Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dhanaulti Sojourn – An expressway in slow motion!

A long weekend is what I was longing, for a long time, and it finally arrived this last weekend. Thanks to the secular credentials of our land, we got the Thursday off for celebrating the birth of Lord Mahavira and thanks Jesus for the Good Friday the following day. Four straight days off from work…..what an opportunity it was to do something other than being at home!

Like always, I had no idea of the long weekend till the very last moment. On Wednesday after an exhaustive internet search, quick conversations with family, friends and acquaintances, we settled down for a less popular hill destination – Dhanaulti or Dhanolti- a small town just an hours’ drive from Mussoorie.

I was excited that we could drive to Dhanaulti, just about 350 Kms from Delhi in a few hours (even at 50 kms per hour we needed only 7 hours to get away from Delhi’s madness) and enjoy a good vacation. Equally important was the fact that we were going together- me, my parents, my wife Anubhuti and my son Neer- in a nice big vehicle courtesy my father-in-law (borrowed his Toyota Innova for the trip).

We started from Delhi a bit late and left the Delhi borders only by afternoon. The 350 km journey was slow…very slow...but we had a good time together. After all enjoying the journey is as important as the destination itself. We stopped intermittently as Neer, who is now grown up 28 month big boy, wanted to stop at the nicely maintained Petrol Pumps for their ultra clean Toilets. (Ha ha ha…but seriously..at least these chaps provided the toilets where none exist all along….this supply side constraint of toilets is tougher for ladies… gender justice for women is a far cry in this nation).

On the brighter side, we zipped past a lot of small towns and saw with our own eyes the lifestyles of the Aam Aadmi…I for once shed my political apathy (neutrality is a more acceptable word) and felt like a Congressman. Going past Dehradun, it was already dark and we somehow managed the hill roads for next few hours to reach Dhanaulti at mid-night. Exactly 12 hours to cover 348 kms…that’s really cool. Thanks to our National Highway Projects which have put our lives on the fast track. Luckily, we also got our rooms and slept well in anticipation for a new dawn among the hills.

The morning was truly amazing….we saw Dhanaulti for the first time in daylight and were mesmerized by its beauty and we were thrilled at our decision to opt for Dhanaulti over Mussoorie. The town is small, extremely quiet, with few tourists and meant for those who like to get away from the crowds. The tall “Devdar” trees envelope the entire space around and views of the valley too are breathtaking. We had a sumptuous breakfast in an open space under the sun and loved the experience. This was Day 1 and we decided to head for Chamba and New Tehri, the towns that are within 2 hours of Dhanaulti. New Tehri is a town that developed after the original Tehri town was submerged under the massive Tehri Dam reservoir. (Tehri Lake). We also visited the Tehri Lake and it is a breathtaking mass of water amongst the hills.

On Day 2, we started again with the Breakfast under the Sun and decided to spend the day in Dhanaulti. We visited the Eco Park maintained by the forest Department and Neer really enjoyed the park and the rides for the kids. Me, Papa and Anubhuti too dared to do a rope slide and that was fun too. At the spur of the moment we decided that the day was long and we could do a quick trip to Mussoorie.

So we reached the doorsteps of the famous Hill Station in an hour but could not enter the town due to a massive rush of cars that had blocked entry. We returned without landing our feet in the city where both me and my father have memories attached as we did our Civil Services Training at the National Academy of Administration situated in the town. Our wish to touch base with the Academy lost out to the traffic jam at the town’s entrance. On our way back to Dhanaulti, we had some really nice Maggi noodles at the small Rana’s Maggi palace. The rain further added to the taste of the hot noodles.

It was Sunday the next day and we had our last Breakfast in Dhanaulti. We started our journey back to Delhi and hoped to do better than the 12 hours earlier. We decided to take a different route back via Haridwar. The journey was long and we had to stop at Haridwar after 5 hours of drive for almost 2 hours due to a massive traffic jam. We thus got the opportunity to walk up to the nearest bank of the Ganges and Neer was thrilled to get playful in the cold water of the river. Also my mother got a chance to grab some holy water in a bottle.

We started again and finally reached Delhi at midnight again. We took 13 hours this time to cover the 350 kms journey. Even better I thought than the 12 hours earlier.

Despite the toil on the expressways ( super expressways) that zipped us from Delhi to Dhanaulti and back, the city of Dhanaulti and the journey together was really memorable for all the right reasons. A chance to be in a beautiful setting, a chance to spend time together as a family and a chance to see a part of the nation called India!