I have been itching to take the car out for a long drive ever since we bought it & this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
BHPian animeshc recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
When an old friend, especially a school friend, asks you for a trip, you don’t say no, even if the date of travel is less than a week away and there aren’t any office leaves you can afford.
Enter S, an old buddy, currently in Jaipur because of the WFH situation and on one Sunday evening, he pitched the idea of a trip to Dharamshala where he had a few friends who were inviting him over. With the new entry of Lucifer into the family, I was itching to take it out for a drive to the mountains and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
A shell shocked reaction was what I had expected from my better (and more sensible) half and she didn’t disappoint. “Have you completely lost it? Aren’t we travelling to Narkanda in a couple of weeks?” (Yes, I forgot to mention that before, we had another week-long Himachal trip planned in exactly 2 weeks). But trips with school friends are so difficult to come by and who wants to be that person in the group who gets blamed for a ‘Bhai, because of you we weren’t able to do a legendary trip’ (of course in Hindi with a few more expletives).
Intense negotiations followed and the temptation of going on the first long drive with Lucifer ultimately tipped the scales for her, even though we agreed to not take any leaves and work during the days.
So, the trip was finalized for Sunday (6th March), we would be returning on Saturday (12th March) as it was my birthday and I wanted to spend some time with my parents before our next trip starts on 17th March. Of course, practicality isn’t one of my traits.
Another school friend agreed to the trip before backing out at the last moment. As I mentioned above, that one friend in the group who becomes the hurdle and gets cursed for the rest of their life, this one earned that badge. The rest three of us decided to continue with the plan.
If I had to create a small trailer for the trip, it would be this video – Scenic roads and an Audi!
Day1: The flag off
Shades on, windows up, Lucifer in dynamic mode and we started around Noon, the route was going to be Jaipur – Delhi bypass (Western Peripheral expressway) – Ambala where we would be breaking for the night.
As called out by a number of experienced bhpians, the Jaipur Delhi drive was the most boring leg and felt more like an extended city drive. Though roads were mostly fine with some surprise potholes (like early levels of the ‘road fighter’ video game), the traffic was quite heavy. For a while, we tried hard to find open patches of roads for Lucifer to stretch his legs but soon gave up, put him back on comfort mode and decided to enjoy the B&O speakers instead of the exhaust.
With just a tea break at one of the thousands of midways now open along the way (amusingly with similar names and brandings, highway kings/queens/princes all are there), we were able to hit the expressway in about 4 – 4.5 hours. This was the moment I was waiting for.
With 1000+ kms done on the odometer of the car, it was now time to mark the end of the ‘run-in’ period and fully unleash the beast. And boy, did it fly! We were pushed to the backs of the seats, the exhausts sang out loud, the adrenaline flew high and we were reminded of the feeling of ‘being alive’ which sometimes evades us in the monotony of corporate life. The car buy had been justified.
We stopped more than once to click photographs, switch drivers and feel that launch surge, the kick in the stomach, one more time. What’s life without the joy of letting the kid inside you take over!
Post the expressway, it was a mostly breezy drive barring the traffic around Sonipat, Panipat and the Dhabas of Murthal. The plan to treat ourselves to the Parathas and Chole-Kulche of Amrik Sukhdev was kicked out of the window looking at what felt like the entire population of Haryana. We reached Ambala around 8:30, had a quick dinner and crashed.
Summary of Day 1
Day 2: The surprise breakfast
The route for the next day was Ambala – Ludhiana – Hoshiarpur – Dharamshala. Though Ludhiana is a slight detour, S wanted to visit an old uncle of his.
It was a Monday, remember the deal with the devil (oh no, that’s just for the theatrics, I actually mean the agreement with my dear wife) where we were supposed to be working on Weekdays. The plan was to reach Dharamshala by around noon.
In order to honour that agreement, we left early and breezed through the morning traffic of Punjab. The sound of the exhaust was the only dose of caffeine we needed and by 8 am, we were at his uncle’s place.
Now when S had mentioned the uncle’s place, I didn’t imagine it to be an uncle’s palace. A strict looking security guard stopped us at the huge entrance gate and asked if we had an appointment! That’s when we realised that his uncle owned a big business and a majestic house.
Now if anyone shows up at my house so early in the morning, I would be half cranky but we were welcomed with so much warmth, treated with a range of delicacies from Protein shakes (as a welcome drink!) to Omelettes and Parathas, walked around the gardens and kitchen gardens (which should be actually called farms). I truly understood what big-hearted Punjabi hospitality is and a lesson for me to remember for the rest of my life. The fun part was that Lucifer managed to garner attention and praises from a family who had the 3 big Germans and a Jag in their garage. Talk about Validation!
What was initially meant to be a quick 15 min visit had taken up more than 2 hours, not that we were complaining but with heavy hearts and heavier stomachs, we trudged on.
Punjab had woken up by now and we met a lot more traffic now. By the time we crossed Ludhiana city and got back on the highway, the office timings had started. Instead of the music or the exhaust, we were now listening to the calls of my beloved.
The roads turned prettier after Hoshiarpur as we crossed acres of mustard fields before starting the ascent into the hillier regions and while that sounds beautiful, we were met with the practical problem of patchy internet which meant that we had to halt at a place with connectivity for every meeting. If you thought the ‘moshi moshi’ Hrithik scene from ZNMD was a work of imagination, think again.
Work from wherever!
Even the food options post Hoshiarpur were limited and took us a while to find a decent place for lunch. The good part was that we found some really nice set of twisties with little traffic which meant Lucifer was able to get a damn solid workout and it didn’t disappoint one bit.
Here is a video capturing a small section of the drive on the twisties, headphones are recommended.
Crossing a relatively empty highway in Punjab, a phenomenon that’s rare and mostly found only during early mornings!
Let’s stereotype Punjab with Sarson ke khet, a glass of lassi and an Audi
The twisties start as we approach Himachal
As we crossed Kangra and started approaching Dharamshala, we were awed by the huge snow-capped mountainous backdrops. The towns, roads, and vehicles all seemed diminutive in front of the mighty Dhauladhars. We reached around 4:30 in the evening and while the lady rushed for another meeting, I and S enjoyed a cup of tea at the base of the mountain and the cold gusts of wind blew away any iota of tiredness we had.
More than the mountains, finding Xp 95 in remote areas of Himachal made me happy!
Catching up on well-deserved rest!