After rolling smooth on excellent NH-8 & NH-8E, more than 4000 Kms in 11 days, we were bit skeptic about the condition of the State Highways towards Kutch. Dwarka to Bhuj via Jamnagar and Dhrol is around 420 km on SH-6 and via Porbanda and Rajkot on NH-8B is around 520 km. A bit confused, hence enquired the road condition on SH-6 from taxi drivers and tour operators to avoid 100 km extra plying. To our satisfaction, it was apprised by most that the SH-6 is quite well maintained due to access to the Oil City, Jamnagar. The India’s two largest private players in oil segment viz. Essar and Reliance are situated in Jamnagar at Vadinar and Khavdi respectively.
On the 13th day of our road-journey at 6 am, after bowing to the Lord of Dwarka, we started our journey driving along the banks of River Gomti to Rajkot Road. After few kms on Rajkot Road, a left turn on a single link road leads towards Khambhaliya on SH-6. The track was though single but hassle free. Passing by few villages, we reached Khambhaliya in no time. Khambhaliya to Jamnagar is a four lane state highway which is perhaps due to the oil companies referred above. At Khambhaliya, we stopped at a small eatery, which is rarely found on Gujrat roads. While chatting with the locales, we confronted an employee of the Forest Department. He informed about a Marine Sanctuary in Jamnagar, which is perhaps the only of its kind in India. He also insisted to visit the Khichadiya Bird Sanctuary located at 10 kms from Jamnagar. The proposal was too lucrative, hence we decided to visit both and stay back at Jamnagar.
To my surprise, I didn’t find any sign boards or indications on the road to reach the Marine Sanctuary, which was supposed to be 45 kms prior to reaching Jamnagar. More surprising was that none on the way could understand when we enquired about the Marine Sanctuary. In the process we paid thrice on the same toll booth by crossing again and again in search of the destination. Let me mention, the toll rates are much higher in Gujrat than in any part of the country. We paid Rs. 80/- each time, thrice, interestingly there was no provision of to and fro tickets. Irritated, yes! I was very upset with the hyped tourism propaganda of Gujrat. We decided to drop the idea of staying at Jamnagar, when finally I noticed a Forest Office on the other side of the road. Stopped the car, walked through the road and visited the office. The Ranger was luckily available and the gentle man, Mr. Thakkar, guided to turn right towards Vadinar and the sanctuary is located another five kms towards right from Vadinar at Narara. He further informed that the timing of visiting the Marine Sanctuary is upto 10 am only after which the entire Mangrove is inundated due to high tides. It was 10 am by then, hence we decided to stay at Jamnagar and visit the Bird Sanctuary rather and explore the Marine Sanctuary next morning by driving 55 kms on opposite direction.
Jamnagar Refinery Compiled from Wikipedia
Compiled from Wikipedia
We all had a very sound sleep and woke up refreshed on the early morning of 26th March 2014. After a quick breakfast on day 2, we headed for Mount Abu. The drive to Mount Abu was great, roads were top notch and through small mountains. To the delight of kids there were few tunnels as well.
No one in sight on the way to Mount Abu
We reached Mount Abu around 12:30 pm and it appeared like a ghost town. We knew this was off season and will get discounted hotel rooms even up to 50%-60%. We selected a decent hotel with lot of open space. Again there were around 10-12 points to be covered but we decided to cover a few of them and spend quality time there. Another quick lunch and off we were to the first point. Guru Shikhar is the highest point in Mount Abu and Rajasthan and is about 18 km from Mount Abu town. Mount Abu is on the border of Rajasthan and Gujarat and from Guru Shikhar one can view both Rajasthan and Gujarat. After the 18 km drive, there are steps to the top (something like Vaishno Devi) with shops on both the sides. There was a 360 degree view from the top and a small temple.
On climbing a few steep steps the passage suddenly opens up into a huge square shaped courtyard with intricately embellished sandstone walls and windows with elegant latticework. The upper floors are adorned with resplendent cenotaphs wherefrom superb views of river Betwa passing along the reserve forest beckons wanderers with unfailing charm. We are in ‘Jehangir Mahal’, indisputably the most imposing palace in Orchha. In the nearly forgotten capital of mighty Bundela Rajputs, this beautiful but unkempt monolith stands testimony to a sordid tale of Mughal India. Abul Fazal, the great scholar and one of the nine jewels in Emperor Akbar’s royal court has never kept his disaffection about Salim’s meandering ways a secret and harboured serious reservation for the empire’s future on his accession to Mughal throne. Salim therefore hatched a conspiracy with Vir Singh Deo, the Bundela chieftain and got Abul Fazal assassinated in Bundelkhand in circa 1602, during the scholar’s return journey to Agra from the Deccan. Subsequently Salim accessed the throne and assumed the title ‘Jehangir’ and also crowned Vir Singh as the King of Bundelkhand. On his part, Vir Singh constructed this fabulous palace where Emperor Jehangir stayed during his visits to Orchha. It was a win win situation for both conspirators, only the Indian history lost the great author of “Ain-I-Akbari” at a pre mature age of fifty one only.
To get a perspective, there were multiple reasons of doing a family road trip:
- Having denied my 10 year old twins an opportunity to go on excursion with their school
- After so many road trips in US, I was etching to go on another
- Give insight onto Indian history to the young ones
I started planning for the trip a couple of months before and decided on Rajasthan since it had all the aspects that we wanted from a trip. The best preparation was to read few blogs on ghumakkar and identify the places etc. After some research and my childhood memories I decided on visiting Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Mount Abu, Ajmer, Jaipur. All of us – me, my wife (Teena) and our 10 year old twins were very excited to begin this journey and just couldn’t wait.
I scouted various sites for hotels and attractions at all these places and tripadvisor.in was one of the good sites apart from our very own ghumakkar J. Day wise planning was done using google maps so as to break down the journey into near equal parts. After many discussions and disagreements with Teena I somehow managed to convince her with the following itinerary (with approx. distance):
- Day 1 600 km: Delhi – Chittorgarh, site seeing and stay at Chittorgarh
- Day 2 300 km: Chittorgarh – Mount Abu, site seeing and stay at Mount Abu
- Day 3 200 km: Mount Abu – Udaipur, site seeing and stay at Udaipur
- Day 4 400 km: Udaipur – Ajmer – Jaipur, site seeing at Udaipur and Ajmer
- Day 5 280 km: Jaipur – Delhi, site seeing in Jaipur
Last December, I spent a fortune diving from 10000 ft- something like 1000 Rs every second. Skydiving is an amazing adventure sport everyone dream about, but only few venture out to perform actual dive. When I learnt that Skydiving was happening in Mysore, I was tempted to give it a try, but was taken aback by the price. A tandem jump sets you back by about 30k. Though it sounded expensive, I made up my mind and signed up (If you wish to understand why, read second half of this article)
There’re 3 types of jumps- Static or solo jump, which involves jumping from 5000 ft with no freefall, tandem jump, which involves jumping from 10000 ft with an instructor, with about 30-40 seconds of freefalls and AFF, which involves diving in groups and controlling our chutes on our own.
I opted for tandem jump. On the assigned day, I reached Mysore airport. Staff from Kakini enterprises, organizers of the skydiving arrived later. There were about a dozen participants that day and my turn was at the end. That day’s group had few air force personnel and some adventure seekers like me. Those performing static dive had to undergo training previous afternoon and clear a test that morning, before instructor felt confident that they’re good to go. (Static dive is done without instructor, hence students should be familiar with emergency operations). A small Cessna would take participants up, one at a time. Watched others dive and eagerly waited for my turn. After each dive the parachute is repacked and readied for next jump.
By Mid day my turn came, all decked up in a red suite we boarded the cessna. My instructor, Rajan, demonstrated how to step out of the plane when in mid air. Another instructor got on board to record the precious life moments of my dive. Fitted with a goPro and a video camera on his helmet, he would jump with us to capture the memorable moments of free fall!
Cessna is like a TVS XL50- takes its own sweet time to climb up. Fighter jets take 30 seconds to reach 10000 ft, while Cessna 172 took full 30 mins. As the pilot took permission from ATC and became airborne, I enjoyed viewing Mysore airport and nearby places from high above.
5 minutes to go