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Thursday, June 12, 2014

North India Roadtrip- 5 days, 5 states, 2000kms in Dzire

Almost all of my road trips had been in South India, where I am familiar with terrain, language and culture. I had hardly driven in North India. I did have a bunch of visits to Delhi and few trips in North India (Mussoori, Jaipur, Binsar, Agra etc) but on all those occasions, I didn't get a chance to drive.
All that changed this May, when drove to my heart's content. This post outlines the driving aspects of the trip, while individual destinations/attractions visited are covered in separate posts.

Key highlights:
  • No of days: 5
  • No of states covered: 5 (Delhi, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh)
  • Total distance covered: 2040 kms
  • Diesel consumed: Worth Rs 7500 approx
  • Money spent on interstate permits: Rs 1500 approx
  • Money spent on toll, parking, entry fees: Rs 2000 approx
  • Terrain: All- highways, mountain roads, non existent roads
  • Navigation: Google maps
  • Number of people: 5
  • Car: Swift Dzire VDi from carzonrent
Below is a map summary of the distance and locations covered.

Day 1: Delhi to Faridpur, 290 kms
We left from Delhi close to midnight, after collecting the Dzire from carzonrent official. One thing I’d overlooked in my planning was the fact that I need to pay interstate tourist vehicle permit fees. Some states let you pay this online, while others expect you to drive to their check posts and pay the amount. I did some quick reading online on Opera Mini mobile browser that helped me get updated about the details on interstate permit fees. Went to Anand Vihar to pay UP entry permit tax and then proceeded towards Faridpur, UP. This 290 kms journey took close to 8 hours. (Chennai-Bengaluru is about 380kms and we cover it in about 5-6 hours all inclusive) All through the journey, I encountered hundreds of trucks. It looked like trucks were the only vehicles on the roads- hardly any other vehicles. Buses and other cars were very few. At some of the toll booths, massive pile up of trucks caused delays of up to 45 mins, while we crawled few inches every 2 mins. Roads were fine by and large but at may occasions we had to go through bad stretches- highway either didn't exist or vehicles are diverted because road department wanted to build an over-bridge or something like that. Breakdowns and accidents on the highway are very common. When that happens, few drivers would go in wrong direction and end up creating massive blockade. Toll amount ranged from Rs 15 to Rs 55, some toll plazas were less than 10 km apart. Slept for an hour or so in a Dhaba on the way. We could reach our destination by about 7.30 AM, averaging about 40 kms per hour.

Later in the day drove another 220 odd kms to reach Pilibhit and back, in an abandoned attempt to explore Pilibhit tiger reserve.Went very close to Nepal and Uttarakhand border but not close enough to take a look.

Day 2: Faridpur to Shamli (enroute to Amritsar)
Early morning a short trip to riverside resulted in an accident- read full details here.

In the evening we set out for the longest leg of our trip, Faridpur to Amritsar, covering 700kms. I was asked why Amritsar- why not some other tourist place nearby. First, I wanted to enjoy the ultra long drive, second, I was tempted by the golden temple and Wagah border visit, which were on my wishlist for long time. Third reason was that there weren't too many places close by. (Agra, Jim Corbett, Nainital are few closer destinations)

Journey to Amritsar took much more time than what I'd thought. We'd started from Faridpur by 4PM. I was hoping to cover 700kms in about 12 hours, with few hours of sleep on the way. There are multiple ways how one can reach Amritsar from Bareilly. A colleague had advised me to take a specific route- via Bijnor, Muzzafarnagar (where riots had taken place recently)-Saharanpur-Ambala and via Grand Trunk Road. One more option was to go to Delhi and then proceed to Amritsar. But none of these were shortest routes. Shortest route by distance as shown by google maps was via Meerut, Shamli, Karnal, Patiala, Ludhiana. I had to decide between the shortest route and the other 2 routes. I checked with a restaurant owner on the way and he said road via Meerut is good, we can take that. May be roads were improved recently. Hence I ignored earlier advise and took the shortest route, only to loose more time and strain myself.
Roadblocks in UP
Roads were fine till Meerut. But road between Meerut and Karnal via Shamli were pathetic. Almost non existent. It took 4 hours to cover this 100kms distance and ruined my plans significantly.
Sunset
 A temple on the way

By midnight, we'd reached a town called Shamli- some 300 kms and 8 hours into the journey, with another 400kms yet to be covered.

Day 3: Shamli to Amritsar, Wagah Border
While Meerut to Shamli roads were bad, Shamli to Karnal were worst. After few more hours of crawling, we reached Karnal. From here roads were good, we cruised towards Patiala. I could have taken grand trunk road from here, but google god doesn't highlight alternate roads which are longer but better. Slept for sometime on the way. As we neared Patiala, it was day break. Amritsar was nowhere close. It was still 230 kms away. We were already 14 hours into the journey, my passengers were trying to catch some sleep in sitting positions, expecting to reach destination sooner.

When some of my passengers got bored sitting forever, I handed over my phone, so that they could look up some interesting stuff to read online. I asked them to use Opera Mini instead of any other app, because it opens webpages even in fluctuating network speeds - which is a common situation when we are on highways in India.

Eventually we joined the main road- Grand Trunk road and began to cruise. But every few kms there was a diversion because of construction work (over bridge I suppose) and speed had to be reduced. Had there been no construction and diversion, last 200 odd kms could have been covered in about 90 mins, as it was possible to touch 160kmph, Dzire's max speed on the grand trunk road. But it took us 3 hours instead. Couple of tollbooths we encountered collected Rs 110 each.

We passed through popular towns of Punjab- Ludhiana, Jalandhar etc. Most of the towns had an elevated way or a bypass, so we didn't get held up in city traffic much.

Finally by 10 AM we were in the outskirts of Amritsar town. 30 mins later, we were in front of our hotel, City Castle Amritsar. That is about 16 hours to cover 700kms, 50% more than what I had provisioned.

After visiting Golden temple [ sunrise pics] and Jullianwala bagh, it was time to visit the border.

Amritsar to Wagah Border and back
Drove to Wagah border that evening from Amritsar and back- 30 kms one way. Roads were great and empty. Wagah experience I've written in Ghumakkar

Once back, I was tired and wanted to sleep, but was tempted to click golden temple in night time. Visited Golden temple again, got some good photographs and called it a day. Golden temple night pics 

Day 4: Amritsar to Dharamshala, 200kms, 7 hours
My original plan was to leave Amritsar by 5 AM and reach Dharmashala by about 10AM. Once again, things wouldn't work out as planned. After visiting Golden temple one more time, we finally left Amritsar only by 8.30AM.

Amritsar town hall

We stopped by wheat fields to take closer look

My mother spotted below scene and suggested that I take some photos- tree and grass combination was indeed nice.
Road to Pathankot wasn't really great. After paying a hefty tax and entering Himachal Pradesh, roads were still bad, but scenery around was beautiful. [Scenic Himachal Pradesh]

The 200kms journey between Amritsar and Dharmashala took full 7 hours, 30 min break included. Narrow roads were exciting to drive through. We could reach McLeodgunj only by 3.30 PM. So much for selecting a hotel with 24 hour checkout/check in.

We visited Bhagsu waterfall, did some shopping and called it a day

Day 5: McLeodgunj to New Delhi via Doraha, Punjab: 500kms

We checked out early, visited Dalai Lama's temple,  Dal Lake, Naddi view point, Dharmashala Cricket stadium and headed towards Delhi. We did stop to explore Kangra fort. It was close to 11AM when we were done with Kangra fort and Delhi was still 375km away. My booking was till mid night and we had flight early morning next day.

We came down the hills, re-entered Punjab and passed through the city of Hoshiarpur. Somewhere between Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana, we found a veg dhabha and had our lunch. Roads were very good.

By 4 PM we'd crossed Ludhiana and heading towards Doraha, a town which had couple of forts which were shown in the movie, Rang De Basanti. This would be our final attraction before returning to Delhi

4.30PM, few kms before Doraha, I had a flat tyre. Had to pull over, unload all the bags in the boot, take out the stepney and replace the tyre. This caused a small delay which eventually made us to reach one of the forts 12 mins after its closing time. [Forts in Doraha shown in RDB movie]

6PM, we were done with the forts. But I was running without a spare wheel. When I spotted a tyre puncture shop, asked him if he could fix the tubeless tyre. He did fix it, for a very nominal cost of Rs 40. (It costs Rs 150 or so in South India). Delhi was still far. 300kms or so.

All through the trip, I was hopping to find some Cafe Coffee Day by the roadside, but had hardly spotted any so far. But now once in Haryana, I started spotting them one by one. In front of one of the CCDs I parked the car and decided to take a quick nap-after few minutes security came and asked me to drive off, since I am not supposed to be sleeping in their parking space. May be I could have done some business with them after my sleep, but fine, I moved on. We passed through Ambala (a big military base), Panipat (where great battles were fought) and were cruising towards Delhi.

One thing was still left unexplored- having food at a Haveli.

I tried the trusted Opera Mini browser in my mobile and tried searching for Havelis in Punjab.  Opera Mini enables faster browsing and quick loading of pages, eliminating need for having to wait for minute while the page loads. Realized that there were many around Jalandhar, which we had left long behind but there’re few havelis ahead, near Ambala.

We couldn't spot any for lunch- as we skipped Jalandhar. Now on Punjab-Haryana border we found one, but it wasn't pure Veg. So we proceeded further. We found one more and pulled over. It was named Haveli, but we didn't get any special experience. It was an overpriced, self service hotel which served south Indian, north Indian and other dishes. Food was good though. [Read: Rajpura Haveli experience]

Heavy rains and strong winds greeted us enroute to Delhi. By midnight, we'd entered Delhi from north. But my mobile navigation stopped working. Finding way to Airport without it is going to be a nightmare. However, few minutes and a mobile reboot later, map came to life. By 1 PM, we were at the departure terminal of Delhi's IGI airport terminal 1.

Google maps and Opera Mini browser were my key companions during the trip. Though I wasn’t familiar with the terrain, culture and other information, these wonderful utilities helped me with necessary information, indirectly helped me save time and money.

Final Tripmeter reading, clicked while returning the car to Carzonrent, about 2040 kms
Shortly thereafter carzonrent guys came and took away the Dzire, my companion of 5 days. That was the end of my trip- one of the longest in recent times.

9 comments :

Paresh Kale said...

Nicely put TFS !

Tomichan Matheikal said...

That's quite a journey, I should say.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Paresh and Tomichan

R Niranjan Das said...

That is a lovely road trip.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Niranjan

Meghana Hassan said...

Wonderful road trip. Please add search button(or did I miss it). I was searching for your post on Jallianwala Bagh and had to scroll way down on Travels.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks. You can also directly google enidhi jallianwala bagh etc for faster results.

Will check on adding search button

Unknown said...

The North India trip - 5 state was this a self drive or wht

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yes, it was self drive