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
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