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A Drive with many Distractions: Chandigarh to Manali
Sometimes when we forgo the tried and tested methods and take the alternative path, it creates a unique experience for us, even though the outcome happens to be the same. This thought is an after effect of my recent road trip from Chandigarh to Manali. I and my friends were to meet a few friends in the Himachal town and it was supposed to be our first trip together to Manali. We could have easily taken one of the overnight buses from Delhi and reached Manali easily comfortably and probably faster the next day. But as the adventurous souls, we are we decided to do this differently.
Leaving for Manali
We hitched a ride with our family friend to Chandigarh and stayed over the night. Next morning we set out to rent a car in Chandigarh that will be able to negotiate the steep mountain roads.
Fortunately, we got a very good deal and an amazing person in the form of our chauffeur. Friendly and experienced, he could drive through the mountain roads with his eyes closed.
Technically it takes 8-9 hours from Chandigarh to Manali, via NH 3 but we were sure it was going to be a long journey. In all scenarios, it was expected to be a day-long journey with an ETA of late evening. There are two other routes between Chandigarh and Manali but this was the fastest way with interesting places to stop for refreshments or just to refuel.
The road to the mountains
Once we crossed Chandigarh city limits and hit the sun-kissed highway, the world seemed different. The wider roads bluer skies and endless greenery on both sides offer a view we would have definitely missed on the overnight bus. Plus who would have entertained us with a personalized playlist of Himachalese n Punjabi songs?
Within an hour we were driving through Punjab. Although not the best parts of the state, the landscape is exactly how Bollywood movies depict them with the lush fields of mustard against the crisp blue horizon and tractors buzzing across the fields. Lining the fields were these small brick houses, the colors and fancy stucco work on some depicting the family status.
Stopping for a grub
Road trips make me hungrier than I anything else.
Our first deviation was in Rupnagar, Punjab for the morning food affairs. This stretch is lined with eateries of all kinds, mostly serving traditional Punjabi and other north Indian fares. Haveli Dhaba is your typical highway-side eatery, feeding travelers since 1950. After a royal Punjabi-style brunch, we continued on our journey.
Our next stop was directly in Himachal, once we crossed Bilaspur around late afternoon. The Bhadure Ka Dhaba is a popular place among travelers to stop and get a grub.
With the altitude kicking in, we needed a break from the ride and get some fresh mountain air. Our cabbie took us to a point from where we could see the Bhakra Dam, which is otherwise a good 3-hour ride from the highway junction.
There are also a couple of interesting places to stop by in Sundernagar, but with the daylight getting over, we chose to move on and stop directly at Kullu.
The quieter sister of Manali, Kullu is an equally popular tourist locale. It is more of a valley resort and gives you the taste of the Himachal life, different than the other towns we had left behind. It was post-sunset and the shops were about to close. We stopped at the Kullu market for tea and a little street shopping. To experience the real beauty of Kullu, one needs to see this town in broad daylight.
By the time we reached our destination in Old Manali, it was past 9 pm. Even after traveling for 12 hours on the hilly terrain, it didn’t feel that tiring, thanks to an excellent Chandigarh to Manali taxi service and our wonderful driver, who made the road trip a truly memorable experience for us!
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