My wife and i decided to finally take a weekend break. 2 months of hectic work timings and pressures got me to a bursting point… in addition i needed a break from technology – no computers, processors, mobiles, laptops, emails …! Lansdowne was a name which kept cropping up frequently whenever we have planned a weekend getaway over the last year or so and we decided to take this destination up finally , added advantage that its very close to Delhi – 2 nights 3 days was the length of the trip and we got back yesterday.
People who know me know what my prime recommendation is here – yep! Driving! There are of course the usual options as well but other than driving or taking a bus the best option , from all perspectives, is talking a Train to Kotdwar which is about 45 Kms short of Lansdowne. 2 trains which run regularly are :-
Mussoorie Express – Leaves Delhi at 1015 PM and arrives at Kotdwat at 0500 AM – all days. Fare upwards of 135 INR.
Garhwal Express -Leaves at 7 AM and arrives at 1420 PM – All days. Fare upwards of 250 INR.
Driving time is between 5-6 hours. While going one was not too sure of the road surface and was a bit slow in general which put the total time at 6 hours. On the way back it was faster with the us being back in Delhi in about 5 hours. The trip, on a peppy enough car can be done in 4 hours or so. The toal distance is 260kms. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise. I did a lot of research especially on mapmyindia.com and they were off by about 40 kms. The driving can be broken into the following segments :-
1. Delhi to Ghaziabad to Meerut – The slowest segment. Both these places are very crowded, and traffic discipline is non – existent. Approx distance is about 80 kms. Driving time between 1.3-2 Hrs.
2. Meerut to Mawana to Bijnor – Once out of Meerut you can go up to 80-100 Kmph and cruise on that endlessly. The road is not as big as some of the other highways but has to be one of the best i have ever been on. Next to no traffic, excellent quality…one almost feels like it’s yours alone. Peppy stretch. Approx distance 60 kms. Max 1 hour. The Ganges is crossed shortly before Bijnor. Snaps at end of the post.
Bijnor to Najibabad to Kotdwar – Again a relatively fast stretch. A lot of small villages in this section where one needs to be careful with respect to children, cows and dogs running all over the roads.They tend to crop up once too often but not often enough to leave one frustrated. Watch out for ” out of the blue” speed breakers here , the worst kind, enough to cripple your suspension if you go over them too fast. Kotdwar is like any foot hill town – crowded, lots of traffic, no discipline. Can loose upto 30 minutes here. Total distance about 75 Kms. Driving time 1.3 hours.Snaps at end of the post.
Kotdwar to Lansdowne – One of the best hill roads ever , and the prettiest. You start climbing and continue alongside a mountain stream. The first 20 kms will take you only about half an hour but the remaining 24 or so can take upto an hour or even more. At about the 20 km mark from kotdwar one needs to leave the main highway and get onto a local road. The road is very scenic once again but the surface quality drops by 50% and the going is pretty slow…unless one has a SUV or something. My poor Wagon r only managed about 40 kmph…beyond that it felt a bit too harsh.Snaps at end of the post.
The initial 20 km’s is almost level while the last stretch is very rapid ascent to the town. The road is very narrow and expect a few acrobatics with the car if you see a bus or a similar sized vehicle coming from the front. Around the 18 km mark or so, if its a clear day, you should start seeing the taller, snow capped, Himalayan ranges , Nanda devi and so on.
Points to keep in Mind
1. Many people might suggest that after Ghaziabad one should drive to Muzaffarnagar and then to Meerut. While this route does exist , its longer by about 40 km and its not a very safe city to be driving around.
2. Total toll paid was INR 25. 15 shortly after crossing the Ganga and 14 just before entering Lansdowne.
3. There are a lot of places to eat but might be more advisable to just pack something. The journey is so short that a break is not really necessary and a few sandwiches and a bottle of water will see you through. I will not vouch for any place along the way at this point.
4. Keep the camera handy. If you are someone who loves driving then you would probably stop enough times to take some pictures. Take a look at the attached snaps – they are from various sections along the way.
5. Beware of anything and everything on 2 wheels. They have no driving etiquette and wil often consciously not let one overtake, or even start racing..
I am breaking down this trip to avoid any one post being too lengthy. Read part 2 (Will be up in a day max) for description of the town, things to do, places to stay etc