Sunday, November 2, 2008
Pune - Rajasthan (Mt Abu, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Chittor)
Start Date: 18th October 3.30 AM. End Date: 24th October, 2008 10 PM
Vehicle: Ford Ikon Flair
Pune - Thane (Ghodbunder) - Baroda (NH 8) - Ahmedabad (Expressway) - Mount Abu (Via Mehsana) - Jodhpur (Via Pali) - Jaisalmer (Via Pokharan) - Udaipur (Via Jodhpur and Haldi Ghaati) - Chittorgarh - Baroda (Via Udaipur, Ahmedabad) - Pune (Via NH-8, Bhiwandi, expressway from Panvel)
Total Distance: 2700 KMs
Number of times tank filled: 7 (@Rs. 1700 approx each time) thus the total gas cost 11900
Camera used: Nikon DSLR D40X
Date: 18th October 3.30 AM.
Route - Pune to Baroda
It was the late night of 17th October when we (I, my wife and Bro-in-law) decided to make a road trip to Rajasthan. We picked up my bro-in-law at about 3.30 AM and started with a near empty tank for Thane. To my horror, I realised that no expressway petrol pumps were working till we somehow got to Panvel and got a tank full of Petrol in my Ford Ikon Flair. Luckily the tank carried us through and my confidence in how much to run in the danger zone of tank was resuscitated.
We took a turn towards Thane and then via Ghodbunder came to a roadside Dhaba on NH-8. After a very sweet cup of tea, we were on our way. We halted at a temple (I don't remember the name but I will post later) much before Damman.
We thought of going to Damman and over shot the road to Damman by about 10 KMs, so well did a round about and entered the Union Territory with Liquor shops all around. Since Gujarat is a dry state, no wonder Damman is doing great business on liquor. Well the beach was not what I expected it to be and we ate a resort called Miramar Resort. Please do not eat there, they serve stale food with a bad attitude. It was a horrible experience, further exasperated by a rocky dry (hardly the sea in sight) beach. Well we left Damman within 2 hours of entering and got on to the NH-8 again. We drove on past Valsad and got a Kathiawadi hotel/Dhaba on the roadside just while bypassing Surat. The food (Sev Tamatar and Khichdi Kadhi) was amazing and the owner of the resort was a guy called Aniruddh. He was knowledgeable in a lot of ways and showed us his coconut farm where he produces golden coconuts. Well after the food was taken, I realised that I had been driving for about 12 Hours straight, so my wife took the wheels.
We decided to get to Baroda and the road from Surat to Baroda on NH-8 wasn't really the best one I imagined since it is still under construction so there was back-to-back traffic. Wife maintained a good 100 km/h on the highway and we were very close to Baroda when I took over again for about an hour and then felt very sleepy so bro-in-law took over the drive. He is a brilliant driver on any kind of road and we were soon "flying" at close to 130 km/h ona road that was hardly a smooth one, I think we entered Baroda at about 6 PM and started to wonder if we should take the bypass or stay over in the city. We ended up staying at a hotel (Hotel Aditi) near Kala Ghoda in Baroda for Rs. 1400 a night. The room was cozy :). Wife slept at about 8.30 PM and wasn't willing to take any dinner so the 2 of us (me and bro-in-law) found a thaali place nearby and wow what a thaali. I was stuffed so much, I thought I wont be able to walk, but we were back in the Hotel room at 10.30 PM. I crashed while bro-in-law was watching TV. His body clock is skewed since he is a manager at a BPO but I think even he slept by mid-night.
Route: Baroda - Mount Abu
We had a filling a breakfast (included in the room rent to our delight) and started off again at about 9.30 AM. We got a tank full again in Baroda and soon were asking our way back to NH-8 when someone told us to take the expressway to Ahmedabad. We were a little confused since we were not aware that there is another expressway except our own Pune-Mumbai. But well it was a ride to remember. What a road - smooth as silk - we reached Ahmedabad in about 50 minutes. A traffic cop stopped us for not having a yellow vertical marking on the headlight (as is the rule in the state of Gujarat) but let us off saying that we were outside state visitors so well, we could go on.
We were getting out of Ahmedabad to go to Mt. Abu (Rajasthan) when we came to a cross road - one going to Gandhinagar, the other going to Mehasana. We took the one going to Mehsana since our road map said thats the shorter route. Well, it was.
Great road, though some places were still under construction. The good thing was that one side of the 4 lane road was ready at all times, so the drive was full of diversions but never any discomfort. I think we entered Rajasthan at about Noon. My bro-in-law took over and then it was a fun filled ride. Rajasthan has the best roads - I tell you. How so ever small or off-route the road may be - but the roads are just amazing, truly world class, n opot-holes, hardly any speed breakers, just one long comfortable ride. Bro-in-law got us to Abu Road in a dazed blurred road side view, since he drives at a very high speed while being safe (somehow, I don't know how he manages that).
Anyways, we reached Mount Abu at about 2.30 PM, the ride to the mount was great too, the good roads going on and on. We straight went to Nakki lake and parked there. HAd lunch (Gujarati Thaali in Rajasthan :-) which we thought was a Rajasthan Thaali HA HA HA our horror). We realised it was too early to be on Nakki Lake so took off to Delwara (a Jain temple). Amazing temple in all its resplendent glory. Great art/stone work, wonderful images carved in Marble as well as Abu stone. The same temple is replicated thrice but what a delight. Luckily we also found a guide who was willing to share knowledge more than swindling us out of money for a pathetic story. He gave us a memorable tour and I will cherish that for a long time to come.
We decided to go to the sunset point but realised that the sun had already set to settled for going to Nakki lake in the evening. It was beautiful in the dark. We clicked pictures, all three of us in traditional rajasthani attire. Man, those pics are something to relish for a ling time. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions to don those clothes :). Well the pics were clicked and we went on to hire a four seater pedal boat with the 3 of us pedalling it. It was tiring but fun experience pedalling in the lake at night. There is a "Bharat Mata" temple at the edge of the lake and it was a mesmerising sight to realise that Bharat Mata could be such a serene presence overhanging the lake. We clicked pictures with that temple in the background.
It was time to find a hotel and we found a sweet hotel to stay in for the night for Rs. 1200. As a ritual we always order tea as soon as we enter the hotel room. Just before getting the hotel we found a good Rajasthani hotel (which was in the town square) and had the traditional thaali with Dal Baati. Wowwwww,,,, mouth watering even while just reminiscing the food.
Date: 20th October
Route: Mount Abu - Jodhpur
We woke up early and went to Guru Shikhar. It was a long winding drive and my bro-in-law was at home driving on such hilly terrain. Well the guide there was bad, but the place was alright, a hindu temple of Dutta.
At about 10 we started thinking we will go to Jaisalmer but ended up going to Jodhpur. We came out at Mount Abu and started going towards Sirohi. Well we reached the city and took a bypass and stopped realising that we are going back towards Abu. We had overshot the road to Pali by about 44 Kms, well we turned back :). Did double time till Pali and had lunch at about 3 PM. Amazing food again at a place called "Waves" on the outskirts of Pali. I took the drivers seat and was in Jodhpur by 5 PM. We decided to stay the night in Jodhpur (it was not in our plan). It was a good choice, we went shopping in Jodhpur, saw the City Palace (its 40 years old and made as a copy of Vidhan Sauda in Bangalore. It was a beautiful venue to chill out. We ended up hunting for Rajasthani food and came back to our own hotel and had a marvelous meal - the best food in the whole trip. Daal Bati in lots of Ghee, a local veggie called "Sangri", great paneer and wonderful Gulab Jamun. With our stomach's full, we called it a day and slept off while watching TV in the night. Of course we had tea once we were back at the hotel :).
Date: 21st October
Route: Jodhpur - Jaisalmer
Well, got up early and ordered some tea. Freshened up and got on to the road again. We took towards Pokharan and there came a point when the road became a fork =- one towards Bikaner and one towards Pokharan. The road started with some amazing scenery onthe roadside and we halted for some quick snaps. Some kind of desert mounds with one single bush at the top of it. Each mound must have been about 13-20 ft high. It was a man made ditch with soil taken away but the mounds were left by some nature loving man so the bushes would survive, I will post pictures of that. We went on one of the smoothest roads till Pokharan and had late breakfast there at about 12 Noon. The waiter offered to make Churma of Bajre ki roti (with gud/jaggery in plenty of ghee - what a delight it was). We started thinking of ourselves as lucky and proud at a place where India conducted its nuclear test. It was a magnificent moment to having passed through a national heritage.
Well we were in Jaisalmer at about 2 and our hunt for a desert safari started. Some said Rs. 5000, some said Rs. 3500 for a 3 people extravaganza in the sand dunes. We were offered stay in huts/tents with folk dance, local food dineer, camel rides on the sand dunes, and many more niceties. Well, we ditched them all and went straight to Sam Sand Dunes (pronounced as SUM). This is the last village before Pakistan Border, we of course went as close we were allowed to in Sam Village and beyond till it started to get a little scary with people not looking/dressed like Indians at all. The local landscape was really foreign to our psyche, probably because it was starting to get a little late in the afternoon and everything was deserted.
We came back to Sam Sand Dunes and got an amazing deal for Rs. 1500 for the whole package, so yes we had the camel ride, the tent stay, the authentic (what a farce) food and local dance (another damp squib). This is probably the most hyped tourist spot I have been too. The sand dunes are really barely a couple of square of kilometeres. Nothing like the pictures which showed as if its unending sand beyond Jaisalmer. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience to look at the clear sky with as many stars as there are, clearing looking at the milky way and noting our insignificance with solemn silence. It was breathtaking to be in the desert in the night.
Date: 22nd October
Route: Jaisalmer - Udaipur
We started at 4 AM from Sam Sand Dunes and hit the road to Udaipur, actually not knowing or realising how long a drive thats going to be. But we reached Pokharan at 7 AM and had tea. We also got a petrol tank full here. On the way to Pokharan, we saw the pale red/Orange sunrise and had the fortune to witness some wild life with large deers and hyenas and peacocks aplenty. Bro-in-law was driving at breakneck speed upto Pali (via Jodhpur bypass) and I took over from there after some light lunch at a very shady roadside dhaba (swore never to just stop anywhere for experience sake he he he). We were to join a highway after Sirohi but someone told us a parallel route to Udaipur via a treacherous village road. I must have cursed that person which wasnt nice of me but nevertheless we were in complete agony since the speed was reduced to an average of 30 km/h. We kept seeing signs of Haldi Ghaat and never knew when it went by. We hit a highway and logic said take a right so we did. The road was like an expressway and so we went about 15 kms before realising we are going the opposite direction LOL. As always wife was furious at our stupidity but me and bro-in-law laughed at it and turned back. The road to the Udaipur local road was amazing but the ordeal started once we hit the local road, it wasnt the best and it went through a village again, we were in Udaipur by about 3 PM and started looking for a cheap hotel to spend the night. Our luck was really smiling at us and we found "BABA PALACE" right in 36 Chowk (Chhattis Chowk) which is at the doorstep of the palace and Jagdish mandir. We took a room for Rs. 900 and had some food (of course with tea). We strolled out to the palace at about 5.15 PM and got ourselves into the palace, it was magnificent. We have no idea of the Udaipur geographyu and soon we were staring wwstraight at the Jal Mahal, the same lake palace that the Tata's run now as a star hotel. Well we sat down, gulped some beers down took a thousand pictures of the beautiful city. We realised why the Raja/Rana must have made the lake palace. The sunset was refreshing and the mountain range mystifying (or may be i was drunk - just kidding). The palace itself was awash in lights and beautiful music. An experience that would stay with me forever. We went to the local market and gelled with the hustle bustle of the city. Had some ordinary dinner and picked up a fight with a auto rickshaw wallah. The police was helpful and we got to the hotel unscathed. While coming to the hotel, I had some Rabdi (milk thickened with continuous stirring over a mild flame, with some bengali mithai). Sleep came hard and very quickly. I have no recollection of anything for that day trust me once I had once closed my eyes probably to blink but opened only the next morning.
Date: 23rd October
Route: Udaipur - Chittorgarh - Ahmedabad - Baroda
Well we were up at 8 AM and fought over what to do next. We decided of going to Chittor which was just 120 KM away. So checked out and came out in the galli. Immediately our noses picked up the aroma of fresh samosas (they are the best samosas I have had in a long time). So I had 3 samosas, some poha and very well prepared tea (chai). We set off, got a petrol tank full, checked the tyre pressure, which surprisingly never changed throughout, so my 50000KM old MRF ZVTS (with tubes) tyres were humming along just great all along. We hit the expressway (sort of a toll road) and were in Chittor at about 12 Noon.
We saw the Museum getting amazed at the size of the arms the great Rajput warriors must have wielded. We saw the Jain temple, another piece of similar reconstruction of the Mount Abu Delwara. Then we saw the Vijay Stambh which is an awe inspiring tower to look at. Next we saw the palace used by Rani Padmini. On the site, we also saw the Meera Mandir, this is where Meera came and sang bhajans on her love for Lord Krishna. Amazing really. Bro-in-law bought some guides and a road map of India :) here at Chittor, what a place to buy those things but it was a great steal of a deal he he he and he is the adventurous kinds so well you can imagine.
Next we headed out of Chittorgarh and were soon on our way to Ahmedabad on a beautiful stretch of a National Highway (the good old NH-8). We halted just after bypassing Udaipur and had lunch, not an experience worth recounting but the food was impartant at this time, almost 3 PM. We hummed along on the long winding road to Ahmedabad and were in Ahmedabad city at about 7.30 PM. We went to the Law Market and wife went on a shopping spree, we bought some clothes, chaddars etc. We realised that Pune offers more variety in Rajasthani and Gujarati clothes, we needn't hunt for those in these places he he he.
Well we were recommended to eat at Sasuji (some name for a thaali diner LOL) for authentic gujarati thaali. The thaali cost about Rs. 150 each and we ate / hogged. We thought we will stay over at Ahmedabad but found ourselves driving on the expressway to Baroda to reach there ultimately at about 12.30 AM (mid night is not th ebest time to reach any hotel trust me). This was the same hotel (Hotel Aditi) where we stayed while coming to the trip. Seriously we were too spent to do anything so ritually had tea and slept at about 1.30 AM.
Date: 24th October
Route: Baroda - Bhiwandi (Thane) - Pune
Well had a full breakfast and started for Pune. We filled petrol & Bro-in-law took the drivers seat and zoomed of in typical fashion. You must watch him drive, he is like a pilot in a cock fight in a air force Sukhoi plane LOL, tremendous control and great driving trust me. He drove us till about Valsad (it could be Vaapi, I don't remember much). We stopped at a Kamat's restaurant and had our fill of Punjabi Thaali, South Indian Thaali and Dosa. I took off then and the road was good till we entered Maharashtra, we couldn't believe that the roads could be so bad. Well we drove on till a sign said that its the way to Thane. Well we ended up in Bhiwandi and the sad roads became no-roads till we hit the expressway (to Pune) in Panvel about 90 minutes later. Its a road that I would like to forget, worst nightmare ever. I couldnt imagine why they collected toll on that road but well what to do. We reached Pune at about 9.30 PM and had food at McDonalds at Aundh, Pune.
So far so good, well not really. We dropped my bro-in-law at Aundh where he took his Maruti Baleno and joined us to home at Yerwada/Vishrantwadi. But at Khadki signal, he was hit by a City Bus (PMC Lal Dabba) and we were there till Mid-night with him, the bus and the police. It was a funny incident and his car is getting repaired for dents even as write this.
The take-away from this road trip - Everyone must take a road trip to Rajasthan, its simply beautiful. Ford Ikon Flair is a great car. Happy Diwali 2008 to all of you.