Readers’ Responses: The Call of the Road
As the weather turns chilly and wanderlust kicks in, one can almost hear the road calling. Be it along challenging mountain roads or easier stretches by the sea, a road trip always spells adventure—and no one knows that better than our readers. So when they told us about their delightful encounters and gave us trusty tips about their favourite drives and bike rides, we listened. Here’s their wisdom for the road:
Shivranjani Singh, Jaipur
Road Trip: Jodhpur to Kolkata
Last October, my husband and I carved out an itinerary to travel from Jodhpur to Kolkata via road along with our two dogs. My husband works in the army, so the trip was undertaken to shift cities. We started the journey at Jodhpur and passed through Anand, Nasik, Pune, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Vizag, Puri and finally reached our destination—Kolkata. The state highways aren’t always in the best shape, but this trip was a memorable one for me because after a few years of solo travelling, I finally had so many companions. We covered a lot of ground in a week. It was amazing to watch the geography change so vividly over days—along with the climate, the people and the food.
Nidhi Ray, Bangalore
Road Trip: Ambala to Spiti
I undertook this daring road trip when I was a student. Since I was at Ambala, I decided that the route that would be easiest for me would be Ambala-Mandi-Bhuntar-Kullu-Manali-Dhankar. I jumped on a bus from Ambala to Mandi, another one from Mandi to Manali and then hitchhiked from Manali to Dhankar in a three-wheeler. This trip made me realise how helpful strangers can be, and made me fall in love with nature. You can take a bike or a car up to Dhankar. Hitting the road solo changed me, made me stronger and led to some of the best decisions of my life.
Ashwin Baidya, Mumbai
Road Trip: Mumbai to Kolkata
My daughter was in Kolkata and I hadn’t met her in months— and she hadn’t met our pet dog! So, instead of going through all the paperwork to be able to fly with my dog, I decided I would simply drive up. I crossed Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. I stopped to sample food across all of these states, but the Rs.10 plate of five idlis with three chutneys that I savoured in Telangana was a clear winner. The people I met across each of these states were so different from one other, but all had one thing in common—warmth when it came to helping out a traveller. The distance of 2,021 kilometres between Mumbai and Kolkata (in this route) can be covered with two pit stops. The Pune- Hyderabad- Vijayawada- Bhubaneswar- Kolkata route rewarded me with scenic views, especially on an early morning drive from Bhubaneswar to Kolkata.
Khyati Mehta, Vadodara
Road Trip: Lachen, North Sikkim to Gangtok
We embarked on this picturesque road trip from North Sikkim’s small village of Lachen to Gangtok in March 2019. To reach Gangtok, one can fly from any of the major metro cities to Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. From here, you have to hire a car to make the road trip to Sikkim. Beautiful landscapes and rivers, gorges and green lush jungles peppered the views through our journey. What made it even more delightful was that it was still snowing lightly in some parts of the land. From Lachen we had attempted to head north to visit Yumthang valley, but due to a road blockage, we had to change our route. But, even then, the magnificent view of the snow-capped Himalayas made up for the disappointment. I would recommend making this journey via car over a bike, especially in the colder months.
Sunil Stephen Varghese, Mangalore
Road Trip: Mangalore to Ahmedabad
Last October, I was going through a difficult period in my life. I needed to get away for a bit, so I figured I would do a road trip from my home in Mangalore to Rajasthan. My friend and I got into my car at sunrise and set off. However, somewhere along the way, I changed my mind and my destination—to Ahmedabad instead. The route we took was a challenging one: Mangalore-Murudeshwar-Gokarna-Satara-Pune-Mumbai-Vadodara-Ahmedabad. But, the trip was breathtaking. We drove through long winding roads and lush green stretches and villages, all under cloudy skies. We only took one extended break at Pune, because the rains had flooded the roads and visibility was poor. The next morning, we resumed our journey from Pune to Mumbai and then, to Vadodara. After 1,800 kilometres and two days of driving, we finally made it to Ahmedabad!
Nidhi Bansal, Faridabad
Road Trip: Delhi to Agra
Trips, especially road trips, with my army family have always been close to my heart. And our most beloved road trip was from Delhi to Agra. I remember—us hopping into our car, cracking jokes and playing antakshari all the way long.
The best route to take between these two cities is the 200-kilometre Delhi-Agra-Yamuna expressway. For me and my family, the highlight was the road trip in itself, and Agra mesmerised us by its grandeur, especially the unchallenged beauty of the Taj Mahal. I would recommend that this journey be done by car.
Athang Suresh Pawar, Pune
Road Trip: Pune to Goa
This was my first road trip with my siblings and I knew that it was going to be a memorable one. We decided to first take the Pune-Bangalore Highway, after which we went through Kolhapur and ventured through the Amboli Ghat Road. The scenic Sahyadris kept us company through our time on the road and added to the overall feeling of peace and comfort. This route can be travelled via car or bike.
Roshni Chakraborty, Delhi
Road Trip: Gurgaon to Kolkata
This was a mother-daughter road trip we decided to take from Gurgaon to Kolkata which included six states, 1,400 kilometres and two days of travel.
While I’m a resident of Kolkata, I’ve been working in Delhi for the past eight years. Recently, we charted a route that went through Gurgaon-Delhi-Noida-Agra-Lucknow-Raebareli-Prayagraj-Varanasi-Gaya-Hazaribagh-Dhanbad-Asansol-Burdwan-Kolkata. My mother and I had decided to pack food, water and all other essentials so we could avoid stopping at dhabas and roadside stalls, and thus minimise contact with others.
It took about seven and a half hours to reach Lucknow from Gurgaon and then another seven hours from Lucknow to Varanasi. After an overnight stay at Varanasi, we took off and after eight hours, arrived at Hazaribagh, where we were rewarded with scenic views of lush forests and glimpses of the Canary Hill. A few hours later, we were back home in West Bengal.
Miriam Sushmita, Chennai
Road Trip: Chennai to Goa
It had been a while since I had spent any time with my childhood friends. Since most of us live in different parts of the country, we decided on a road trip from Chennai to Goa last August. We started around 8 p.m. from Chennai and reached Bangalore by 1 a.m. Driving through the roads at night is as pretty, as it is peaceful. The highlight of the drive was when we crossed past the infinite green of the Western Ghats. Funnily enough, we ended up with the best views along the ghats because our car missed a turn and we ended up on this route.
A V Ranganadham, Berhampur
Road Trip: Leh to Pangong Lake
I honestly believe in the motto “The journey is the destination.” and my road trip—which included a 200-kilometre drive from Leh to Pangong lake—pretty much summed this up. We were a close-knit batch of photographers who had decided to go on this road trip in 2019.
The route from Leh to Pangong Lake is full of amazing scenic views, hairpin bends, high peaks and the bluest skies. We stopped to wolf down steaming plates of Maggi at ChangLa pass and watched the fluttering prayer flags and wild horses.
About halfway to Pangong Lake, we came upon a green stretch and some grazing wild horses. It was an incredible feeling, to lie down on the grass and click photographs of the scene. This route is definitely a dreamy one for photographers and bikers alike.
Sudanta Kohad, Nagpur
Road Trip: Leh to Nubra Valley
This route, from Leh to Nubra Valley, is fit to entice anyone with its mystic barren land and rugged mountains. I took a flight from Mumbai to Leh via Delhi, which is the nearest metro. Bikers usually prefer driving down to Leh from Chandigarh/ Delhi/ Manali/ Srinagar.
It was June of 2017 and we were divided into two groups while travelling to Nubra Valley from Leh via Khardungla pass, where we were greeted by snowfall. We were just in time to make it to Khardungla and head towards Nubra Valley, but as luck would have it, the second group, which had started a bit late from Leh, couldn’t even make it to Khardungla as the roads were completely blocked due to snowfall. It was then that I realised how lucky I was to be here, experiencing the cool breeze and first rays of the sun at Pangong Tso, ATV ride on sand dunes of Hunder, or white-water rafting on Zanskar river.
The journey is best done by car for those looking for a comfortable commute; however adrenaline junkies would definitely prefer to zigzag through the rough plains of the high altitude desert on their bikes.
Swati Gupta, Mumbai
Road Trip: Shimla to Kinnaur
This road trip from Shimla to Kinnaur makes for a memorable journey due to its raw geography, the thrill of treacherous roads, and rugged cliffs. I can safely say that a trip along this route is not for the faint-hearted!
The nearest metro city is Delhi, and from there the preferred route is: Delhi–Shimla–Rampur–Reckong Peo–Kalpa-Chitkul. The journey is doable by either car or bike, though for the latter, considering the tricky Himalayan terrain, the Royal Enfield Bullet would be a preferred ride for the trip.
Goutham Nellikatte, Bangalore
Road Trip: Bangalore to Varkala
I woke up one morning in February 2017 and took off with my bike, without a plan or an agenda as to where I was going. I started from Bengaluru and travelled across eastern the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to reach Kanyakumari. From here, I drove to Kerala and reached Varkala in the evening. It will forever be my favourite sunset.
Varkala is well connected for those wishing to travel via road. While there are multiple routes one can take, if it’s scenic views of hills and beaches that you’re after, take the road via Calicut or Munnar to Kochi and Varkala; otherwise take the Coimbatore-Kochi highway. This route can easily be travelled via car or bike.
Shashank Kashyap, Bangalore
Road Trip: Manali to Kaza, Spiti Valley
My favoured route from Manali to Kaza is 160 kilometres and my favoured mode of transport for this route is a bike, due to its agility to brave challenging mountain roads. Another route one can take is from Shimla which goes through Kotagarh, Narkhand, Kalpa, Nako, Tabo Dhankar and finally Kaza. The second route is the longer one.
I took an early morning Himachal Pradesh tourism bus from Manali to Kaza. It’s an experience I’ll never forget—stopping at Rohtang Pass for a bowl of steaming noodles; getting stuck at various points due to slippery roads, looking out of the window at the outline of the majestic Himalayas under a bright blue sky.
Kaustubh Nerukar, Mumbai
Road Trip: Mumbai to Satara to Kass Plateau
I wanted to travel from Mumbai to Satara, and then to reach the Kaas Plateau, which is known to bloom with wildflowers every year, from August to September. Along with this, my itinerary also included the Thoseghar waterfall and the Sajjangad Fort. For those wishing to drive down from Mumbai itself, they can first travel to Satara city via the Mumbai-Pune expressway, which by car takes about six to seven hours, and then drive down to these three local attractions. Green mountains and far-flung valleys will keep you company through your journey on the road to Satara.
Manash Mahanta, Assam
Road Trip: Gangtok to Siliguri
After spending a couple of days travelling through North Sikkim on two wheelers, my friends and I started our journey along East Sikkim, through the Old Silk Route, the iconic and ancient trade route that connected Lhasa with present day Tamluk in West Bengal. History has always fascinated me, and I was eagerly looking forward to this trip as I always want to mix history with my travels. We started from Gangtok, through Nathu La, Kupup, Nanthang, Zuluk, Padamchen and Rogli, and ended our trip in Siliguri. The route, which started after crossing Nathu La, was scenic, and the surrounding mountains’ green cover gave way to reddish hues as winter made its way into the heart of Sikkim. There were numerous small hamlets scattered around the area, perched between the mountains. The entire road is a dreamy adventure among the mountains, until one reaches the calmer plains of West Bengal.
The Old Silk route trip can be taken either from Gangtok or from Siliguri. From Gangtok, the circuit follows Nathu La, Kupup, Zuluk, Rongli and Siliguri. Bagdogra is the nearest airport to Siliguri (around 10 km) and New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station (around 9 km). You can commence your journey from Siliguri and take the route via Rongli, Zuluk, Kupup, Nathula and Gangtok. You can rent two wheelers or a car in Siliguri and Gangtok.
Paramjeet Singh and Shilpi Singh (Sunny and Shilpi), Delhi
Road Trip: Delhi to Chitkul
Our most memorable road trip in India was the one we took with our friends, from Delhi to Chitkul. While reaching this destination, located at 3,450 metres, was quite the task, the untouched scenic beauty of this postcard-like destination made all the effort worthwhile. The memory of those narrow winding roads we drove through gives us chills even today. The route we took was Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla – Fagu – Rampur Bushahr – Sangla – Chitkul. We stayed overnight at Shimla and started an early morning drive to Chitkul, which should have taken us eight hours but thanks to the condition of the roads, took us 15.
The drive to Chitkul after Shimla includes long patches of rocky and muddy trails. So it is best to either travel light with a bike or go with 4WD. Normal hatchbacks or sedans are less suited, and may even break down in these difficult conditions. Since the last 200 kilometres along this route are sparsely populated, a breakdown is the last thing you need.
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