Four of my college friends and I had been contemplating a road trip to Leh for over five years. Everybody started thinking that it would never happen, and had stopped taking us seriously. It was only a while after I bought my new Ertiga that I revisited our dream of driving together through wonderfully hilly terrain. This thought somehow energised me, and I decided to plan a trip this time. I contacted my friends, after plenty of apprehensions and convincing, the much-awaited journey was finally on.
Delhi to Chandigarh
The 250 km distance between Delhi and Chandigarh on the historic Grand Trunk Road was a sheer delight. The smooth roads had made the distance whiz by like a breeze. Also, the SmartPlay with inbuilt GPS navigation system, made our journey even more pleasurable. Our favourite songs were playing in the background as we talked to each other and relived our beautiful college days. We realised that in the daily grind, we have forgotten how it feels to spend quality time with our loved ones. The spark of our once-fizzled friendship was slowly coming back, and we all could sense it.
Chandigarh to Manali
Zipping through endless mustard fields, we reached Mandi. Just 145 km north of Shimla, Mandi is a hill station blessed with awe-inspiring natural beauty. After paying our tributes to Panchavaktra Temple and Ardhnarishwar Temple, we moved ahead towards Manali. You know you are in Manali when apple orchards appear on either side of the road. Even after a 10 hour long journey, we felt fresh; thanks to the effortless drive that my Ertiga provided me with.
Manali to Rohtang Pass
Driving past Vashisht, around 30 km outside Manali, you will get your first glimpse of snow-capped mountain peaks. We parked our car on the side of the road and clicked a mandatory group selfie with mountains in the backdrop. It was the moment we had waited for, and it definitely brought a smile on everyone’s face. As the road ascends, the landscape changes. Tiny hamlets, deodars and wildflowers spattered slopes are replaced by snow-peaked brown mountains and grasslands. At 13,051 feet is the mesmerising Rohtang Pass, which gives you a glimpse of how beautiful the journey ahead will be.
Rohtang Pass to Sarchu
After a comfortable yet long drive, we took a break at Tandi. It has the last petrol pump before one reaches Leh, which is 365 km away. After driving further, we reached Baralacha La, situated at an altitude of 16,040 feet. We continued driving for a couple of hours and reached Sarchu, which is at an altitude of 13,080 feet. At Sarchu we decided to stay put for the night.
Sarchu to Leh
The route between Sarchu to Leh is extremely beautiful in terms of landscapes and the quality of roads. Rugged mountains formed by sedimentary rocks could be spotted everywhere. After crossing three passes and the renowned Gata Loops with 21 hairpin bends, we finally arrived at Leh. The spacious seating in Ertiga made the journey more comfortable for all of us. After resting for some time, we spent a beautiful evening paying visits to the famous monasteries.
This road trip in the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga has re-energised us. I am sure there will be more trips to follow in the coming days as “Life is meant for good friends and great adventures”.