honda wr-v Trail­blaz­ing ter­rain ­— III

On the fi­nal edi­tion of our Trail­blaz­ing Ter­rain se­ries, we’re off to the mighty Hi­malayas. Our jour­ney be­gins in the cap­i­tal and sees us make our way to the tourist hotspot that is Manali

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Har­ket Suchde Pho­tog­ra­phy: San­jay Raikar

Jour­ney­ing from the cap­i­tal to­wards the mighty Hi­malayas

The Hi­malayas are mag­i­cal, mys­ti­cal, moun­tain­ous, and mag­nif­i­cent. Tow­er­ing above the rest of the world, with hid­den won­ders buried deep within their val­leys and roads that are rarely tra­versed by man or ma­chine. The lat­ter is, of course, un­less you’re go­ing to Manali, one of the old­est and most promi­nently vis­ited abodes nes­tled within these mighty moun­tains. A hill-sta­tion with a his­tory that ex­tends be­yond the chron­i­cles of man and into the tran­scen­dent pages of lore, the town is of­ten draped in fog and al­ways draped in a layer of spir­i­tual mys­tique. And this was to be the des­ti­na­tion on the third leg of our Trail­blaz­ing Ter­rain se­ries, but ev­ery des­ti­na­tion needs to have a point of ori­gin and our jour­ney orig­i­nated in In­dia’s cap­i­tal: Delhi.

We com­menced our so­journ at the fa­mous Ak­shard­ham Tem­ple Com­plex in the cap­i­tal. While the tem­ple has some de­tailed ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments that bear closer in­spec­tion, a ban on pho­tog­ra­phy at the ac­tual com­plex meant we couldn’t re­ally get any close-up im­ages of what is known as the “world’s largest com­pre­hen­sive Hindu tem­ple”. We have to abide by se­cu­rity mea­sures, though, so

we swiftly moved on to an­other Delhi tourist sta­ple: Hu­mayun’s Tomb.

The com­plex that houses the tomb of the sec­ond monarch in the Mughal dy­nasty is lo­cated, as you would imag­ine, in the heart of old Delhi. Built in AD 1571, the tomb of Hu­mayun was the very first fi­nal rest­ing place of any of the Mughal dy­nasty to be built in the elab­o­rate style in the mid­dle of sprawl­ing gar­dens; an ap­proach to build­ing tombs that be­came the norm among fu­ture Mughal kings and reached its zenith with the mag­nif­i­cent Taj Ma­hal. Hu­mayun’s Tomb is also the first grand struc­ture to use red sand­stone to such a great de­gree, as it even pre-dates the Red Fort. This isn’t the only tomb in the com­plex, though, be­cause the fa­mous Pash­tun noble­man — Isa Khan Ni­azi, a prom­i­nent courtier in the Sur Dy­nasty — was also en­tombed here in yet an­other ma­jes­tic com­plex that was built nearly three decades ear­lier. All in all, Hu­mayun’s Tomb is a sem­i­nal struc­ture in In­dia’s Mughal her­itage and def­i­nitely wor­thy of a visit.

Next, we went to visit an­other his­toric yet slightly more mod­ern com­plex: Con­naught Place. Built un­der the aus­pices of the Bri­tish (hence the name) in 1933, Con­naught Place is a thriv­ing com­mer­cial hub that houses of­fices, restau­rants, and shops and has the unique dis­tinc­tion of be­ing a part of the world’s top 10 most ex­pen­sive of­fice lo­ca­tions in the world.

Delhi ex­plo­ration com­plete, we headed off to­wards the Old Grand Trunk Road and up to­wards the moun­tains. We spent that night in Chandi­garh, hav­ing left Delhi in the af­ter­noon. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, we set off be­fore sun­rise and were well on our way when the fiery star made its even­tual ap­pear­ance over the hori­zon. Soon enough, the long and open high­ways gave way to the twisties as we en­tered Swarghat. The WR-V’s sus­pen­sion and han­dling came to the fore here, with the well-weighted steer­ing and sorted ride help­ing me tackle the cor­ners with con­fi­dence and no small amount of pace.

Soon enough we had the Beas River churn­ing be­sides us as we en­tered the Kullu dis­trict, ford­ing some of the many bridges over the mighty river to stay on course

While each of the three edi­tions of our se­ries has been spe­cial in its own right, this one was, per­haps, the most en­joy­able

to­wards Manali. As we got closer to the famed hill-sta­tion, I spot­ted a lit­tle mud and stone path lead­ing down­ward and away from the high­way. Con­fi­dent in the WR-V’s off-road abil­ity, I didn’t think twice and headed off to see where this un­known path would take me. I’m mighty glad I made this de­ci­sion, be­cause that nar­row, crum­bling cat­tle path led me all the way down to the riverbed and I got to ex­pe­ri­ence the might and majesty of the gur­gling Beas up close. There were a few size­able rocks lit­tered along the path but the WR-V’s ground clear­ance al­lowed me to glide over them, easy peasy. Af­ter paus­ing to re­lax for a mo­ment or two at the river­side, it was off again, as we climbed higher and higher, stop­ping off at a few in­ter­est­ing places along the way.

The first of these was the Dhakpo She­dru­pling Monastery. A rel­a­tively new monastery, it was built in 2005 and in­au­gu­rated by His Ho­li­ness the Dalai Lama. The Monastery is on the high­way it­self and is eas­ily spot­ted. The sprawl­ing com­plex has myr­iad colour­ful el­e­ments and is built in that

The Honda WR-V has proved it­self a master in the wet, on the sand, and on muddy moun­tain trails

ar­che­typ­i­cal Ti­betan style of con­struc­tion. A haven of peace nes­tled amid lush green forests on the cliff-side, the Monastery is a fan­tas­tic lit­tle get­away where you can ex­pe­ri­ence Bud­dhist cul­ture. From here we drove past some of Manali’s fa­mous ap­ple groves and through tow­er­ing pine trees which are also a moun­tain sta­ple. We con­tin­ued driv­ing on­ward and up­ward, mo­men­tar­ily by­passed Manali to head up to­wards the Gu­laba check post on the Manali-Leh High­way. No trip to the moun­tains is com­plete with­out driv­ing along these spec­tac­u­lar curves and it would be re­miss of me not to en­joy them, even if we weren’t go­ing to cross the fa­mous pass.

By the time I was done mak­ing my run up the moun­tains and ad­mir­ing the cloud-draped peaks, dark­ness had fallen. So I headed to the fa­mous John­son’s Cafe and Ho­tel to catch some din­ner and some sleep. We gorged our­selves on a meal con­sist­ing of a wood-fire oven baked pizza and Manali’s fa­mous lo­cal del­i­cacy, rain­bow trout, and sang along to some clas­sic rock and reg­gae tunes by lo­cal leg­end Ash­ley in a stripped-down, un­plugged per­for­mance. An amaz­ing night to end what had been a mag­i­cal trip. While each of the three edi­tions of our se­ries has been spe­cial in its own right, this one was, per­haps, the most en­joy­able of the lot. For the In­dian gear­head, driv­ing up to the moun­tains is al­most like a pil­grim­age and the WR-V proved to be a wor­thy ve­hi­cle to share this jour­ney with. The car’s spa­cious and com­fort­able in­te­rior, pow­er­ful en­gine, bright head­lamps, and ad­ven­tur­eready stance make it ideal for cross-coun­try road trips such as this. The ad­di­tion of pre­mium fea­tures such as a nav­i­ga­tion-sport­ing touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and sun­roof and con­ve­niences such as dual USB ports all con­trib­uted to mak­ing this se­ries a smooth, stress-free and thor­oughly en­gag­ing one.

The WR-V has proved it­self a master in the wet, on the sand, and on muddy moun­tain trails and I will for­ever re­mem­ber our ad­ven­tures to­gether as we con­quered dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and went trail­blaz­ing through some awe­some ter­rain.

( Be­low) The in­side of Dhakpo She­dru­pling Monastery is as colour­ful as the out­side

The view from the monastery is quite breath­tak­ing

En­joy­ing some de­lec­ta­ble grub and a great gig in Manali

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