Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Delhi - Mcleodganj - Delhi. (More smiles than miles)

Delhi - Mcleodganj - Delhi. (More smiles than miles)

The past week has been a week of many firsts. To list a few, I went for a vacation with friends for first time since college, drove for 1100 Kms without any co-driver and decided to write a travelogue. This is my first post on the forum thus will appreciate all feedback/brickbats.

The plan started with a call from a friend in Mumbai, if I would want to join them on a trip to Mcleodganj. They were planning to fly till Chandigarh and take a cab from there. I decided to tag along and then hijack the plan to a road trip from Delhi.

I have been planning to purchase a new car for long (will post details about it in a separate thread) and wanted to take it for the trip. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and I made the trip on my trusted and reliable Santro Xing.

We took the following route:

Delhi > Karnal > Ambala > Panchkula > Ropar > Anandpur Sahib > Nangal > Una > Amb > Mubarakpur > Dehra > Ranital > Kangra > Gaggal > Dharmashala > Mcleodganj

Day 1:
I along with 2 friends started from Delhi at 7.30 AM on December 5 (Monday). We planned the trip during weekdays as we all wanted to get away from work. After tanking up near Azadpur, we headed straight to Murthal. The first halt took place at Pahalwan Dhaba. Paranthas combined with butter (white not Amul) prepares one for the long hard day to come. I have driven from Ahmedabad to Delhi and on other major highways too however, nothing matches the food on offer at Punjab highway.
After a break of almost one hour, we headed to Chandigarh. We took another small break just before entering Panchkula and then a major break at Panchkula. We reached Panchkula around 1.15 PM and stayed there till 4 PM as another friend joined us from there. Finally at 4PM, we started from Panchkula and stopped for Lunch around 5 PM, near Ropar. Another long break and we were on our way to Mcleodganj at 6 PM. Crossed some horrible roads from Una to Amb and finally reached Mcleodganj at 2 AM. The roads from Una are in very bad shape and one should try and cover it during day. The drive from Dharmashala to McLeod is through a very twisty and narrow road (aptly called by locals as Khada Danda Road). We went there without booking a hotel assuming that most hotels would be available due to off peak season. We never imagined that we will reach at 2 in the night at a hill station that sleeps early. After trying a number of doors (read hotel gates), we finally managed entry to a Hotel called Paradiso. It was decent (not Hotel Decent) for spending the night. The night was spent discussing the trip and nostalgic moments of school/college.

Day 2:
The day started with a mild scare. Car's battery had completely drained out without any apparent reason. The hotel staff added to the anxiety by sharing stories of how cars from plains keep failing in this area. I am sure they had their logic for each story however, I couldn't believe that my ever so reliable Santro will let me down. Called a mechanic and got the car jump-started. Then, we realized that the brake light coupler had failed thus, the brake light was on through out the night. Got it fixed and the Santro was back in its elements.

It was time for brunch at Green Hotel (Bhagsu Road) and then head towards Bhagsu Nag temple and falls. Rest of the day was spent in Shopping and finally a nice dinner at Mc'Llo.

For me, vacation is all about driving and eating thus, most of my travel plans include more places to eat than places to visit. :D (That's the first smiley, left with one more)

Day 3:

The day started with a very heavy brunch at Jimmy's Italian. The exhaustive menu at Jimmy's can give even the best of Italian restaurants a run for their money. Jimmy's is a brilliant place to eat for people that love Italian. We then went to Naddi Village with a stop over at the St. John Church. Church, as expected was serene. The view from Naddi is breathtaking. The peaks received first snowfall of the season on Tuesday night. We could see traces of fresh snow on the peaks. After spending some 45-60 minutes at Naddi, we went to the main temple at McLeodganj.

Being a Buddhist Monastery, it was definitely peaceful however, I expected it to be more grand (Might have a lot to do with it being called the MAIN Temple). I have heard from friends that Norbulingka and Karmapa temples in Dharmashala provide better experience.

The remainder of the day was spent in accompanying our friends with their shopping escapades. We had two friends that belong to the fairer sex, travelling with us, thus shopping trips were completely unavoidable.
After all the shopping, we went to Green Hotel to savour the delicacies again. Before we realised, it was 7.30 PM and we had to start our journey back to Delhi. We went back to Hotel, packed our stuff, thanked the entire staff for their service and started for Delhi at 9.30 PM.

We took the same route while returning however, missed the diversion towards Ranital and went to towards Mandi. Luckily, after 30 KMs we realised that we are on the wrong route and came back to take the correct route from Kangra. Stopped at a Dhaba near Dehra at 1 in the night for Dinner. It was another great experience of food at road side Dhaba. After negotiating the terrible roads near UNA, we reached Anandpur Sahib at around 4.15 AM. An early morning visit to Darbar Sahib is the best start one can have to the day.

We started from Anandpur Sahib at 5.00 and then stopped at a motel near Ropar at around 6 in the morning. My friends couldn't stay awake any longer and I had been driving alone for long thus, rest was the need of hour.

Day 4:

After a 5 hour sleep, we started our journey from Ropar at 12.45 PM. The first stop was at Haveli (Near Ambala) for almost 90 minutes and then at Barista near Karnal for 45 minutes. The stoppage at Karnal allowed us to witness Sehwag's double century live. clap:(This deserved the second smiley) We took another halt at Murthal for paranthas, this time at Sukhdev. My friends were from Mumbai and they wanted as much of it as possible before returning to Mumbai. We reached Delhi at around 9 PM.

These were fantastic 4 days away from the usual corporate life. 4 weekdays without formal clothes and formal discussions. The combination of passion to drive, great and not so great roads, crazy friends, crazier conversations had a psychedelic (not talking about stuff that produces it) effect on all of us.

It was a great trip that made me realize what I was missing in the seemingly comfortable life. Have decided to take a trip to Laddakh next year (Between June – August) and seriously get my work-life balance back on track. (Wish I could add another smiley).

Here are some pics taken from Nokia N8 (nothing except camera works on this).

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