Tata Harrier to the Himalayas on Trippin' with Lemon Tree Hotels
This time around on Trippin' with Lemon Tree, we travelled to the Himalayas! Our drive started off from Delhi and in our convoy was the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, a Toyota Innova Crysta and of course, our long-term test Tata Harrier. Previously, we have also visited Goa and Udaipur on our Trippin' with Lemon Tree series.
I walked out of the lobby and was assaulted by the cold. I’ve heard about the Delhi winter — how unforgiving it can be, but I always passed it off as an exaggeration. A fairytale made up by the locals to remind us Southerners how hard their lives can be. But here I was, shivering in the porch of the Lemon Tree Premier at Delhi Aerocity as I pasted sticker after sticker on the cars we would be driving north in. I couldn’t feel my fingers by the end of it. And to think we were going to be heading to the Himalayas in search of snow… gulp! I dived into the driver’s seat of our long-term Tata Harrier, cranked the heater up to the max and prayed to the mountain gods that they be kind. And they were for the most part, though film-maker Alameen doesn’t agree.
You see, Alameen thought it would be a great idea to leave his bag full of clothes in Delhi itself. He blames me, saying he was busy shooting the cars leaving the hotel for the YouTube video and assumed I’d been a good friend and put his bags in the boot of the car. But I take no responsibility — everybody knows that I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own things, and Alameen should have known better. We discovered this only once we reached Dehradun in the evening, and had to deal with a very grumpy Alameen until he could buy himself new underwear the next morning.
Not that some sulking could rain on our parade, as we had a bunch of enthusiasts that had joined us for this edition of #TrippinWithLemonTree and we were having a gala time! Aspiring auto journalists Ishaan and Vikas were joined by Alefia, an actor you may know if you’re the type that tunes into the telly every evening. The roads into Dehradun were lovely and the open highway was a welcome sight. We were in cars suited to this sort of driving too — the Harrier being our go-to long-distance milemuncher in the fleet, joined by a Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace and a Toyota Innova Crysta. The last 10km before Dehradun were particularly enjoyable, until a barricade stopped us and cops pulled us over. We needed Covid-19 negative certificates to get into the town, which thankfully, we had.
At the Red Fox in Dehradun, we were treated to an absolute feast of Garhwali food. This was a huge departure from the generic momo/thukpa affair that the mountains have become known for. From gizzard to mutton curry, and river fish to sweets that I can’t even spell in English — the spread was lavish and left me in a food coma so heavy that I decided to skip the sunrise run that the others made to Mussoorie. Speaking of food comas, the next day’s lunch was equally sleep-inducing. We were on our way to Chandigarh when we chanced upon the grand Paonta Sahib Gurudwara and ate at the community kitchen. This was my first time at a Gurudwara, and it was eye-opening to see the legendary hospitality of the Sikh community firsthand. You need food? You’ll get it. You need a place to stay? You’ll get it. No questions asked. The meal was simple — rotis, rice, rajma and cauliflower and despite the fact that it had been cooked for hundreds of people, it tasted like the meal your grandma poured her heart and soul into cooking up for you.
We reached the city of Chandigarh at sundown. The Red Fox was centrally located and that gave us the opportunity to explore some of the city and its nightlife — a gedi, to use the authentic Punjabi word. We didn’t stay out too late though as the next day, was when the magic started. The climb up to the Himalayas.
It starts with the Himalayan Expressway. Every time I visit, more of this epic road seems to have been completed and the more fun I have climbing it. Connecting Chandigarh and Shimla, it is four lanes of paradise for the driving enthusiast. You’ve still got to pass through bottlenecks at towns, and none bigger than the one through Shimla — but once you’re past them, you’re in heaven. We saw the first signs of snow just outside of Shimla. Patches of the white stuff that speckled the side of the roads, with plenty of cars (us included) pulled over to make some snowballs and have a crack at whacking our buddies in the face with them. Alameen, in his borrowed jacket and under six layers of re-used clothes, finally broke into a smile.
Climb higher and the snow gets more abundant, to the point where it formed a dangerous layer of ice over the road. The Tiguan may have had all-wheel-drive, but at no point did the Harrier feel out of its depth either. It tackled the bad roads of the Himalayas confidently and reminded us why SUVs are the best possible vehicles to road trip around the country in. This was an SUV that we had driven to Delhi all the way from Pune, and not once did it miss a beat. Planted on the highways, fun in the mountains and confidence-inspiring when the roads disappeared — while keeping us toasty on the inside no matter what the temperature was on the outside!
There’s nothing like sitting by the fire at the end of a cold day and that will have to be one of my favourite memories of this trip. We may have only spent three days on the road together, but we felt like we knew each other for years. Huddled together at the end of a long day, listening to the firewood crackle and sharing a few laughs — the cold seemed to fade into the background and all that mattered was the people we were with. There’s no better way to have spent the last few days of 2020. So what are you waiting for? Pack those bags. Map out those roads. And do it — just get out and drive.
Red Fox by Lemon Tree
We stayed at the Red Fox hotel in Dehradun and Chandigarh. Both these hotels are strategically located in these cities and make for great transit stops when heading into the Himalayas, be it in Uttarakhand or Himachal Pradesh. Red Fox by Lemon Tree are economy hotels that offer unbeatable value and reliable safety standards. They welcome you with fresh bold interiors as well as crisp, clean rooms. Here friendly smiles and a lively environment go hand-in-hand with professional service. The price range varies from Rs 1999 to Rs 3999. The Red Fox hotels are also available for Day-use for 4 & 8 hours making for a perfect pit-stop. Day use rooms starting at Rs 999. Click here to find out more about it.