Road trips have always felt like too much work to me. You need to think of destinations, you have to figure out the route, you have to figure out the pit stops and what not. And then in our family, no one is a big fan of driving anyway. I am happy when someone else is driving. But when I have been in a fast moving bus on a scenic route, I often thought how nice it would be if we could stop for a while at a particular spot!
Then I came across the website GoRoadTrip. Before I go any further, at the moment all their content heavily focuses on South India only. The website would appeal to you a lot if you are based in that part of the country.
But for the segment they picked up, South India, they take away the hassle out of planning a road trip for sure. The concept is based on four things- profiling you as a traveler- what makes you tick, then comes plan creation, customization and finally downloading it for your use. The website is free to use. You will be asked to login only when you wish to save your plan.
If you do not wish to spend time and energy planning a trip, you could pick up one of the featured road trips from the website. Some examples are Bangalore-Mangalore, Bangalore- Pondicherry, Bangalore-Goa etc. This could be helpful when you decided to do a trip last minute and you do not have time to go for detailed planning. If Bangalore is not your starting point you can still customize the trip from your starting point. The website showcases 75k plus itineraries generated by 27K plus users. The itineraries are user generated.
The second bit, planning your own trip is more fun. It asks for a start and end destination. I picked up Bangalore and Coorg as starting and end points. The next option is to input what kind of places I would like to see. The options are religious sites, beaches, wildlife, heritage, entertainment, relaxation, parks and water bodies. I picked up beaches, wildlife and water bodies. The next question is about the dates. If I input the dates the website will match the hotel availability.
The next query is would you like to drive straight to the destination or stop en-route? I decided to stop on the way. Next they asked me about my hotel budget which I picked as frugal which is 0-2K. There are other two categories 2-5K and 5k and above. After this the question is if I would like to pick a plan or let them generate one. Here I decided to let them generate one.
As I had put in about 3 nights it generated a detailed plan for me. I have an option of removing any attraction I don’t wish to see. I also have an option of changing the suggested hotel.
Since I have been to Coorg twice, I picked it up as a destination to see what kind of sightseeing it would generate. All the usual suspects like Golden Temple, Dubare, Talacaveri, Harangi, Abbey Waterfalls etc. were there. Plus there were many attractions that I have not heard of. The plan also suggested me places for breakfast and lunch break. It I only when I want to save a trip I am being asked to sign in or sign up. They give you the option of signing in with Google, Facebook or Email.
Overall, to me it GoRoadTrip looks like a comprehensive site. I hope they will expand to other parts of India as well. It is a great way to get to enjoy your personalized road trips by doing exactly what you want!
Everyone should visit Lahaul and Spiti once in their lifetimes. It was my third third trip to the region. I went in 2007 when we trekked through the region and then more recently to Chandratal in 2014. I say that one trip per year to Spiti is a must! I hope you will enjoy my postcards from Lahaul and Spiti
I have gone beyond Rohtang Pass only when I ventured into Ladakh or Spiti. It has never been a destination on its own for me. It used to be a pain with so many vehicles and traffic jams. The recent curb by NGT on the number of vehicles has certainly eased the situation.
The road to Lahaul and Spiti is very beautiful, but at times there is hardly any road! I asked the driver, Ranbir ji, to break for a second while we were crossing this water pond! This is part of the road to Spiti!
Last year my nephew and I went to Chandratal. My nephew, the original brat, Brat 1 took a similar shot. I had to wait for one year to do a repeat performance but I got my shot too. It looks more dangerous that it actually was. But I would still recommend extreme caution if you wish to try this!
It is always a pleasure to reach Chandra Dhaba at Batal because that means lunch and meeting the legendary Chacha and Chachi of the Chandra Dhaba. Their son Tenzing is no running a camp at Chandratal. In this picture we city slickers posed with the beauties of region!
There are many public vehicles plying on the Manali-Batal-Kaza route. Chandratal is a detour from Batal. If you do not have your own vehicle be prepared to reach in whichever way you can. This gentleman from Mumbai took a lift at the roof of our jeep. Ranbir was not too thrilled about it but he agreed as the Chacha and Chachi asked him to take the gentleman along!
This year the tents have been pushed back further from the lake but I am not complaining. I want the lake to be there for Chhavi and her children too! And the blue you see in the sky is the Spiti Blue, no filter has been used in any of these pictures! Almost all the pictures here are straight from the camera!
The vehicles go quite close to Chandratal but after a point they have to be parked. The walk to the lake is equally beautiful. The horses were enjoying their grass.
I was not too happy about the cloud cover in the sky. I wanted the blazing blue skies that I see in other pictures. But the rain gods were not listening to me yet!
I know I should be grateful for standing at such an awesome place! But I wanted the typical Spiti Blue! Clouds denied me that for a second year in a row!
Last year I ventured only up to Chandratal but this year I was headed further into Spiti. This was a last minute personal trip that I did with my trusted guide Ramakant Sharma. There is much more to the trip that these initial pictures! I am so happy that I could do this trip!
After hot rice and daal at Chhatru for lunch, I managed to doze off in the jeep. Ranvir our amicable driver gave a shout after sometime, “Rama dekh jam laga hai” (wake up Rama, there is a traffic jam ahead). Ramakant ji was the head of our trip! His cry woke us all; there were 7 of us going to Batal from the Manali- Kaza route. At least 20 Sumos and other vehicles were piled ahead of us. One of the Tata Sumos was stuck in the Pagal Nala (mad stream) that comes after Chhatru.
Gradually, everyone got out of the jeep, it was only Ranvir and me who stayed inside to be out of cold and the mild drizzle. Ranvir confided in me, “Mein aata nahin Spiti, per rama ko mana nahin kar paya.” (I would have not come to Spiti but I could not say no to Rama). Ranvir was the guy who drove my husband last year to Chandratal as well. At the end of this trip we were making plans for visiting the region next year again and Ranvir readily agreed to drive again, but then I am running ahead of the narrative.
After a few minutes Ranvir also walked out. The some 20 minutes later I too was bored. I decided to venture out as well. A few kilometers before this jam there was a waterfall flowing on the road (which is a common feature on the Manali Kaza road) and a Qualis was stuck in it. But that one did not take much time to come unstuck.
You might have noticed that on these roads jeeps coming from the opposite directions often stop and drivers engage in a chit-chat. That is the only way to get information on the road as there is no mobile signal after Rohtang Pass till Kaza. When Ranvir asked a driver coming from the opposite direction, “road kaisa hai” (how is the road ahead) the other fellow replied, “takatak” (first class). Now standing at the Pagal Nala I was wondering if this was takatak then what would be bad in his definition!
Many vehicles that ply on the route have JK or HP numbers. They are the locals, they are the pros. You will find occasional HR, CH, GJ or other numbers and they are usually the rookies, cause of all jams. But this time the Sumo that got stuck had HP number and was named Spiti Express. Most of these vehicles do not have 4WD.
There was a small crowd around the immobile vehicle. A rope materialized out of one of the jeeps. The Sumo behind the stuck vehicle tried to pull it out by tying the rope to both the vehicles. The trouble was that the rope would break.
In the meanwhile we spotted 3 city slickers who seemed to be in a hurry. Apparently their vehicles were stuck downstream because of this jam. And all they cared was to get out and drive away using their walkie-talkies for coordination. Why they needed walkie-talkies for coordinating at a distance of 10 meters is beyond me. I always find brashness difficult to take in my stride but it was infinitely more jarring among the gentle people of the hills. Everyone knew that nothing could move till the stuck vehicle came out, other than these three city slickers.
However, getting back to the stuck vehicle, a new rope was found and two set of people tugged at the beast. Women joined in the fray. I was so amazed to see them wading in the ice cold water without a second thought or a glance at anyone. All I was good for was clicking pictures and making videos. With the combined effort of these people the vehicle with infinite reluctance, lurched out.
Finally we were free to move. It was expected that vehicles going upstream would go first. But our city slickers had other thoughts. They started moving their Fortunners and two other big vehicles downstream first. This agitated people a lot, but the hill folks managed to get them out of the way without creating any other traffic jams.
Soon, it was the turn of our jeep to cross the Pagal Nala. Other than Ranvir and me, everyone got out to reduce the load. That meant Ramakant ji, his brother Vishal, my nephew Dilip, our cook for the trip Hemraj ji and Bobby all had to cross the stream on foot. That was not too difficult, only it would leave your feet and shoes wet and cold. It is recommended to take the shoes off as they would remain dry and be a comfort later on.
On the first try we got stalled mid way in the nala. I managed to keep the camera on and my eyes closed for most of the time. On the second try we did manage to clear the nala. You can see the entire adventure in the video which was made as I said, with eyes tightly shut most of the time!
This was the start to our trip to Chandratal. I should have read the omens correctly but then I was too busy being happy that we didn’t end up spending the night by the road or worse still by turning back before even the trip had begin!
I like visiting places which are not overrun by tourists. Pragpur in Himachal Pradesh falls under that category as of now. I was visiting the Judge’s Court and this was a one night trip. Reaching there was a mini adventure in itself, it should not have been though. But when two women and one clueless driver are out on the roads, unscheduled adventures are bound to happen.
After commuting for 64 kms every working day, I feel quite tried as the week eventually nudges towards Friday. However on that eventful Friday I was leaving for Pragpur at night by a taxi. On invited trips I just turn up and take things from there, no route finding or any other botheration for me. We headed out a little after 11.00 pm and I was quite jittery about how would I fare on the trip. I get so tired these days!
One thing that I didn’t bargain for was getting lost. I slept a deep sleep from 12 midnight to 2 am. We were approaching Ambala when I woke up. Pooja and the taxi driver had a discussion and I decided that all was well.
When we were about 75 km away from Shimla I was not so sure anymore. We were not supposed to be anywhere near Shimla. It was time to stop pretending that I could sleep through it all. At the toll booth of HP, I decided to get out and have a chat at the person behind the booth. We should have crossed a place called Una and I was quite sure that Shimla was not the correct way to approach it. To reach Pragpur one has to detour on the Dharamshala road. I know one can reach Dhramshala via Shimla but an internet search showed it to be more than 250 plus km. I am not fond of getting lost for so many kilometers!
I now have a fancy phone, a 41 megapixel Lumia1020 with HEREmaps on it. The trouble is I never used the navigation on my phone so I didn’t know how to switch it on when we needed it badly. When we turned back from that point towards Shimla I was desperate to reach Pragpur because my tired body wanted to pie down horizontally on a bed. I switched on the navigation from where ever we were and set it to Pragpur. It was some 167 km away. My phone battery lasted till Una. But by then it was 7.00 am and everyone knew where Pragpur was.
We finally reached Pragpur at 9.00 am. The Judge’s Court was such a welcome sight. After a heay breakfast I decided to crash till lunch. When Pooja woke me up at 1.00 pm I was still so disoriented that I opened the door and crashed on the bed once again! That is how the trip to Pragpur started!