The road to Munsiari

When driving in the hills is something you like you just cant get over the fact that you are driving in the Himalayas and you just want to keep talking about it, starting from Binsar and onto Munsiari we had a fabulous drive. It was such a special drive because almost rarely did we get 50 meter of straight road, just curves and curves and bends all the way and the distance was a mean 240 kms!!! Yes, imagine the thrill a driver gets on these roads, you are constantly into the drive and every new bend suddenly lends a new perspective to the whole view you have been having.

 

Uttarakhand I must confess has probably better roads than Himachal, perhaps owing to the lower altitude compared to Himachal and far more bends and curves again perhaps owing to small mountains than Himachal, I am no geography or mountain expert but from my experiences this is what I draw. These smoothly carpeted road make for a pleasant drive, the country side here is wooded like crazy and that in itself is a great boost for me to be driving. I always prefer highways with trees lacing it than the boring 6-8 lane highways with no trees to talk of. These roads have a lot more character I say. It was wonderful to be crossing so many bridges on the way, stopping at random chai thela’s and munching on a momo whenever we saw a village market. Less populated as we got on the road from Thal to Munsiyari and lot more greener, with the sides of the road being laced by green fresh grass which added even more happiness to the drive.

 

Not to exaggerate the curves on the road but actually my finger developed a small blister from all the veering of the steering, call it the roads or blame my soft hands 😉

 

Here are a few pictures of from the drive and a video too! 🙂

The almora berinag road is full of pines, however, the recent rains had given the grounds green colour

The Almora-Berinag road is full of Pine trees, however, the recent rains had given the grounds green colour and not the thick pine leave layer.

 

Crossing Bridges

Crossing Bridges

As you near Munsiyari you realise the Pine have not reached or breached this area. Its all old traditional Himalayan trees that take over here.

As you near Munsiyari you realise the Pine have not reached or breached this area. Its all old traditional Himalayan trees that take over here.

Then clouds start to take up their play as the day stretches to noon.

Then clouds start to take up their play as the day stretches to noon.

That was the last pic we took before it started raining

That was the last pic we took before it started raining

 

Here is a small video we took enroute : 

 

 

 

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Road trips

Travel was a bug that had bit me probably whilst I was a very small kid, however, the effect of that bug started showing its true colours pretty late in life. Earlier the penchant to travel was to be fulfilled only with fantasies or books, finally last few years it is starting to become a bit of a reality. I learnt driving also pretty late, infact 3 years back when I bought a car I didn’t even know properly how to drive. Thankfully as my wife says to me I have taken to it like a fish takes to water!

 

It was always ingrained in my brains that I want to drive my car to all remote corners of this world, more so to the Himalayas, stopping where I liked, taking in all the sights, photographing any peak I found pretty or screeching my brakes at the sight of an unknown bird! I did want to do it and no other driver could tolerate the number of breaks I keep taking to click a pic or to buy some fruit being sold or take a piss or smoke when I found a pretty view which had to be soaked in.

 

The first trip to the Himalaya’s was quite tentative with every loved one giving me loads of advice to be careful as they all wanted me to go and come back safe to this year, my third road trip to the Himalaya’s all self driven I have come a long way.

 

The thing about road trips are, they are most comfortable, you can plan your schedules without any other criteria but your own comfort, you decide if you want to drive 400 kms a day or 900, if you want to drive in the night or day, if you want to suddenly change your destination you can, impromptu decisions infact make them even better I say.

 

Selecting a place to eat is a major event for me on Road Trips, tips from friends, internet or simply places that look attractive to me all kind of fill up the activity chart along with driving all day. In the Himalaya’s stopping at a random Dhaba for tea that has a splendid view is something I really heart. Talking to folks who are amazed that you have driven all the way from Gujarat kinda swells my small ego like anything. I feel proud almost! 🙂 Suddenly sighting someone selling some berries or someone pasting fruits with salt and masala and you can bet I will be stopping around to pick up something.

 

Watching how the topography changes as you keep changing states and regions is quite amazing, how when you are about to reach a Tiger reserve the forests start swelling and how the population starts to dwindle is quite dramatic. In the Himalayas when you are driving you many times wonder how some of the most steep and remote mountains have a house or two on them, wonder how do people select these places. Wonder how they manage their day to day resources living at such remote locations but then I guess many people prefer a good view, silence and peace to most other things in life! 🙂

 

As far as safety is concerned, what I have learned from my little experience of driving around Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, UP, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Goa& Karnataka is that most of the places are pretty much safe. We generally try not to drive a lot in the night, trying our best to reach our destinations before dark on most occasions. If you are just a tad careful and don’t be rash, frankly there are not so many terrors as people would have you believe on the road. Generally people drive safe and all want to live so don’t worry, be careful you don’t bump into anyone, most of the other drivers don’t want to bump into you as well. The fact that I am on a holiday kind of makes my driving a little more patient than say when I am driving for work!

 

As I make a road trip after another, I keep falling in love, not so much with driving but with the idea of moving about all the time, going to new places and navigating my own way.

 

Here is a picture of me whilst on my way to Jauljibi from Munsiyari where we crossed a bridge into Nepal. This place thrilled me, what a wonderful place to stop aint it?! You stop your car on a hot day, open the door and walk two days and you are into a chilling waterfall. How cool is that!? These places do exist in India and many a times there are so many pretty places you encounter on the road which are not mentioned on any travel site or included in any travel package.

 

So here’s to more road trips in future! 🙂

 

 

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Surreal

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The best part about road trips is you get numerous opportunities to stop and click, having taken a liking to photography I see frames all the time, the flip side is I never reach any place on schedule, but then that is the not the idea of a holiday anyways is it?

Who wants to keep schedules when you are passing such places at sunset time?? Wouldn’t you want to stop here for a minute or two, look around, absorb, get lost in the moment??

जेवण on the Highway

Kaanda Pithla, Bharla Vange, Shengdana Lassun Chatni, Lassun Mirchi Thecha

Kaanda Pithla, Bharla Vange, Shengdana Lassun Chatni, Lassun Mirchi Thecha

Whats a road trip good for if it doesn’t include some lip smacking food on the highway??

I am a total sucker for road trips, stopping where ever I want to, starting at any insanely hour (like 2.30am) not bother how many stops I am making to take a picture and above all the surprises that await on the highway in terms of food, many times you don’t know what and where to eat and yet from time to time you surprise yourself so very pleasantly.

One such occasion, we were passing through Pune and skipping the city, we have heard of the famous Vaishali restaurant in Pune but have not been able to check it out yet, and so about 45kms before Pune we start seeing boards of Vaishali on the highway. Immediately the stomach has made space for some food, I tell my partner in crime we must stop here.

As we ride into the hotel and park we do realise this doesn’t seem like the original, we enter anyway, ask the guy serving if it is the same Vaishali and he smiles and tell us no, this is different and that is different, yet, tempted by the fact that it offered Maharshtrian Food and not the steady South Indian or Punjabi, we decided to check it out.

The one drawback of being just two travellers is that we can order only so much, but, then my appetite helps anyways. So we ordered Kaanda Pithla, Bharla Vange, Shengdana Lassun Chatni, Lassun Mirchi Thecha, Jowar Roti and Chappati and boy was it delicious!!!

In any case I love spicy food and although the food was not as spicy the Thecha pretty much made up for it! It was an awesomely lip smacking and fulfilling lunch! I recommend anyone passing Vaishali to give this local fare a try.

Like the saying was, when in Maharashtra eat like the Maharashtrians 😉

Hailstorm!

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As we left Khajjiar and headed back to Panchpulla after seing some threatening skies which promised to drench one and all it seemed like the crowds were riding faster than us… they were always engulfing us no matter how fast we drove!

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And then it began, rain at first and suddenly the sound on the tin roof sounded rocky! It was not just rain, but hail….

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Slowly at first…

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We even went out and caught some

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then the pace increased…

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So much Hail!

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The feeling of driving in the Hailstorm was wonderful and something new for me… we gushed with excitement as it went tip tap tapak on our tin roof!!!!

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And after about half an hour of driving the hail bid good bye and blue skies again appeared! 😀

A new highway…

Ek rasta...  aha aha...  teen raahi... aha aha.... :) :)

Ek rasta…
aha aha…
teen raahi…
aha aha…. 🙂 🙂

Yes, I know the story of Leh is still uncomplete, but well I have had to time, plus another holiday ensured that I have way too many tales to tell alongside the slavery of the routines! But well, I just had to share this picture of the highway from Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh, it felt like you were probably travelling in Europe, grass on the sides of the road, flowers on almost all the trees and no litter!!!! The drive from Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh is not a express highway and yet, its just the sort of highway I love, loads of curves, swerves, trees and an empty road! 🙂

I prefer these highways which have a lot more character than those expressways where you just drive in straight lines at a million miles an hour! 😀

Here are a few pictures of the highways from Hindustan ka Dil! 😀

The slope, the lonely tree... the amazing greens in the month of march!!!! :D

The slope, the lonely tree… the amazing greens in the month of march!!!! 😀

Miles and miles of these road sides that left me amazed! Its in India!!!!!! :D  Fine road, greens alongside sprinkled with flower petals!!!!

Miles and miles of these road sides that left me amazed! Its in India!!!!!! 😀
Fine road, greens alongside sprinkled with flower petals!!!!

Flowers greet you all the way to Bandhavgarh! :D

Flowers greet you all the way to Bandhavgarh! 😀

The road to Bandhavgarh!

The road to Bandhavgarh!

A lone mango tree on the road side for you to pluck raw mangoes! :D

A lone mango tree on the road side for you to pluck raw mangoes! 😀

Highway highs!

Well after we left Rumbak and Hemis we decided to make some time by travelling in a car for a change and not walking. This meant two things, one we cover more places and second we stop losing weight. Yes the 5 days in Rumbak saw a 2 kg weight drop 😀 and don’t you think I am complaining. Anyways, one Gulzarbhai came with his Innova to pick us up from Zinchen where we waited for him for a while. Gulzarbhai was a Kashmiri who was living in Leh. Conversations with him were of the most interesting kind, we had a buddhist Ladakhi as a guide, a Kashmiri muslim as a driver and you just know you are in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and so you know where the conversation is headed! Some really wonderful things came through but that is for some other day. Today I will just share a few pictures from Zinchen to Khardungla via Leh, all pics taken whilst we reached the so called Worlds Highest Motorable Road Khardungla!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh. Do notice how the landscape keeps varying!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh, the landscape was something like this. The Poplar trees indicate human habitation. Its only where humans live that there are trees, or else major part of the region is totally barren.

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don't want to miss out on! :)

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don’t want to miss out on! 🙂

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn't it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn’t it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

One more of the same!

One more of the same!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! :D

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! 😀

Just another turn, just another picture!

Just another turn, just another picture!

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

and then... finally...

and then… finally…

the summit or pass... all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la...

the summit or pass… all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la…

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.  More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! :)

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.
More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! 🙂

Of GPS and fighting Pheasants!

Travelling on unknown roads and reaching new destinations always means that you have to seek directions. Interestingly, these days the GPS is an invention that has in someways made us independent about finding our way. Dependent on itself but independent from asking people, however, from time to time GPS takes you on a short cut that suddenly appears to be not such a good idea. So instead of taking the popular route to Swarghat via Chandigarh, we managed to bypass Chandigarh and went to Swarghat via Baddi & Nalagarh. Well it did save us 5 kms, but the last 25 kms took 2.5 hours as there was no trace of road and I had to drive in the rain, muck, uphill in 1st and 2nd gear for most of those 2.5 hours with almost no vehicles behind or in front of me!

Scary, yet it was adventurous and in the end calmed my nerves about driving in the Himalaya’s, I did not encounter as tough a road throughout the next 10 days in the Himalaya’s.

I remember quite clearly how last year when we went to Kufri for the bloggers meet and it rained all the time we were there. That told me one thing to never plan a 2-3 day trip to Himachal, as unless you go for more than a week, you might have to come across a period when it just rains and hence have no outdoor time. As much as I love the rains, the rains in Himachal whilst they make things look beautiful can make the weather freezing and being wet in that terrain is not always wise for people like us from the plains. As we entered Himachal, this is how the sky started turning at the entrance in Baddi. It was a sense of dejavu almost to see the rain building up.

The weather builds up and this Kapok tree starts spraying pollen like crazy just as we enter the state... to invite us with really cold, windy weather!

The weather builds up and this Kapok tree starts spraying pollen like crazy just as we enter the state… to invite us with really cold, windy weather!

The rains ensured the muddy road was slushy and more difficult to drive on!

The rains ensured the muddy road was slushy and more difficult to drive on!

Whilst it turned the weather cold, the road kept me on the edge!

Whilst it turned the weather cold, the road kept me on the edge!

The one advantage of going on a road less travelled means birds, since so less traffic went through that road, we spotted quite a few Himalayan’s bulbul’s, Asian Pied Starling, White browed fantail and the best of all two male Kalij Pheasant fighting on the road! 😀

An Asian Pied Starling or Pied Myna sits oblivious to me on the cable! This is a first time spotting for me!

An Asian Pied Starling or Pied Myna sits oblivious to me on the cable! This is a first time spotting for me!

A pair of himalayan bulbul's seemed to be pretty grim in the rain and hinted at the danger on the road! :P

A pair of himalayan bulbul’s seemed to be pretty grim in the rain and hinted at the danger on the road! 😛

I wonder how the birds find the rain in the hills, it probably thinks okay about it just that it spoils its spiked up hairdo I guess! This himalayan bulbul seems not too happy about it!

I wonder how the birds find the rain in the hills, it probably thinks okay about it just that it spoils its spiked up hairdo I guess! This himalayan bulbul seems not too happy about it!

And then we saw two male Kalij Pheasant’s fighting with each other on the road!!! Again a first time sighting for me 😀 😀 😀 😀

Like any two boxer's they came and greeted each other, probably sizing up each other's strength and weakness.

Like any two boxer’s they came and greeted each other, probably sizing up each other’s strength and weakness.

and then they rumbled like they would in the WWF! Ferocious and angry at each other!

and then they rumbled like they would in the WWF! Ferocious and angry at each other!

Again at the end they both posed at each other, one has its tail up and the other has it lower before I ran out of patience in trying to get a closer shot I got off the car and went a lil further only to scare them away into the bushes :(

Again at the end they both posed at each other, one has its tail up and the other has it lower before I ran out of patience in trying to get a closer shot I got off the car and went a lil further only to scare them away into the bushes 😦

All in all it was a tiring yet enthralling ride to enter Dev Bhoomi Himachal. A lot of adventures stay ahead still and this was just the start of the holiday! In the next post, the ride to The Great Himalayan National Park in Tirthan Valley! 😀

So until then hang on! 😀