Visit the quaint towns of Chakrata in Uttaranchal, and Hatkoti, Rohru and Thanedar in Himachal Pradesh. Tourist traffic is sparse, which is a boon and a refreshing change from popular crowded travel destinations. These places don’t have the usual clutch of ‘must see’ places or ‘must do’ things. In fact, the drive to these places is often more than half the excitement of the entire holiday. If you love to drive the mountains, this route is custom-made for you. The views all round are majestic and the climate pleasing and rejuvenating. Thanedar, the fruit bowl of Himachal, is where India’s best apples grow. This quaint town has got an interesting story behind it and sees very few tourists. The locals make visitors feel at home and the clime makes you want to linger on for more days than you originally planned.
As these places are very offbeat, the tourist infrastructure is very basic. Do not expect lavish resorts or five-star services. Everything moves at its own pace but the people are extremely friendly and accommodating.
Chakrata, Hatkoti, Rohru and Thanedar can be visited all year round. If you want to get away from the heat of the plains during the summer, then May to July is just fine. If you’ve got plans for a nice, chilled-out holiday with snow and sub-zero temperature for company, then winter is fun. We would especially recommend February with its snows and frozen waterfalls.Since all four destinations are located in the high mountains, it would do good to carry light woolens during the summer and heavy woolens during the winters.
Get your car thoroughly checked and serviced before you set off on your hilly holiday. You will need it to be reliable because there are very few places that you could get things repaired or assistance if something does go wrong. Carry two spare wheels, if possible, and a few spares. Do not forget to tuck in a powerful torch and some candles too.
The drive from Delhi takes you along NH1, past Panipat and Karnal, to the Pipal junction. Here we turn right for Yamunagar and from thereon head towards Paonta Sahib.
The first night halt comes up at Chakrata. Traffic on the narrow road to Chakrata is controlled by a gate system at both ends. Hence, traffic is allowed in only one direction at regular intervals. Chakrata is an important cantonment town and photography is strictly prohibited with regiment guards posted all over town to ensure that no one pulls out a camera.
The next day’s drive is fascinating. Snowcapped peaks regularly crowd the horizon and the roads have fascinating views. We enjoyed the drives as much as the places we visited. The night halt would be either the town of Hatkoti or Rohru (10km apart).
The final day’s drive will have you in Thanedar by afternoon. On your return journey, you could drive to Shimla, which is two hours away, and then to Delhi, seven hours from Shimla.
With snowfall being a regular feature on the roads after Chakrata, you need to take ample care if you’re travelling during winter. Exercise utmost caution when driving on ice, especially ‘black’ ice which doesn’t show its presence. Try to keep off the road shoulder as it is usually slippery.
If you’re driving during the night, keep the speeds low. If you need to stretch your legs, keep the car’s headlights on full beam and walk out in front of the car. Always keep the headlights behind you so that the area ahead is lit up. The lights also keep jackals away - there are quite a few of them in the hills and they are quite bold too.
In the event of a puncture, especially at night, change the tyre with your headlights on and the car in reverse gear. Keep the engine off but the ignition on - this will keep the reverse lights on and enable you to have a circle of light around the car keeping surprises at bay.
Issue: 165 | May 2013
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