North Tour: Manali & Shimla: Driving through the Himalayas

Friday, 11 March

RISHIKESH: North India is a pretty big place.

Himachal Pradesh is about as far north as you can get in India, and it’s not an easy state to navigate. It’s beautiful, but like with most things in life, that beauty comes with a price.

In Himachal Pradesh, that price is its roads.

Most roads in India are of the 2-lane variety, but on the way from Manali to Rishikesh yesterday, there were never more than one and a half. Thus as we swerved through the mountains, rarely driving straight for more than a few seconds, our car slowed or stopped every couple minutes to let larger vehicles pass. Already forced to meander given the delicacy with which mountain roads are placed, it didn’t help that the roads were made of gravel and potholes which made our ride a jarring one.

Two eight-hour journeys sandwiched a 90-minute dinner break in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh (H.P.). Something about the nighttime light and cool mountain air reminded Nikolas and I of Switzerland. It would have been nice to have more time there, but our stop was for no other reason than to satisfy our stomachs. Between two colon-jarring car rides, the brief rest was compulsory.

We slept on the bus to Rishikesh with as much legroom as we could manage. I was lucky enough to acquire two seats in the front, an arrangement that would make coach passengers on airplanes envious.

But aboard an airplane, you don’t have potholes and blinding lights jolting travelers awake at regular intervals. I think it’s safe to say air travel would be much faster, too. One 20-kilometer stretch of the H.P. roads took two hours to traverse.

Unable to do anything more than pull my Cubs hat over my eyes, I attempted to sleep.



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