Joshimath to Mana – Joshimath
DISTANCE: 90 km via NH 58
Though this was supposed to be our day of relaxation after the previous day’s driving, we decided to head up towards the famous Badrinath temple. It wasn’t much distance to cover, in fact, it was only 45 km, which by our normal highway calibrated minds would take us less than an hour to cover, but as we found out earlier, going purely by numbers is a bad idea in the mountains. So, after a filling breakfast of paranthas and piping hot lemon tea (the people here sure do make great tea!), we set off towards Badrinath.
Because of the unpredictability of the hills, we didn’t make any plans for our return just yet. We’d get there first and then depending on the time, we’d either stay back or make our way back to Joshimath. However, a small home-stay caught our eye as we were leaving Joshimath so we decided to get their number in case we needed it at night. After that, we were really on our way, making our way down the valley, one switchback at a time, till we eventually reached a river crossing far up in the hills. From then on, it was relatively smooth sailing.
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Every few minutes, one of us would point to the snow-capped peaks and stare, awe-struck at the sheer beauty. Driving is difficult in these parts, not just because of road conditions, but because you’ll be compelled to stop every few metres as a new sight has caught your eye and you just can’t help but stop and stare. Such is the beauty of the hills.
Anyway, after many such stops, we had finally arrived at Badrinath. We knew that because of the incredible amount of tourists and yellow-plate vehicles parked there. After a quick lunch, we set off exploring the temples there when a sign caught our eyes. Mana, the last Indian village before the Tibet border was only a few kilometres off, so we hopped in and headed in its general direction only to find that it was an even bigger tourist trap than Badrinath. Mile-long traffic jams? No, thank you. That was about the time we decided to head back to Joshimath for a good night’s sleep, so off we went to a hotel which overlooked the valley.
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Joshimath – Rishikesh
DISTANCE: 254 km via NH58
If it weren’t for the beauty of the sunrise, we’d have been angry to have been woken up by the first rays of the sun. No matter though, because another healthy breakfast later (yeah, right), we were ready to leave this small little town behind and head towards Rishikesh. Now, Rishikesh is known as the gateway to the Himalayas and as such sits at the foothills of the mountain range. The drive there wasn’t exactly what we’d call pleasant though. Landslides and horrible road conditions made what was already a tiring journey even more so. If we weren’t in a Bolero, some of the shortcuts we took along the way wouldn’t have been possible at all.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the city limits of Rishikesh were in view. We were very tempted to camp by the Ganges, but weather conditions weren’t exactly conducive to camping by a freezing river. Manoeuvring the Bolero through the tight streets of this city was surprisingly effortless, so we decided to explore this beautiful city while we were there. Post that, hunger drove us to the nearest hotel where we decided to bunk for the night. It’s a good thing we stayed at the outskirts of the city though, because even in the early hours of the morning, there was traffic as we set out towards Delhi to end our trip. Delhi was another 226 km from Rishikesh along the same NH58, so we started off early and reached the capital with great memories of the mountains still fresh in our heads.
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So, after four days and over 1,350 km of intense driving through the mountains, we realised that this whole trip wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the Bolero's capabilities. Not to forget the creature comforts that made the trip enjoyable. Some of the roads on our trip couldn’t really be classified as such and the fact that we didn't even flinch at the thought of going through those sections shows just how confidence-inspiring this Mahindra really is. Would we do it again? Absolutely! What about a drive even tougher? If it’s with a Bolero, bring it on, we say!