It was my first experience of a snow drive. Though I was not the one to drive the vehicle but let’s call me a ‘navigator’ as it is also an important job to do (other than being the wife of an expert driver)! The planning began in the month of November 2019 when a friendly group of all Mitsubishi Pajero Enthusiasts gathered together and decided for a group adventure to the mountains of Narkanda, Himachal, a lesser frequented place by tourists (as compared to Shimla, which is nearby) especially in heavy snow. The group calls itself—My Pajero Club.
Though we have been travelling frequently to Himalayas and have extensively covered places like, Spiti Valley, Laddakh, Kaza, RekongPeo, Kandaghat, Jalori Pass, Barlaccha Pass and many more, but this time it was different because of the sheer pleasure of journeying in a group and that too, a big one! The thrill was already high and the idea of crushing and sloshing our 4X4 in the snow heightened the sensations exponentially.
It was a three-day trip (Delhi- Narkanda- Delhi), in the month of January, 24-25-26 (2020). It was the time when the roads towards Narkanda were all covered with heavy snow as it began snowing since mid of November, therefore, recommended unsafe for traversing (as per the advisory by Himachal Tourism).
The organizers (or fellow Pajerians, as they wish to be called) made sure to make all necessary arrangements for the stay, in advance, and so bookings were already done. I will talk about the hotel that we stayed in, in the paragraphs later. The whole group comprised of 64 people and 26 Pajeros. There were solo drivers, couples, families with kids on board, and even a friendly canine, Hugo—the husky, who was the charmer of the group!
The snowfall was already getting heavier as the time for the trip was approaching near and was expected to increase with approaching cold winds from the Himalayas.
I would not indulge my readers into the knick knacks of our journey till we reached Haveli, Dharampur (Solan), for a lunch break. It was after reaching Dharampur that the thrill of a snow drive happening soon, started to swoop us of our feet! It was enigmatic to see Pajeros after Pajeros getting themselves lined up for parking outside the restaurant. The bright sun and chilly air started filling the lungs with fresh breaths. Everyone was elated and chatty, with the expectations of more snowfall on the destination. The lunch was followed by hot cup of tea and off we all were to our much-awaited snow drive.
The thrill of a journey does not ensue only after reaching the destination, but also on the way towards it. All the fellow travelers in this little adventure of theirs kept each other posted of the oncoming traffic hurdles on the way through the walkie-talkies. Since all the vehicles were marked with numbers and the roles they had in the journey (for e.g., the lead car or the sweep car), it became a well-informed driving experience from the beginning. Ours was the ‘sweep car’ and as the name suggests, our job was to make sure everyone was in the convoy so that none is left behind. Every effort to reduce the chaos was being taken by each member.
The roads were pretty clean till Shimla and the weather was also fine with bright sun and cool wind. The cold in Himachal during January is also determined by the side of the mountain that we are driving on. The sun shade roads feel cooler in comparison to the ones facing the sun. As the evening approached, and we reached Kufri, it started to become a little chilly. The increasing amount of sun shade roads, covered with trees on one side and the face of the mountain on the other, started to titillate our senses. Gradually the face of the mountains began to show from ‘some-snow-to-more-snow’ and we could feel our car needing extra traction then before. The roads which till now were wet with melted snow began to show black ice. In not much time, our cars were traversing on the glass-like sleet and thus, we shifted our vehicles on 4X4 mode.
It is wonderful to look outside of your car window and find all the objects, things, running in the opposite direction! It is also refreshing to have your lungs filled with purest of the air. I hardly get to drive with my window panes down while in Delhi. Many of you would agree to it. Who wants to inhale the stale, polluted, germs-filled air of a metro city? I am sure, no one. We drove with leisure thereafter, to enjoy the scenic beauty extravagantly bedecked with trees like the tropical deodars, the conical spruce, the pines and many more. Though the slowing down for our pleasure made us reach the hotel at 4 o’clock in the evening, instead of, at the lunch, but aren’t such expeditions meant to be enjoyed?
The hotel ‘Tethys Ski Resort’ was lovely in everything. Whether it was the location, the rooms, or the food, it was quite good in hospitality and quick and responsive staff. One thing that I find praiseworthy of the people of Himachal is that, in spite of being crowded with overwhelming tourists every day, you still find them with no dearth of humbleness and modesty. Some readers might argue that if they won’t be at their best behavior than it would reduce their revenues exponentially and suffer losses. But I feel it is safe there than being in a metro city because the complexity of everyday life there has made them so.
Anyway, soon the Pajeros started to pour in one after another. And the parking of Tethys was choked with cars. Every beast got a parking place for itself and now was the time for some refreshments followed by lunch (though late it was). The day was tiring, as we all were driving since 2 A.M. in the morning. But I must say, the surroundings made everything worth it! The enthusiasm was such that even after everyone settled down, the walkie-talkies didn’t stop transmitting messages from the enthusiastic Paj-lovers!
We all had the evening awaiting impatiently for us to gather around the bonfire. The chill of the mountains, the dipping temperatures, (0 degrees or even less) the fatigue of a long drive, didn’t let the spirit of us dampen a bit. We all gathered up around the fire with drinks and snacks. The evening was backed with music and everyone was chatty and warm around the bonfire. It was a great time to catch up and know each other. The people belonging to different age groups, professions, locations, culture and ethnicity, have much to talk about when meeting for the first time. There is someone who is a doctor, another a pharmacist, someone is a businessman, another, a defense officer, someone, a surgeon working in a country facing war crisis, a full-time traveler, an explorer, a student, and teenagers and kids as young as 4 years old! The bonfire concluded with dinner and off we all were to bed since the next day had to bring in the real thrill.
The hilly mornings bring fresh air, with the fresh snow of the night before. The early mornings of Narkanda and the view from our room were worth everything. The sun was bright and the mountains were covered in silver-white snow all over. The view was breathtaking, no doubt. The walkie-talkies began to buzz transmitting the messages for breakfast and scheduling the time to leave for the snow-bashing. The Pajeros were all gearing up for the drive further. The engines were on the roll one could smell the distinct diesel fumes. But the cars started to leave the parking so as to line up on the road towards Thanedar, a place near Narkanda, famous for its apple orchards.
The roads towards Thanedarwere laden with 2 feet of snow, which was 3 weeks old. The enthusiastic lot had their share of fun bashing the snow. Some had their snow chains fixed to the wheels already while some had to do it in the snow. The cars were following one another and so we had to stop at once when the convoy stopped moving further. It was a JCB working ahead of us and clearing out the way for the local vehicles to move up and down towards Thanedar. The convoy came to a halt. It was almost past lunch time and everyone was hungry. It was impossible to move back on a mountain road with 26 cars in row. It was then suggested to have our meals there itself—on the way. The people quickly began to engage themselves in fun things to have the most of this trip. Even I made a snow man for the first time in my life! I know that it isn’t the prettiest snow man but still I made some effort!
One of the couple was on board with their kids and we all had fun time with these amazing guys—Hartej and Neetu. They had everything you need in their car while in snow. Once we stopped because of the JCB ahead of our convoy, it started feeling colder. The hunger and the cold started dampening our spirits. But the announcement of lunch enroute warmed us a bit. Hartej and Neetu suggested having a little bonfire for us and quickly they came out with supplies like coal, newspaper and spirit from their car trunk. With some efforts, we managed to ignite a little fire to keep us warm. The couple came out with few chairs too from the car boot and there we were all, having the best of it all. Drinks, snacks, fire to keep us warm and music, all added up to the fun. Many a snowmen emerged out of the creative genius of the people on board. People grouped together in small units and had their sort of fun. Many more snowmen emerged out of the creative genius of other members. The waiting for the road ahead to clear up was worth it.
There are a few places around Narkanda that are worth visiting especially the Tani Jubbar Lake, a small water body surrounded by trees all around. We visited the lake after we had our lunch and many others joined us. A few Pajeros left for other places to visit around. A 20 minutes drive brought us to the spot and we parked our vehicles on the designated spot on one side of the lake. The lake gets frozen during winters and one can walk along the either side and can distinctly hear the crushing of snow under feet. It is a must-go-place near Narkanda, especially in winters. The lake has a temple of ‘Nag Devta’ situated on it and also has a beautiful resort, ‘TheWilderness’ very nearby which has an amazing view of the valley on the other side.
The resort has regular rooms as well as log huts to make your stay exciting and rustic but also with all the amenities that one could expect. This particular resort is an ideal place for those looking for peace and serenity or an idle walk around. It is far away from the main road and is surrounded by trees on three sides and the valley on one side.
It was getting chilly and dark as the sun was setting quickly. We drove back to Tethys Ski Resort and freshened up for our second and final rendezvous’ around the bonfire and culmination of the trip with music, dance, drinks and food. The whole gang was elated and happy of the experience it had all this while. Everyone could be seen regretting going back to their destinations. There were funny and loud unceasing discussions about how everyone fared in snow and how different it was than the usual mountain drives. The evening also saw the team members (drivers of their beasts) being felicitated with personalized mementos and huge applauds. It started to snow as the night progressed and the event was culminated with drinks and dinner. But since all good things come to an end and especially when you want to hold on to them and never let go, it is when they slip away from your hands like sand.
The next morning was all full with goodbyes and promises to meet in the days to come and plans for another trip to such remote destinations. I shall keep you posted on more such travels and may be you could be a part of such a trip next time! Let me know if you wish to join us and also tell me how you found my little adventure, in the comments section below.