I have made numerous road trips in India on various terrains, in a variety of cars, in different seasons. I have stayed both in shanties and luxurious hotels. On a few highways like the Yamuna Expressway, I love driving fast, while on a few treacherous ones like Hatu Peak or Munsiyari, I adhere to speed limits and religiously follow hilly roads unsaid rules.
I have traveled in snow to high altitude terrains of Ladakh, on cliffhanger roads of Himachal & Uttaranchal, loved the ocean hugging roads in Gujarat and Maharashtra, enjoyed the green valleys of Meghalaya, relished the backwaters of Kerala and have also got infuriated in the urban chaos of Delhi and Gurgaon. Having traveled across the length and breadth of our beautiful country, I can confidently say that road humbles us. It imparts us experiences which makes us adaptable, makes us patient, enriches our understanding and treats us with plethora of mouth watering cuisines and street foods. It makes us wiser and street smart. I prefer road trips over trains and even flights. On a road trip, I can choose my itinerary, plan my stays, make stop over for pictures infinite number of times, enjoy various local cuisines and can just have a good time with friends and family. In short, road trip is truly fun. But do you know that one thing which is common in all the trips…time constraint…the biggest challenge!
Amidst the pressure of working and earning, I try to take minimal leaves and cover maximum places, thereby pressurizing and squeezing our closest friends… Saturdays and Sundays, to deliver the best… Just the way our bosses at office pressurize us. I remember, on most of the times for a journey of 10-12 hrs, I leave for road trip after office on Thursday at 5.30 pm, drive for 4 hrs and check-in at a hotel on the way. Then leave early on Friday by 6am to reach the destination by lunch. So, now I have half of Friday, and full Saturday to explore the destination. The marathon drive of 10-12 hrs back home, starts early on Sunday. By the time, I reach home, the sun is already set and I am dead tired, but mentally preparing for the office from Monday. So, just one day leave on Friday gets me the much awaited break. Nowadays, it looks as if weekend breaks are more exhaustive than working days. A year or two earlier, I used to go to nearby places like Nainital, Mussoorie, Kasauli, Shimla, Chail, Lansdowne etc. But now since most of nearby places are already covered, I have to travel longer distance to see places like Manali, McLeodganj, Munsiyari. This pushes my driving time and eventually makes the weekend breaks more tiring. I fear that in a year or two, I will have to go much farther to explore the unexplored. This will eventually lead to more leaves from office.
Well, I was thinking that if you have limitless money and no dearth of time to make a road trip in India…where would you go, for how long and in which car?
For once, I wish to complete the following circuit of Uttaranchal – Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir in one go. The places I thought of covering in one road trip are: Gurgaon – Pithoragarh – Munsiyari – Kausani – Rudraprayad – Tehri Lake – Mussoorie – Chakrata- Rohru – Narkanda (Hatu Peak, Tani Jabbar Lake) – Chitkul – Kaza – Tandi – Sach Pass – Srinagar Leh Highway – Ladakh region (Pangong Tso, Nubra, Turtuk, Chushul,Tso Moriri) – Leh Manali highway (Baralacha , Suryataal, Gata loops, Zing zing Bar, Manali) – Tirthan Valley – Shimla region (Mashobra, Tattapani, Chail) – Gurgaon
As I was thinking about this long trip, I thought of googling the distance and the time it will take to cover my choice of places. Total distance was around 5000 km and driving time was about 140 hrs non-stop. So, considering about 6 hrs of drive each day, it takes about 23 days to cover this distance. Add to it a margin of 7 days, it should be about a month’s trip. The total cost estimate was around 1.5 lakhs
a. 1500 per night for hotel / tent = 1500*30 = Rs 45000,
b. Rs 800 per day for food = 800*30 = Rs 24000
c. Considering average of vehicle to be 8 kmpl on hills, it will need 5000/8 = 625 L of fuel. Considering diesel to be Rs 80 per L (including toll cost), it will cost 80*625 = Rs 50000
d. Considering contingency amount of Rs 1000 per day = 30*1000 = Rs 30000.
This is a reasonable estimate, else even if we overshoot the budget, we anyway have credit cards for contingency purpose.
I want to make this trip in a Range Rover, though I don’t own it… forget owning it, I have never sat in this car. However, what I have read and seen in various blogs and video-logs, Range Rover is a powerful SUV which can climb mountains effortlessly without worrying about its underbelly being hit on a bad road. Somewhere I read there was a discussion on Range Rover vs Ferrari. What Range Rover said to Ferrari was that ‘you can go faster, but I can go anywhere’. Such is the stature of this beast…which seems always on steroids…peppy engine, sturdy suspension…glitch free technology. Considering the dreaded reputation of Sach Pass, Zozila Pass, Kunzum Pass and Khardungla pass, I believe Range Rover is the most practical, robust and reliable friend to accompany with.
Since this blog is about the dream vehicle drive, I could have chosen a Hummer too, but driving bulky vehicle of this size, on the narrow cliffhanger roads, specially between Killar to Kishtwar, is a big dampener. Boy, I am content a with Range Rover.
So, we have all aspects covered except one, which bothers us the most… leaves. Now, I need to think of some illness which can last for a month. Slipped Disc? Naah…Fracture? Naah… lets go with Chicken Pox… it doesn’t require any medical test and leaves no traces of marks after a month… and no one will ask you to come to office unless you’re fully fit…it is contagious, ain’t it? … *Evil laugh*