Monday, March 15, 2010

Road to Ranikhet: return of the "Raptas"

Just to satiate your curiosity, I’ll define a ‘Rapta’ and its history first. This is a word that used to prop up a lot during the senior generation’s conversations. My father, my mother, my uncles, aunts and even my grandfather- have a story or two on this. I have to admit, my ancestors were definitely a lot more adventurous than me on the road.

A rapta was quite a predominant feature in the alluvial plains of North India. Back in those times- when bridges were still a luxury, roads often passed through flowing rivers or small tributaries. This area of loose rock with water flowing is what’s called a ‘rapta’. Picture my uncles, aunties, my mummy & party in a Fiat struggling through a river and suddenly the engine stalls as water creeps in. An army truck comes to the rescue and ties and pulls them out just before the current begun to pick up strength. Am not sure if there’s a word in the English dictionary for this as this phenomenon remains pretty much localized. The first time I experienced the wrath of this was at the Dhikala camp in the Corbett national park. I still wonder how we got through those angry waters of Ramganga river. That too with the worst possible fleet- a Daewoo Cielo and a Maruti 800. Eventually, the Daewoo had to be pulled out by a helpful 4X4 Gypsy.

The road through Jim Corbett national park

Jumping to the present: My road hungry family decided to head to Ranikhet on the Holi day. The drive was a pleasant one till Ramnagar and the peripheral resorts of Jim Corbett national park. We were quite happy with our pace. 250 Kms in 4.5 hours- on the roads of UP and Uttarakhand. Our distance was just 90 Kms away and we had a lot of the morning hours left. Then they started: raptas- ample and propping out of nowhere. Some were dry and some featured flowing water. The climb was steep and the road was miserably narrow. However, papa had just switched to Bridgestone Turanzas recently- steel plated, dry tubeless. The highly angular grooves put up a good show: both in looks as well as handling. The new tyres were a boon and coupled with the Honda engine and the ample ground clearance, we made it through all with just one undercarriage thud and a couple of pebble rumbles. I can vouch for the Bridgestones, the grip was substantial and the advantage is noticeable when you tread mixed terrains. You still wish you had a 4X4 to take on the raptas but thanks to the Turanzas, such thoughts were kept at bay. The ascent took around 3 hours and the car operated in gear 2,1 and 3 most of the time (in that order). The low end torque of the engine kept shifting to the minimum (U need to do a lot of quick shifts if you’r driving mid range power delivery cars- Accents, Ikons or Marutis). The final mileage was 14.4 KM/Litre: wonderful for such a terrain:

One of the 'Raptas'

We also came across a lot of Holi hooligans, we were caught and bore the onslaught of colors twice, escaped twice and avoided 2 drunks who wanted to kill themselves in front of our car.

Anyway, reaching the place was a reward in itself and the hotel turned out to be the icing on the cake. A heritage hotel, the Chevron Rosemond has retained most of its British era features and early 19th century feel. Though we were truly awed by the place, there was more to come the next day.

We visited the army golf grounds (definitely one of the highest), temples and spent rest of the time walking. I recommend that this be your prime activity at such places: exploring trails and the unknown peaks.


I noticed that what used to be Uttar Pradesh, was declared as the new state of ‘Uttaranchal’ and finally rechristened ‘Uttarakhand’. Also, a cursory glance at the number plates of the vehicles got my brain running in the usual direction. Cars were identified as: UK 07-xxx or UK 01-yyy. Hence I immediately messaged /called up my dear friends:


Shubham: Hey, I’ve reached UK and am doing fine.. gotta run now, will call you later..

A: ???!! (SLAM- phone disconnected from my end)

K: How? But you wer.. (SLAM- phone disconnected)


Shubham: Happy Holi, just reached UK. Roaming is killing me.

The subsequent responses:

SidV: cool! Becoming total globetrekker!

Bugga: hehe (this guy is smart)

Gogo: --- (I’ll post the response when I get one; Gogo takes a couple of days to notice a message and some more to reply)

Dash: what?!! Awesome yaar. Angrezo pe balloons mariyo J happy holi

Contact the senior generation for more exciting stories featuring the young, the old, chevys, fiats, Ambassadors and army convoys stuck in raptas..

Route map:

One way distance to destination: 330 Kms


  1. I initially thought it was about the other "rapta" which is inflicted on the face! lol!

    p.s. I also later sent you an sms asking you to get me an O'Sullivan tshirt if you were actually in the UK!!!!

  2. @Anuj.. you really sealed your comment with the last line.. :D Shubham the hotel looks mind-blasting(recently learnt of this word from Russel Peters :D)Must have been some ride.. and dude City is awesome to drive man, had first hand experience this time and i just couldn't stop driving.. :D The article as usual was very insightful and always makes me jealous as to why i dont visit the hills so often.. :(

  3. It was amazing to read about your travel experience. Ranikhet is an alluring hill station with breathtaking beauty. And with plenty of hotels in Ranikhet one doesn't have to worry about accommodation.