Last week (I wrote this in May 2010), I drove to Shimla along with my wife and kid. I had a fine time, really. The plan was to leave home in Ghaziabad at 4:00 am sharp, as I didn’t want to get caught in traffic that builds upon the highway during the day. We decided to retire for the night early so that one could(especially me, the driver) get some rest ahead of the long drive.
Well, that was the idea until a phone call from my sister-in-law to my wife at 10 pm enquiring about the trip shook me out of my just- about- to- fall-asleep stage, to never be able to fall asleep again—ditto for wifey. Instead of tossing and turning in bed for a few hours of elusive sleep, we decided to leave earlier than planned. So we woke up our sleeping 9-year-old son, and took out the car and pointed it in the direction of Shimla, and left home at 2:45 am.
NH 1 is a pretty good road, and I basically focused on the black strip of asphalt rapidly advancing towards my car wheels and ensured that my speed stayed between 80 and 90 km per hour. There were a few other cars headed in a similar direction doing roughly the same kind of speeds. It was all very comfortable, and my only worry was that I should not at all feel drowsy- something I accomplished quite easily by the sheer weight of responsibility-wife and kids’ lives in my hands kind of pressure.
Sonny boy was asleep for most of the drive during the night; wifey bravely stayed awake for a couple of hours before dozing off to sweet slumber on the seat beside me. Soon it was Beatles on the car stereo, NH1, and me. Towns came and went(the by-passes let you escape the innards of the towns – Sonepat, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, and Ambala from where one branched off to NH22 and the road to Zirakpur and Kalka.
By the time it was about 8.30 in the morning, we were in Kalka and beginning to climb. Everyone was fully awake now, and we were taking in the noisy, narrow, and ramshackle lanes of Kalka town even while climbing all the time. Soon it was genuine hill territory, and we kept on climbing steep mountainsides with wifey and kid growing more and more alarmed.
Shortly afterward, we were going downhill towards the town of Solan, famous for its brewery and mushrooms, I think. I made a mental note to buy some mushrooms on the way back home to Our Planetary.
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Anyways it was climbing time once again, and I was busy doing what I love the most; driving in the high Himalayas through pine, deodar, rhododendron, and oak country-nothing in the world can match that. The sky was a deep blue, I could hear the piercing cry of mountain birds, and the change in altitude made my ears get blocked.
We stopped at Dharampur for the mandatory breakfast of aloo ka parantha and sweet tea and resumed the journey fully refreshed. The rest of the drive up was again through spectacular terrain; thoroughly enjoyable except for the fact that every ten minutes a truck, or a humongous Volvo bus the size of a Jumbo Jet, or other assorted large vehicles would come down from the opposite direction in what appeared like subsonic speed.
They would proceed to hurtle wildly towards you and, exactly at the moment of passing by, tip the body of their vehicle dangerously close to that of yours (like one might tip a hat to a lady). When you thought that you would be pushed 2000 feet downhill, they would swerve away.