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Vinay**

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  1. Miscellaneous information When does it snow in Manali Mid-December to mid-January would be the perfect time to witness snowfall in Manali. Don't under-carry protective clothing One cannot drive without gloves in cold. Therefore, two layers of gloves (rain-proof outer ones) are suggested. Also, clothes available on rent (in Manali) won't be clean; so, better to carry 3-in-1 jackets (link) along with thermals. Make sure to replace engine oil before you drive Thinner engine oil is desired in cold conditions (it won't freeze easily). However, no need to use winter-grade oil if you plan to stay there fore less than week. Ensure battery is in good condition (Diesel) Starting diesel engines in cold conditions result in heavy load on battery (takes 3-5 seconds for car to start when you press "start" button). Shovel (mini) comes handy when you get stuck in snow. Driving on snowy paths Tires Traction depends on tyre condition, load, and air pressure. Don't plan to drive on snow if car tires are nearing replacement (>30K KMs old). Hard ice Hard ice provides least traction; therefore, vehicle would slip when driven on hard-ice. While on snow Don't brake/accelerate hard while driving on snow; While on snow, brake only when you have to; when car comes to a stop in snow, it gets really difficult to gain traction. When stuck on snow When stuck on big snow blocks, create a jerky motion - (1) Press accelerator hard (only once), so that you move front and come back; (2) While moving back, press accelerator hard again, so that you gain momentum to come out of snow. **Tip** Don't press accelerator continuously - this would make ice beneath tire harder, making it much harder to gain traction. **Tip** Reduce air pressure/increase load (make more people sit inside), to gain traction (when stock on snow). Driving with sedans Driving with sedans shouldn't be a problem while driving from here to Manali (poor stretches can be easily managed). Even in Manali, ground clearance won't be much of a problem (except on very big blocks of snow). Driving becomes difficult only when it snows (fresh snowfall) in Manali - otherwise, driving around won't be a problem. Also, municipal authorities regularly clear snow on street roads. Stays/Resorts: Manali (Snow Valley Resorts) - 4.5K/night for 2 people (when booked 2 months in advance): All of us were very happy with food, hospitality, and cleanliness. Price includes room heater, breakfast and dinner (outside restaurants would be closed in winters) - food was simply amazing. Resort offers good parking space, great views (Himalayas), indoor games, and dance floor. They have branches in Dalhousie and Shimla too. Shimla (Hotel Kapil) - 3K/night for 2 people (when booked 2 months in advance): We weren't impressed with hospitality provided. Nevertheless, okay place to stay if you plan to roam outside most of the time. Price doesn't include food and room heater. Sagar, MP (Hotel Vardaan) - 1K/night: Okay place for money (gets noisy at the time of weddings) - has good parking space. Hotel Deepali is a good option, if you plan to stay a little longer in Sagar. Greater Noida (Gaba corporate suites) - 2K/night: There weren't any good places with decent parking space in Delhi; because of which, we chose to stay in Noida. Clean place to stay, has good parking space, and hospitality was good. Agra (Treebo White Inn) - 1.5K/night: It has decent parking space. We weren't happy with this place; poor maintenance and hospitality. Nagpur (Jog Center) - 2K/night: Clean place to stay, has good parking space, and hospitality was good. Fuel: Spent around 20K on fuel (~7 full tanks of Diesel) for our 5K KM journey. Tolls: Spent around 11K on tolls (to and fro). Feel free to let me know if you have any questions - I'll be happy to assist in planning.
  2. Return journey Day-11: (Shimla to Agra - 560KM) We woke up early (it was too cold outside) and started driving at 4.30AM. After crossing occasional bad stretches of road in Himachal, we entered Chandigarh - it was a breeze to drive on highway (called, Grand trunk road). Visibility reduced to 50meters in Chandigarh/Punjab (we didn't face visibility issues in Himachal), and one has to be really careful while driving in foggy conditions (refer this article for driving tips in fog). We stopped at Punjabi place for breakfast - it was first time we witnessed Punjabi culture (people having food, singing and dancing - very vibrant, I must say). We didn't take many breaks - it was breeze to drive again, after passing through dense Delhi traffic. We reached our destination (Agra) early (by 3PM, courtesy: Yamuna expressway). We weren't impressed with cleanliness in Agra (even some of the hotels looked shady). After visiting Taj Mahal, we went back to hotel, and called it a day (it was cold in Agra, too). Day-12: (Agra to Nagpur - 834KM) Consider relatively more distance to travel, we started early at 4.45AM (not the wisest of decisions, I'll explain why). Visibility was good to start with (less than 50m in Agra); once we crossed city, I was just clueless about road (visibility was less than 10m, I could hardly spot anything on road). I was terrified for the first time ever in a driving seat - I safely negotiated road till 6.20AM (couldn't spot occasional speed breakers). Fog incident It was 6.20AM; all of us were wide awake, looking outside to spot anything; all of a sudden, Google maps told us to take diversion (wasn't showing any road in front of us). We had to reverse, cross main road, and enter a narrow road (none of us were in a position to clearly think). Visibility became zero (almost) - switched off headlights, started driving slowly only with help of fog lamps (white lamps would hamper visibility under foggy conditions). We were driving on a shaky bridge - not even sure if it was broken; kept driving for about 200m, while I kept saying "this cannot be the road". After a while, we spotted a big boulder in the middle of road (figured out that it was an abandoned highway) - had to reverse while visibility was almost zero. There was nobody to guide us - finally we figured out that the road which were driving earlier was the correct one (newly laid out). Summary: Never plan to drive in foggy conditions, especially in UP. Fog continued for the next 1.5 hours (visibility was better). As usual, we had to drive slow near Jhansi stretch (bad stretch). Continued driving, took break every 1 hour, and reached Nagpur by 7PM. Relaxed for a while in hotel, stepped out to have dinner outside (it was delicious!). We came back to hotel, talked about drive that day (fog), and called it a day. Day-13: (Nagpur to Hyderabad - 500KM) Considering less distance to travel, we started at 6.30AM. It was familiar road again - NH44; safely negotiated occasional poor stretches in MH. All of us were happy when we entered TS (Adilabad). It didn't take much time for us to reach home (thanks to our roads) - we reached our starting point (home) by 2PM. ****End of a safe and happy (uneventful) road trip**** I'll post details about stays, expenses, snow driving, etc. in next post.
  3. Day-10: (Places around Shimla) Having driven to places farther from Shimla the previous day, we chose to visit famous places (heritage sites) in Shimla (below is a list of them). Annadale army heritage museum Viceregal lodge/IIAS Himachal state museum Jakhu hill/temple (Shimla's highest peak) Stepped out from hotel at 8.30AM; first, we went to Jakhu peak - it offers panoramic view of Shimla. People have to be careful while visiting temple (courtesy: monkeys) - one of them took my glasses away from my face (I didn't even realize); got them back upon providing food (available near temple). Jakhu temple After temple visit, all of us started searching for breakfast places - people in car demanded good breakfast that day, without taking a walk. Things get complicated if one plans to visit Mall road by vehicle - parking was available at a distance of 1.5KM from Mall road. Nevertheless, we walked, walked, and walked - finally reached Mall road. We had breakfast at Central Perk - amazing restaurant in Shimla; they served huge Burgers (best burgers, any of us ever had). Feeling happy, all of us walked back to parking spot, drove to Annadale museum. Annadale museum: Good place to have a look at old artillery, medals, flags of countries (army secured), uniforms, prototypes, etc. Viceregal lodge (Indian Institute of Advanced Studies): Ranked #1 in the places to visit list, visited this place - one can visit this place to witness 19th century architecture. Himachal state museum: It has various sections covering coins, cultures, history, sculptures, etc. - each has large collection of items to display. Below is the view from museum. After driving around city for some time, we went back to hotel (reached by 4.15PM). Yet another good day for us (breakfast being highlight of the day) - we relaxed in hotel that evening. As we planned to drive early next morning, we packed our luggage, and slept early.
  4. Day-7: (Places around Shimla - 150KM) We planned to visit places farther from Shimla (such as Tattapani) and started driving at 8.30AM. Topped-up fuel tank, and drove towards Naldehra golf course (Estd.1905). One has to take a walk (100m) or opt for horse-ride to reach main gate. I must say, this is not a well-maintained (often overrated) place and one can skip it (unless passionate about golf). Naldehra golf course From there, we started driving towards Tattapani - I must say, views were breath-taking; Usually, it is the journey/drive that puts a smile on our face, not necessarily the destination (this statement was particularly apt, that day). Few pictures taken on our drive to Tattapani Tattapani We spent about 15minutes near Tattapani, and started driving back towards Shimla. During our way back, we enjoyed the same breath-taking views again and had lunch near golf course. Below is view from restaurant (lunch). Green valley After lunch, we started driving towards Kufri (most often called snow-attraction in Shimla). It was a forgettable experience - hard ice/black ice is THE factor behind slippage/accident on snow-prone roads. As there was lot of hard ice (courtesy: horse-ride business), because of which we chose to park car outside and take a walk (climb up). Path (stones filled with hard ice/horse dung) made it impossible for anybody to successfully climb that day - people had to slide down on their backs, to save themselves from slippage. It was sad to see people falling down - seriously felt that commercialization (after certain extent) would defeat the whole purpose of tourism development. Tired and exhausted, we drove towards our next planned stop - Fagu. Again, we didn't find anything significant/interesting there - it was a village with good views. We drove around couple of villages there - it started becoming dark. Therefore, we started driving back at 5.20PM; reached hotel by 6.45PM. Overall, it was a good day (sans Kufri experience) for us. Exhausted, none of us were in a mood to step out for dinner - had food inside hotel, and called it a day.
  5. Day-8: (Manali to Shimla - 252KM) All of us were so happy to witness overwhelming amount of snow - apparently it was the heaviest snowfall in entire season. We were plain lucky to witness all types of weather in Manali (sunny on day-1, cloudy on day-2, rainy on day-3, and snowy on day-4) - we couldn't ask for anything more, from Manali. None of us were in a mood to leave Manali; but we had to drive to Shimla, to explore places surrounding capital of Himachal Pradesh. We started driving towards Shimla at 9AM, planning to stop at any beautiful places that might spot on our way. Coincidentally, Air force team too had to leave on the same day at same time, we drove together for around 50KM, till we stopped at a bridge to have a glimpse of Beas river (it was an amazing experience driving close to this river). On our way, we stopped at Ford service center to get engine guard fixed (heavy snow got stuck on engine guard, and was hanging loose because of the same). I particularly liked driving through Aut tunnel (3KM long) - spacious and well lit inside. Few pictures on our way to Shimla We reached our hotel in Shimla by 6PM; headed out again, after 1 hour of stay inside hotel. To our surprise, Shimla offered a different experience - it was pretty cold (1 degree) and windy. Being capital city, roads are good; however, interior roads are very narrow (most of the hotels offer parking space on roof-tops). We took a walk to famous Mall road, and had a good dinner out there (Wake and Bake). Few pictures near Mall road Having hot tea while walking on foggy street was a great experience! After yet another cold day, all of us felt very good and called it a day.
  6. Thank you so much, everyone. Glad to know that you liked travelogue. I'll write separate post, explaining measure taken to drive on snowy paths, expenses/places that we chose to stay, and roads that might be challenging for sedans (not many I could think of, except big snow blocks).
  7. Day-7: (Snow day!) It was night 11.15PM, and moment of truth! People woke me up, shouting snow.. snow.... Snow-fall at night Next morning It was complete Black/White day for us, and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment. Our parking space looked like this. Nobody believed when I said "let's head out!" Roads were completely filled with snow, and heading out for a drive would be unimaginable. After lot of convincing, people agreed to step out. I'll let pictures speak. We spent about 30 minutes taking pictures, feeling fresh snow-fall, and helping other cars stuck in snow (especially, lot of Toyota Innovas, owing to RWD system). Then, we realized that our drive too, got stuck deep inside snow and had to be pushed by people nearby. We drove back to resort - had a chance to speak with Air Force men (staying in same resort, on duty) about snowfall and type of exercises that they have for republic day. Overall, we had year's worth of snow (at least), and all of us enjoyed good weather that day (in combination with good food).
  8. Day-6 (In search of snow, again!) We wanted to see snow again - started driving towards Solang valley at 10.45AM. All roads were slippery, and we had to be cautious driving through narrow roads. We were very certain that Police would stop us again near Nehru kund, and they did (this time they recognized our faces, and soon chatted about changing weather, and how dangerous it would be at Solang valley). This time, unlike first day, there were lot of tourists and everyone was talking about fresh snowfall in Manali - consequently, people opened shops near Nehru kund (snow clothes rentals, ride on Yaks, snow mobile ride, etc.). Unlike first day, driving through narrow roads became a tricky situation with slippery roads heavy inflow of vehicles. Below are few pictures taken near Nehru kund. Making of snow-man We came back to resort at 3PM, and chose to stay inside till late evening. In the evening, stepped out to have a look at Manali market (Mall road). It was a good day again - however, all of us were craving to witness fresh snowfall (with only one day stay left in Manali).
  9. Day-5: (Places around Kullu and Manali) We got fuel tanked up and decided to drive in opposite direction (towards Kullu), covering major places on our way. Below are places covered. Vashisht temple (hot water spring) Nature Park Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery Naggar castle Manikaran (hot water spring) Vashisht temple: We never visited a hot water spring before, and wanted to see how it feels like. Tough part here was removing our shoes - couldn't feel our feet after some time due to outside temperature. Cool thing in that area was hot water coming from water taps while outside temperature <5 degrees. We hit the highway soon, and visited Monastery. From there, we drove to Naggar, a tourist attraction. After having lunch, we hit road again and drove towards Kasol. It was an amazing driving experience driving on the edge while it was drizzling outside. After couple of hours drive (with amazing views), we reached Manikaran temple (hot water spring as well). This was an unbelievable experience for us - while it was raining outside with temperature of 2 degrees, temple was completely covered with steam (from sulphur rocks). The temperature of water is such that, people bring rice, dal, etc. and cook inside temple (inside a well with natural hot water). We started driving back after scintillating experience, and reached resort by 8.15PM. After yet another day filled with great experiences, we started thinking about fresh snowfall in Manali.
  10. Day-4: (Places around Manali) Unable to resist temptation to step out, we had breakfast and stepped out at 7AM and were simply mesmerized by view of Himalayas (this was our first trip ever to north). Not having any destination in mind, we continued to drive till Nehru Kund (stopped by Police). Because there was heavy snowfall couple of weeks before, Police weren't allowing anyone till Solang valley (forget driving till Rohtang pass). After small conversation with Police, we were allowed to take a walk and have a glimpse of snow filled Himalayas. Below are couple of pictures taken near Nehru kund After playing in snow for couple of hours, we came back to resort. Below are views from resort. All of us had lot of fun on day-1 in Manali - tried our best to stay out side as much as possible. Temperature during day time (1st day) was about 8 degrees, while it dropped till -5 during night.
  11. Day-3: (Greater Noida to Manali - 570KM) State: Haryana It was one straight highway till Ambala, and one can spot bikes driving super-bikes early in the morning (we spotted large group of Harley group, could very well be republic-day long drive). This drive was complete opposite to previous two days - full of dhabas and eateries. Overall, it was a good experience driving on this highway. State: Punjab/Chandigarh We had border check done by Army at Punjab entrance, considering republic day was around the corner. Once we entered Chandigarh/Punjab state highway, roads as well as driving sense turned worse (stopping in middle, no indicators, overtaking from left, etc.). Views started getter in Punjab (mustard crops everywhere). State: Himachal Pradesh As name suggests, we were welcomed by ghat road, not so great in condition (nevertheless, it was a ghat road!). I was thoroughly enjoying ghat driving - scenic views and twists/turns fueled my adrenaline. In last 1 hour drive, all of us kept our hands permanently outside, feeling temperature change - it was a GREAT experience. We witnessed temperature fall from 18 degrees to 0 degrees, in last 1 hour drive. We reached our resort by 8.15PM (glad that we were wearing jackets and gloves), and were amazed to see snow inside the resort - we kept our luggage inside rooms and immediately stepped outside to play on snow.
  12. Day-2: State: Madhya Pradesh Considering we had less distance to travel, we started at 5.30AM and it was cold (car displayed an outside temperature of 8 degrees!). Roads were again, pleasant to drive on, till we entered UP. State: Uttar Pradesh Roads turned for worse as soon as we entered UP. A stretch of ~60KM was bad, just after Jhansi. Upon negotiating bad stretch, roads started to look good. Road manners were not so good in this state, but manage-able. It was heaven once we entered Yamuna Expressway - the best road to drive super-cars in India. We felt that it can be maintained better - people drive fast, no debit cards at tolls (considering it was expensive at >Rs.3/KM), at and maintenance work (something to do with plants on divider) without proper sign boards. Nevertheless, it was a very good experience driving on this expressway. State: Rajasthan There was a very brief stretch on NH44 covering Rajasthan - nothing particularly stood out, except that tractors and villagers abruptly choose to cross highway at times. Towards the end, we particularly enjoyed glimpse of urbanization in Greater Noida - couple of supercars (Audi R8, RR, and Lamborghini) welcomed us in Noida. A great day again (not eventful). We reached hotel by 5.40PM and stayed inside (considering it was cold outside).
  13. Planning: It was October 2016 when we started planning for a long road trip. It was my wife's idea of visiting a cold place (if possible, snow fall) in winter, and subsequently we ended up talking about Manali (obvious choice of transport being, ROAD ). Idea was shot down by colleagues and friends, saying 2200KM drive one-side is no joke. Having experience of driving 17 hours a day couple of times, I knew that 3-day drive to Manali was pretty much possible. When started planning, things started to look easy - one of the key aspect of this journey was choice of stops. Upon deciding stops, stay, and places to visit, there was no stopping. In general, I would love to have best possible weather when I hit the road (my usual search query on Google being "where is it raining in India?"). In this case, we knew that fresh snowfall would happen at most 4-5 times in entire season, and we finalized dates trusting Accuweather data. Places planned to visit: Manali, Shimla, and Auli (tentative). THE reason to travel: To witness snowfall (Yes, we did!) Dates: 20/01/2017 to 01/02/2017 (Based on weather prediction three months before) Drive: Ford Ecosport 1.5TDCi Number of people: 3 (Driver: Only Me! ) Preparation: Being very particular about vehicle maintenance, I got everything checked (also, 2nd service was due around the same time) a week before our drive. One major problem we previously faced was light throw from headlights (OSRAMs) - I finally decided to replace with with Philips X-treme Vision Plus H4 (+130%), and they are amazing! Protective clothing: 2 layered snow-proof jacket, thermals, multi-position headband, two layers of gloves (much needed at sub-zero temperatures). Medicines: Few strips each for headache, cough/cold, fever, indigestion, and vomiting. Food: Figured out that there won't be many restaurants (especially in MP and UP). Hence, carried home-made protein bars, instant-noodle packs, juices, etc. Other things carried: Mini air compressor, 2 umbrellas, hiking pole, whistle, and 25L jerry can (and funnel). Route and Itinerary (NH44 all the way, from Telangana till Punjab) 20 Jan: Hyderabad to Sagar (MP) 21 Jan: Sagar (MP) to Greater Noida 22 Jan: Greater Noida to Manali 22 - 26 Jan: Places around Manali 27 Jan: Manali to Shimla 28 - 29 Jan: Shimla 30 Jan: Shimla to Agra 31 Jan: Agra to Nagpur 1 Feb: Nagpur to Hyderabad Day-1: (Hyderabad to Sagar - 884KM) State: Telangana It was a key decision that we had to make about 1st stop, and the choice was between Chhindwara and Sagar (considering good places to stay). We were all super-excited the night before; woke up at 4am, and hit road by 4.30am. Roads were flawless till Adilabad, and roads turned ugly (not even bad) the moment we crossed Telangana border - it was stark difference, and a badly shaped bridge welcomed us in Maharashtra. State: Maharashtra Road construction was happening on NH44 (for betterment, I'd guess), and it was not so pleasant (at the same time, not eventful) driving in MH. We crossed Nagpur 1.15pm and stopped for lunch as soon as we entered MP. State: Madhya Pradesh Tarmac turned super smooth the moment we entered MP - driving on SH 547 was pleasant experience (we passed some hills in between). No wonder MP has some of the cleanest cities in the country - one could judge the same by looking at their roads. We crossed Chhindwara around 4.30PM, and reached destination (Sagar) by 7.45PM. We could already feel the cold that night (not so much, though); had dinner and called it a day. It was a great day overall (not eventful). It was relatively long day for us in the car (~900KM), and we intentionally front-loaded much of distance on day-1.
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