From Line of Control to Line of Actual Control and that night…
India has a coastline as long as 7500 kms spanning 13 states, UTs as well as islands while the border line with 6 nations is almost the double at over 14000kms which is known as LOC, LAC as well as international border based on the relation with the particular country.
Ladakh is one region where you can move from one international border to another in a span of hours through terrains so surreal, that it feels out of the world. The road trip from Thang – northernmost village before LOC; Pakistan occupied Kashmir is a hours drive from Chushul – village on the eastern side of Ladakh close to LAC (Chinese claimed Ladakh). Both the landscapes are vivid and have a different vibe to each and what connects both is the road rarely taken.
We started from Diskit late morning and took the Agham – Shyok – Durbuk – Pangong – Spangmik – Man – Merak route to reach Chushul. The narrow passage runs through plains and mountain terrains while never letting go of the Pangong lake view making the drive more adventurous than daunting. As soon as you cross Spangmik village, you are on your own with rare sightings of gulls flying over Pangong Tso, kiangs (wild asses as tall as horses) and yaks grazing but rarely a human.
The farther you move, the closer you get to wilderness. By the time we spotted Chushul it was getting dark and we were getting restless if we were in the right direction or not. Vast lands with no sign of human life eventually get to you. Preparation for the worst is the only key to survival and our caravan is generally prepared for worse. As soon as we spotted Chushul village at a distance, there was a sigh of relief as dusk had just started spreading its gloomy wings across the valley.
By the time we made it to Chushul village, the darkness and the chill in the air alongside hectic drive throughout the day made us cancel our pitch-our-tent-where-we-like plan. All we needed was a comfortable place to stay, not fancy – just basic but cozy. As we spread out to fetch something to eat from the shops nearby, local children surrounded our cars, all staring at us. Most of the stuff at the general shops was well past its expiry date. Only after lot of looking around and being refused by a couple of locals to stay around, we realized staying at Chushul might be a challenge. The culture of home-stays is not common in the village. Thankfully, one good samaritan offered to help and made a call to one guest-house nearby. It was pitch dark by now and if the caretaker had not answered the call, we were in deep sh%$.
After waiting outside the guesthouse for what seemed like eternity, an old man walked out with a solar lamp on his head. He stared at all of us for a while and said, we need to get approval from the local authorities to be able to stay the night. Thankfully, he agreed to accompany one of our vehicles to the police station at night. Even waiting outside on plain road was difficult as the chilly wind would find its way to tease us one way or the other. When they returned with permission, our dear friend brought along some strict instructions from the local police station.
This place was a couple of kilometers from the Chinese border
Our purpose of visit to Chushul was seriously questioned
We were instructed not to roam around at night and under-no-condition with a torch (the Chinese troops kept a close watch at all night activities)
The officer joked about offering target practice opportunity to the not-so-welcoming neighbor and we were in no mood to defy his commands
As soon as we started to settle in one section of the guest house, the care-taker seemed to be in a hurry to rush back to his place. He was in no mood to share pleasantries, never told us his name and gave hurried directions on what’s kept where. He allowed us to use his kitchen at an additional charge and quickly got us two gallons of drinking water which was clearly filled from a running stream nearby. He demanded to be paid the complete amount in advance and retired for the night. It was barely 9pm, but somehow the day already seemed long.
A couple of us got into the kitchen to prepare maggi, toasts and thankfully we were keeping extra water bottles with us for odd days like this. One look outside and you would feel like you are in a completely different part of the world with grim borderlines of large mountains at a distance, a handful of stars hiding under dense cover of clouds and just one gompa completely lit-up in the middle of nowhere. We were busy talking about the day, food and time passed until dinner was to be served. The walk from the kitchen till the dining area was barely 15 steps but something was not right. It was an old low-roof structure where the passage from kitchen to dining room involved a 10 steps walk out in the cold.
The last person to enter the room felt someone walking besides him almost running through him while he was holding food in his hand. Downplaying his excitement and retaining his calm, he requested someone else to get the remaining spoons from the kitchen. The girl volunteered to fetch them and returned back to the dining room all out-of-breath and announced that she is not stepping out for the night.
It was soon clear that something about the place was not right and we all finished dinner and tried to divert attention to other subjects in whispers. Just after dinner, as we were to keep the leftovers in the kitchen, we all ventured outside with caution. It was a pitch dark night with cold wind making weird sounds. There was this little old room at a raised platform where the wooden door was dancing to the tunes to wind making a loud creaky noise. We took charge of shutting the noise as it would have made sleeping impossible. As soon as I moved my hand to shut it, the door suddenly opened completely with a loud thud and two people had to pull it and bring it close to the lock (making sure that none of us peeked inside). It took three fully grown men to control the door and tie it with a metal wire to suppress the noise.
In the entire Ladakh region, electricity is shut off at exact 11 pm, reminded one person and it was 20 minutes for absolutely no light in the area. We all retired to our rooms, this time placing our beds next to each other. It was very brave of two of us to fetch sleeping bags from our vehicles parked next to the rooms, however the few seconds long excursion left us breathless with an abnormally high adrenaline and the fear that we were being followed.
Throwing layers of blankets over us, we all pretended to sleep that night and no one said a word.
It was suddenly very bright at 5 am as if it was noon already. We had to wait for the caretaker till 0830 while I strolled and clicked a few pictures of the area seeing the vast landscapes in broad day light. It was just open lands and hills as far as the eye could see on one side and mountains on the other side. The all-lit gompa stood at a distance all pretty.
As soon as we saw the caretaker we were in a rush to leave and start our journey onwards. He demanded that we place the beds in the same order as we had found them previous night. We quickly heeded to his instructions and left the place all relieved.
Nobody looked back at the place or spoke about it, till we reached Rezang La, the site of the last stand of 120 brave soldiers of 13 Kumaoni Regiment who crushed waves of Chinese attack during the India-China war of 1962. They fought till the last man, last bullet and last breath. If not for them, Ladakh would be under Chinese control right now. For the first time in the last 24 hours, there was something sad but positive about this region.
In that moment of comfort we started discussing about the previous night. None of us could sleep properly the previous night. My bed had a slant making me pull myself back up every 5 minutes. Henna kept feeling cold and hot at sudden intervals.
She asked me why did I tap her head repeatedly last night and I didn’t try to convince her that I did not. I was feeling sorry that I pulled back my hand and slept while she was feeling scared, but she thanked me for offering her comfort and support throughout the night.
Just as were joining the dots, Achal mentioned that he did not believe in anything until he was shaken awake thrice last night. Sunanda and Rahul did not flinch their eyes for a second and kept pointing their torches towards the weird noise that kept emanating from the broken window of the restroom. While at the pass, Sunanda revealed that she sensed Chinese soldiers in the room and I had dreamt of them in my short sleep.
It has not even been a week and we are still discovering newer facts about that night. The contact number of that caretaker has been switched off ever since.
For a perfect weekend, Escape Route picks up these ten destinations around Delhi that make for stunning weekend escapes…
For those who love to travel, a perfect weekend is about escaping the daily grind and exploring new destinations. From historical marvels and wildlife sanctuaries to picturesque hill stations and cultural havens, pick the destination of your choice along with a suggested stay option and escape for a road trip! (Please note: The distance to each of the following is as measured from Delhi.)
Bhowali – 307 kms
In the vicinity of many popular hill stations of Uttarakhand, beautifully secluded Bhowali is a relaxing weekend escape. You will find the beauty of nature in abundance here; it is one of those destinations to go to and do nothing at. If travelling between June and August, you must get your hands on freshly ripened apples, apricots, peaches and plums indigenous to the area. Other than that, explore an existing nature trail or discover one of your own, hike to the famous Tiffin Top to see what the view from their looks like.
As you arrive in the capital city of Rajasthan, its vibrancy, culture, and people make you its own… The famous forts and palaces are the heart of the Pink City; be it experiencing the sunrise from the top of Nahargarh Fort, an elephant ride in the Amber Palace, a walk through the heritage Hawa Mahal or the sunset view from Jal Mahal built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, each has its own charm.
On the other hand, the hustle-bustle in the colourful streets of Baapu Bazaar and Johari Bazaar keeps the city alive and is something to be experienced. It is a paradise for shoppers as a range of artefacts, jewellery, traditional footwear, apparels and leather items etc., can be found here as you walk through the lanes. For the foodies, local delicacies such as daal bati churma, ghevar and pyaaz kachodis in the bylanes of Jaipur must be relished. The city has been one of the most convenient weekend escapes for the people of Delhi and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be!
To travel to the city of love, take the route through Yamuna-Agra Expressway and enjoy a smooth and comfortable road trip. Chances are that this will not be your first time in Agra and you might already have plenty photos with the Taj Mahal. Whether or not that is the case, this time, try and look at Agra as the capital that it was during the Mughal Empire. Trace the walls of the Red Fort,
The city owns the most magnificent architecture, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal, built on the banks of river Yamuna. It is the royal beauty of this monument and picturesque location that attracts travelers from across the globe.
While Taj Mahal is built from the precious white marble, its sister monument – the Agra Fort – is beautifully built in red and white sandstone. Don’t forget to try the popular “Agra Ka Petha” while you stay in Agra. 35km ahead of this is Fatehpur Sikri, a city with grandeur indo-Islamic architecture, culture and Mughal heritage worth exploring.
Apart from the adventure activities, Rishikesh, is also a center for spirituality and pilgrimage as the scenic view and holy atmosphere detoxifies the mind and soul. If you like solitude and introspection, then Parmarth Niketan is a must visit for meditation and spiritual healing. Well, the Beatles Ashram is also a place to be at, the famous music band visited the place back in 1968 to learn Transcendental Meditation and since the last few years it has become a famous tourist spot. Small shops offer head massage and body massages while restaurants like Chotiwala, street food and small bakeries will entice your taste buds.
*Please note that Shivpuri has been shut since the beginning of June and rafting activities have been discontinued until further government notice.
The paradise of bird watchers, Bharatpur, is the ultimate destination for exotic bird watching and nature photography in the popular Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Keoladeo National Park. Come here to listen to the songs of nature and enjoy the magical flora & fauna. Rare and endangered species of birds right from Sarus Cranes, Herons & Egrets to Indian Darter migrate here during different seasons. It is not advisable to cover the entire area on foot instead you can opt for a cycle or Tonga ride as well as jeep safari and elephant back safari, which are more fun amidst the nature.
The Lohagarh Fort in Bharatpur is magnificent and strong architectural structure ever built in India and this is a place often explored by curious travellers. The lovers of history often discover their “bliss” in the Government Museum of Bharatpur, where they find illustrations, sculptures, artifacts, weapons of the Jat rulers, zoological preserves and manuscripts paintings all under one roof dating back to second century.
Bhimtal, The Lake City, is an ideal getaway for a peaceful and pleasing stay amidst hills and lake. Nature lovers find this picturesque location their abode for the variety of activities they do here to stay close to nature such as exotic bird watching, nature walk, boating and much more. Unlike its more popular cousin Nainital, Bhimtal is more peaceful and less crowded which makes it more striking to nature lovers looking for an escape. There are these little tals around Bhimtal easily discoverable on foot, each with a story to tell.
Do not forget to pay visit to the Butterfly Research Centre, the fourth largest reference collection centre in India for butterfly and moth. It is believed that in Bhimtal alone, around 240 species of butterflies is found of the total 1300 species present in India. Also, what adds value to a place is the charming stays and the hospitable staff, giving you the best of services and local guidance during the stay.
If you are looking for a relatively less crowded and unspoilt hill station then, Lansdowne is the place to be at. The road journey from Delhi to Lansdowne is about 7 to 8 hours with well-connected roads, so for a relaxing weekend escape, it is one of the pleasing hill stations to be at. A perfect escape from city life, Landsdowne is an easy option to rejuvenate your soul.
One of the tourist attractions here is, The War Memorial, at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Center, for which you will need permission from the military authority. With a short walk you could get a panoramic view of the Garhwal Hills with the backdrop of magnificent Himalayan Range., During monsoons, this hill station witnesses devotees of Lord Shiva from all over paying visit to its most famous temple, Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple.
Get lost in nature amidst mountains and dense forest of tall oak and deodar trees and explore the serenity of this peaceful hill station. Unlike many other active hill stations of Uttarakhand, Dhanaulti is peaceful and untouched which is why travelers dwell to this place for solitude during weekends. For the adventurous kind, there is a lot Dhanaulti has to offer, such as hiking in the lush green forests of Dhanaulti is the perfect thing to start your day with. Rappelling, Burma bride, horse riding and various other adventurous activities can be enjoyed in the Eco Park. The hot & delicious Maggi and tea served right at the entrance of the park will calm your hunger pangs and relish the taste buds in the mountains. Dhanaulti has less of luxury accommodation options, so camping under the open sky with stars twinkling right above makes the trip an everlasting experience. Tents can be availed on rent as well.
Rejuvenate yourself completely in this calm and beautiful hill station, Landour. Almost 5kms, away from the crowded bazars of Mussoorie, it is a more serene place to be at. Prefer a walk between the bazars of Mussoorie and Landour and enjoy the tranquility of life. As you move towards the Laal Tibba Hill, which is the highest point in Mussoorie, hold your breath because from here you experience the most charismatic sunrise and sunset.
Landour’s Chaar Dukan area is quite pretty and a popular spot, where tourists often stop-by for lip-smacking sandwiches, ginger lemon honey tea, Maggi, juices and more at Anil’s Café. Landour happens to be the hometown of Ruskin Bond, so you might get a glimpse of him. It is one of the first places in India where Peanut Butter was made commercially so do not forget to carry some fresh homemade peanut butter back to your homes.
Sarika Tiger reserve has held its fort for tourists over past many decades. The population of tigers might have been in question once in a while, but the place is the nearest getaway for wildlife enthusiasts from Delhi. Here, you will find a variety of wild animals such as jackals, leopards, jungle cats, wild boars, deer among many other not so wild species such as sambhar, spotted deer, lots and lots of peacocks. Some of the rarest species of birds migrate here, so for bird lovers this place has to be in their bucket list.
Though whenever one hears about Sariska, it is The Sariska National Park they think about but it has many hidden gems as well that are worth exploring such as the magnificent Sariska Palace, which was once the home of Maharajas of Alwar. The ruins of Bhangar fort, which is believed to be haunted is the most explored places when people visit Sariska. There are endless haunted stories of Bhangarh that catches people’s interest.
Please note that Sariska Tiger reserve is open for the public every day from October till May from 6 am till 3:30 pm.
“At last, we reached Komic; the signage read a height of 4587 meters and a village population of 114 inhabitants”…
The road that turns left from Koksar towards Spiti Valley does not look anything like a National Highway. It is full of challenges, adventure, risk and yet breathtaking landscapes. If you have covered the stretch from Jammu to Leh passing through the mud mountains, lunar landscapes, magnetic hill and more, you cannot expect Spiti Valley to surprise you, yet it enchants you like never before.
Our intention was to have evening tea at the highest motorable village in Asia, Kibber, and we crossed all hurdles with a smile. It was only at Key Monastery that we realised that the road now extends to Komic Village and the tag of the ‘highest motorable village’ had moved. The thing with tags such as highest, longest and brightest is that they can always be challenged. Unfazed, we changed our direction and set course towards Komic which was 21kms farther and much higher than the erstwhile highest village, Kibber. Not sure of what to expect, we were greeted by a narrow tar-less road uphill and a lot of dust, enough to change the colour of everything it touched. As we escalated up, the landscape kept getting more appealing and colourful. At last, we reached Komic village, the signage read a height of 4587 meters and a village population of 114 inhabitants. There was still no sign assuring of the highest-village-in-Asia claim. It was only after exchanging words with the indigenous lamas that the title was confirmed and we swell our chests with pride. Komic Village has a total of dozen odd houses and a 14th century old monastery which is the abode of Lamas. Most of the lamas keep shuffling between the Komic and Kaza as Kaza is the activity hub.
Komic means Snow Cock Eye. There are legendary stories associated to the village as robbers trying to steal the main deity but were unable to lift it after a point as it kept getting heavier, hidden treasures such as egg of the dragon, horn of a unicorn etc. Even the carving shapes of some stones will yell of delight. The earthquake in 1975 shattered the whole place around yet the deity statue at Komic held its place.
With one look around at the settling sun flickering over the Kaza mountain range, the thought of having tea at Asia’s highest village soon turned into the will to have dinner. We requested the head lama to let us stay the night and we were offered a room. We can never forget the delicious vegetable rice ‘pulao’ that the lama cooked up for us learning that we were hungry. We also gorged over vegetable ‘thenthuk’ for dinner. Well for tea, we are not sure how much we consumed as it tasted better than any other elixir in the world.
The village remains disconnected from the rest of the civilization for half the year due to heavy snow and lack of proper roads. The villagers are hospitable and are undaunted by lack of infrastructure or public services we, city dwellers, cannot live without. The trip to Komic is an essential escape from our worldliness to connect with the Lama life, to lay sight on landscapes and mountain ranges at same height as yours and more so to understand the true meaning of minimalism which cannot be taught better by anyone but the inhabitants of Komic village.
We are once again escaping to Spiti, in August this year. Know more about it here.
Day trips are more like power naps; you feel recharged and refreshed in no time…
Having said that, we also realise that living in a metropolis only leaves you with so many options for a day trip! For day trips near Delhi, one mostly needs to travel at least a hundred kilometres to begin to feel the escape. But with these options listed below, you’ll realise why hidden and gems are two words that go together. These are all interesting destinations great for a ride with your gang.
Please note: Distance to each destination is as measured from our Travelers Café & Motorcycle Garage in Noida, which is also the beginning point for all our Sunday Rides.
Bhardwaj Lake, Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, Delhi – 85 kilometers
Not many people know that the Asola-Bhatti forest range ahead of Chattarpur it is a natural habitat with a variety of birds, butterflies, mammals and lakes – of which Bhardwaj Lake is one. Ride to this place for an exploratory hike; be here with a group to ensure safety. It is advisable to carry plenty of drinking water and some quick breakfast options (sandwiches/ paratha rolls) with you.
Choose Garhmukhteshwar for a ride in the rain. Start early and discover this simple little town blessed with a close proximity to Ganga River. When here, Ganga Ghat and Nakka Kuan are two places you must visit. You’ll find plenty of breakfast options on the way and around the destination as well.
Situated just outside the city, it is the perfect spot to ride to. Take your breakfast/brunch spread along and cherish a Sunday picnic with family/friends. It is “an easily accessible bird paradise” (as described in a Nat Geo article). Go find yourself to know more.
Sultanpur National Park, Gurgaon, Haryana – 69 kilometres
Another haven for bird watchers on the other side of the capital, this site is plush with exotic migratory birds during winter, and makes for a charming picnic spot otherwise. It might be useful to note that it is open from 7 am to 4.30 pm. Find more information here.
Murthal, Sonipat, Haryana – 90 kilometres
This one’s obvious, and certainly not hidden, but the list wouldn’t have been complete without it. Murthal continues to be one of the favourite spots for bikers for a spin on NH1. Popular for the tandoori parathas served at its many dhabas, you need not worry about finding breakfast options here.
Damdama Lake, Sohna, Haryana – 60 kilometres
Damdama Lake is easily discover-able through Google Maps. However, owing to the reservoir’s irregular shape and size, there is more to it than just the main site. Best explored on motorcycles, the terrain is mostly raw and uneven, like most regions that fall in the Aravalli range are. It is recommended that you carry plenty of water and quick bites with you. There’s a restaurant by the Haryana Tourism board at the site. *Includes off-roading
Did you know you can find Dolphins in North India? Yes, you can. All you need to do is plan a ride to Unchagaon. 100 kilometres via Bulandshahr, Unchagaon in Uttar Pradesh is known for its Gangetic Dolphins and an ancient temple of Amantika Devi. Owing to the fact that Garhmukhteshwar is merely an hour away from Unchagaon, one may cover both in a day’s time.
Bhola ki Jhal, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh – 60 kilometres
Take a left from the Delhi-Meerut highway, just before Meerut, and you are in for a beautiful 25-kilometres-long stretch with the Ganges flowing alongside. Around Bhola ki Jhal, you can indulge in some fresh juice, pakoras, chai, bread omelette etc for breakfast. Our gang of riders played a match of cricket at the site to add some fun to the day.
Nuh, Haryana – 84 kilometres
Nuh is an ancient town in the state of Haryana. According to Mahabharata, the area was granted by Yudhisthira to their guru Dronacharya. If you’re a history aficionado, you must visit the ruins of the Ghasera Fort and the Chui Mal ka Talaab, when you ride/drive to this destination. Have breakfast on the way.
Pratapgarh, Jhajjar, Haryana – 110 kilometres
If you’re looking forward to an eventful day post riding, Pratapgarh can be an ideal destination for your group. You and your gang can immerse yourself in a range of activities at the popular Pratapgarh Farms here. Explore breakfast options on the way.
While most traces of the Mughal rule in the historic city of Panipat have faded, this one treasure still stands strong. Named after Kabuli Begum, Babur’s wife, the Kabuli Bagh Mosque was built in 1527 by the emperor Babur to mark his victory over Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi at the first Battle of Panipat in 1526. A halt at Murthal for breakfast mid way can be a good idea; there are enough restaurants on NH1 ahead of Murthal as well.
It is best to carry a basic tool kit and a first-aid box at all times.
Escape Route’s Sunday Rides are accompanied with an experienced road captain and a mechanic. _______________________________________________________________________________
If you think you have another interesting suggestion for day trips near Delhi, do let us know! We will update the article with your contribution. Meanwhile, join our Facebook group to stay updated about our Sunday Rides and other trips.
Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and packets
When was the last time you were actually planning a trip and surfing through different options? So you think of Shimla ─ mostly a concrete jungle, McLeodganj ─ brimming with humans all the time, Nainital ─ even the tal isn’t enticing anymore, Agra – ideal for a stampede, Jaipur – not so pink anymore…the list of places you don’t prefer going to anymore is endless. The reason is us ─ the travelers in all our glory.
We have not been respectful enough of the natural gifts. All these locations have been covered with concrete and are mostly man-made disasters waiting to happen. We cannot do much about the damage already done, can we?
At the same time, if you look around carefully, each off-beat location is getting polluted by humans into a garbage dump with plastic, used belongings, perishables etc. Social media is a culprit too, with all the amazing filters, it calls all viewers to visit the beautiful locations but never tells you about your ingrained responsibility to preserve that space.
Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and chips packets. We are all aware of the scarcity of natural resources, depleting clean water, less and less of fresh air and definitely lesser green areas. We also see hordes of warnings about not polluting the environment and caring about the landscapes, but who cares.
Picture this, at present one has to travel at least 200 kms and more from the nearest metro city to be in the lap of nature. Passionate bloggers and photographers are covering more than double the distance to show you how the clean world looks like. It takes you minimum of 4-5 hours to leave the grime and dust of the city to start breathing fresh air. What matters is how you behave while you are breathing fresh air in that area.
Some facts to get your attention:
Over 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country
Task of value extraction is left to the informal system of garbage collectors and recyclers
Only 80% of waste generated is collected and merely 28% processed
Swachh Bharat focuses too narrowly on individual action to keep streets clean without any pressure on State and Municipal authorities
There are stark threats to the world like the climate change, global warming etc. we cannot do much about it, but we can do what we can. We are listing out a few points for travelers to help conserve Mother Nature as we trot her majestic mountains and beautiful valleys:
Just stop littering – Please stop throwing while you walk and look all fancy. It is just not cool, is bothersome and affects everyone around you. No natural spot ever looked exquisite with discarded food cans, plastic bottles and other used stuff. Please stack the used items in a disposable bag, just carry it a little distance and place it in the dustbins. There are organisations like Waste Warriors and Clean Up Himalayas doing their bit, you need to do yours.
Act local – Locals do not pollute the environment they live in.
Conserve resources – One thing we must learn from our villages – Take only as much as you can consume, whether it is food or resources. What is the point of going to new places and not picking up their best practices?
We don’t have all the gyaan for you, but hopefully you get the thought. Please share what else do you think can be useful in maintaining the sanctity of all travel zones. We will update the article with your propositions.
PS – For each of Escape Route trips, we carry our own garbage bags and ensure that our fellow travelers make use of it for any kind of leftovers/throwaways. Littering is just not done.
It was early 2014 when we chanced upon Neemrana ki Baoli during a short detour from the NH 8 Delhi-Jaipur Highway…
Hardly a kilometre from the celebrated Neemrana Fort Palace, rested an unknown historic marvel. It was difficult to find the place as no one cared about it, forget about the direction signage. The locals seemed perplexed on why would anyone want to see a forgotten place!
When we finally arrived here, a conversation with the local youth smoking pot at the site revealed details about the historic site.
A ‘Baoli’ is a stepwell that functioned as a water reservoir and a resting place for travellers till as late as early 20th century. Neemrana ki Baoli is a nine-storey-well with each storey as high as 20 feet. It was built by the king, Rajinder Singh Chauhan, a descendent of Prithvi Raj Chauhan and is generally referred to as Rani ki Baoli and/or Neemrana ki Baoli by locals. The fate of the erstwhile ruler and his family is unknown after they sold off the property to be run as the Neemrana Fort Palace.
The NH8 Delhi – Jaipur highway is mostly a dud till you reach the pink city, but a detour towards Neemrana ki Baoli will surely help you reminisce the golden days of our rich history. Once you’ve travelled 120 kms from Delhi, you need to take the right towards Neemrana Fort Palace. One must pick up some kachori, samosaand dhokla (light Indian snacks) along with sweets and fruits from the small market on the way. The ‘Mishthan Bhandar’ on the left corner is the best bet for onion kachoris.
Driving through the old lanes now covered with concrete, towards the Baoli is an ideal escape from city life. First glimpse of the dilapidated Baoli is still refreshing and the Aravallis in the background give it the perfect timeless appeal. It is our favourite place for a breakfast stopover during any of our trips through the NH8. The Neemrana Fort Palace is a clear sight from the Baoli and it is very interesting to note the borders of the fort and how this Baoli would have fit in in the scheme of things back in time.
Some travellers have reached here over the years and have written about their sympathies towards the historic marvel. The authorities have surely taken cognisance of the historic significance it holds. A concrete road has replaced the muddy terrain and we recently witnessed a small signage welcoming you to Neemrana ki Baoli.
We would urge you to take the road less travelled and visit this beauty. A snacks-break at the Baoli is a must-do, just do not forget to dispose of the waste materials properly and not treat the site as a garbage dump. Do share your experience with us in the comments below.
An endless open road, clear or in some preferences cloudy sky and no particular destination in mind; is an idea of freedom epitomised by the happy movie endings and we all wonder what fun it must have been. Nobody follows the car post the happy ending to see if the driver got a stomach upset in the coming days because he did not pack the right food for the road-trip. It gets even trickier if you are in a country like India; all thanks to the scorching heat, dust, unbearable cold, fog etc. alongside many roadside eateries who have sworn on not giving you fresh food ever.
What to eat on a road trip is an integral part of the overall experience. Make a mistake and you will be searching for the next relieving facility throughout the journey or would be cranky for reasons unknown to others. There can be other disturbances too, better left to the imagination of our discerning readers.
How light is light enough and is fried really bad? Is Mac’n’Cheese with iced tea a good idea and how can the Dhaba food be bad at all? You will never know unless it happens to you. Keep these following recommendations about what to eat on a road trip in mind to be rather safe than sorry:
There is no substitute to water – you can add lemon to it, but no masala and no soda please. Fresh Juices are excellent fluids and great companions for road trips. Green teas keep it all clear and happy.
If you have difficulty finding fresh fruit juice, opt for fresh fruits. Tip – try and find new fruits other than apples and bananas.
So you cannot do without snacks and salt – here are some healthier options: baked banana chips, whole wheat pretzels, dry museli or with curd, fresh cut veggies and dips
Some of us just cannot do without breads when thinking of what to eat on a road trip and hence, a peanut butter sandwich, jelly sandwich and/or cheese sandwich with sliced cucumber and tomatoes does the trick.
The only problem with boiled eggs packed in a container is the stench it leaves. So keep the shell on till you are ready to eat. You need your protein.
Granola/Protein bars are not for everyone. But if you dip your granola bar in yoghurt, it might be an all new experience for your taste buds to relish.
Home-cooked Indian breads aren’t a complete no; baked and not deep-fried fenugreek parathas will help you every time you crave for salt. Curd, again pitches in for the rescue.
A lot of us are lactose intolerant and it is bothersome, at least in the head. So avoid milk and try soy milk or curd instead. Have black coffee wherever necessary.
Nuts aren’t really that boring; Mix almonds, cashews, figs, dried apple, walnuts, drip apricots, pistachios etc and it tastes great.
If motion sickness bothers you, try mint/ginger/cinnamon tea (you could also chew on mint leaves). Mix pepper and lemon juice in a bit of warm water to get rid of headache and dizziness. Cloves are tried and tested too.
Quick-tip: Please carry reusable water bottles and do not have tap water if you are not sure. Always keep a multi-purpose knife handy for fruits and other brief preparations. Bread and your favorite seasoning always come in handy. Rather than eating too much in one go, eat little many times.
Cheat-tip: If nothing of the above really works for you. Pull over to the next road-side dhaba and ask the guy to make fresh baked breads (rotis) alongside dal tadka. Add green salads and curd to the same and you will be good to go for another few hundred kilometers. Just don’t overeat.
When it gets unbearable, I make samosa sandwiches, by pressing a samosa between two bread slices and a slice of cheese and it gets me going till the next salt craving.
There is no dearth of reasons for you to ride across the terrain of Ladakh for it is such a heavenly experience…
Ladakh has over the years emerged as a benchmark of adventure, style and machoness especially if you are a new biker yearning to ride across the valiant passes of this cold desert. It is the land of snow clad high passes, freezing temperatures, rugged terrain and breathtaking landscapes in the Kunlun mountain range that later extends to The Great Himalayas in the South-East. One of the reasons you opted for a thumping engine on two wheels was to ride straight upto to the highest motorable road in the world and earn yourself the coveted display picture next to Khardung La signage (‘La’ is pass in Ladakhi language). There is no dearth of reasons for you to take a bike trip to Ladakh for it evokes such heavenly feelings in the explorer in you.
One feeling that stands out is that of power and accomplishment, but with great power comes greater responsibility. Rightly so, Ladakh offers a difficult terrain to ride on and over the years, we have come across many bikers/motorcycle enthusiasts waiting for help in the middle of nowhere. Here are few pointers one must keep in mind to make sure that this road trip of a lifetime is complete without any glitches; from one biker to another:
NO ONE IS A BORN RIDER, plus it just sounds wrong. So hone it up before you start flaunting those tattoos on your bodies and stickers on your motorcycle.
PRACTICE MAKES ONE PERFECT: Just owning a bike and rider suit will not make you a biker, It is imperative for you to have a bare minimum of 10000 – 20000 kilometres of driving experience, including driving in the hills and off-roading. Get comfortable with your bike before you test the rough terrain of Ladakh.
KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE: Spend some time with your neighbourhood mechanic and ask him questions about your machine, the suspension, the cooling, the brake mechanism, spark plugs, oiling etc. No question is stupid, you never know which answer would help you when u are stuck on a pass in freezing cold with a over 150 kgs of metal and rubber.
CARRY SPARES: with improved accessibility and so many people travelling to Ladakh, you will not be stuck for long, However it is a decent idea to carry basic spares like a spark plugs, an extra tyre tube, accelerator / clutch wire, the tool kit etc. That might make you the knight in shining armour for someone else in need. You would also need to carry extra fuel for there are long stretches without a fuel pump. If you do not have a proper riding gear yet, wear multiple layers of clothing for it gets pretty cold post Sarchu.
SAFETY IS COOLER: you might look cooler riding your favourite motorcycle without a helmet, but remember it is not just hitting your head on the road during a mishap, Ladakh is famous for landslides and stones falling from above.
DO NOT BE TOO ADVENTUROUS (read crazy): Yes it is your first bike trip to Ladakh, you have crossed the Rohtang Pass traffic jam and the dust has just settled after Keylong, do not let your guard down, not on the curves, not on the straight roads. Keep your head straight and enjoy the ride at a decent speed.
RESPECT YOUR MOTORCYCLE: A lot of amateur riders will complain that it was the machine’s fault, but then again, machines do not have a mind, it is you who are responsible. Treat her well and you will have a fantastic trip, be rude to her and keep kicking the rear tyre for all she cares. Tip: be patient at tougher terrains and have a heart, you will pull through eventually.
LISTEN TO LOCALS: If you have been paying attention to all the points above, you have earned yourself a treat. Forget what he or she told you, spend some time with the local, be nice and if they find you genuine, they might tell you about that mysterious place that is still missing from 5612 itineraries that you read before the Ladakh roadtrip.
EXPLORE, AT YOUR OWN PACE: You do not have enough offs and there is so much to cover, you cannot explore the entire LADAKH in 8 or 10 or 16 days and that is not experiencing, it is called covering. So ask yourself what you want and let it soak in before you head to tick-off the next thing in your limited time itinerary. Come back next time and do more.
CHERISH IT& PRESERVE IT: Observe more than you show, listen more than you speak, this way the land of high-passes and zen might give you a lesson in life. Remember it is you who is yearning to go this is beautiful place ever since you first heard of it and try and preserve the sanctity of this place for the next time you visit it is still the same as you left it.
There is something very liberating about an open road, a long drive, some good music and wind in your hair…
The good feeling that a road trip comes with is second to none, and that is how its ought to be. Team Escape Route brings you a quick check list of the do’s and don’ts to ensure the experience lives in your memories for all the good reasons. Here you go:
Carry shades and headband; for when you roll down the windows, long hair gets messy and this holds true for guys too.
Always wear loose and comfortable clothes for the road trip. Do not wear flip-flops as it can get stuck between the driving pedals by mistake, shoes are a better bet.
Always carry few water bottles and keep yourself hydrated. You may not get mineral water in the hinterlands and remember in India, water taste changes every few miles.
Always carry an organizerwith all key papers of the vehicle, you can use its open pockets to stuff in toll receipts, else they will keep flying around in the car.
Eat only to taste and not hog, do not stuff yourself too much at Dhabas. Keep protein or energy bars handy, as you cannot surprise your stomach with all the roadside food. Stomach infection is common during long road trips. Rely on fruits and bottled water mostly while you keep tasting in the local culinary delights.
Carry charged power banks and multi charger power source in your car. Alternate between the power sources and use them amicably. As soon as the first source gets over, put it on charge in the moving car and use the other one. Sharing is saving.
A hard copy of state route map has never lost its charm even in the times of Google maps and GPS enabled tracking devices. It has its own benefits and comes in handy in hinterlands.
Carry extra tissue papers and extra car cleaning cloth. Newspapers work well as glass cleaners.Hand sanitizers or soap dispensers always come in handy. Hand towels are great for road trips.
It is fun to be lost when you know you have the global positioning system, (GPS) to get you out of any dead end.
You should always carry a swiss knife, torch, gloves, fuel lighter, pliers apart from the regular tubeless puncture strips, small air pump/foot pump in addition to the regular tool kit with all keys.
Always remember to keep the tyre air-pressure at least two points lower than the designated pressure as tyres tend to inflate a little on long highway drives.
It makes sense to note down the highway patrol / helpline number, just in case.
If you are adventurous: always carry a two/three-peopletent and sleeping bags for the ultimate experience after due checks.
Few close friends decided to escape the city for a weekend. It started with a brief to spend a weekend at a place which does not require a full day’s drive…
Given our affinity towards the hills and water, Rishikesh, at a distance of 230 odd kilometers from Delhi was an easy choice. It took a lot of planning, coordination, research and discussion to zero in on two properties in Rishikesh. One was a beach camp with tents and another was a jungle camp offering a morning trek and wild safari at Rajaji National park, Uttarakhand in addition to rafting at the mighty Ganges. The cost per person at the Jungle camp was almost half of the beach property and tree houses caught everyone’s attention. Three days prior to the final trip, the group leader – Mani sprained her back leading to speculation if the trip was on. Hats off to her will, a group of seven adventure enthusiasts finally left the city early on Saturday morning. I decided to ride through the trip on my beloved Royal Enfield, my gateway to any terrain in the country. The exit route from Delhi greeted us with a half hour jam at 4:30am. Withstanding the frustration caused by two trucks standing in the middle of NH24, we braved the fatal pot holes at NH58 for an hour. The mighty Scorpio cruised through the toll way as I managed to keep sight of it on my two wheels. When the sun grew bolder, the group got eager to reach the destination asap and decided to raft first before we checked into the jungle camp.
Of paddles, rapids and a cliff
I have a fear of heights and water rapids. A little bit of negotiation ensured that the raft meant for at least 10 people was given to us 7. As the raft commander began his briefing we had a minor argument about why one of us should sit in the middle and not paddle through the rafting session. His argument about balancing the raft fell into deaf ears and he had to go back and manage an additional paddle. The raft was set loose and we began paddling forward cheering Ganga Maiyya. I had to sit at the front, the fear could wait. While we were unsure if the raft commander was still upset with us for being rude to him, he turned out to be quite a sport as he commanded us to jump into the river after 5 minutes of paddling. Few among us were shocked and were staring at the commander if he was serious. I wasted no time in jumping into the water and hell yeah, I was swimming in the mighty Ganges. Religious people in India sprinkle drops of holy water on themselves for purification and here I was braving the fast flowing Ganga river itself. I soon heard shouts from the commander asking me to stay closer to the raft as we approached a rapid. I got on the raft and took back my steering position in the front as I was ready to brave the very first rapid which looked exciting yet scary. As the raft bumped into the first huge wave, I realised two members of the group had fallen off into the river, how I wish I could have fallen like that. As I got ready to scream ‘oh shit’ and jump into the river at the next rapid, the commander ordered that anyone who wishes to jump into the river is free to do so at will, but be careful. Braving a rapid has been the highlight of my affair with the water bodies so far in my life. Our cool commander ordered us to steer and swim past all jealous onlookers. It was amazing and continued for the next hour or so. There was a food stop in the middle of nowhere, maggi and tea, but what caught my attention were few crazy people jumping off a cliff which appeared over 20 feet high. I had conquered my fear of rapids, now it was time for a high jump.
As I trotted barefoot towards the cliff, I had to help guys and girls get down the cliff as they decided it was too high for a comfortable jump. As I patiently waited my turn on the cliff, I was pushed back by a dare devil yelling at his friends to capture him jump on camera. I think he was high, but it took him one look down to get sober. While others were contemplating to jump or not to jump, I requested if they could make way for me. My friends, Rajit and Gope had already jumped and swam through to the raft. As I looked down and figured the jump, I could feel my guts inching up. I could not waste time, others were looking at me and it was now a question of honour. As my friends waived at me, I took the leap of faith and splashed right into the river. After what appeared like eternity, I finally rose up the greenish red water and was gasping to breathe. I was still alive and it was a reason to be happy. During my swim back to the raft, I decided to do it again but the plan died a natural death as I realised my shorts were torn from one end due the splash impact. Shilpi offered me her bandana to tie around the torn patch and save my honour this time. The ordeal with the paddles and the rapids continued, just that this time I had to be really careful about my shorts.
Ride into the jungle
After hours of rafting, we were all tired and waiting to reach the jungle camp, the venue I chose to be the night stay for the group. As one local friend claimed to know the venue, we asked him to tag along. After around 15 odd kilometers on road, we were greeted with no road et all. The only way forward was to look for tyre marks in the direction of the jungle for the next 10 kilometers. As there was still time for the night to set in, it all looked beautiful and rusty; the little river that we had to cross on a motorcycle, a maruti alto and a scorpio was a sight at first. This all soon started turning into a nightmare as it kept getting darker and there was no sign of road, light, direction or human life.
The evening had passed and the night started growing darker, little rivers were now getting bigger and my group mates were getting restless shivering to the thought of staying the night in forest in those conditions. I was nervous too as we had been in the forest for 8 long kilometers. I had company this time, my young friend Rajit was interested in the motorcycle ride and was helping me navigate the little rivers by first walking through and checking the depth every time. At one point, both my tyres were stuck in wet mud and gravel and it was difficult to lift the 200 kg motorcycle. The vehicles following us had now caught up and other friends helped me lift the bike out of the point of no-return. I heard the restless discussions as few of my colleagues suggested we go back and find a place to stay in the city, ‘where there is life’.
As I struggled to find a response, I saw light in the dark and approached what looked like a small house in the middle of nowhere. Finding a village family at the spot, I asked them if they could help me with the directions to this jungle camp. As we were talking, two wild dogs rushed towards me and growled at me for trespassing their territory. I realised I had to add the fear of wild dogs to the fear of heights and rapids and I am not going to conquer this one at the moment. I told my group that it was only 2 more kilometers and the path ahead is not as difficult as what we had already passed. No phone connection in the area just added to the agony and my tired and restless group mates agreed half heartedly giving me a look that I might get beaten up if I didn’t find the camp soon.
What promised to be a better path started with a drive through the middle of a river, which was thankfully not deep. As I was riding and searching for a light bulb in the hills, a huge wild hog passed from right in front of my motorcycle making a grunting sound. I told my young friend that this was not the time to panic, wild hogs do not hunt humans, humans hunt them. The reflection of my headlight at a colored stone brought smile back as we realised that the destination is close. I spotted a bonfire in the otherwise dark jungle camp and was happy to meet the camp staff that had been waiting for the group. I told Rajit to ask them make arrangements as I rode back in the direction of the two cars, I had left behind in pursuit of the jungle camp. The fear that the restless group may have gone back to the city was soon put to rest as I saw headlights approaching.
As the group entered the jungle camp, all the tiredness, restlessness and agony was showered at the camp staff for having put up the camp at such a godforsaken site and why was there no electricity. The camp manager put on his jeep headlights for some visibility and the staff collected wood for bonfire, as I watched my group getting its calm back,.
The group that woke up at 4 in the morning had finally settled around bonfire at a dark jungle in Rishikesh holding glasses of preferred poisons in their hands. A few drinks and everyone started admiring the beauty of the jungle, the peacock spotting, the fireflies, the calm as well as the noises of animals heard from a distance. Nobody has any recollection of who slept in which wood house at what time, but all I remember is a Shilpi and Sumeet asking me if they could come back anytime soon.
Important tips while travelling to Rishikesh:
It is important to leave Delhi early in the morning as the NH58 is full of potholes and slows your drive
Rishikesh is a dry city, if you are carrying liquor, state police will object and fine you
Though we did not encounter any mosquitoes, but it is advisable to carry mosquito repellent to a jungle camp
Reach your destination before its dark, plan well
Do not overeat but hydrate yourself before rafting
Follow the instructions of raft commander carefully
Jump into the water while rafting as many times as permissible but stay closer to the raft
Try at least a 16km raft stretch, pros can go for longer stretches