Friday, 8 January 2016

Road trip - Gujrat, Diu and Rajasthan- December 2015


For a while we ride our lives.
We reflect on our thoughts.
We wander into a different world.

We chase stars.

For a while we own the dreams.
For a while we chart our destinies.
For a while we live on  wheels.

I am not sure exactly when the idea of taking a road trip was conceived in our minds.....but the passion was there lurking somewhere within.We made up our minds and decided to take up this enormous challenge this December. We had our share of set backs- Vasuki's busy professional schedule, my own health issues with a weak back and the uncertainty of kids being sportive travel companions and of course anxious set  of parents.( We thank them for being so supportive and not voicing their concerns to unsettle us.We appreciate their love and understand their concern and we in turn made sure to call them regularly to inform our whereabouts.) Great support from Gayathri, my sister-in- law for taking care on the home front.

Frenzied preparations, shopping and packing .

We did consult several blogs and road trip advice sites to gather information regarding how to pack for a long distance road trip. Team BHP blogs gave us a lot of accurate insights into several aspects like - route, packing needs etc. Moreover travelling with kids (girls)aged 11 and 9 respectively can be quite challenging if you do not take certain prior measures like emergency paediatric medical kit, adequate winter wear, eatables (safer ones) etc. We involved them in the process and the fun had just started.

Our Toyota Fortuner went in for a thorough checking and servicing and was given a green signal for a long road trip. We sat with maps, checked hotels for bookings. We are indebted to our brother-in-law Mr. Dattatreya for arranging our accommodations throughout Gujrat. Next step was to plan the itinerary for each day. We had 15 days on our hands from 20 Dec till 3 Jan. We made sure that we got adequate rest in between and the fact that we had our close families in both Pune ( Vasuki's sister Chandrika's home) and Gandhinagar ( Brother-in-law Mr.Dattatreya's house) helped us a lot.

Day 1-(20-12-2015, Sunday)

Get set go.....!
After prayers to God and goodbyes to parents we started at 6.00 a.m. in the morning and through the NICE road hit NH-4.Bangalore to Pune 865 kms.

Had packed breakfast, so saved the time. 
Took a coffee break at Cafe Coffee Day, Hubli at 11.15 a.m.

Lunched at Hotel Amar near Kolhapur at 1.30 p.m. Kids had settled in and were in high spirits. Great camaraderie was on display and we both were praying it lasts longer.

Stopped for fuel and tea at Kasagaon at 4.00 p.m. Traffic bound to Pune looked very heavy. Got delayed by an hour. Finally reached Chandrika's house in Viman Nagar, Pune at 8.00 p.m.

Day 2-(21-12-2015, Monday)

Rest Day...........! Explored the streets of Pune, had Kutchi Dhabeli and Vada Paav.

Day 3-(22-12-2015, Tuesday)

Chandrika and family joined us from Pune to Gujrat trip. Pune to Gandhinagar 683 Kms.

We started at 7.00 a.m took Mumbai- Pune Express way. Stopped at Mc. Donalds, Mumbai for breakfast, Lunch at Surat and finally took Vadodara-Ahmedabad Express way to reach Gandhinagar at 8.00 p.m. One of the best Express ways of our country. Rested at our brother-in-law's house.He was such an enthusiastic host we felt very comfortable. Fell in love with the capital city of Gujrat. Wide boulevards, plenty of green coverage, wide roads and a very well planned city.

Day 4-(23-12-2015, Wednesday)

Good Morning Glorious Gandhinagar..! Temperature that night was below 8 degree.
 Had early lunch at home and went to Sabramati Ashram.

The serene ashram on the banks of the river Sabramathi is a must visit in Gujarat, especially for kids because it recapitulates the Freedom struggle under the guidance of Mahatma. It reaffirms the visitors faith in truth and non-violence. The premises are kept very neat and clean. It certainly will leave a profound sense of patriotic zeal among the visitors. 

In the evening we visited the Swaminarayan  Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar. This is the temple which caught the world's attention when it was attacked by the terrorists in 2002.
The major attraction of the temple is the lazer and light show with musical fountain that displays amazing blend of music with technology that transports you to a different world altogether. The day we visited they played out the Nachiketha and Yamaraj story from the Upanishad. Kids enjoyed the show very much.

Day 5-(24-12-2015, Thursday)

Started from Gandhinagar at 7.00 a.m towards Rann of Kutch. Its 423 kms from Gandhinagar and about 8 hours on road. Roads are one of the best in the class.
Throughout Gujrat Highway you have the convenience of Reliance outlets which serve your refuelling and restaurant needs with clean rest rooms. Breakfast stop at Reliance Honest.

Checked in at Ryan Resorts at 12.30 p.m Bhuj.

Had lunch and left for Kalo Donger at 3.00 p.m. Kalo Donger is the highest point in Gujrat at 462 mts. It is the only place from which the panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch is possible. It is very close to the Pakistan Border, there is an army post at the top, beyond which only the military staff are allowed. In a distant mountain we spotted the proud tricolour flag fluttering. We felt very humbled in the presence of army personnel there.

Saw the sunset and statrted for Rann Utsav.
The vast and arid expanse, The Great Rann Of Kutch lies north of the Tropic of Cancer, at the top of the Kutch District. Its best approached via Bhuj, Dhordo.

The full moon is the best time of the month to see it, and we had gone there just on the full moon day ....! The moon light Rann Camel cart ride was magical. The silence of the vast expanse, though eerie at times has an ethereal appeal. All of us were lost in our own thoughts and looked at the moon and rode quietly on the camel cart.

Day 6-(25-12-2015, Friday)

Christmas Day....!
Started from Bhuj after sumptuous breakfast at the resort towards Dwarka at 10.a.m (395 kms). On eitherside you can see Marine Salt Works, India's leading salt manufacturing industry.

Covered Jamnagar and Junagarh on the way. Junagarh is the major agricultural region of the state and it is very green and fertile. On the way stopped by to admire the vibrant sarson ka khet..! 
The ultimate romantic image in the mind of Indian movie goers. Who can forget Shahrukh caressing the tresses of Kajol in that eternal love song- Tuje dekha to ye jaana sanam..........!
Or Manoj Kumar might be thinking of these fields when he lip synced to "Mere Desh Kee Dhartee, Sona Ugle, Ugle heere Moti", in Upkar.

Some pics.

Checked in at Devang Hotel, Dwarka at 5.30 p.m. Dwarka is a small city on the banks of the river Gomti. Lord Krishna founded the beautiful city and lived there the remaining years of his life until he died (according to legend) in 3102 BC.

Got dressed and left for Darshan. It was very peaceful and the almighty is dark black, true to his name. It reminds one of our Udupi Krishna. Not much of a crowd. had darshan and saw aarthi had dinner at Gopi Hotel and explored the streets of Dwarka before retiring for the day.

Photography is strictly prohibited. So could not capture the beautiful temple complex.

Day 7-(26-12-2015, Saturday)

Left for Somnath at 7.00 a.m-236 kms.via Porbandur.

On the way stopped at beach. Kids played for some time, enjoyed camel ride.......had tender coconuts and proceeded further.

Checked in at Sagar Darshan Hotel, Somnath. Had lunch at Somnath and left for Diu. 82 kms. Diu is a tiny and cozy island linked by a bridge to Gujrat's Southeren coast. It is infused with Portugese history: its major architectural landmarks include three churches and a sea front fort.

Kids enjoyed in the Nagoa Beach and we returned back to Somnath, had darshan and rested.

Day 8-(27-12-2015, Sunday)

Got up early and left for darshan st Somnath again.
The majestic Somnath Temple stands at the shore of the Arabian ocean on the western corner of the subcontinent. This is the primary jyotirlinga and one of the oldest and finds its reference in the ancient texts like Skandapurana and Bhagavata.

It has withstood the six repeated desecration by the Muslim invaders.The very existence of this temple is a symbol of reconstructive spirit and cultural unity of Hinduism.

The linga is so huge that it captivates the devout spirit.

Came back to the hotel freshened up and left for Gir.70 kms.

Reached Gir at 1.30 p.m, Had lunch at Annapurna Hotel.

Gir...........the forest of the majestic Asiatic lions. Usually we are careful not to have too much of expectations in jungle safaris because we have never run into good luck before except for a couple of times. Infact, I was quite reluctant to the idea of Gir and was pestering for change of plans.........phew I would have missed the most amazing jungle experience of my life!

Most of the trees in the forest are teak. their leaves are huge and are hardly consumed by any animal. So the forest looks rather dry and brown all over. I was still skeptical when I climbed into the open jeep safari....the guide went on and on about conservation programmes and successful breeding, tribal cooperation for the projects etc. Its amazing how dedicated and passionate these guides are.We spotted deers, sambhars, and other common jungle animals. 

Then........ Lo  Behold...! the moment came when we spotted not one but an entire pride devouring a kill. It was a nerve whacking experience. We were about 6 feet away from the pride and suddenly one of the lioness decided to check us out and started walking. Believe will understand what fear is when you are in front of the LION.

Super Successful Safari............!. Kids had a good time. Happy people. What made this a great experience is the fact that they had not had a single sighting in past couple of days and we were the lucky batch to spot.We saw many groups returning back without spotting the lion.

Left for Gandhinagar at 6.30 p.m after having tea break. Reached Gandhinagar at 2.30 a.m.-350 kms.

Day 9-(28-12-2015, Monday)

Rest day.
Gujrat Trip ended here. All of us rested well and the Fortuner went for another check up and cleaning to take on Rajasthan.

In the evening we went to Adalaj step well,a  heritage site very close to Gandhinagar.
Set in the quiet village of Adalaj, this well has served as a resting place for hundreds of years for many pilgrims and caravans along their trade routes. Built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai, wife of Vaghela chief, Veer Sinh, this five storey stepwell was not just a cultural and utilitarian space, but also a spiritual refuge. It is believed that villagers would come everyday in the morning to fill water, offer prayers to the deities carved into the walls and interact with each other in the cool shade of the well.

Said goodbye to Chandrika's family.They had to leave our company and return to Pune. Had a lovely family time with them.

Tomorrow Rajasthan.  Here we come.........!

Day 10-(29-12-2015, Tuesday)

Started from Gandhinagar at 6.00 a.m towards Jodhpur, Rajasthan.477 kms
Excited to meet my sister Priyanka who is working in Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Jodhpur!
Amazing winding roads.......clear blue skies........panoramic mountains.....early morning.......absolutely lonesome roads.......soothing music........sleepy kids in the back.....could not have asked for a better road experience. 

We both got carried away so much that even our GPS decided to take off ,so we missed the exit for Jodhpur near Abu road and nearly drove extra 150 kms into Kota National Highway towards Udaipur. Vasuki sensed something amiss because he was very sure that Udaipur never was in the way. So took a detour. By then, GPS revived and showed us the nearest route in one of the most godforsaken valley where for nearly 70 Kms ours was the only vehicle in sight. Although a little nervous, our adrenaline pumping up we were enjoying every bit of the thrill........atlast joined the NH-14 to Jodhpur. We both felt so relieved at the sight of the sign board. While refuelling, upon a casual conversation Vasuki was told by the locals that the very same road that we took was a den of  terrifying dacoits and a local DCP had been robbed just the day before.....!.Seriously we did not muster up courage to speak anything for sometime. Finally we both laughed so much at our adventure.

Reached Jodhpur around  2.30p.m. Checked in at Hotel Prateek, Priyanka joined us from there. First, she took us out for an authentic Marwari Lunch at Hotel Gypsy. Yummmmy.....but too much on the platter.

Next we went to check out Mehrangarh Fort. It stands a 100 feet in splendor on a perpendicular cliff, four hundred feet above the skyline of Jodhpur. Burnished red sand stone, imposing, invincible and yet with a strange haunting beauty that beckons. Much has been written about the citadel of the sun, for truly, it is one of the most impressive in all Rajasthan. So colossal are its proportions that Rudyard Kipling called it " the work of the giants". Today, it is acknowledged as one of the best preserved fort in India.

To understand why Jodhpur is known as "the blue city" we must reach the roof top of the Mehrangarh Fort. It is believed that the houses were painted blue on the orders of the city's foundr, Rao Jodha. Some say the colour is associated closely with the Brahmins, and the blue houses of the old city belongs to families of that caste.

Most photographed model in all of Rajasthan......!

We could not help it. The atmosphere was such. Full of royal intrigues, schemes and plots to power.It's all in the family........!

On the by lanes of the fort , groups of musicians play the tunes of the mystical deserts..........! One of them asked Tanvi (elder daughter) where we came from and she replied,"Bangalore". They murmered something amongst themselves and we were waiting...........they atlast start off the song," Chellidaruuu malligeyaaaa baaana". Oh we were awestruck at their perfect rendition and felt so proud of our language Kannada.

Our Royal selves..........!

Returned back to the city. Priyanka took us to this tiny little atrefact shop in a discreet street of Jodhpur where we came across some of the best pieces at some amazing prize. So bought some pieces. 

Had dinner at Tamarind Hotel, and retired to our hotel.

Day 11-(30-12-2015, Wednesday)

Early morning at 6.00 a.m we started for Osian Desert, 60 kms from Jodhpur. Surrounded by golden sand dunes Osian is a small hamlet which was a major trading centre on the Silk Route in 8th century AD. The Bishnoi tribals have settled here since long time and it gained notoriety for being the place where Salman Khan shot the balckbuck. Spotted desert animals like fox, deer and a desert goat.

Returned back to Jodhpur, and said good bye to Priyanka and left for Udaipur, 300 kms.
Amazing views throughout the drive. One of the picturesque roads.

Had lunch at a road side dhabha......and reached Udaipur around 5.p.m and checked in at Hotel Pannadey Palace. It was the single most sour experience of the trip.The place was quite unclean and they did not have adequate parking space. Service was horrible....! We made sure not to let this dampen our spirits.
Finally Vasuki managed after an  minor altercation to find a parking space. So parked the car and hired an auto to roam around the city.

The first spot we saw was Fateh Sagar Lake.

It is an artificial lake. Built in 1678 by Maharana Jai Singh, Fateh Sagar got its name from Maharana Fateh Singh, who later made additions to it. It is a well planned lake with 3 intake channels and an overflow channel that is usually brought into play in the rainy season.We reached there around 6.00 p.m and the lightings of the lake was simply stunning. The shore is lined with small stalls selling street food of Rajasthan. We indulged in them happily and left for our next destination.

Saheliyon ki Bari- Saheliyon ki Bari is a stunning garden gifted by Maharana Sangram Singh to his beloved Queen. The royal garden boasts of stunning marble sculptures, lush green lawns, delightful lotus pools and marble elephants. It is maintained very well. One can imagine the luxuries these royal ladies indulged in. Unfortunately it was dusk when we reached there. Despite the inevitable, we enjoyed the lightings and the fountains of the garden.

Then we went for shopping and had dinner at retired for the day.

Day 12-(31-12-2015, Thursday)

New Year Eve in Udaipur.....!

The palace complex built by Maharana Udai Singh, the City Palace and the Lake Palace on Lake Pichola is grandeur personified. A conglomeration of several buildings with towers, balconies and cupolas.......its ethereal.

 Jag Mandir

After soaking our spirits in the royal splendour, we said good bye to the city and left for Mount Abu.
Mt. Abu is a popular hill station . Jain Tmple Dilwara is another attraction. One of the finest Jain temples known for its extraordinary architecture and marble stone carvings was built in 1542 AD.
It has a fairly ordinary exterior that a tourist will not be prepared to assimilate the splendour inside.
Photography is not allowed inside the premises.

Left for Gandhinagar and reached around 8.00 p.m.
Celebrated New Year Eve by having a cozy dinner in Gandhinagar along with Dattatreya.
Started packing for the trip back home.
Rajasthan trip ends here.

Day 13-(1-1-2016, Friday)

Started from Gandhinagar to Pune at 7.00  a.m. Reached at 7.15 p.m

Day 14-(2-1-2016, Friday)

Rest day at Pune. Spent a nice time with Chandrika.

Day 15-(3-1-2016, Saturday)

Started from Pune to Bangalore at 6.00 a.m.

The last day of the had become our second home for nearly 13 days. Its that familiar bittersweet emotion that we four are feeling while driving back to Bangalore.We tried hard to cheer one another up. While explaining this simple karmic philosophy to kids we too as grown ups learnt to let go of the  finest things in life and move ahead into uncertain life ahead.

In this digital age, where life can feel much too busy and stressed, we learnt to take off and create lifetime memories for kids and ourselves. We learnt to cope, we learnt to sustain, we learnt patience and we learnt to enjoy the silent ride.
A family that travels together, learns together......!
Reached Bangalore at 8.30 in the night.

6260 kms, mountains, deserts, palaces, forts, sea, temples........stunning views.......great roads ........and memories for a lifetime!

 Home sweet home....!