A so-called-conference brought me to Rome.
It was a chilly mid-February and we had completely underestimated the weather. Further, I had never been close to this land on the globe so was clueless in any sense of direction. I was advised to carry heavy woollens along with caps, muffler, gloves and the works. And I kept thinking – what the heck, so what if I feel a little more cold, I’ll just live through it. Boy! I was wrong!
Amidst the chill and coastal winds that hover above the city, we managed to cover the most of it. Rome, or (rrrr)Roma – as they call it in Italy, is a city with many facets. The city of love, the city of ROMAnce, the city of water, the city of architecture, the city of history, the city of food, the city of art, the Eternal City, the Open City, the city of you-name-it!
After visiting Udaipir we headed towards the UT Daman. The distance from Udaipur to Daman via Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat & Vapi is around 600 km on NH-8’s excellent tar, a 9-10 hours journey including one hour break. We decided to start by 7 am to be on the HW without much hassles and so we did. On the throughout 4-lane, driving was a delightful experience especially when you compare it with driving around Delhi-NCR.
Soon we were back on the brilliant NH-8 through the Ghats with so much of greenery that never for a moment we realized of being in Rajasthan so far. This part of the state is far much greener due to sufficient rain and water reservoirs both natural and artificial, supported with the charming ghats of Aravali range to an extent. Our excitement accrued when it suddenly started drizzling leaving the space around fresher and greener, wet with the fresh water. Only drawback was slowing the pace for enjoying the cool moist breeze carrying fragrance of soil, on sliding down the window panes, added few extra minutes reaching Daman however, the nature’s gift in bargain was much worth.
Leaving the greenery of the ghats, we were on the arid plains when we caught sight of an old fort looking structure near Dungarpur far on the right, on top of a hill, probably a part of the Dungarpur ruins but my extra zoom camera easily brought it closer in the frames. Further, soon we found an almost abandoned check-post, followed by a fort shaped gate mentioning end of Rajasthan border and a big sign board welcoming in Gujrat. A spontaneous thrill exhilarated the enthusiasm, realizing the fact that we are actually doing the unusual long journey and already drove so far. I recalled at this point, of the recent brilliant post on Gujrat by Mr. Rakesh Bawa and expected a scheduled check before checking in to Gujrat. To my surprise, despite of a Delhi plate, none bothered us and to add on this, it never happened in my 6500 km drive to almost every nook and corner of Gujrat by crossing its borders many times.
Ruins of Dungarpur
There was a meeting in Mumbai on 8th & 9th Nov’13 and my wife wanted to visit Shirdi thus begun the hunt. My ghumakkar mind was thinking beyond, how well if we can travel around the coasts of entire west after the meeting is over. Road maps are always a weakness to me hence, long hours browsing the roads along the coasts of Gujrat from Surat onward was tempting me to do the unusual job of driving 6000 + km but that was not going to be approved by any one so, I decided to share my ideas in episodes. I talked to my wife of the road journey upto Ahmedabad with a night at Chittorgarh and then fly to Mumbai for the meeting after which a bus to Shirdi and then back to Ahmedabad and after visiting some places in Gujrat by local buses, we will drive back to Udaipur and via Ajmer to Delhi, thus only a 2000 km drive. With hesitations she agreed and I was confident to manage the rest on the way.
On 5th Nov’13, we started at 7.30 am after the ritual of Bhaiya Duj performed by my wife because her brother lives nearby. A cool morning with least traffic through the brilliant roads on NH-8, we crossed Jaipur on Ajmer HW. A road from Chandwaji turns left on Ajmer bye-pass surprisingly with no signboard showing direction for Ajmer instead, a board of Mahindra World City is prominently fixed showing direction towards the left and a small portion on the right shows straight for Jaipur 45 km, so make sure to turn towards Mahindra World City for escaping the Jaipur mad crowd for going direct Ajmer or Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ahmedabad etc. Another landmark is a large Motel in the name of Hotel Country Touch on your left just prior to the left turn.
I had never heard of Majuli until Nandan told me that it was the “largest river island in the world” and we have planned for a one night’s stay after Kaziranga, about which I had written in my previous story on Kaziranga National Park. We didn’t know what to expect from the Island of Majuli and I quietly told myself that we will think of crossing the bridges when they come.
But then curiosity took the better of me and I found myself browsing at the net for Majuli. The more I learnt about the island, the more curious I became. With its ancient history, vaishnavite culture, agricultural economy and wetland ecosystem, I somehow knew that once we reach at its ethereal green banks, we’d never be the same again. And then the D-day came. It was the early morning of February 28,2013 and after finishing a quick breakfast, we were all set for heading towards Majuli. The day happened to be the festival of colors – Holi. Pihu our seven years old granddaughter, though normally a very understanding child, somehow became insistent that we must play “Holi” before heading for Jorhat. Luckily the staff of the resort presented us a small packet of “Gulal” and we put a small “tilak” on each other’s forehead and gulped some sweets to mark the occasion.
The driver of Sumo had already arrived. The two hour journey on NH 37 to Jorhat’s Nemati Ghat (also pronounced as Neamati Ghat) from where we were scheduled to get a ferry for Majuli was simply spell-binding, with both sides of the road fully covered with lush green tea plantations sprawling for miles. I believe Assam produces more than half of the tea produced in India and the area that we were passing through headed towards Jorhat, which is called the “Tea capital of the world”. It was simply stunning to see the workers watering the plants and picking tea leaves and putting in the huge baskets they were carrying on their backs.
Price List, includes Royal Bengal Tiger
जयपुर पर्यटन के लिये जाना, और आमेर दुर्ग की यात्रा ना करना, कुछ असंभव सा है | जब से पर्यटकों की वरीयता सूची में राजस्थान का नाम शुमार हुया है, आमेर का यह अम्बर किला और इसके आसपास का क्षेत्र और समीपस्थ स्थित कुछ अन्य किले और दुर्ग ना सिर्फ जयपुर अपितु पूरे राजस्थान की शान बनकर उभरें हैं | यहाँ यह भी जानना दिलचस्प होगा कि कभी राजस्थान की राजधानी जयपुर न होकर आमेर ही थी, परन्तु पानी की कमी और बढ़ती जनसंख्या के दबाव के कारण जयपुर का निर्माण किया गया | और फिर, देखते ही देखते जिस जयपुर को आमेर के एक कस्बे के रूप में विकसित किया गया था, वही आमेर, कालान्तर में केवल 300 साल पुराने जयपुर का ही एक कस्बा भर बन कर रह गया | आमेर, जिसका अपना इतिहास ही लगभग 1100 वर्ष पुराना है, अपनी हवेलियों, बुर्जों, जलाशयों, मंदिरों, बावड़ियों, छतरियों और मेहराबों के लिये जाना जाता है | आमेर में ही स्थित अम्बर फोर्ट, अपनी निर्माण कला और वास्तुकारी के कारण देश-विदेश के पर्यटकों में अत्यंत लोकप्रिय है | जयपुर से करीब 11 किमी दूर और जयपुर-दिल्ली राष्ट्रीय राजमार्ग पर स्थित, राजा मान सिंह द्वारा निर्मित यह किला सन 1592 में बन कर तैयार हुया | यूँ तो राजस्थान अपने अनेक किलों के लिए मशहूर है, पर आमेर का यह किला उन सभी मे से, अपनी विशालता, भव्यता, बेहतरीन नक्काशीकारी और वास्तुकला के कारण अपना एक विशिष्ट स्थान रखता है | लाल रंग के सैंडस्टोन पत्थरों और संगमरमर के प्रयोग से, अरावली की एक ऊंची पहाड़ी पर, मोठ झील के करीब बना ये किला और इसके चारो तरफ का लैंडस्केप इसे अपने आप में ही अनुपम सौन्दर्य बोध देता है | इसे एक पर्यटक के रूप में देखते हुये निश्चित रूप से आपको इसके अप्रितम सौन्दर्य बोध का सुखद एहसास होता है |
आमेर फोर्ट का मुख्य प्रवेशद्वार