Driving my Porsche Macan to a 4850m-high mountain pass, the Bara-lacha

I relied on the IOCL outlet finder but the fuel station that it showed was under renovation.

BHPian gyanbaba recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

The kids’ summer holiday had almost passed and I couldn’t plan a decent trip to anywhere. I am using the term ‘decent’ because travel to weekend getaways like Rishikesh, and Nainital were not considered as a trip at all. I was being abused, mentally tortured, and cursed for wasting the entire May and almost 3 weeks of June. Kids wanted Goa… but my heart zinged for mountains, as always.

Besides, leaving behind this beauty in the garage, who would want to fly?

Luckily, Covid was in limelight again and so elders said no to any flights. Ultimately, I won with a promise that this time, our trip would be special. So, the agreement was that we do a road trip to the mountains, specifically exploring Lahaul, in our beautiful Porsche.

Oh, wait! Our companion was not the Bubble-Bee:

But the Lovely Night Fury:

  • Where to: Gurgaon -> Bilaspur -> Manali -> Keylong -> Jispa -> Baralachala Pass and return.
  • What did I drive: Porsche Macan 2022 (My Night Fury)
  • Travellers: Me & Wife, our 10 years daughter and our 6 years son
  • Duration: Not decided initially but ended up doing 7 days and 6 nights
  • How much did I spend: INR 60,000 (approx.) (Wife and Kids’ shopping extra)
  • What is the cost break up: Petrol = INR 17000 (approx.); Stay = INR 29000/-; Food = INR 8000/-; Local sightseeing: 3700; Toll = INR 1400+ (It’s too tough to log on and track expenses on fastag portal)
  • What was the plan: Carried my laptop meant could handle anything urgent. But was on official 7-day leave.

Planning

People are somewhat skeptical about driving their such prized possessions in the rough terrains, and so was I. Bad patches are one thing… Bad roads are one thing, we find swept away roads and even boulders on the highways beyond Sissu. That is why the route requires a strong car and even stronger willpower.

Also, finding high octane fuel (95 Octane minimum) was a challenge in Himachal. Manali-Leh highway is infamous for the challenges and surprises. Don’t even expect a mechanic who knows Porsche. There are no phone signals beyond Darcha means we needed the stars to be on our side.

It was our Night Fury’s maiden trip to the Himalayas. I was familiar with the route and I already had a ‘season-based’ checklist to stick to.

However, this time, the planning was a bit different. We had certain concerns. Our Night Fury was an attention seeker. So, had to find a hotel on the highway, with decent parking space. The Manali hotels’ prices were on fire, as if they are trying to extort money to make up for their losses during Covid times.

Few things I learned on this trip

  • Don’t believe the prices on famous sites like MMT or Goibibo. Try calling the hotels to negotiate the price.
  • Avoid opting for MAP plans; i.e. avoid paying for lunch and dinner in advance. You will find better food when ordering Ala-carte items.
  • There are limited fuel stations beyond Chandigarh that could dispense premium fuel. So, better to install apps like IOCL locator; plan the fuel stations and add their locations in Google maps as favourites.

Packings were done well in time. Checked Accuweather to plan for the contingencies but three crucial things, I missed; (i) Goggles (ii) Sunscreen (iii) Diamox. Please consider these things as most important while travelling to Manali and beyond.

On the 21st night, for the first time, the kids themselves scheduled alarms for 4 in the morning and went to bed without any hiccups.

Day 1

  • Distance Travelled during the day: 356 Km
  • Time taken: 10:00 hours (Start time: 05:00 am to 03:00 pm)
  • Route taken: Gurgaon – Delhi – Ambala – Kharar – Roopnagar – Kiratpur – Swarghat – Bilaspur

So, the fun begins on June 22, 2022 at 5:00 am, from Gurgaon!

Murthal is considered a heaven for the Paratha lovers but somehow I don’t find it worth the hype. I don’t crave for parathas at most famous dhabas like Amrik Sukhdev or Mannat.

I found their food quality to be below average. And the maddening crowd there means to get an empty table, you have to stand and stare into people’s plates while they finish. So, we skipped the crowdy places to reach Haveli.

It has ample parking. And because this place is reachable via a service lane means less crowd. The place showcases a glimpse of the rich history of Punjab. I noticed a picture of the famous Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh among the other dignitaries. The Paratha was way better than the typical ones we get a Murthal dhabas.

It was 9 am now. Got the boost and it was time for an uninterrupted drive till Kharar.

And came a light drizzle that added sparkle to the nice weather.

Finding premium fuel could be a daunting task (Our plan was to top-up XP95) so we had shortlisted one fuel station in Kharar and the next one near Pandoh, in Mandi.

It was around 10:30 am, had to struggle a bit in the traffic to cross the Kharar Bus Stand and then the traffic was smooth. Between Gurgaon to Kharar, I couldn’t breach 95 kmph. It was pure injustice to the Porsche. So, here comes Kurali Bypass. I pressed the Sports mode and… oh wait! the traffic looked no different than the Kharar one. So, I had to stop my urge. The drive was monotonous till Kiratpur Sahib and then we feel the hills. Driving on the Kiratpur Sahib-Bilaspur Stretch is an experience in itself. Truck Truck here and truck truck there, here truck, there truck, here there truck-truck, and you take a pass in between those trucks!

But we were in no hurry. Here are some clicks:

My son:

Going forward, around Swarghat, the traffic was blocked for road repair. All this meant that while I was in Swarghat at noon, I could manage to reach HPTDC Lake View, Bilaspur by 3 pm, calling it a day! This place has been my favorite stoppage on this route. Reason? Let the pictures speak.

Saying thank you to our beloved Night Fury!

The next day was going to be an exciting one for sure!

Day 2

  • Distance Travelled during the day: 356 Km
  • Time taken: 5:30 hours (Start time: 06:30 am to 12:00 pm)
  • Route taken: Bilaspur – Sundernagar – Pandoh – Aut Tunnel – Kullu – Manali

Woke up by the morning bells of the Balaknath Temple, nearby. It was around 5 am. It was an HPTDC hotel means couldn’t expect tea at the moment. So, pulled a chair out and sat in the balcony; watching the serpentine Satluj and the reins of the old temples of Bilaspur that usually disappear after the monsoon.

It was a divine experience and I wanted to enjoy every moment. Soon the kids woke up and I had a fallback into my real world. So, we got ready. Billing was done last night so no pending action items for me. Took some parting shots and we were back on the road by 6:30 am. The town still looked sleepy and we planned to have our breakfast at Dillivala Chawla on the highway in Sundernagar.

The enjoyment was almost ruined as the son complained of acidity and a feeling to vomit. He has a habit of standing during most of the time, which is not advisable on these curvy roads. Also, it depends on the driver how sooner or later he makes the passengers puke.

We parked aside, gave him some dry nuts, and water, and had him walk a bit. Meanwhile, it was photo time for the Night Fury.

The kid felt better and then we resumed. I was driving around 30-40 kph, that too in a Porsche. Still, he started complaining again in 5 minutes.

Suddenly, I got an idea! Opened the sunroof which made them feel a bit better.

We skipped Chawala Dilivala because it was too crowded and I didn’t want to park the Night Fury on road. We decided to stretch till we reach Pandoh.

I gave the kids a task to look for any Indian Oil fuel station with XP95 and they were on a prowl. I missed a few even when they shouted XP95.

Had some maggie and omelette on a random Dhaba and we proceeded to our dream drive.

Mandi Bypass could be an ideal place for testing the adrenaline rush. I pressed the Sports button again and Night Fury growled in joy. But, the joy lasted for a few seconds only. The number of hotels and traffic on this road has significantly increased. And there were tractors/trolleys coming from the wrong direction. So, I had to stop my urge.

I relied on IOCL’s outlet finder that showed the last XP95 outlet at Pandoh (Ms. Pandoh). But I was wrong! The referred outlet was under renovation means it was a setback for us. If you want XP95, here is the last petrol pump on this route: FV25+X3R, NH21, Purana Bazar, Sundar Nagar, Himachal Pradesh 175019. Anyways, Night Fury still showed a range of 500+ kms, so we were safe.

Here are some of the random pics during the drive:

We reached Manali by noon. Surprisingly, there were no roadblocks or traffic jams that we had witnessed on previous trips. The roads were butter-smooth except for a few patches near Aut Tunnel.

We stayed at Hotel River Grand (Previously, Grand Crescent). It is an old property with decent parking space and an apple orchard at the backside. There was a play area means the kids were super-happy. The room was river-facing, big, and cozy. @6.7K per-night charges were a bit on the higher side because of the peak season.

In the next hour; we had lunch, got ready, hopped into a cab, and rushed to Mall Road for the usual shopping spree. It was 23rd June and had never felt Manali so hot and humid. Even Delhi’s weather two days back, was much better.

Left Night Fury to rest in the parking area as her Magic Moments were supposed to be coming in the next few days.

A magical moment two days later:

Continue reading about gyanbaba’s road trip for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

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