Chasing the mighty Himalayas, Road less travelled out of the civilization.
Thanks to Harshvardhan for writing out about Sach pass and its fury. I was curious to see the road less travelled and was planning the trip. Suddenly, we got 4 days off from our busy life and we 4 idiots thought to explore the hills but as majority counts we planned the trip to Dalhousie.
Started off on a saturday after a long hectic night, we reached Murthal to have the famous parathas on lunch and drove on the organized NH-1 to cross through Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur and finally reach Pathankot at night. Tushar was driving through the plains in a great speed with Alam slowly for the first time in highways and Nutesh was comfortable at the back seat giving gyans in his Bihari accent.
We stopped at an Army Dhaba for tea after Pathankot and then I took the steering to drive through the hills. I was treated as the hero as I am the one who had driven in hills. My experience of driving in terrain was quite kicking and I was confident to drive through. We slowly were climbing the hills to Dalhousie where the road was shrinking and some patches were filled with the cattle and buffaloes sleeping in the roads with the torch in their eyes that made us scare at night. Finally when we reached Dalhousie, it was 1 @ night and we got into an inn to spend the night. In the morning we had a great breakfast and small exploration of the place to find nothing exciting, so we started to drive to see the nearby places where we stopped @ khajjiar to spend the afternoon. Sitting at the switzerland of Himachal Pradesh, we met some locals playing folk music and few tourists. After a short photo session we started for Chamba and thought to stay there at night just to gave a salutation to Mohit Chauhan for his song “Chambe jaana zaroor.” It was 7 in the evening when we reached Chamba and found it to be a nice place but not upto our expectation. We had 2 more days in hand to spend our trip so we started asking locals about Sach Pass and set off towards the mighty Himalayas.
Driving in the dark, climbing up the hills was now easy for me as the roads were quite good from Chamba. The good thing about Himachal is that its safe anywhere and so gave a motivation to us to drive at night. Climbing up Tissa, Trella and Bairagarh we met the locals and the herds of cattle and few shepherds looking like the Afghanis, I was even scared to ask about the next village. They were 7 feets tall with healthy built and was speaking some local language. it was getting to 10 AM and we were starving and searching a place to stay but there was nothing except the mighty Pir Panjal to my right and abyss to the left. We saw some light and a person and stopped to ask him about somewhere to stay and he asked where are we headed. We proudly told “Sach Pass.” He laughed @ us. “Sach Pass on a swift, go back, you can’t climb. Its too steep.” He replied. We just enquired to stay and he told there is a PWD guest house after 2 KMs @ siri village. I asked Siri on my phone, “ How far is Siri” and Siri replied, “ I am with you” :) After driving for 2 Kms, we spotted a fork @ the road which took us to the guest house @ the left. We asked the care taker about food and he suggested to check a nearby shop where we got the maggie when it was banned in India. There were few locals who simply suggest not to take Sach pass driving swift. One of them slept on the road to check the ground clearance and told you can’t go even the half way. But I was determined to take the challenge and the shopkeeper motivated us. The next morning we had a light breakfast and we filled the fuel tank to chase the mighty Sach Pass.
Moving on and on, the valley was getting beautiful as ever with fresh air and blooming flowers. The hill was getting steeper with blind curves, the road was shrinking and loosing tar with rocks on it and the vehicle was getting slower. After a blind curve, to our surprise we saw a stream flowing on the road. Some how we crossed the stream and moved further. Climbing up and up experiencing the thrill and it was getting difficult for me to drive the swift. I remembered the locals saying, we can’t go even the half way but then it was back of my mind that I have already crossed 5-6 streams on the road to reach Satrundi. Its a check post where we registered our name with the Army officials just to cross the Sach. While enquiring, the official said people normally fall from the hills and some elope through the borders and some do not return. Scary, isn’t it? We had some food there at the only dhaba, and started to climb. It was the most treacherous drive where I felt I should have brought an AWD vehicle. There were few tourists we met on our way who were also struggling to climb the mountain. After a turn we found the ice bed aside the road and stopped to play in the ice. Bihari was scared and his gyan vanished. Tushar and Alam were curious about the next challenge. Even if I was tired, they could not help me take the steering as it was their first time in such high altitude. We reached to the top and stopped at the temple. People were returning from the top. It was 14500 feet above sea level. We were confused if we should go back or further. After a 100 meters there was a turn and till the time you don’t turn you can’t decide whats coming next.
We decided to go further and I was literally scared to see the road going down hill. It was a shrinked road and to my correct geometry it was 30 degrees down hill. The brakes were even not that effective. i somehow managed to drive down and we saw the first glance of river Chenab called Chandrabhaga. It is said "Originally, condemned prisoners from Chamba State were literally thrown in the Chandrabhaga River and if they could manage to swim across, they could settle in those forbidden valley of Pangi.” While crossing the Pangi valley, I smiled and felt awesome as I have crossed the big daddy of all the mountain passes & when I remember the Sach pass, it gives the shivers down to my spine. Still Killar Valley was far off and we were driving through the Pangi valley. I had an adrenaline rush when I saw a loaded truck coming in speed and I stopped at the mountain side proactively but the truck stopped and was not moving as he was expecting me to cross through the abyss side. I somehow managed to cross and moved further through the ups and downs of the mountains. Gradually we went down the valley crossing the streams and reaching Killar, hungry and tired. Stopped at a restaurant to have our lunch @ 5. Fresh & nice parathas filled our stomach and we asked the way to Delhi. The restaurant owner told there are 2 routes. One is through Sach pass and Dalhousie and other is through Udaipur and Manali. He appreciated when he heard that we crossed the mighty Sach pass and consoled to take the udaipur route as it will be easy. it was 90 kms from Killar and I thought we will cover in 3 hours out of which 1 hour driving in the dark.
We turned towards Udaipur. Road started with good condition but gradually it went on to worsen and while we were getting on and on it got more worse. The streams got bigger, the metals got converted to the boulders and the mountain was mightier as always. It was turning to dark as we could see the silver lining at the sky. Our energy decreased when we saw the odometer not going beyond 25 Kmph. Udaipur was too far when we calculated the distance to cover. Its only the broken road, long distance, mountain at the left, Chenab flowing down at our right and we 4 idiots out of the civilization. No human was found upto 15-20 kms. I remember the movies on Mars I have seen where its all mountain without any human. The day turned to an evening and finally night. We were driving alone and alone crossing small bridges and villages after long distances. Once I lower down the glasses to have the cool breeze coming out from the mountains and i could hear the Chenab roaring in a great voice made me scare and silently I closed the glasses. After going half a mile, we saw a wolf crossing and rushing to the bushes. It really scared the 4 of us. The next stream was very deep when we a stopped as I could not define if I can take the car beyond it and got down inside the water to check the deepness. After driving for 5 & half hours, we reached Udaipur to find the village dead sleepy. Finally we found a Janta dhaba and requested the old couple to give us some food. They were so generous that they opened the dhaba for us and served us hot breads and some curries to eat. We spent the night and waited for the early morning to bring some laughter.
We went to the dhaba again to have the breakfast and set off the journey towards Delhi knowing that we will cross Manali. Drove through the beautiful valleys of Lahaul & Spiti. The rain added some charm to the beauty. Crossing through the roads we could see the mountains changing colors and Chenab flowing beside to a scenic view. The landscape is still there in my mind. Rain was getting more and we reached another pass which said “Welcome to Rohtang La” to our surprise. I was excited to climb up the most talked Rohtang Pass. Slippery in rain, stiff pass with lots of vehicle and then a truck coming down did not stop and we just escaped falling from the cliff. The roads went on to shrink and finally reaching the peak. We stopped at the peak to find it very silent. We got out to drench ourselves in the rain and dance to the weather, shivering from cold to take some photos and got downhills for Manali.
Crossing through Manali we stopped at some gardens on the way and stole some fresh apples to add spice to our travel. Apologies to garden owners and thanks. Kullu, Mandi and Punjab crossed by @ the midnight and finally hit Delhi to complete the travel and get back to our busy life.
Its certainly the travel that gives us life and takes our breath to makes us know what God has in store for us next…