Destination: Kharapathar, East of Shimla
Distance from New Delhi: 410km
Altitude: 8,900 feet
Most Indians head out for a holiday on a long weekend and mid of August was no different. Our Independence Day fell on a Friday and this meant every single hill-station of North India was fully booked leaving us with no option but to explore a lesser known destination called Kharapathar.
Located on the Shimla-Route route, Kharapathar is the highest point on this stretch and this town is located at almost 9000 feet above mean sea level. It also falls bang in the middle of the main apple belt of this side of Himachal Pradesh.
Route to Kharapathar: The route leading to this town passes through Shimla and this meant we had to take NH-1 leading towards Ambala from Delhi. We decided to leave very early and by 4:20am, we were on the road in the new updated Volkswagen Polo. This was the 1.5-litre TDI version and I was more than eager to stretch the car’s legs on the open roads. From Delhi to Ambala, we had to stick to NH-1 and it was smooth sailing all the way as most of the flyovers are now functional apart from a few ones after Karnal. There are two toll booths in all and there is no lack of either fuel pumps or good eating joints.
Thanks to sparse traffic and the lovely diesel engine, it took us less than just over two hours and thirty minutes to cross Ambala, 200km from our starting point. A few km after Ambala, the highway cuts in two – the NH1 continues to Ludhiana while NH-22 leads to Shimla. The highway remains four-lane all the way to the base of the hills till Parwanoo and this means that chewing up miles is an easy affair.
Around 10-15km before Parwanoo, we came across the Himalayan Expressway, one of the most scenic four-lane highways in North India. This new highway bypasses the congested town of Kalka and meets the highway at Parwanoo. This is also where we entered Himachal Pradesh – it had taken us less than four hours to cover 265km till here.
The highway from here is a typical 2-lane affair. Thankfully as we hit this patch early in the morning, traffic was less and allowed us to drive to Shimla at a relatively quick pace. We were pretty hungry but decided to drive non-stop in order to skip the mad tourist (and traffic rush of Shimla).
The views started becoming better and rain gods kept away from slowing us continued…
IN PICTURES: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a never-seen-before avatar in Vogue photoshoot