Road Journeys – Udaipur to Daman (UT)

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Locals suggested visiting the Jampore Beach in the morning for the oblivious tangible apprehensions of countering unreasonable clashes with drunken-brawls. Being sensible, when with your family is I feel is an intelligent act though, the macho mind always resists fearing such instances. I suppressed my macho-ness and preferred to visit the beaches next morning and utilized the evening in walking along the bustling market place counting the wine shops which were more than 39 within 2 km, later stopped doing it and entered into one of the eateries. Every small or big food joint is equipped with a bar too besides those shops I referred. A bottle of KF strong costs Rs. 60/- in shops and Rs. 100/- to 140/- in bars depending upon the size and shape of the furnishings inside. We were in one of the best hence had to pay the maximum. Every table had a countable number of bottles in different colors and shapes with families enjoying wining with dining in loud atmosphere. The liberal city has no age bar supposedly for serving alcohol because a group of very young stags sitting beside our table were so intoxicated that two of them fell down a couple of times while making way to the loo.

Jampore beach is a nice and cool place and worth visiting. A row of hutments on the shore blocking the sight of sea serves liquors, sizzlers and sea food mostly comprised of small sized prawns and pomfrets. You need to make way to the beach only through those shops which have small openings on their back, fronts are sea facing. Plastic chairs specially designed for a leisure seating, half immersed in the sand are arranged in sequence in front of the shops. Early morning, we found a number of tourists mostly with families enjoying their drinks leisurely on the beach side budget-resorts. Fresh catch of prawns lured us to give a try and we ordered a plate containing 8 pieces at Rs. 150/-. The prawns were definitely fresh but cooking in too much of spices spoiled its natural flavour. We therefore, again ordered a plate without spices and the later was better. The sea was calm with a far stretched beach along the timid water which was creeping gradually closer in natural course. On the way back we were amused to see a decorative piece in one the government office premise and couldn’t resist from putting the image here.

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Road journeys – Delhi to Udaipur-the Lake City

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Enjoying the splendid landscapes we reached Baewar by 1.30 pm on our first major stop for refreshment and lunch. I was so energetic till then that my wife didn’t ask me why we are heading towards Udaipur and not Chittorgarh for the break journey. Filled the tank of the car alongwith our tummy, we were again lost in the nostalgic picturesque landscape full of greenery, on an average speed of 100 kmph with ease due to good tar and less traffic. Our first visiting place was Rajsamand Lake which soon appeared with an awesome view of a natural wild lake on the left side of the road. Rajsamand Lake is an artificial lake created in the 17th century by Rana Raj Singh of Mewar. We stopped and hurriedly captured the view both in our eyes and in the camera. Surprisingly, none other was available to enjoy the serene virgin beauty of the so natural place in wilderness. A clear water in the lake, yet uninterrupted by artificiality, was a soothing sight. A rusted board mentioning victory of Maharana Pratap over Akbar’s huge army in 1582, fought there was boasting its historical importance. We stayed a few minutes clicking photographs and watching the silence in the tranquility, glooming hearted was back to our seats. It was sad to see that a place of so rich history, so beautiful is so unattended.

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Serene Naukuchiatal & Bhimtal

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Sattal is another pristine and less polluted natural place in the area. Seven lakes interconnected and bounded by many hills from different sides never allow viewing the entire lakes together. The hillocks in the water obstruct a wide angle vision however, the greenery around with clear water beautifies the area mystically. Few good resorts and one KMVN TRH are located here offering a pacific stay in wilderness. Camps are also organized by locals on the back drops of the hills amidst the water, now gaining popularity gradually. Evening is very calm and solitary here since, it is located far from any near by localities, feelings of adversity may engulf family tourists. We however, enjoyed a boat ride, a red duck shaped paddle boat, yellow was not available but the kids were generous and happy with a red one too.

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Nainital to Kausani and back to Delhi by road

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Though the entire Kumaon region is divinely beautiful, Kausani & Gwaldam are the authentic highlights due to its spectacular landscape with 300 km panoramic view of the range of Himalaya’s few of the very high peaks at hand shaking distance. The Nanda Devi and Trisul are the main attractions that attract tourists from far and near to glance the breathtaking scenic splendor at dawn which is unparallel. Mahatma Gandhi has rightly called the place the ‘Switzerland of India’. Located amidst dense Pine forest atop a ridge at an altitude of 1900 m, Kausani is a cool and tranquil place with limited tourist turnout hence still raw, retaining the natural essence.

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Nainital – Kumaon’s Capital

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Sadiatal and its cascade also fall on the way just after climbing a few kilometers on the serpentine road. A short halt for photography there is never a bad idea. A little before reaching Nainital is Bara Pathar, an ideal Rock climbing spot conducted in supervision of trained professionals and maintained by Nainital Mountaineering Club. Horse riding activities are another attraction in the area. We have though neither tried hand in rock climbing nor horse riding but couldn’t ignore the next spot i.e. the Cave Garden just a few minutes from Bara Pathar. It is relatively a new tourist spot carved out of natural rocks as caves for a feel like entering the real caves named after predator viz. Panther Cave, Tiger Cave etc., a better place for kids rather. A KMVN run restaurant opposite to cave garden was a worth one to quench our hunger. By around 4 pm we reached Nainital. A hotel was the immediate search with safe parking space. Soon we found one just behind the famous and most expensive Manu Maharani. The Langdale Manor, though not a star hotel but it was very nice and comfortable with very professional and courteous staffs at a reasonable rate of Rs. 1,200/- for three including extra bedding (off season).

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In Search of Tiger at Corbett Tiger Reserve

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The different zones offer varied landscapes with opportunities to sight different floras and faunas. The presence of animals varies in accordance with the landscape suitable to their habitats. The landscape of Jhirna is drier than in Dhikala and vegetation is mostly scrub. Jhirna was a farming village until 1994 when it was successfully relocated under Project Tiger. The abandoned farmland is gradually reverting to a wild state and is being managed to develop grassland habitat. The nearby terrain consists of numerous sots and narrow gorges running through typically Shiwalik landscape. The hills to the north of Jhirna are covered with dense patches of bamboo. Apart from being a good habitat for tiger, leopard and deer, the place hosts other interesting mammals like sloth bear and wild boar. A variety of birds can also be enjoyed here.

were informed that a male tiger is also reported wandering in the area during the early morning. There is a defined route for every visitor to follow from the entry gate which ends at the FRH inside the jungle. On the way there is a watch tower alongside the river for watching animals reaching at the stream for drinking water and bathing. We tried it but in vain. The spotted deer, peacocks, variety of birds including the sparrows were a delight to watch. Suddenly, the driver stopped the vehicle and we found some fresh pug marks of a tiger on the sand beside the road. After a few meters we spotted some scratch marks on a tree probably made in the past. These proofs however, evidenced the truth of story we were told by the nature guide about the male tiger visited the place early morning. Elephant herd might have walked away leaving signs of crushed bushes and flattened shrubs. The dream of sighting the mighty RBT remained a dream but it was good to see the evidence of their presence that retained the hope to see the king in future also.

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Reaching Manali and drive back to Delhi

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We reached Rohtang at or around 4 PM and passing through the beautiful pass and its valleys amidst dense fog reached Manali at or around 5 PM. Since, Manali was visited many times by all of us and also due to the exertion of the long drive, we preferred heading towards our home without stopping. Steadily, we reached Sunder Nagar via Mandi in Himachal Pradesh covering another 140 km to reach as closer as possible for the return journey, on the following day. On the way we had some apples straight from the trees by courtesy of one of the owners of the orchard. We stayed in a road side Motel situated a few kilometers away from the town of Sunder Nagar, constructed alongside the river Beas at a bargain price of Rs. 1000/- for an excellent room equivalent to a super deluxe room of a 3 start hotel, with excellent facilities and river view balcony.

Lethargically, we started for the journey back to home and reached Delhi by evening with enormous sweet memories forgetting all hardships of the way. A total journey of 2200 kms in 9 days is the most memorable travel I have ever made in my life so far. My car has never betrayed even in the most adverse situations. Next day when we showed the photographs to our friends and relatives, the astonishing remarks filled the heart with joy and smile on the face. I still remember the journey while browsing the photographs and recall each event clearly one by one. My laptop has a screen saver of the picture of Taglang La and my office computer is loaded with the desktop picture of the landscape at Drass. Not many believe, it to be conquered by driving a small car all the way without a professional driver, the photos however, leaves them in awe. Many of my friends are now planning for the trip and insisting me to join them but honestly, I don’t have the dare to repeat this road journey again. Moreover, a lot more destinations are still on my list and want to cover them all one by one and share with all esteemed readers in future. Your valuable comment is most sought on the write up.

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Drive to Manali from Leh

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The road upto Upshi was good and at par the Highway, a route from here diverts towards left for Pangong Lake. Hereafter, the character of the terrain starts changing and the road is gradually treacherous and rigorous with sudden steep ups and sharp curves. The little above 100 km journey was a mixture of adventure, peril, test of driving skill and curiosity. We were now at the world’s 2nd highest motorable road at Taglang La at an altitude of 17582 feet. The air here was so rare that we were feeling the scarcity of oxygen despite acclimatizing since last few days. The mountain peaks were on parallel to us and the sight of snow covered mountainous stretches around us was spellbinding. A board on which written, “Enjoy Tea/Coffee at 2nd Highest Motorable Pass” by courtesy of the BRO was very satisfying and proud moment. Multi coloured prayer flags flurrying in air tied around a tiny roundabout on the small flat top plateau at the stopover seemed blessing all of us for reaching there. A triumphant feeling brought tears in my eyes out of immense ecstasy, reaching upto there was never easy and I longed for years with intensity for this moment. Though I wanted to stay longer at this impossible site but it is not at all advisable, due to prone to AMS. With immense joy and satisfaction, we started descending gradually on the journey to confront the onward adverse challenges.

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Drive to Leh from Sonmarg

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Suddenly we came under the shades of very gigantic mountains on both sides of the road with a river with very dull and grey colored water full of silt, flowing along side. It was shadowy because the cliffs of the sand stone mountains hanging on the roof allowing little light to penetrate and the road turning in sharp curves. The sight was so delightful and panoramic that I don’t have words to describe it neither my photographs can do the job. You need to be there to experience the nature’s charisma. A triumphant feeling of almost reaching the dream destination highlighted our joy to a greater extent. Engulfed in excitement and ecstasy we continued keep rolling. It was an unforgettable moment to see the sun setting behind the gigantic sand stone structural mountains with figures appearing on them like shades of brush strokes creating abstract impressions on the nature’s canvass, opulently defining the gracefulness of creativity through visual delight. Lost in the illusionary of vision and spellbound with the bounty of natural wealth, we in fact reached our “dream come true” destination. A toll of Rs. 100/- is levied for entering the city and thus we were through. Yes, it was almost dark and I lit the head lights of my car, with a usual bowing head and prayer on lighting the car’s head lights, practiced by every Indian driver, I guess. Simultaneously, I thanked God for the safe journey so far. We were in Leh, a city that surprised me with its beautiful modern amenities as good as in any big city in the country.

Street lights, one way road, traffic signals with excellent traffic system, sufficiently crowded matching any urban development with multi branded showrooms, big shops, automobile dealers, service stations, parks, roundabouts and what not. I was very shy and sorry about my skepticisms by underestimating it. Leh is the second largest district in terms of area after Kutch in Gujrat, in the country with an area of over 45,000 sq. km at an altitude of 3525 meters however, very scarcely populated inhabiting around 35,000 – 40,000 only. Leh experiences a cold and harsh winter from October to early March with minimum temperatures well below freezing point with occasional snowfalls. The weather in the remaining months is generally fine and warm during the day with cool to cold nights. The temperature ranges from −30 °C in winter to 30 °C in summer. A weather chart compiled from authentic sources will well illuminate the factual.

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Road Trip to Amarnath – Part 3

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The last two kilometer of the journey is by trekking steeply down from a mountain top. The charismatic FIRST view of the magnificent holy cave steals away all wary and wears and tears at once gasping you spellbound and numb for sometime. I could have died of awe viewing the magnitude of the gigantic and colossal natural structure of the holy cave. I remained stand still for few minutes capturing the astonishing view into my mind through all my senses so that I can never miss the view ever in my life. No technology or camera in the world ever invented to present the picture as it looks through your nature’s gifted naked eyes. Now I understood, why people risk lives every year to visit and pay obeisance to it. Slowly I walked closer to the shrine with my eyes stuck to it. The way to the shrine is along side of river Amravati with temporary shops and tents with colorful insulated sheets as in Baltal. The path was through frozen glacier and the tents were erected on blocks of ice, sized in rectangles. An insulated sheet covering the base of the ice and some blankets and cotton mattresses over it is the bed for sleeping inside the tent. Once you touch the bed, it seems to be cold and wet though not exactly wet but feels the same due to extreme cold.

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Road Trip to Amarnath – Anantnag to Yatra-Trek

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At 7 PM we reached the base camp at Baltal, this road is operational only for 5-6 months in a year for carrying necessary items for the military deployed in the region at higher altitudes, the rest of the year the entire area is covered by snow. Baltal is a picturesque meadow on the bank of River Sindh flowing with all its might amidst, leaving a fertile land at the foot of the Zozi-la-pass, at an altitude of 3000 mtrs., winter here is as low as minus 10 degree Celsius. The public vehicles are parked far from the base camp and pilgrims are allowed to enter towards the base camp only after thorough checking with all prohibited items kept out. The private vehicles and the local taxis are however, allowed to park near the main entry of the base camp in the temporary parking lot alongside the river adjacent to the helipad. We therefore, parked our car at the parking lot retaining the rucksack with necessary items in it for the journey next morning. The entire meadow was converted into a temporary base camp with rows of colorful tents and shops selling necessary items like clothes, woolens, jackets, shawls, shoes, brush, paste, soap, shampoo, rain coats, umbrellas and what not as in any village fare. Hundreds of ponies braying and spreading dung polluted the atmosphere with pungent smell and the ground muddy.

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Road Trip to Amarnath from Delhi – Reaching Kashmir (almost)

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Just after coming out of the tunnel we were in Anantnag district, a completely different landscape awaited to greet us in the heavenly adobe that accrue the thrill with lush greenery of the valley, even the air seems filled with exotic fragrance and one impromptu feel younger in heart and jubilant and ecstatically romantic. A view point with a board of TITANIC VIEW POINT is ideally located on the left side of the highway and no visitors I guess can pass without a short break at this point. The Kashmiri handicrafts are available at sale by mobile vendors, no idea of its authenticity however, nothing wrong in bargaining. A few snaps to banta hai boss and so we did. After a short break, a few clicks and filling our lungs with the refreshing oxygen, we were back on wheels with a better pace both because of the extra energy gained at the previous halt and also the road now was broader and straighter.

Suddenly after driving a few minutes from the Jawahar Tunnel, we were stunned by the sight of agitating wild mob on the highway equipped with Lathis, Swords and knives, shouting aloud and stone pelting on something which was not visible. A few trucks and local cars were on halt and waiting helplessly. I kept my car away from the site of turbulence and positioned it in a way that it can easily be turned around in case of emergency to flee. Honestly, all our smiles vanished and vulnerable thoughts engulfed our mind. I pretended to be calm and showing some dare went off the car to ask about the incident to a couple in a local JK number Alto. They smiled and replied, everything will come under control after the CRPF arrive the venue. We found the J&K Police standing mute with no actions against the agitating mob.

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