for you but also for your little montser (read i10). :)
    Hats off to you Sir & Mam.

  • mjain1963 says:

    amazing, courageous, keep it up and lets do some trip togeather too, kindest regards

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