23rd Nov 2011, Wednesday……Day(1) Ludhiana-Nalagarh-Naldehra 245 km
My love for Himalayas is so deep rooted that I always look for slightest of opportunity to be back with them. Had some business calls to attend in Himachal Pradesh, also the drive from Shimla to Manali via Naldehra and Tattapani was on my high wishlist.
I rode on this road on my glamour (The Red Knight) bike the previous year and have had good memories.
Our bank has a holiday home facility for its staff including the retirees at few places including Manali, so got a room booked at our holiday home at Manali for 5 days from 22th November to 27th November 2011 to embark on a solo road trip on this beautiful stretch Ludhiana-Shimla-Naldehra-Tattapani-Manali.
The drive got delayed by two days due to some family engagements. So instead of 21st began the drive on 23rd from my home in Ludhiana.
From Ludhiana to Ropar the drive was nice, all along Sidhwan canal. From Ropal I took Ropar-Nalagarh-Baddi-Pinjore road to Kalka instead of regular road through Chandigarh. The drive from Nalagarh to Kalka through Baddi was tiresome…bad road, heavy traffic and bad drivers.
Kalka-Shimla road is perhaps the busiest of all the roads in Himachal Pradesh. I have had very fond memories of driving on this stretch a number of times with family and friends during last 25 years and never really got bored of it.
There are many good places all along the route both from travelers as well as business point of view. Pinjore is famous for its 17th century mughal gardens and once very famous hmt watches factory.
Kalka is famous for the starting point of UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla toy train which passes through 107 tunnels, 864 bridges and a number of raj era beautiful railway stations. Parwanoo is an Industrial town and has lot of business hotels and restaurants.
Many many years ago I, along with one of my childhood friends, went for a trek from Parwanoo to Kasauli. I was barely 22 then and had just joined the Bank. Both of us were bubbling with excitement. We walked all the way to Kasauli through woods, fields and forest hoping and singing hindi romantic songs.
There is another interesting place just 2 km from Parwanoo. We use to walk for drinks and murge ka achar in the evening. Further 2 km walk is famous (TTR) Timber Trail Resort from where a trolley takes one to a hill across the valley to a very expensive restaurant cum hotel.
I remember how excited we were, when we rode that trolley for first time…..some 27 years ago.
After crossing Parwanoo and TTR, I reached Dharampur. Dharampur is famous for many eating joints. Most travellers stop at the place for food and rest. A diversion to the left goes towards another raj era hill station Kasauli and famous ‘Lawrence School, Sanawar’. Little ahead is Dagshai cantonment area.
Crossed busy Solan, beautiful Barog (the highest point on the route), Kandaghat (a road to Chail through a reserve forest branches of to the right from here), Shoghi and Tara Devi and reached Shimla. It was beginning to get dark. Since I did not have specific destination in mind and was enjoying the drive, I continued driving further.
After crossing victoria tunnel, Lakkar bazar and Sanjauli from Dhalli turned left to Mashobra. The drive became even more enjoyable. Soon I was in Naldehra, checked few hotels, guest houses and found a simple one right on the road.
The hotel was facing the famous Naldehra Golf Course and a deep beautiful valley right behind it. It was already 9pm and as I came out of the warmth of my car, chilly breeze welcomed me by kissing me on my cheeks.
The night was dark, silent and starlit. Checked into a cosy room, ordered food and settled down. The floor, where I was given the room, had 3-4 rooms. Sound of soft beautiful songs sung by female voices was coming from my neighbouring room.
Came out of the room and into the chilly veranda. The singing was clearer and louder now. There seemed some pahari women were singing melodious songs in pahari dialect to entertain some guests.
I brought my glass of whisky out in the open and onto the silent road under the starlit night and listened to those mesmerizing romantic female singers sing beautiful pahari songs. Such a romantic setting, such beautiful romantic songs, in the middle of the night, romance of the hills, a starry night.
Cool breeze was kissing me from head to toe. I was thinking Mother Nature has enacted this grand scene only for me. Standing outside, sipping glass of whisky, I was feeling kind of lost and never knew when the time was up for dinner and the room boy called me in. Had a nice simple dinner of dal, sabzi, chapati and salad and went to sleep.
This was what I was dreaming about, great start to the dream drive……!!!