Chanshal Pass – 12th to 15th August 2017

Alpha

Going to Neverland
Having covered most of the mountain passes howsoever high or remote, Chanshal Pass in Himachal Pradesh was never on my radar, never thought why?

I was never inclined to cover Chanshal Pass earlier. But this time it was different. With Independence Day long weekend approaching, my mind worked overtime to decide a destination where I has not been to earlier.

By chance, I read a travel log by some fellow BCMTian with Chanshal pass as destination.

It gave me the initial push to decide about visiting Chanshal pass. My resolve was further augmented when I thought to club Daranghati with it. A repeat destination but it was long time ago in 2011.

Now, I was sure where I was heading to, during the Independence Day leaves.

Finding partners for the trip was never a problem.

In fact I was saddled with problem of plenty.

Nitin Thapa, my dear friend and colleague was always willing and registered his participation in advance. Manish Mishra, another dear but temperamental friend also an ex-colleague and doubles badminton partner was pitching in for participation in advance.

With his confirmation, I decided to excuse Phantom – my Thar for this trip. Manish, too owns a Thar, hence we decided to take his Thar for this trip.

Nitish, my junior in office was also willing to join us and we confirmed him as well.

Jai Ajbani, another good friend and ex-colleague came to know about our sinister plan and camped in my office to include him in the final list of the participants. He was quite adamant about it and we were unable to avoid him.

We were in a dilemma about how to include him since we had only four seats available, him being the fifth participant. We had already confirmed Nitish for the trip and we didn’t want to refuse him either since this was going to be his first trip with us.

Praveer Bisht one of my first travel mates had abandoned his plans with his family and suddenly called me to plan a trip during Independence Day break. Wherever Praveer goes, Rakesh follows.

After a very long time, Rahul too was interested in joining us. Once again after a gap of more than 5 years the quarter of Alpha, Papa, Romeo and Raka were getting together for a road trip. Incidentally, they all too are my ex-colleagues. So, it was going to be a group of eight ex-colleagues on a same trip.

My dilemma was resolved. It was a blessing in disguise.

Now, I had to take my Thar for the trip. I had no choice.

Only, that I had to convince my other four team members to approve their participation.

They were reluctant, but I convinced them.

Hence, two teams were formed.

One – Team Daaru
Second – Team Hookah

Team Daaru consisted of Manish, Nitin, Jai and Nitish all of them being certified first degree connoisseurs of alcohol.

Team Hookah consisted of Praveer, Rakesh, Rahul and yours truly.

Next challenge was the logistics issue. Many heads meant many voices, sometimes differing.

Initially, all agreed to the plans laid out by me, being the team leader. But with time, some of them had differing ideas about destination, routes, departure time etc.

In the beginning we had thought to start on the 11th night itself to avoid the long weekend rush to Shimla which was vetoed down. I proposes another plant to start on 11th evening and to cover Dehradun and stay at Nitin’s place there, start in the morning and cover Chanshal via Chakrata. This plan too could not find many takers.

Finally, we decided to start on 12th morning itself, Mukarba chowk at Karnal bye-pass being the assembly point.

I picked up Praveer and Rahul enroute my home from office on 11th evening. Rakesh came directly to my house around 10.30 pm. Since they all lived on other side of Delhi, it was prudent on their part to come to my home, so that we can leave by 4.30 in the morning. Team Daaru was also given strict instruction to reach Mukarba chowk by 5.00 am by all means.
 

Alpha

Going to Neverland
We started by 4.30 am from my house and reached Mukarba chowk by 4.50 am. Team Daaru was running late. Jai was the culprit as we had expected. We directed Manish to leave Jai and carry on the journey without him in case in doesn’t turn up in next five minutes. Bugger, came out before the end of the fifth minute.

Meanwhile, we had left Mukarba chowk with instructions of meeting at Jhilmil dhaba, Karnal.

We drove easy to allow Manish to catch up. But somewhere he overtook us and reach Jhilmil dhaba five minutes ahead of us.

Team Hookah
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Team Daaru and Team Hookah met for the first time at Jhilmil dhaba. We ordered parathas, curd, bread-toast and tea.

Manish tended to some wiring issue with his music system.

While gulping down the parathas, I proposed to take Chakrata route to Rohru via Indri, Ladwa, Yamunanagr and Paonta Sahib. But Manish was not willing to listen. He was adamant on taking Shimla route without any rhyme or reason. I was upset. Everyone else was fine with the idea except Manish.

Finally, it was me who had to relent.

Both teams together at Jhilmil dhaba
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Ahead of Karnal, we found some light rain for few minutes.

There was hardly any traffic till Himalayan Expressway. Going was smooth.

The first hurdle we hit was near timber trail. Roads were broken and slushy. On top of it, heavy traffic. We faced the start-stop traffic all the way till we crossed Dhalli. It was well past 3.00 pm when we crossed Dhalli.

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We took late lunch break after Kufri. We all were hungry. We ordered veg and non-veg food and raked up a bill in excess of Rs.2000 for eight of us.

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Next break was at Theog for tanking up. From Theog, we took the right turn and headed towards Kharapathar.

It was already 5.00 pm when we left Theog. Roads were super smooth and we made good speeds. Team Daaru was tailing us till Kotkhai. However, they stopped for Nitish to throw up. They were now ten minutes behind us. Roads were still mostly good but now bad patched due to under construction road made the going somewhat cautious. We face some traffic jams too on account of road widening and construction.

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It was 6.30 pm and we had reached Kharapathar. There was no sign of Team Daaru.

We stopped in front of Hotel Giri Ganga Resort, a Himachal Tourism property. We decided to wait for Team Daaru. We called them up and they informed us that they were stuck in a jam and they will reach us in another 30 minutes or so.

We decided to wait out and ordered tea to kill some time. Further, we decided to break journey at Kharapathar itself, instead of stopping at Rohru. We booked two rooms and sounded out for the third room as well. Rooms were big and spacious with balcony opening up on apple orchards and mountain view.

We finished tea and called up once again to track Team Daaru. We got bad news in return.

They were still stuck. Traffic jam has opened up, however, it got worse. There was an accident completely blocking the road. There was no way out forward.

They had two options.

One – they go back to Kotkhai, stay overnight there and join us in the morning when the road clears up.
Two – they take some unknown interior roads and meet us at Kharapathar.

They chose the second one.

The route was through small villages surrounded by apple orchards. The only worry was getting lost as there were hardly a living soul available to guide about the route to take.

The route was not the only adventure they had.

The headlight went kaput amidst absolute darkness. Manish had to do some mistrigiri to make it work. Then the horn became direct and became a danger to the peace and tranquility of quaint hills and villages. Manish had to disconnect the horn.

They got lost many a times before they were somehow able to join the main road. They reached Kharapathar at 11.00 pm.

the accident
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Meanwhile Team Hookah took the rooms and set up their hookah bar in the balcony. Evening was nippy and hence the light jackets were pressed into service. After an hour of hookah, we order food which was nothing spectacular but good enough to satisfy the starving souls. There was another round of hookah before finally the sleep descended on us.

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The staff of the hotel were about to retire. I ensured that the chowkidar was informed about the possible late arrival of Team Daaru. He was carrying the keys of the room in case the guests arrived.

Finally by 11.00 pm Team Daaru arrived. They were given the keys to their room. Only that no dinner could be served to them at this hour. It was already informed to them. They sourced their dinner from a nearby dhaba. A long session of alcohol ensued. I accompanied them till they were finished with their drinks. At 2.30 am we finally took to bed. A long and tiring day came to an end.
 

Alpha

Going to Neverland
As it usually happens with the big group, we were delayed by two hours. We had decided to leave Kharapathar by 8.00 in the morning while, we could leave the place only by 10.00 am.

Roads were much better than what we got between Kotkhai and Kharapathar. The good raods lasted for only 30 odd kilometers till Rohru.

Rohru welcomed us with traffic jams due to trucks and pick-ups waiting to get loaded with apples. It was busy season for the apple traders.

Rohru was a lot warmer in comparison to Kharapathar. Kharapathar is situated at an altitude of 2500 meters while Rohru is situated at a lowly in comparison - 1554 meters.

After negotiating the traffic for about 20 minutes, we took the Rohru-Chirgaon road which would lead us to Chanshal Pass. First twenty kilometers of roads were of poor quality, certainly for the suspension of Thar. After Sandasu, the next 30 odd kilometers were non-existent with sharp turns and steep inclines.

Thankfully, there was no rains around, otherwise the road conditions would have become more challenging.

I engaged 4x4 and relaxes for rest of the climb. We took a break 10 kilometers before the pass. Team Daaru too joined us shortly. I advised Manish too to engage 4x4 for a relaxed driving. He followed my advice.

enroute Rohru
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Rahul
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Nitin Thapa
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Paani ka khel after Rohru: Praveer, Rakesh, Manish and Jai (Left to Right)
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Rakesh and Praveer
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beautiful Pabbar river
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apple orchards enroute - we plucked and ate heartily
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nearing Chanshal
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breather for Phantom
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