Day 1: 21 June 2014 : Noida to Kasol / Chalal
We got up around 0330 hrs and freshened up and by 0430, we were all set to zip. Sany has already expressed his desire to be on wheels as he wanted to test the Beast’s power and it was agreed that he would be driving for the entire trip. Couple of calls were exchanged with Dheeraj as it was decided that we’d be meeting at Mukarba Chowk by 0500 hrs and we were already late by that standards. We told them to drive ahead and wait at Murthal, the time they can utilize in having breakfast.
We tried to catch up with them, however, were able to reach Murthal only by 0530 hrs. By the time Dheeraj etc had already had their breakfast, and so we advised them to proceed ahead and we’ll catch up with them later.
We stopped at Hari Dhaba as the so famous Amrik Sukhdev has gone bonkers with the taste and they’re now just minting money owing to their name. Hari Dhaba is Sany’s trusted place. We had some paranthas and tea at the dhaba and then started further. The time read 0610.
By 0705, we crossed the Panipat toll and next 40 minutes to cross Karnal toll. We were aware that Bilaspur-Swarghat-Sundernagar route is broken like hell and so we had decided to take Kiratpur-Anandpur-Una-Bhota-Ner Chowk-Mandi route. At the outskirts of Chandigarh, we were supposed to catch up with Dheeraj. However, they took the Zirakpur road from Ambala passing through the Chandigarh city, while we preferred going ahead to Shambhu Barrier and then turning right on the Landran-Kharar road to avoid the city hustle-bustle and in the melee, Dheeraj again remained ahead of us.
By 0915, passing by Landran, we saw police personnel on both sides of the road, stopping vehicles with non-Punjab registration with hawk eyes. We were also waved to stop and a policeman asked for the papers. Now since I always keep all the papers in original and PUC updated, I had no fears and so started handing over the papers. When all papers including PUC were in order, the policeman took all the papers and insisted that we meet someone in a police picket at the crossing itself. We went inside and I saw a person who was showing his MTNL ID card as proof of employment and requesting to let go – his offense, he wasn’t wearing seat belts. The policeman was threatening him for a challan of 1000 Rupees and finally, he paid a bribe of 200 and left. The guy – I still remember his name since I had noted it down – Balvinder Singh, had a look at our papers and then said that we have to pay a fine of 2000 Rupees as our vehicle had film on the window. Well, I did had a film on the windows, installed by the agency in 2007 when I took the delivery of the vehicle. That was a Garware film with over 70% transparency and usually you can’t make it out just by seeing. I was surprised and shocked! This guy, sitting inside, how can he come to know that there is a film? Then I understood that perhaps the other policeman, while taking papers from us would have noticed the same and signaled him – in a way that we were not able to see and comprehend! Again the usual threat of getting us challaned was done. Me and wifey were of the opinion that we shall pay the full amount and get a receipt and challan so that the policeman don’t benefit out of it, however, Sany asked me to keep quiet and that he would settle the matter. A bit of persuasion with 200 Rupees and finally Mr. Balvinder Singh agreed for INR 300! I couldn’t believe myself – we just paid a bribe! That too to Punjab Police, whose image is very good in my eyes as I understand from friends that they are very strict and don’t accept the bribe. Further, this is not my way, I’ve never paid a bribe in life and it was disgusting to go through it. Had Sany not been with us, I would have paid the entire amount! This left a bad taste in my mind – given the first opportunity, I’d get the film removed. Sany said that since we would be passing through this place during evening on return, it would be best to get it removed at Noida itself.
Anyways, starting from there, we passed by Kharar, Kurali and then passing through Ropar (or Rup Nagar as the new name), we arrived at Kiratpur, taking the road towards Anandpur Sahib, arriving at the Kiratpur-Una toll by 1025 hours. The roads were very good and we were zipping by.
We stopped at Verka Milk Bar (Verka is the brand name of Punjab Milk Producer’s cooperative), bang on the road at Anandpur Sahib (ok, in fact we passed by and then Sany discussed about it and we took a U-turn to come back) and had some lassi and chhachh (buttermilk). My kiddo was excited to see some chicken in a coop. 🙂
During the drive, a lot of phone calls were coming to Sany and he had some heated exchange of words with someone. He later explained that he has shifted to a new premises and someone was trying to be bossy. But that meant that he had to reach office as early as possible and hence he won’t be able to make it to Tirthan. Since we were sharing the car, that meant I had to cancel my plan too, but then that’s called mutual understanding! Some other time Tirthan, some other time.
By 1100 hrs, we reached Himachal border at Mehtapur and by 1120 hrs, we were at Una ready to turn towards Bhota. We decided to tank up at Una as afterwards it was mostly the interior roads till Ner Chowk and we were not sure of fuel availability. My kiddo hadn’t eaten much since morning and so we utilized this time to buy some bananas for her.
We started again and drove towards Bhota and the roads indeed were in better shape, in fact good!
Another hour in drive and my little kiddo started throwing tantrums as she became too hungry, not have eaten the bananas we bought. Just before Bhota near Bangana, we stopped at a road side dhaba which had maggi with them. The lady prepared maggi for the kiddo and we had our share of tea, and then we started again.
Further ahead, the road condition started deteriorating and at one point near Barshar (or was it Salouni) there was a bifurcation of road, the left one looking somewhat good and the right one completely in dilapidated conditions. We took the left fork, but couple of meters ahead it was appearing to climb up high, decided to ask for directions with some people who were sitting at the junction and they advised to take the right fork to reach Bhota. Now this road was on a cliff, broken at places, so much so that there was barely space for one vehicle to pass. Couple of hundreds meters, the road conditions improved again.
We reached Bhota and then took the road towards Jahu, passing over the Jahu bridge (the same bridge that was swept in this year’s flood), and then the road towards Ner Chowk via Kalkhar and Dahnun. We were in touch with Dheeraj constantly over phone and they stated that they were just ahead, about to reach Mandi. The time read 1500 hrs and we were feeling hungry as well. It was decided that we’ll have lunch at Mandi after crossing the bridge and Dheeraj et el would let us know where they’ve stopped.
Shortly, by the time we approached the outskirts of Mandi, Dheeraj called up to inform that they’re stopping at Roti Restaurant after crossing the forest produce check-post. By 1530 hrs, we also reached the place. Dheeraj et el had placed their orders by then and they were being served. We gave our orders and waited for the same to be served. Half an hour passed and Dheeraj et el had almost finished their lunch and we were still weren’t served even a glass of water. We got frustrated and left the place, giving the person managing the counter a mouthful about the poor services they have. We decided that we’ll have something on any roadside dhaba and informed Dheeraj so and that we’ll catch up.
We drove a little further and came across this small dhaba and decided to stop. The dhaba was nondescript, but had a bathroom, a little swing and served freshly made food. We had veg sandwiches, which were freshly made and tasted fantastic. We also had two round of tea while my little kiddo enjoyed the swing with her mother. We decided to get some sandwiches packed too!
Hunger satiated, we proceeded ahead to pass by Pandoh and then Aut tunnel. Just as we approach Bhunter even before the airport, we saw huge queue of vehicles, crawling like snail and stopping for long stretches. We also got in the line. We wasted a lot of time in the jam and then when I checked the GPS navigation system, it displayed a road passing through the market. We left the highway and took the road which passes through the bus stand and market area. However, as we approached the bridge over Beas river, there was huge commotion of vehicles from every side and everywhere jostling to get on the bridge. The traffic on the bridge was being regulated as only one side was operational and so it was being opened for traffic for a certain period from one side. It took us long to approach the bridge and finally we were able to pass through. The scenario on the other side of the bridge too was of chaos, but somehow we managed to sneak through. The time read 1850 hrs.
We called up Dheeraj and he informed that they’ve already reached. We were still short by around 25 kms, but assumed that that would hardly take half an hour. How wrong you could be when you are driving on hills and the road conditions are on mercy of GOD! It took us over an hour to reach Kasol.
Dheeraj, Samar, Doulos, Amit and everyone else were already there, contemplating to move to Om Negi’s camp at Chalal. We decided that we won’t pitch our own tents as that would have cost 150 INR and then Om’s tents were already available at 300 INR. We unloaded only the required luggage from the beast and then went to park our cars in the open parking area ahead of Kasol FRH and Hotel Sandhya Kasol.
Returning from there, we made our move towards Chalal which involved taking the hanging bridge behind the market and trekking for about a kilometer. It was already pitch dark and we were using our torches on a track that was formed just by people using it. Samar, who was leading the way (he had been to the camp about an hour ago), forgot the way and we had to backtrack. 🙂 Finally, we managed to reach the camps, which is just besides roaring Parvati river flowing by. We inquired about the bigger tents which Om said were already booked and smaller T2 were not sufficient for us families (couldn’t have accommodated me, wifey and kiddo). We looked around and saw a cemented structure too. Upon inquiring, Om told that we can get rooms there as well, they are his elder brother’s, with toilets shared as usual. There were only two rooms available and so me and Sany decided that we could use the same room as we just had to pass the night. Dheeraj took the other room for his family.
We had already communicated to Om about our food preference and so it was chicken served with rice & rotis around 2200 hrs. Om had also arranged for a bonfire and music systems. Some students were also camping and they appeared to be inebriated with weed smoke. Some of us decided to have alcohol and so Om arranged for it through someone who was already in market. Now I witnessed a novel way of chilling the beers – placing them in the chilled waters of Parvati River! 🙂
Finished with the dinner, we chit-chatted for a while and then went to sleep around 0000 hrs.
During our chit-chats, Dheeraj communicated to us that the village Pradhan, who had assured to be personally present along with the sweepers would not be available as he had to join someone’s marriage somewhere else and so he was not in Kasol. We tried calling him, but his phone appeared switched off! This meant no local support at all except for Om! Those who came early in the evening, also informed that they couldn’t locate any of the posters that Aashish had put up there – seems someone had ripped them off! This was a big dampener on the morale! We’ll have to re-think our strategy tomorrow!!
Next: Kasol Cleanup drive
Total Distance covered: Approx 607 kms
Driving Directions from Noida to Kasol via Una: From Noida, take the road going towards Mayur Vihar Phase I (Dadri Main road) to cross the Noida gate. Take the flyover and pass by Mayur Vihar and then again take the flyover on Noida link road to pass by Akshardham metro station. Take the right fork to go towards Geeta Colony (the left fork goes towards ITO) and pass by Laxminagar followed by Geeta Colony. Take the left turn to cross the Geeta Colony bridge over Yamuna and take the left clover to join on the Ring Road. Drive straight to pass by Monastry market and keep straight near Chandagi Ram Akhada to be on Outer Ring road (Vikash bhawan should be on your left; the left fork goes towards Old Secretariat). Keep on following the Outer Ring road to pass by Wazirabad followed by Nirankari Samagar grounds and reach Mukarba Chowk (Maqbara Chowk). Take the left clover at Mukarba Chowk to join NH1 and pass by Alipur village followed by Singhu Border, Kundli, Sonipat and arrive at Murthal. Drive further ahead on NH1 to pass by Gannaur, Samalkha, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra and arrive at Ambala Cantt. Take the flyover at Ambala Cantt to reach Ambala. At Ambala, just ahead to Volkswagen showroom, you’d see a fork marked as Ambala-Chandigarh Expressway – DO NOT take that unless you want to go via Dera Bassi, Zirakpur and crossing entire Chandigarh city. Keep on NH1 and arrive at Shambhu Barrier. Just before the actual toll gates, there is a right turn – take that (Just heard that the toll gates have been moved and the right turn is now after you end up paying toll). Drive ahead to pass by Banur, Landran and Kharar (where the road from Ambala via meets) on NH 3. Drive ahead following the road to pass by Kurali and Ropar (Roopnagar). Driving ahead on NH 3 at Thali, take the left fork (right fork goes towards Shimla) and drive along the Satluj canal to arrive at Kirtpur Sahib. Keep left and do not take the flyover which goes to Swarghat-Bilaspur. Drive ahead on SH 22 to pass by Anandpur Sahib, Nangal (cross the Bhakra Nangal dam and here by on SH 25) and arrive at Una. At Una main bazar, just ahead of the Indian Oil Petrol pump, take right to be on Una-Bhota / Una-Jahu-Ner Chowk road (SH 32). Keep following the road and pass by Jhambar and arrive at Khurwain. Take the right fork at Khurwain to be on the Una-Bhota road and drive ahead to arrive at Bangana (marked by Trishala Automobiles and Central Bank of India). Keep following the major road and pass by Barsar and Salauni to arrive at Bhota. At Bhota, take the right fork to pass by the Bus stop and take right again at Radha Soami Charitable Hospital to pass by HP Petrol pump and take left along with the campus of the Radha Soami Hospital to pass by Patta (marked by Kangra Cooperative Bank), Lathwan (a petrol pump), Ladraur (Kangra Coop Bank and Santoshi Mata Temple) to reach Jahu. Cross the bridge at Jahu (it is the same bridge that was washed away in 2014 monsoons) and keep left and pass by HP petrol pump followed by Jaboth. Keep on right fork at the Kenchi Mod and arrive at Bhambla. Take the right fork and then the left fork to remain on SH 32 and pass by Dhalwan (keep right on the major road), Kalkhar (keep right and pass by HP Petrol Pump), Dahnun (marked by Chamunda Temple), Nalwari (Bus stop), cross the river at Maltehr to arrive at Ner Chowk. Turn left at Ner Chowk (where NH 3 from, Swarghat-Bilaspur meets) and drive ahead to reach outskirts of Mandi town. Turn right to cross the bridge on the river at the first opportunity and turn left immediately. Follow the road till you reach the third bridge (Mandi bridge), turn right and then take the right fork to drive along the Beas river and pass by Pandoh dam & reservoir and further to Thalaut and Aut tunnel, just short of Larji. Turn left to go in the Aut Tunnel, drive further ahead along with Beas river to pass by Bajaura and arrive at Bhuntar. Just ahead of the airport, take the right fork to cross the Beas and Parbati confluence and immediately turn left. Keep right now (Do not cross the next bridge on the left, it goes to Manali) and drive ahead now on Manikaran road with Parbati river giving company on left. Keep driving passing by small hamlets and when you see big boards of The Himalayan Village, you’ve almost arrived at Kasol. Drive further ahead to pass through Kasol Market and you arrive at FRH and Hotel Sandhya Kasol to your left. The parking space is located on the left of the road in a big open ground (the road straight goes to Manikaran Sahib).
Google Map directions for Noida to Kasol via Una: https://goo.gl/maps/GqMvh