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Vinay**

In search of snow and ghats - 5000KM road trip, Hyderabad to Manali and Shimla

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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 :D). 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

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Number of people: 3 (Driver: Only Me!:D )

 

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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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).

 

 

Edited by Vinay**
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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.

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Lovely review and you are making me desire to plan something on the lines this winter....


Sent from my iPhone using India-Drive

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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

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After playing in snow for couple of hours, we came back to resort. Below are views from resort.

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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.

 

Edited by Vinay**
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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.

  1. Vashisht temple (hot water spring)
  2. Nature Park
  3. Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery
  4. Naggar castle
  5. 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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Making of snow-man

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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).

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Day-7: (Snow day!:D)

 

It was night 11.15PM, and moment of truth! People woke me up, shouting snow.. snow....

Snow-fall at night

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Next morning

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It was complete Black/White day for us, and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment. Our parking space looked like this.

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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.

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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).:D

 

Edited by Vinay**
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Excellent review Vinay.
Very inspiring, Next winter we are planning to drive from Hyderabad.

Is there any road, where you felt a sedan can't do it?
 

13 hours ago, Vinay** said:

Driver: Only Me!


I love this part. :)
 

9 hours ago, Vinay** said:

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.


How did you guys manage to drive on those roads? Is it slippery?

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9 hours ago, Vinay** said:
Snow-fall at night


Awesome review man! This tempting me to drive to snow right away.... but do u think that sedan like civic can take these roads?
 

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Wonderfully crafted travelogue vinay.. your description in detailing on everything needed a lot of patience and Thanks a ton for sharing such a useful information. Loved your read.

How could you manage to drive on these snowy paths ?

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Beautifully written travelog. You revived my memory for Solang valley. Lovely narration and you detailing on stuff was splendid. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep driving to these heavenly places and keep sharing :)

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Excellent write up coupled with some breathtaking photographs vinay. Kudos to your effort mate. Really inspiring and waiting for your next set of posts :)

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Brilliant detailing in the write up. Great effort and it is all worth a read for anyone planning their drive from Hyderabad to Shimla. Would love to see more pics of the place. Great share on the forum mate

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Awesome mention on the details with great vistas mate. Road trip and snow is a killer combination. Really amazed and if you could throw in some light on tips and measures you've taken during the drive, it would be of great help :D TIA

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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).

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Wow.. Thant's one heck of a drive for sure.. Driving on snow is a real test of patience and looks like you have handles the ford well. Superb details given in your log. Looking forward for some more logs in such detail which can help all our fellow road trippers. 

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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. :D

 

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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Tattapani

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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).

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Green valley

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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. 

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      It was fun driving this car in those ghats. Steering feel and feedback was really good and was spot on. This trip will be forever remembered. The engine sound coupled with cool breeze and nature sounds made this a really wonderful and memorable trip with my Ford Freestyle.

       
      Hyderabad to Yanam via Ramachandrapuram 
       
      This place is really beautiful. I’ve been to Yanam in 2012 in our Swift Dzire. I was siting beside my father and was observing him cruising in that beautiful cool, rainy weather. I was 16 back then. Learning driving from my father in our colony roads. I was amazed by the way it cruised, clicked many pictures  in my father’s Galaxy S3. I couldn’t know more about the place. All I knew was the beach and the beautiful Jesus statue. Nothing beyond that.
       
      This is 2019 and I was on the wheel with my father sitting beside me and my Sony A6000 DSLR in the rear seat to click the beautiful places. It was 4:30 in the morning, I fired the loud TDCi engine waking up others in my house at Ramachandrapuram. We hit the roads and it was all nostalgic.
       
       
      The roads were bad, full of potholes and very bad curves. This gave me a new experience to drive on those village roads full of potholes and truck traffic from the opposite direction with high beam. Made me explore Yanam and the nearby mangroves and getting to know the place beyond beach and of course the beautiful Jesus statue, reminded my father of his childhood and the hotel where he used to sometimes eat and now we having  our breakfast which is still running with the same quality at Drakshramam. This also proved how beautiful my car is gliding  over those big potholes with very loud and uncomfortable sounds in the cabin and  zero underbody hits. making this another memorable road trip. 
       
      Vijayawada to Hyderabad
       

      I’ve done multiple trips between Hyderabad-Vijayawada on our Honda City as well as Ford Freestyle as my father is posted there. But this will be remembered.
       
      This unexpected drive for few minutes under the railway bridge tested my knowledge on flood water driving, knowledge can be acquired by learning but not experience. And this kind of experience is very rare. This tests our skill, It’s a do or die situation. Drive well and come out of the pool or get stuck ruining your car permanently. 
       
      The experience was all together a very different one. This kept me in a situation where It was all on me. No one to help me, guide me or drive the car. This proved the capabilities of ford Freestyle and my driving skills. The punchy low end torque never worried me or gave a feel of stalling. It never lost the grunt. I successfully came out of it which doubled my confidence in driving and my love towards the car.
       
       
      Accidents & Incidents 
       
      It was 24th of April, 8:45 in the morning. I was driving towards Suchitra Junction to meet my father’s colleague and take my internship certificate which I forgot in her cabin the previous day. I tuned into 98.3 radio mirchi my favourite radio station and was just 5 minutes away from my home when the unexpected saddest thing happened.  

       

       

       
      A construction truck which was coming from the opposite direction taking a 90 degree banged into my car’s rear third quater leaving a really bad damage. It was a hit and run case. Many villagers ran behind him but he fled away leaving me in utter grief. The impact was huge but the damage was small considering the impact.
       
      Did anyone remember this? “the impact was small, but the damage was really huge” “A thought to upgrade to a safer vehicle struck my father’s mind” and this proved to be the right choice, the safer vehicle. 
       
      It was 31st of July, 3:30 in the evening, I was driving  from Tellapur towards Kompally on ORR. An incident which taught me the meaning of hydro planning, made me realise the power of water and yet again made me fall in love with my car.   
      It was raining, the road was good obviously because it’s the ORR a Hyderabadi drivers favourite, the road was empty and there’s a water pool that can be seen on the left most lane.
       
      A child in me touched triple digit speeds (100kmph) from 80kmph wanted to spill the water and went straight onto the waterlogged pool only to loose control over my car. The vehicle immediately lost traction, drifted towards the right, steering was out of my control for few seconds, I tried very hard to steer the car to the left keeping it in the lane and I succeeded.
       
      All thanks to the traction control that my car has. This taught me how much dangerous water can be and the force of water. Never after this incident I touched triple digit speeds during rains. 
       

       
      To sum it up, Freestyle is a car that definitely puts a smile the drivers face. Particularly the TDCi. It’s rightly called a pocket rocket. 

      Freestyle is not about luxury, its rugged, rough, not so comfortable when compared to the competition, the interiors are hard, the plastics are not placed well but as said before its lal about ruggedness and practicality. Once you are behind the wheel of a Ford you’ll forever be the fan of Ford.
       

       
      Srikrishna Bhavaraju
      A true Ford Lover


    • By Ranger
      Current status:

      Hyderabad to Tuni : Good
      Tuni to Chilka : under construction
      Chilka to Kolkata : Good
       
      Information shared by @ARAY
       
      ***NH 16 - Route update***
      Folks planning for a road trip via NH16 to WB next weekend for Durga Puja, please be aware of the latest road conditions. Post Tuni till South Chilka is getting a major road expansion for last 8+ months as we all know.
       
      Diversions and all are manageable, however with the recent torrential downpour in the region the soft soil has washed off exposing the cemented Culverts and small bridges that are constructed at the first phase of any NH build or expansion.
       
      Due to the absence of proper markings and boards this is more risky. Absence of soft soil or temporary soil in general will further make the cemented bridges even more harder to climb and slush and soft mud can make the situation tricky.
       
      People driving low slung sedans and hatchbacks please be careful, there is a high probability of underbelly hits while making the ascend to and decent from the bridges. People with FWD SUV be careful of lateral torque steer in the slush making the car go sideways and out of control.
       
      A close friend of mine while driving to Assam has severely damaged the front left lower arm, track rod for steering and partially the ball joints of Honda city. He took that ascent at roughly 32kmph as per his GPX data.
      Use caution drive slow post Tuni and have a very safe trip everyone !
       
       
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