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We had to take the leap of faith and resume travel during corona times as well. For the sake of our followers as well as ourselves, we needed to figure out what precautions should we take while travelling during the coronavirus disease outbreak. We embarked on a road trip to Manali breaking our journey at Dera Bassi on way up and Panchkula on way back. Homestays of India had organised our accommodation throughout the journey, our first “dera” (camp) was at Dera Bassi Homestay. This is the initial part of our account of the road trip during corona pandemic and more pieces on our experience would follow.
Road trip during COVID
After a hibernation of half a year, the travel bug bit us again. We have already done a post about travel during corona. One of our predictions was that travellers would prefer homestays than hotels. That was rather clairvoyant we must say as homestays have been relatively busier than hotels. Homestays of India has embarked on a project – UNRAVEL TRAVEL WITH HOI. We were glad to have enrolled on this theme and took a road trip. As a result, we now have for you hands-on road trip during COVID tips.
Where to travel during COVID
We mulled on this question for some days. Given that the coronavirus spreads more in crowded places, cities were out. Further, being in open spaces was safer than enclosed areas or spaces with air-conditioning. These considerations helped us narrow down our choices to the mountains.
The moment you think of mountains in Delhi, where else would you go but Himachal Pradesh? Every nook and corner of this beautiful state is worth visiting. However, we opted for a Delhi-Manali road trip. Manali is crowded throughout the year but we were reaching on 1st October, the day Manali was being opened again for tourists after the pandemic lockdown. We envisaged this should be a lean period for this ever-popular spot.
Manali is far from Delhi. Delhi to Manali takes about 14 hours’ drive time. There are very comfortable buses and we have used Delhi Manali bus services last year. But for the sake of safety, we decided to do it the difficult way and drive up. We stocked up on hand soaps, sanitizers, masks, tissues and disposable handkerchiefs. To live up to the occasion we had Delhi-fun-dos mask too. We also carried food, snacks and ample drinking water. To minimize exposure further, we made tea and green tea and carried those in flasks along with disposable cups and cutlery. Our car had become an isolated chamber with no connection with the outer world.
Whilst it broke our hearts, we did not stop on the way at any dhaba or restaurant. We stopped twice at barren and safe spaces for stretching.
From our experience, people in Delhi were mostly wearing masks. But a couple of hours away from Delhi, masks were gradually becoming rare. There were fewer buses on the road, and that augured well for us. But there were any more personal vehicles than we had come across during our earlier road trips.
Perhaps, in order to stay safe, more people were avoiding shared transport.
Travel restrictions in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh was one of the safer states in terms of the corona epidemic. They also had strict rules such as corona negative reports and prior registration on their portal for tourists. But they relaxed the regulations from last week of September 2020. As of now, there is no travel restriction in Himachal. However, as responsible travellers, we had undergone COVID examinations and carried our negative reports for the benefit of anyone who wanted to see.
Homestay options enroute Delhi – Manali
To avoid driving continuously from Delhi to Manali, we broke our journey at Dera Bassi, a small town adjacent to Chandigarh. Dera Bassi is very close to the hills. Homestays of India collaborator Capt. Ajay Sud and his wife Chandrika live in a gorgeous bungalow here and offer few of their rooms. The Dera Bassi Homestay is very sought after among people who are visiting Chandigarh but want to stay away from the hustle-bustle of the city or are breaking their journey to and fro Himachal Pradesh.
Once we checked in, we could see why. Firstly, the place was beautifully decorated with all the gorgeous crafts the Suds have collected from all over the country. Our room was simple, yet colourful and inviting. We must mention, like a home, the washroom had all sorts of toiletries including a body spray and a nail-cutter.
What deserves special mention is the food. Cooked by Mrs Sud, it was a curated menu as they say combining various complimentary vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and dessert. Mrs Sud served sabudana vadas with evening tea and we were sold. To have a head start the next morning, we started from this homestay at about 6.30 in the morning. Notwithstanding that it was so early in the morning; Mrs Sud had packed solid brunch for us so that we were not hungry till we reached Manali, a 9 hours drive from here. We were so touched!
The Suds epitomize hospitality, something that homestays stand for. The family chatted with us and not for once did we feel that we were outsiders. We recommend this homestay for the cleanliness, décor, great food and the warmth of the hosts that make you want to believe a little more about our Indian philosophy “Atithi Devo Bhava“.