Road to Leh – Kanpur to Manali (Part 1)

In this may, we planned to make a road trip to make it to Manali-Leh highway which is supposed to be quite difficult with treacherous passes and roads. Going from Kanpur on road wasn’t going to be an easy task given that none of us had much of experience of driving on mountains. However, we did decide and made a plan of our journey and planned to leave on 25 May 2012. The group consisted of  five friends, three men (all three teach at IITK) and two ladies, friend and her daughter of 10 year age. Before we started off, a few friends scared us that the kid will get tired, she will need oxygen and what not.. but thank god, we kept our spirits, loaded ourselves with Dymox in case of any problems and a lot of munchies..

Day-1 Kanpur to Dehradun (~500 km, via Rampur-Najibabad-Haridwar)

First, we headed to Dehradun, about 550 km from Kanpur via Rampur, Najibabad, Haridwar. We started at about 6 am and reached Dehradun at about 9 pm. We did not face much of the problem on our way except a bit of traffic ham at Rampur which was deftly avoided by our intuition. No much to see on the roads except horrible traffic and filth of UP towns so no pics on this sector, our cameras needed long rest before they went in frenzy! After reaching Dehradun, we piled on a friend’s relatives who really treated us very well, fed us well, and also packed us very nice lunch and dinner for the onward journey.

Day-2 (Dehradun-Panota Sahib-Dharampur-Sabhathu-Arki-Darlaghat-Barmana-Surendernagar-Nerchowk)

Next day, our plan was to reach Manali, another 450-500 km or so drive, but there were two routes: either via Chandigarh-Mandi-Manali or via Panota sahib-Nahan-Dharampur(Solan)-Sabhathu-Arki-Barmana-Mandi-Manali. These two routes meet near Surendernagar, but the first leg is what makes difference. We thought we wont travel through the plains and avoid the rush so we decided to go via Nahan. We started at about 9.30 which was a bit late, but nevertheless.. I don’t know whether it was a mistake: the road was bad for quite a bit but traffic wasn’t much with sparsely populated places and the scenes were gorgeous. Soon after Panota Sahib, the beauty of mountains started and we started working, busy with the our cameras or busy looking at the nature. Worst was to be the person driving the vehicle in this situation, for whom it was an excitement as it  was his first real mountain driving experience and he did very well, 100/100. We reached Dharampur after driving for about 4-5 hours at about 2.30 pm and after covering about 175 km. Dharampur is a junction for people going towards Solan or Shimla from plains or Chandigarh/Delhi, so we faced a bit of crowd there. Had our lunch and then proceeded towards Sabathu and Arki. The roads in this stretch were basically state or district roads, traffic wasn’t much but roads weren’t good either. We couldn’t drive fast enough, and by the time we reached Darlaghat, to join NH-88, it was quite late, about 6 pm and we hadn’t traveled enough, almost 70km in about 3 hours. We realized that it would be tough to make it to Manali on the same day in good time. We then switched over and I started to drive, my first real experience of driving on mountains. However, the road towards Manali was good as except at some places, so not much of an issue. We could not much of scenery as it was getting dark, except the visible forest fire at certain places on the high hills.

However, we thought that we should probably stay overnight somewhere before Manali and we chose to stay in a hotel at Nerchowk which is a small town before Mandi. We reached there at about 9.30 pm and there at the hotel, we got good food and then dozed off soon to start next day.

Day 3: Nerchowk -Mandi- Manali (~115 km)

Next day started with a nice breakfast of Alu Pranthas along with tea and then soon set off to really enter the hills. First we hit Mandi which is kind of a valley town where the new IIT is also being set up. We did not stop over at Mandi and winding roads via Kullu soon took us to Manali. The exciting feature on this route was presence of a quite long tunnel at Aut after Mandi and then as Manali comes closer, one can see a glimpse of snow capped peaks. Otherwise, there is not much on this route as there is a lot of traffic as well as population. Reaching Manali is not fun as Manali is a overcrowded with tourists and it is a dirty place, Gangtok is comparatively much cleaner. Anyway, we found a good hotel (Hotel Himanshu) whose owner was a friend of a friend and gave us a good treatment. We did roam around a bit to places like Hidimba temple and the whatever market it has before planning our way to Leh via Rohtang next day.


Mandi-Manali Road photo DSC_5495.jpgSurroundings

Tunnel from Aut photo DSC_5544.jpgPicture of tunnel near Aut>

Manali (मनाली)

We stayed in Manali for couple of days. In this season, Manali is a horrible town with too many but uncaring and inconsiderate tourists rotting the place, honking and smoke of SUVs and litter all around. Plastic litter from polythene bags and packaged goods seems to have taken a toll over Manali’s once good looking water channels and valleys and the ban on plastic looks quite cosmetic in nature. Hotels in Manali can be quite expensive, however we got a good deal thanks to another friend who arranged accommodation for us in another friend’s hotel. The owner who was a local was a very nice person and in fact he treated us very nice with discount at the end. We paid about 1500 per room per day which was a good deal for the kind of hotel and service we had.

In Manali, we just roamed around nearby places and on the final day we had a walk to temple of Hidimba (Mahabharat’s Bheem’s other wife) which is located in nice surrounding of tall Deodar trees. Besides this temple is Ghatotkach’s temple (Bheem’s son from Hidimba who was killed in the Mahabharata war). However, we did not want to stay for too long in Manali.

More shades of  mountains. photo 20120528_061434.jpgOne of the views from Manali

Hidimba temple photo DSC_5635.jpgPicture of Hidimba Temple



  • parveen kr says:

    nice post and may be a new road travel . more road and route details are appreciated. nice photos. please ad some more words and photos in future.
    thanks for sharing

    • Rakesh Bawa says:

      Quite right, Ashish Ji that Manali gets very congested during summers and Manali itself is nothing to talk off, Actually the town acts as a base town for the people to go to Lahaul Spiti.

  • Ashish says:

    More details will be available in subsequent parts which should get published soon..

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Nice Post and description for the route is useful.

    Vashisth temple is also a nice place in Manali. you have traveled by road so you might have taken the pictures of mountains & nature which are incredible on the route of Manali.

    Waiting for the rest part.


  • Nice post and a very road review.

    Any thought behind the route taken (i.e. Kanpur to Dehradun) instead of NH-2. It could be one of the option and the distance is almost similar. You would have also saved some travel time, normally it takes 7-8 hours journey to reach Delhi from Kanpur (500 Km) and once you cross Delhi, NH-1 is beautiful to drive.

    Look forward to read the next part.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Nice beginning, Ashish. Driving all the way to Leh without any prior experience of driving in the mountains is testimony to your spirit of adventure. You talked of Dymox. What exactly is it? I also wish that you gave us the name of the Hotel in Manali for the benefit of fellow ghumkkars.

    I share your angst at the environmental degradation due to irresponsible tourism. I wonder if you read my post on responsible tourism

    Looking forward to reading about your onward journey to Leh.

    • Ankit says:

      As per wikipedia: “To reduce the incidence of Acute Mountain Sickness acetazolamide (diamox) is sometimes taken prophylactically, anywhere between 125 milligrams (mg) to 1000 mg per day, starting a few days before going to higher altitudes. Such use is recommended for those ascending from sea level to 3000 meters (9800 feet) in one day, or for those ascending more than 600 meters (2000 feet) per day once above an altitude of 2500 meters (8200 feet). Also, prophylactic use is recommended for those with a significant history of acute mountain sickness.

      Acetazolamide forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate, the conjugate base of carbonic acid. By increasing the amount of bicarbonate excreted in the urine, the blood becomes more acidic. As the body equates acidity of the blood to its CO2 concentration, artificially acidifying the blood fools the body into thinking it has an excess of CO2, and it excretes this imaginary excess CO2 by deeper and faster breathing, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. At high altitudes, climbers hyperventilate in response to lower oxygen levels. The hyperventilation results in reduced carbon dioxide (an acid) and a respiratory alkalosis. The normal physiologic response to a respiratory alkalosis is for the kidneys to increase excretion of bicarbonate (a base) to compensate for the loss of carbon dioxide. This kidney response takes a few days, however acetazolamide in a sense accelerates this process by leading to a more rapid renal bicarbonate loss (metabolic acidosis).

      Acetazolamide is not an immediate cure for acute mountain sickness; rather, it speeds up part of the acclimatization process which in turn helps to relieve symptoms. This may take up to a day or two, and requires waiting without any further rapid ascent. It is often advisable to descend if even mild acute mountain sickness is experienced. If serious sickness is encountered, descent to a lower elevation is considered to be mandatory unless other circumstances present greater danger.”

  • vinaymusafir says:

    Well started. Najibabad is my hometown, good to read that you have been there.
    I am excited about further posts. Write soon.

  • Gita AM says:

    That must have been quite a drive. Nice start and looking forward to further chapters.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Nice Post… Once time i have been to Manali by Road from Agra Via Delhi to Manali (Agra To Delhi This Ro

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Nice Post Once time I have been to Manali by Car on Road from Agra Via Delhi to Manali
    (Agra -200km- Delhi -227km- Ambala (Kharar More) -95km Nalagarh – 72km- Bilaspur-66km-Mandi – 60km – Kullu – 40 Km – Manali – 52km – Rohtang Pass )
    This Road is fantastic with Natural Beauty. Thanks for Remind me…

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Long time Ashish. We merged a few posts since they were short. Good to see them in print, finally :-)

    Quite a drive and that too on each new day. I have often looking at Paonta-Dharampur-Mandi connection and wondered on the feasibility. When possible please let us know more about this route. Also, as what Amitava asked, did you guys consider going via NH2?

  • Ashish says:

    Amitava/Nandan: We did consider going via NH, but then based on the feedback of various people, we decided to stick to the route via hills, which turned out to be quite scenic. It was heck of a journey though.. Panota-Dharampur-Mandi is quite feasible in a day, we actually did it. Even if you go via NH, you wouldn’t gain much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *