It’s often said a road trip strengthens one’s bonds with loved ones. The crux of a road trip lies in spontaneity. But that being said, a well-planned road trip works the best because most doubts are sorted beforehand.

One fine Friday morning, we pushed the gas pedal and landed at Jim Corbett National Park. The oldest national park in India lies six-and-a-half hours away from Delhi.

While Google Map says it’s merely a five-hour ride, the road condition and stop-overs will easily make this trip six hours one way. Besides, there are a few points, where you will definitely encounter slow traffic, which may increase the driving time.

Starting at right time

It was early February and the infamous winter fog of North India had bid farewell, which gave us enough confidence to start early. We started from Noida at 5.30 in the morning. The target was to start by 5 a.m., but when seven people decide to go together there is bound to be a delay. Thankfully, ours was just half-an-hour!

Route travelled

There are three ways to reach Jim Corbett National Park. These are of 282 km, 274 km and 253 km respectively. We had decided to take the last route, which takes much lesser time not because of lesser distance but since it consists mostly of highways.

However, there are a couple of toll-gates in the route. You will need to shell out Rs 150 one way for the tolls. This route runs through Ghaziabad, Dasna, Chaituli, Sikhera, Garhmukteswar, Gajraula, Joya, Moradabad, Kashipur, Basai and Ramnagar before reaching Jim Corbett area.

Every morning there is a terrific traffic jam at Hapur, thanks to its wholesale market, where truckers park on the road. However, this route bypasses Hapur.

On the way

It was still dark when we manoeuvred through Ghaziabad and hit the highway. The stretch till Hapur through NH 9 has some construction going on and one can’t drive above 50 km/hr no matter how light the traffic is.

Once you reach the Hapur Bypass road, one will suddenly see the road getting wider and can push the throttle hard. And this is where we traced the first streak of sunlight on the eastern sky. There is a speed limit of 60km/hr on this road.

At exactly 110 km after starting we were at Gajraula on NH 24, where we found a great range of options for breakfast. There were Bikanervala, McDonalds, Burger King, Haveli and many more.

All these places have hygienic toilet facilities. So this should be the first stop. However, one won’t find any roadside dhaba till Moradabad if one wants the yesteryears’ charm. Don’t rush when eating breakfast. This is part of the journey and relax as much as you can.

The next stop should be Peerumadar after Kashipur, where one will find roadside eateries. These are again good options to take a break. There are a few tea stalls with charpai where one can have tea and relax. This area is just at the beginning of Uttrakhand and one can smell the jungle already.

After Moradabad, the highway becomes a two-lane one and one needs to stay cautious. The stretch from Kashipur to Ramnagar isn’t a very smooth ride. Earlier, it used to be a nightmare, but it’s better now.

As we reached Ramnagar, the traffic jam began. To reach Jim Corbett one won’t be driving in Ramnagar for long, but the narrow lanes will eat up the time. As one crosses Ramnagar and proceeds towards the place of stay, one will suddenly encounter serpentine roads leading to the hills.

Stay attentive, one may be able to see a deer or wolf by the road. Did someone say tiger? Must be kidding! There are lots of deer that can be spotted but nothing else. If one is driving in the monsoon, be cautious ~ a lot of times rain in the Himalayas comes down on to the road as a small stream.

Choosing the right car

The most crucial aspect of a road trip is choosing the right car. When one has to drive for six hours, one needs a sturdy car with a lot of safety options. As for us, we drove a Toyota Innova Touring Sport Automatic, which came with six airbags plus a driver side knee air bag and ABS braking system. Touring Sport delivered a fuel economy of 15 km to a litre of diesel. The whole journey of 550 km should ideally cost Rs 2,400.

Pit-stops

In case one needs to refuel the car, there are gas stations every 20-30 km. However, at some points these are located at an interval of 10 km as well. In case there are other car issues, it’s a bit difficult since there are not many repair shops on the way. Decent workshops can be found only at Hapur, Gajraula, Garmukteswar, Moradabad and Kashipur. For toilet breaks, gas stations are the best.

Staying options

Jim Corbett is quite “touristy” when it comes to a place to stay. There are tons of options ~ from motels to five-star resort. We opted for a resort at Dhikuli, which is close to most of the forest gates.

Le Reserve Corbett, where we stayed, is a luxury resort at reasonable rates. The Jungle Cottages are priced around Rs 7,000 per night on most travel booking sites.

They have quite good food options and the best part is that the chef is a local villager. So one can taste traditional dishes of Uttarakhand. The Kosi River is just a 5-minute walk from this resort and one can cross the river walking for an exotic experience with fish tickling the feet.