Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 7: drive up to Gulaba Point (30 kms before Rohtang Pass)

Day 7: April 9, 2013

Day @ Manali

Comes a day in everyone’s life when it turns out to be the most action packed day of your life and many of your dreams come true. The Day 7th of our great Indian road trip turned out to be one such day.

We had planned to go to Rohtang pass. But we came to know at Shimla that Rohtang pass usually opens in mid May. But the road was open up to Gulaba point which is about 30 kms before Rohtang pass. The Army had opened the roads up to that point. We decided to go to Gulaba point. We got ready early and had our breakfast in the resort.

The drive to Gulaba point was very beautiful. The higher we climbed, the more breath taking the scenary became. We saw large orchards of Apple with the flowers in full bloom. The fresh fragrance of tall pine trees was all around us and the roads were laden with tall Christmas trees as well. Small rivulets appered out of nowhere at regular intervals and joined the mighty Beas. The Beas River was flowing fuller than it was lower down, having been fed by freshly melted snow and rains in the previous couple of days. We saw many sure footed and hardy Nepali workers climbing slowly but surely with heavy loads on their backs at the various construction sites and road work sites.

The roads are very steep and some stretches are god and some stretches are not very good. The tarring is not yet complete due to which the road is full of pot holes in those stretches that are not good. It takes a lot skill, patience, courage and guts to negotiate the curves and the steep climb efficiently. The signs are missing at many key points and so we have to keep asking the way all the time. There are many sharp and steep hair pin bends throughout the way. We lost our way at one point when we took a wrong turn and soon realised when we asked the way at the next point and took a turn back and resumed our journey forward.

After we had passed a certain point we suddenly saw snow very close to the road. We stopped and jumped out of the car like small children and went to play with the snow. During the drive throughout the route we found shops advertising skiing suits, gum boots, snow goggles, gloves and many such gear that you would require to wear to save yourself from the snow and the cold. We ignored all the shops and the signs and proceed further having decided to hire something right on top. But later we realised that it would have been a good idea to hire at the beginning itself because rates are cheaper at the bottom and very exorbitant at the top.

When we reached Gulaba point we were greeted by hordes of vendors trying to sell their wares or services. We hired fur coats for all the four of us. Ashok at first refused because he never feels cold and felt that he could handle it. But it was freezing and 4⁰ C and so he decided to take a coat. We also took gum boots as it is difficult to walk on the snow with regular shoes. There is also the possibility that the shoes and the socks might become wet and cold due to the snow and so it might be difficult to walk with wet shoes and socks later.

The snow and the beauty of the place is breath taking. The snow seemed to be very old as it was covered by twigs of the trees and there was brown and black dust on the snow that had fallen from the trees. A lot of tea and coffee vendors were moving up and down selling hot beverages to people and enticing people to buy their wares to fight the cold. But we had been warned at the resort not to buy any eatable or drinks here as they use the dirty water of the melted snow to prepare and we might end up falling sick.

There were many carts selling hot boiled or burnt corn. Many vendors were also selling hot Maggi and Parle G biscuits with hot Chai and hot coffee. We resisted the temptation to buy any of those. We hired two motorised battery operated off-road bikes and had a very scary and jolly ride up the mountains. Once we reached the top we were again hounded by vendors. We succumbed to a few. We took a horse ride. The horses are mountain horses and look very strong and are very sure footed. Its very difficult to walk on the snow as the snow is soft and our foot goes in many places. It happens to the horses also. Whenever their foot goes in, we tilt to a side. For people who are used to walking on flat ground knowing what is up ahead and being sure of where we are placing our feet, it is a bit of a scary experience. But if you are the kind who revels in the unexpected and enjoys a little bit of a thrill in life, all these experiences can be very enjoyable.

We wore the traditional Himachali dress and took photos. Amrita refused to wear those dresses and went away to try some skiing. We forced Ashok to wear those clothes and he posed for a few pictures very grudgingly.  We also got tricked into hiring a photographer when he approached us. He took some 42 pictures of ours and charged us Rs.50 per picture. After much haggling and bargaining he settled for Rs.30 per picture. Since we were busy posing for photographs, we could not try out skiing as we had to do some more sight-seeing and wanted to get back to the resort early and sleep early as we had a tough drive back to Delhi the next day.

The drive back was completely downhill and the steep inclines had to be negotiated skilfully. We visited the Hidimba temple. This temple is in a cave and has the feet of Hidimba, the Rakshashi princess who married the second Pandav Bheem and gave birth to the brave warrior Rakshash Gatodgach who fought valiantly against the Kauravas in the great war of Mahabharata. The feet are carved in the rock and there is a large iron lamp burning continuously. The cave temple has a massive wooden structure that has been built on top with a beautiful doorway and windows that have very intricate carvings on them. It is supposed to be a 400 year old temple and the cave temple is supposed to be more than 4000 years old. There are some skulls of animals that have been put up on the walls just like how we would find carvings of mythological stories or mythological Gods in the temples of the South.

We went to the Gatodgach tree temple which is close by. The Gatotgach tree temple is nothing but a massive Christmas tree with some skulls of animals pinned up to it. There is a large board explaining the significance and the story. We returned to the resort and began packing and getting ready to leave the next day and drive back to Delhi.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 6 : of the Great Indian Road Trip @ Manali

Day 6: April 8, 2013

We got the much needed rest at the Mahindra resort and got up early to start on our journey to Manali. Ashok had discussed with many people bout which route to take and they had all suggested that from Mashobra he should take the Shimla bypass road and take the highway to Manali. They all assured us that the roads are very good and we will have no problems on our way.

6:50 am                : Leaving Mashobra         :Trip reading       : 2828 kms
7:10 am                : Passing Oaksland Tunnel
7:16 am                : Passing Victory tunnel

Ashok keeps asking for directions regularly as he believes that it is better to ask for directions than to get lost and travel in the wrong direction and loose precious fuel and time. Since Shimla is a town full of turns, curves and forks, we had to ask directions every minute. When we came across yet another perpendicular intersection, we asked a yet another person standing at the bus stop and he told us to follow a tempo that was going just ahead of us as that tempo was going to Darla Ghat. We followed his advice and started following him.

7:30                        : reached Tutu                   :Manali 245 kms away                    : came on NH 88
7:20                        : Sarog

We reached a point where the road sign said Hamirpur – 135 kms. We suddenly encountered the vast sinuous Beas River flowing next to the highway in all her glory. The majesty of the mighty river was spellbinding and awe inspiring. It was a beautiful sight to behold and we were taking in the beauty of the river like greedy and hungry people. The highway and the river flow adjacent to each other throughout and it is quite a sight to drive next to the mighty river. Even in the middle of summer, the mighty Beas was flowing in all her majesty, fed by the melting snow of the Himalayas. The river is fill of beautiful round rocks that have been weathered by the river and her force through thousands of years. The soil formed finally after eons of weathering is a fine white coloured powder with some glittering mica mixed together and is a wonderful sight to see.

7:30                        : Gana Hatti
7:50                        : Talaghat
8:30                        : Darla Ghat

We stopped at Veeshnu Dhabha to have breakfast. We had the world’s best Aloo Gobi paratha. This Dhaba is run by an elderly gentleman called Daulat Ram Sharma and his wife and serves one of the tastiest home cooked parathas. The had a very tasty mixed vegetable pickle to go with the parathas which has goose berries, mango, garlic, chillies, carrot and a host of other vegetable to go into the pickle. It

made the tastiest combination and I bought two packets to take home. The only thing that prevented us from having too many parathas was the fact that we were driving through steep ghat sections and did not want to have an upset stomach during the journey and keep throwing up throughout the way. Now I regret why I did not have a couple more parathas.

Breakfast                             : Rs.320 including two packets of achar.

9:45                        : Chukala
10:30                     : Manali 160 kms away

The roads are bad upto Bilaspur for about 30 kms. After that the roads were became really good and the driving conditions improved a lot. The drive continued as our eyes feasted on majestic waterfalls, soothing apple orchards, temples, Gurudwaras, gorges, curves, the various moods of the Beas river and the sleepy towns with their active inhabitants. We encountered many Nepalis carry heavy loads on their bags on the innumerable road construction sites throughout the highway.

11:20                     : Sundar Nagar
11:30                     : Lunapani, Mandi District
12:15                     : Pandoh Dam                    : Trip meter 3000 kms                     : 123999 kms to 126999 kms

We came across a walkway bridge after Pandoh dam. We were very excited to see the bridge and stopped to stretch our legs. We tried walking across the cable stay bridge which was swaying. The local school children were walking across the bridge to go to their school and we were scared even to set foot over it. But somehow we mustered all the courage we could get and did manage to walk up to the halfway point and click a few photos.            

We drove on a massive dam that has been built to block the mighty Beas. Bhakra Beas Dam and Photography is restricted. The road is continuously dotted by small tea stalls and dhabas with slate stones topped roofs.

We also found a spot where we could climb down from the highway and reach the banks of the river. I wanted to collect a few round and smooth stones to carry home as a souvenir and also to give to anyone who wanted them. As I was walking down to the river bed my left leg got stuck to some metallic wires and I fell flat on the ground. When I tried to get up, I could not get my leg out as it was stuck in those wires.  

Amrita was walking behind me and she panicked and started pulling my leg out. But her small hands could not get my legs out of the wires and she started shouting and calling out Ashok’s name who was a little ahead along with Apsara. Ashok came running and saw the trip coming to an end once more when he saw me sprawled on the ground in an awkward angle. I told him to just help me to get my leg out of the wires and once my leg was out I stood up and burst out laughing seeing their concerned faces.

Once we got over yet another shock, Apsara, Amrita and I suddenly turned into little children who have been unleashed into a toy shop and are allowed to pick up whichever toy we want. We collected quite a few beautiful smooth stones and carried them to the car using Amrita’s hoodie as a gunny sack (her idea) and started our journey to Manali forward.

12:30                     : Aut
1:15 to 1:20         : We travelled through a tunnel from Aut to Thalot which is 2.8 kms long and is Asia’s largest traffic tunnel. It has a 4-lane well tarred road and is 10.5 km long 4.5 km wide with beautiful well paved sidewalks and good
Lighting. The tunnel has reduced the distance to Manali on the Manali – Kirkut highway

1:15                        : Thalot
1:35                        : Nagrein
1:45                        : Bhunter             : Manali 50 kms away
1:50                        : Mandi

We started smelling the scintillating aroma of Pine trees at many stretches. Many Apple orchards greeted and welcomed us. The trees had bloomed and we could see the Apple flowers in all their glory. It was surprising to see that the Apple trees are so short and stout. It is a wonder that a tree so small produces on an average 250 to 300 fruits every year.

We came across any small hydro electric projects that produce electricity on the river Beas. From this point on the road became a little narrower. On one side is the huge rocky mountains and on the other side is a deep gorge with the Beas flowing. We even passed a stretch where there are two gorges on either side of us and there is a small 10 feet road in the middle for us to drive on. It takes great skill and experience to drive through these roads.

We kept passing by many youth on motorbikes with orange coloured cloth or scarf draped on their heads. On enquiring I found out that they are saffron clad Sikh youth who were on their way to Manikaran which is a holy place of pilgrimage to Sikhs.   

1:55                        : Kullu Town

The Beas River was in full flow in all its strength here. No wonder the entire stretch from Kullu to Manali is laden with many River rafting shops beckoning the adventurous kind to try this highly adrenaline inducing sport. It looked very enticing and me and the girls wanted to stop and try it out, but, Ashok said that we will do it on our way back. So we moved on.

2:45                        : Katrain
2:50                        : Patil Puhal                         : 18 kms to Manali
3:15                        : Manali town
3:30                        : Snow Peaks Club Mahindra Resort

We checked into the resort and decided to take rest for the rest of the day. We had finally arrived at Manali and were raring to go to Gulaba point tomorrow to see and play with snow. Rohtang pass would open only in May around May 15 or May 17. But even Gulaba point would be good as it was just 30 kms from Rohtang pass. We will do skiing and play in the snow and have great fun tomorrow.

We spent the night in the resort at the fun zone dancing to some nice Bollywood hits played by the DJ, had some good dinner and slept a dreamless sleep and rested our tired bodies, fulfilled minds and gladdened hearts.

Day 5 of the Great Indian Road Trip @ Shimla

Day 5 : April 7, 2013

@ Shimla

Finally after our most adventurous journey from Bangalore to Shimla, it felt very good to be at one single place even if it was just for one single day. I was wondering that if for three and a half days I felt like this, what must people who have to travel a lot as a part of their work or sailors, defence personnel feel after a long amount of time away from home. It also felt good to be on terra firma instead of moving constantly.

We went trekking in the morning. The trek was led by a local guide called Rajan and he was a very informed person. He was very knowledgeable about the local history, the flora and fauna and kept a continuous chatter going which kept us all very entertained. The trail was very easy and not very steep except in a couple of places. We went all the way to the President’s Orchards and back. Rajan also owned a dhaba and we immediately jumped with joy on hearing this. We told him that we wanted to have breakfast at his dhaba instead of at the resort. He immediately called his house and made arrangements for the ingredients to be kept ready.

On reaching his house we found that his father was running the dhaba along with his mother. Rajan ran into the kitchen and started making the parathas. His cousin brother served the hot aloo parathas along with aam ka achar, nimboo ka achar and dahi. We were ravenous and gobbled up innumerable hot parathas. His father served us hot elaichi wali chai in glass tumbler and we asked for a second round of chai. The home cooked parathas were so delicious and healthy without unnecessary masalas or oil that we all had three parathas each.

The best part of the road trip is the delicious street food that we are eating continuously. After returning to the resort, we had some Ayurvedic therapy and massage sessions. In the afternoon we set out to see the Shimla town. We went to the Mall road. We had to park the Scorpio in the town in one of the parking lots and go to the Mall road by the lift that is maintained by the Himachal Government.  We had lunch at Baljeev’s Dhaba on Mall road and then went shopping at Lakkad bazaar. We get great stuff made out of wood at very dead cheap prices. I bought a lot of spoons, ladles and other kitchen appliances like a pestle and mortar, chapathi making board and rolling pin and many hair clips, key chains and other gifting items.

We returned back to the Mall road and I took a ride on a horse. It was a Jakkad Hanuman Temple which is very famous. They have a story that when Lord Hanuman was carrying the Sanjeevani parvat from the Himalayas to Lanka, a part of it fell on this spot and that is how the Hanuman temple got established at this place. The temple has a lot of monkeys around it which are very aggressive and are known to attack human beings, pick pocket them, snatch the items that we carry in our hands and scare people. We were warned both by the people in the resort and our guide to go empty handed to the temple.

The drive to the temple was very steep and there were some very tricky and difficult hair pin bends. Ashok managed them and negotiated the Scorpio with ease. The guide, Rajan, who travelled with us amazed and impressed and told Ashok that he is driving like a local which is supposed to be the highest compliment that they can give anybody. If you are compared to a local, it seems you have arrived in Shimla scene.

We heeded to the advice given and went to the temple empty handed. We had an uneventful darshan. We saw many monkeys at close quarters, but, none attached us. The guide, Rajan kept chanting Hanuman Chalisa as he is mortally scared of monkeys since his childhood when he was attacked by a monkey in this very same temple. He told us that since then he never comes to this temple and always takes all the visitors to the Sankatmochan Hanuman temple and came here only because Ashok insisted that he wanted to come here.

We returned back to the resort, had an early dinner and packed up our belongings and settled early for a good night’s rest as we were tired and needed to get all the rest we could get as we had a tough drive to Manali tomorrow.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 4 : April 6, 2013  

The previous night we had slept at 4:00 at a petrol bunk on Karnal road. Ashok’s non-stop driving from had helped us to cover up a good amount of the distance. Even then, we were supposed to have checked in at The Club Mahindra resort at Mashobra the previous morning. But due to the two breakdowns, one in Bangalore and hte other in Guna, we had lost one day and had to call and inform the resort that we would report the next day.

We woke up in our Scorpio at 6:30 am and after freshening up as best as we could we tried starting the Scorpio to just hear eerie deafening silence. It was a big blow to us and just when we thought that we had overcome a major obstacle, here we had another one staring at our face within a few hours. Just then two good Samaritans came out of the Petrol
Bunk office and told us that we had kept the lights on the previous night and slept. They had come to tell us but saw that we were sleeping too deeply and did not want to disturb us. They sweetly offered to push the car and assured us that with two pushes it would start. Push they did, with Apsara, Amrita and me joined in the fun. Just as they had predicted, with two pushes the Scorpio started and we were on our way. Alas! I forgot to take the pictures of both the petrol bunk and the two good souls and remembered only after we had crossed a good 50 kms.

1st Toll Stop         : Karnal                 : Rs.90

We stopped at Mayur Dhabha on Karnal Road. Had very good chai and got up to proceed with our journey. Our adventures were not yet done with us. Ashok threw the Scorpio keys to Apsara and she missed and it fell. When Ashok tried to open the door it let out the burglar alarm and the Autocop had got spoilt. Every time we tried to start, the Autocop would go on. The entire dhabha of people were continuing with their work totally unfazed and nonchalant to our predicament. I am sure being located on the highway, they must have seen every kind of auto trouble on this planet. Just as Ashok was wondering what to do and calling the Mahindra people in Guna and in Bangalore, I went to the petrol bunk next door and tried to see if there are any mechanics available there. There were a few puncher guys but no electrical guys. As I was explaining our situation to the fellow there, a milk man with large milk cans strapped to his bike gave me a card of a Car accessories showroom with the mobile numbers of the mechanic and Ashok called him. He told Ashok what to do over the phone and the car started. We all scrambled into the car and set out immediately. We decided not to stop anywhere as it would be extremely risky if that car did not start again.

2nd Toll Stop        : GMR Chandigarh to Ambala      : Rs.31

We could see the mountains and were thrilled to bits. We started cruising along on Chandigarh - Ambala road.

3rd Toll Stop        : Panchkula         : Rs.25
11:00 AM             : Himalayan Express Highway

The roads are too beautiful. 4-lane world standard road again by the Jaypee group. Both the Yamuna Express Highway and the Himalayan Express Highway are their projects and they have done a wonderful job of giving world standard roads to us. Driving on these roads is sheer pleasure and you do not experience any fatigue on these roads however long you drive. Hopefully they can lobby with the Madhya Pradesh government and build similar expressways in MP also.

11:30 am              : Solan

The view was breath taking and all the green, step farming and charming towns, quaint little villages and hamlets on the way were very beautiful. We were amazed at the cleanliness on the way and the Himachal Pradesh had done a wonderful job of keeping crass commercialisation at bay by not allowing non Himachalis to own property on the hills. Also, because plastic is not allowed and banned in Himachal Pradesh, we did not find any plastic bags, covers, Lays and Kurkure packets and plastic bottles. We passed by Solan ay 11.30 am. Solan is called the “Mushroom Capital of India. It is a beautiful city and we passed by the Jaypee University.

12:30 am              : Shimla

We reached Shimla and drove through the town. We were finally glad and heaved a sigh of relief for finally having made it to our destination after three and a half days. We passed by the Central Potato Research Institute and the HP Agricultural University both of which had some very beautiful garden and landscaping. The HP University is also beautiful. We passé the Mahindra Motors Showroom and were glad at the sight.

12:55     : Dalli Tunnel      : Mashobra 6 km

We reached the Club Mahindra Resort at Mashobra at 1:30 and checked in to great relief. The Autocop alarm went off many times nad we realised “Houston we have a problem” moment had arrived again. After having bath and freshening up we had very tasty and sumptuous lunch at the resort restaurant. Ashok called the local Mahindra Motors guys and asked them to send a mechanic over to rectify our remote key problem. As he had driven non-stop for almost 22 hours with just a 2 hour sleep, he was dead tierd and went off to sleep and asked me to deal with the mechanics. They arrived at 5:30 and disabled the Autocop and made the key manual controlled. We would have to lock and open manually every time and check each and every door each and every time we parked the car. But that option was much better than having the car’s alarm go on every time we stopped and also not knowing whether the car would start again. I asked the resort people to get the car washed and finally settled in to enjoy my short stay in Shimla.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 3 of the Great Indian Road Trip to the Himalayas with the Roadaasura and the Beast

Day 3 - April 5, 2013

Guna to Karnal
3:55 pm to 3:55 am

The day dawned early for us. As we were very tired the previous night we slept like logs in Hotel Sara that we had checked into the previous night. The Hotel was very good and comfortable. We got up a little late at 7:00 am and got ready. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and Ashok set out to the Rishab Auto the service centre of Mahindra motors in Guna. Ashok’s friend Anand who is the DGM of India Garage had called his counterpart, Archana Dixit at Guna and intimated her about the urgency of the situation. Both her and the works Manager Ankit Pachauri took special interest in our situation and started work on our car with all the mechanics at their disposal.

Me, Apsara and Amrita stayed in the hotel room. I took the time available to post my first day’s post on fb.
It was 2:30 pm and Ashok called to tell us to have lunch. We had packed and were all set to leave. So we went to the restaurant and had very tasty lunch and also got some lunch packed for Ashok. We checked out of the hotel and brought all the luggage downstairs and sat down to wait for Ashok.  Ashok returned with the car at 3:50 and we finally set out of Guna at 3:55.

Again we were driving through the crazy MP roads. The two-laned roads that had no road divider. People walking on the roads, sitting on the roads. Trucks and buses. I noticed that the number of private cars was very less throughout MP as compared to other states. I wondered whether the state of roads was the reason for hte less number of private cars or the less number of private cars was the reason for the state of the roads.

We encountered quite a few traffic jams that were very peacefully sorted out by the MP walas. Whenever there was a traffic jam, there was no honking as is common in Bangalore, no shouting, no fights, did not see any traffic policemen or regular policemen. The people, usually a tempo driver or a truck driver or an auto driver took the initiative and the traffic jam would get moving slowly but surely.

5:45 pm                : Gwalior 117 km away
6:00 pm                : Gwalior 105 km away
1st Fuel fill up stop            : 43.87 lts             : Rs. 2349.67       Trip metre 1995 km
8:40 pm                : Crossed Gwalior             : roads are still bad          : Agra 104 kms away
9:20 pm                : Agra 64 kms away          : Roads are amazing now. 4-lane with divider.

Finally we were back on 4-lane roads. The roads had road divider. There were signs at regular intervals and reflectors and early warning systems. We were finally relieved to be out of the mess that we had inadvertently got into from Adilabad and were in for the past 48 hours.

10:00 pm              : Agra 27 kms away
10:20 pm              : Had very tasty Kulfi at Agra

we were so happy to finally be o good roads that we decided to celebrate by eating some Kulfi. We found a very nice Kulti cart and had two Kulfis each as a mark of victory over uncertainty and unpredictability.

11:15 pm              : Entered Yamuna Express Highway         : Delhi 197 kms away
11:20                     : Toll Stop            : Rs. 320

It was beautiful to drive through the Yamuna Express Highway. It is a 6-lane international standard highway and a sheer beauty to drive on. We were cruising along and Ashok surprisingly maintained a steady 100 km/hr because the signs kept reminding at regular intervals that the speed limit was 100 km/hr. Ashok was getting sleepy and the kids were fast asleep on the back seat. I kept cracking lame jokes and kept a chatter going to keep Ashok awake.

When it became really unbearable, he stopped at the exit point. We ate the left-over food from Hotel Sara. It was still tasty and the kids also woke up to have a share of their bite as well. Suddenly three dogs came charging out of nowhere smelling the food and we had to keep shooing them away continuously. It was surprising to see dogs on Yamuna Express Highway.

We started again and soon entered Delhi at 2:15 pm.

2:30 am                : Fuel fill up         : 34.74 lts             : Rs. 1684             : Trip mileage 2418

Navigating through Delhi was tough as we had to drive through Delhi to reach the Karnal – Chandigarh highway. We crossed Delhi at around 3.30 pm and drove on the Karnal road. We started hunting for a hotel to stay and found that all the ones on the highway were full and did not have any rooms. Ashok was really sleepy and could not drive any more. After the Shock absorber spring breaking episode at Bangalore and the Alloy wheel breaking episode at Guna, we had the third road trip experience. Ashok drove into a petrol bunk and parked the car under bright lights. At 4:00 am we closed all the windows and locked the doors and slept in the petrol bunk.

On this day Ashok became ROADAASURA from Monster Driver.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 2 of The Great Indian Road Trip with the Monster Driver and The Beast

Day 2: April 4, Nagpur to Guna - 600 kms

Check out of Hotel Majestic Manor, Nagpur        : 7:10 am
Hotel tariff                                                            : Rs. 3710
Starting meter trip reading                                     : 125191 km

 The day 2 of our great road trip began on a very good note. We got up early and had a complimentary breakfast of very good tea and toast and started at 7:30 sharp from Nagpur. The previous night we had discussed with the waiter at the Dwaraka hotel about which of the two routes is a better route for us to take to Delhi, the route via Jabalpur or the route via Bhopal. He had suggested that we go through the Bhopal route because the roads are better and the roads on the Jabalpur route are undergoing construction and are difficult. We were reminded of our drive from Adilabad to Nagpur through bad roads and decided to take the Bhopal route.

We set out from the hotel with great enthusiasm as Ashok had
done 1200 kms the previous day and the previous day’s drive was fresh in our minds and we were hopeful to repeat the performance and reach Delhi itself by that night.

1st Fuel Fill  : 8:13 am : Koradi Rd, Nagpur         : 34.67 lts  : Rs. 1870 : meter reading 125210
9:07 am  : Bhopal 286 kms away   : crossed Maharashtra and entered MP

Alas! Our hopes were dashed to smithereens as soon we realised that the road in Madhya Pradesh are not as good as the roads in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. All the roads in Madhya Pradesh are just two lane roads and do not have a road divider. The roads pass through all the towns, villages and hamlets. They do not have proper signage or the markers nad reflective stickers. In short the roads are twenty to twenty five years behind the roads of the rest of India.

9:30 am                : Agra 805 kms away      

The traffic sense of the people is also very poor. You find a tractor charging at you suddenly. It was very surprising to see people sitting on their haunches at the edge of the road with total disdain to the moving traffic and absolutely no fear of being mowed down by a bus or a lorry. The vehicular traffic, people and animals keep criss-crossing on the roads making it very difficult to negotiate through the traffic. I was surprised to see a large number of calves throughout MP. You will find cows on the roads in regular intervals. There are far lesser number of private cars and vehicles as compared to other states. But the truck traffic seemed to be far greater due to the narrow roads.

10: 15 am             : Beetul 46 kms : Bhopal 223 km
11:00 am              : Brief stop at the Rukmini Balaji Mandir, Beetul

Just as we were slowly beginning to get disappointed by the road conditions in MP we came to a town called Beetul where we came across a Rukmini Balaji Mandir We dashed into the temple for a quick darshan and started on our journey hoping to hit the 4-lane highway or the 6-lane highway at the earliest. The road after Beetul did not have any potholes and was smooth. But it was still a two lane road with no road divider.

11.45am               :  Witnessed a gruesome road accident

At about 11.45 we saw a gruesome accident where a water tanker had hit two people travelling on a bike.
None of the two wheeler riders in MP wear a helmet. There is a wonderful saying in Hindi ‘Sar salaamat to pagdi hazaar’. Both the riders had passed away on the spot. A crowd was gathering around and we would have been stranded there for hours. But Ashok got down a dried up pond to the left where a vehicular path was visible and bypassed the crowd and climbed back to the road.

Our phones were running out of charge and the charging points in our Scorpio were not working. Amrita figured out a way to charge all our phones through our laptops. Apsara was the navigator and she used both our traditional foldable map from TTK and the Google maps very efficiently to give directions to Ashok.

We did not come across a single toll booth throughout the day. That is when we realised that toll booths are good as they mean that the roads are good and they are 4-lane or 6-lane roads. So from now on we decided that we will feel happy each time we see a toll booth and pay the toll without complaining.

12:20     : Bhopal 109 kms away                   : roads continue to be really bad
2:00        : at Obaidulgunj                                : roads are horrible
2:25        : by passing Sagar and heading towards Bhopal  : hope roads are better
2:30        : Lunch break     : Hotel Jay Kay resort      : very tasty dal chawal roti
2nd Fuel stop       : Bhopal

We took directions from the security person at the resort and from many people on the highway. Finally one elderly chacha advised us not to go via Indore but to take the route via Dewas. That would be NH 86 and then we will meet NH 3 at Delhi. Roads continued to be bad and narrow and frustrating.

3rd Fuel Stop       : 4:45 pm              : Rs. 2237             : 41.68 lts             : meter reading 125572
On NH 3               : Gwalior 405 kms away
4:35 pm                : Gwalior 386 kms away
7:20                        : Toll plaza           : Guna                   : Rs.20   : Gwalior 200 km away
Just as we paid the toll and proceed towards Gwalior, we reached the end of road and a sharp left turn of a perpendicular road. It was dark and Ashok missed the huge road divider and the car went over the road divider. We heard the noise of metal rubbing against concrete. Thankfully as Ashok was driving at less than 55 kms/hr, he was able to bring the car down but he soon realised that he does not have control over the steering wheel.

It was a devastating moment for Ashok and Apsara. Both of them began to see our vacation coming to an end right in front of their eyes. I kept telling them to calm down and just take the car to the side and stop. We were in the middle of nowhere, on the outskirts of Guna, in pitch darkness. Ashok took a slow u-turn and brought the car to a halt by the side of the road. We got out of the car and removed the torches out and started figuring out what to do. Ashok was still in shock and I was consoling both Ashok and Apsara.

After a few moments we realised that since Guna is a large constituency of Jyotiraditya Scindia, it must have a Mahindra Motors. We googled and Amrita found that there was a Rishab motors in Guna. Ashok called Just Dial adn got the phone number and immediately called them. He spoke to Ankit Pachauri the Works Manager and explained the situation to him. Akhil was about to leave for the day and so he told Ashok to leave the car by the side of the road and leave and he would look into the matter the next day. But Ashok explained to him that he has family with him. Akhil immediately said that he would come there with his team at the earliest.

The Road Divider
We had to wait for an hour for the team to arrive which was sixty anxious minutes. On the bright side I was able to see so many stars in the sky due to the pitch darkness and wanted to do some star gazing and study of the constellations. But I knew that if I had mentioned it at that point in time, all the three would have boxed me left, right and centre. Finally, it was like seeing water in a desert when we saw the Mahindra vehicle arrive with Akhil and his team of 4 mechanics. They quickly changed the tyre to the spare tyre and Akhil drove us himself to the Mahindra Motors service centre. He assured us that they would fix the vehicle first thing in the morning as a top priority.

We checked into Hotel Sara and slept like lgs as we were drained both physically and emotionally.  We were not sure whether we would be able to proceed with our trip the next day.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 1 of The Great Indian Road Trip with the Monster Driver and The Beast

 Day 1: April 3, 2013 – Bengaluru to Nagpur – 1200 kms

The day began early at 3:30 AM. We got up, had coffee and quickly loaded all our gear into the Scorpio and left on schedule at 5.15.

Just as we crossed the toll booth on Airport road, we crossed a large hump and heard a loud noise of the kind that w e hear when a Kinetic Honda goes over a hump. We kept hearing it for two more kilometres. Ashok, the diligent driver he is, did not want to proceed further without getting it thoroughly checked and examined by a mechanic. We stopped by the side and everyone was hit by a wave of disappointment. Ashok started saying that lets go back home and make flight bookings and leave by flight tomorrow. I kept insisting that let us get this repaired and see how big the damage is and how long it will take to get this checked.

Ashok started waking people up and calling the mechanic who had serviced our vehicle, the guys who did the wheel alignment and their higher ups. The India Garage people told us to come to Sireesh Motors @ Yelahanka which was close by and he would send a mobile repair vehicle. We drove up to Sireesh Auto and waited for 2 hours when Ashok kept getting more and more frustrated because the mobile vehicle guys were not coming soon enough for him.  The first mechanic of Sireesh Motors arrived at 8:00 am and seeing him was like seeing a beautiful sunrise. He took a round in the vehicle and after examining the vehicle immediately declared that the problem is minor and the spring of the shock absorber has got cut and it can be set right in 45 mins or 1 hr.
But we had to wait for Sireesh Auto to open so that we could get it done which would be at 9:00. It lead to more frustrating moments for Ashok. The mobile repair vehicle also arrived with the two mechanics. Even they gave the same verdict about the vehicle. As soon as Sireesh Motors opened, all of them got done to work and changed the spring within no time while we waited in the visitor’s lounge watching Munna Bhai and we were on the road at 10.15.

We were crusing on Bellary/Hyderabad road NH 7. Ashok started screaming ‘JAI’ to all the Gods, Vajpayee Thatha and the National Highways Authorities, Mahindra Motors, Scorpio and anyone else he could think of. We were delayed by 5 hours but our trip was on and we were excited to be on the roads again. The roads were all 6 lane roads throughout and Ashok did a continuous 140 km/hr to 145 km/hr continuouslt and we were clearing hundreds of kilometres at the blink of the eye.

STARTING METER READING        : 123990 Kms
1st Diesel filling                                  : 33.26 lts             : Rs. 1736             : @ 5.20 AM on 3/4/13
1st TOLL PAID                                      : Devanahalli      : Rs. 20                  : 3 times because of the breakdown
2nd Toll                                                  : Bagepalli            : Rs.50                   : 11.15 am

As we were approaching Pennkonda, Andra Pradesh, the sun was reaching its zenith and the hear was searing. But the Air Conditioner in the car was keeping us cool and we were guzzling bottles after bottles of chilled water which I had carried along with me. Mt mother in law had made us yummy chapathis with a smearing of tomato and onion spicy sauce. We were all hungry and we gobbled up the chapathi rolls as though we had not seen food for eons. The music system was blaring out some hit music of all languages which Apsara had downloaded. We had a minor glitch with the music system as well as the displayed stopped working. But the DJs Apsara and Amrita figured out a way of navigating through their ipods and iphones.

Just as everything was looking perfect, our stomachs full, music in the background, Car flying like a rocket and it was 11.35, there was a stoppage at Pennakonda as there was a political protest. The Telugu Desam party workers had gheraoed a local MLA and they had all squatted on the road and were not allowing any traffic to pass. A smart local Policeman came up and explained that there was a political protest and we could not go further. Ashok launched into chaste Andhra Telugu and explained about our trip to him. He in turn explained about what was going on and assured us that they have been given permission for 30 minutes and 20 minutes more was left and that he would flag us off first as soon as it was over. The local SI and Commisioner were also present to ensure that there was no violence and things went on smoothly. Now all we had to do wait those 20 minutes which started looming large on our heads as though it was 20 hours. I was reminded of Einstein’s wonderful explanation about theory of relativity “when a beautiful girl is near you, 10 hours seem like 10 seconds but when you are sitting on a hot plate, 10 secs seem like 10 years”. Just as we were into a heated up debate about Telangana politics, the good police officers waved us on and we were once again cruising along with great glee and a whoopee! War cry.

The signage on board said ‘New Delhi 1882 kms’ which looked so close yet so far...

3rd Toll   : Ananthpur        : Rs.90   : @ 12.40 pm      : 214 km in 2 hr 25 mins with the 20 min stoppage
The signage on board said ‘Hyderabad 340 kms’ looks like we can have tea at Hyderabad

4th Toll   : Karegalli                                   : Rs.80
5th Toll   : Dronachalam or Dhomne           : Rs. 80                  : 1:25 pm

The signage on board said ‘Hyderabad 247 kms’. Bypassing Kurnool @ 1.50 pm. Did 105 kms in 70 mins.

6th Toll                               : Kurnool              : Rs. 75                 : 1:50 pm
2nd Diesel Fill up                : 50.30 lts             : Rs. 2610             : Milage reading 124441

The signage on board said ‘Nagpur 675 kms’, ‘Hyderabad 155 kms’

7th Toll   : Rs. 51  : 2.50 pm

2:55 pm Hyderabad just 100 km away. 2:57 Hosarpet. 3:00 Hyderabad just 95 km away. 3:15 Hyderabad just 70 km away. 3:20 Hyderabad just 60 km away!!!!!

8th Toll                   : Rs. 53                 : Raikal                                                  : 3.21

Reached Hyderabad at 3:45 !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nagpur 515 km away. 

9th Toll                   : Rs. 40                  : ORR Pedda Golconda                   : 5:15 pm              : Nagpur 501 km

Stopped at Medak Dist, Manoharabad, Sri Atithi restaurant at PSR Auction Yard. Had lovely gobi manchurian, paneer pakoda, veg fried rice and veg Manchurian. They served us very hot and tasty tea which rejuvenated us all and we were raring to get to Nagpur. 5:35 started from Manoharabad.

10th Toll     : Rs. 105   : Medak   : 5.37 pm              : Nagpur 370 km

Crossed a town called Sadashivnagar. Were remembering Bangalore and also Anu, Prerna and Ashutosh who are from Sadashivnagar.

Nizamabad       : 6:38 pm  : Nagpur 316 km                               : it is getting dark

3rd Fuel Filling     : 7:05 pm  : Balgonda  : 54.14 lts   : Driving mileage 816 kms  : filling fuel every 450 kms
11th Toll    : Rs. 30    : Nirmal               : 7:20 pm
7:51 pm                 : Nagpur 227 km
8:16 pm  : Driving mileage 1000 kms !!!     : 10 hrs
8:21 pm  : Adilabad            : Nagpur 200 km

Our great Indian road saga started from Adilabad. The roads are very bad from Adilabad. It took Ashok 40 mins to navigate 50 kms while up till now he was doing almost 100 kms an hour.

12th Toll                 : Panderkavada                 : Rs. 30                  : 9.00 pm                              : 150 km to Nagpur
13th Toll                 : Wander                             : Rs. 50                  9:55 pm                                : 94 km to Nagpur
14th Toll                 : Berkedi                              : Rs. 80                  : 10:37                                   : 36 km to Nagpur

11:00 pm
I had enquired with one of the professors at VNIT, Nagpur on where to have dinner and where to stay. Based on her suggestion we stopped at a wonderful garden restaurant on the outskirts of Nagpur on the Airport road called “Dwarka”. It is a garden restaurant and has a very spacious and well spread out garden. They have a large car parking and very welcoming atmosphere. There was a big dance party going on and loud music. The play list included many old and new Bollowood hits and some English songs thrown in. It was a very relaxing atmosphere and we had to wait a good 20 to 25 mins for our veg Kolhapuri, Dal Tadka and rotis to arrive. We used up the time to chat with the waiters and enquire about the various routes to take to Delhi. The food was very tasty and we were ravenous. We reached the Hotel Majestic Manor at around 12.30 and it was 1:00 by the time we slept thoroughly exhausted but very happy and satisfied for having done 1200 kms in one day. Thanks to the wonderful roads and Ashok’s superb driving and our never say die attitude.

Total driving time                       : 13 hrs
Total milage                               : 1200 kms
Total number of toll booths         : 14
Total toll amount                        : Rs.834
No of fuel refills                         : 3
Total fuel filled                           : 137.7 lts
Total amount paid                      : Rs. 7253
Total number of stops to refill ourselves    : 2 J     : one chai stop and one dinner stop J

It was all in all a very action packed day filled with drama, suspense, action and comedy. As I switched off the lights to sleep at 1:00 I was humming the song “Yuhi chala oh rahi yuhi chala” from Swades and was into deep slumber within a few seconds....................