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Old 26th June 2014, 23:14   #16
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Day 12, 22-Oct-2013: Guwahati(AS01) to Siliguri(WB74)

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This must have been the least eventful day of our entire trip. Since we knew the road conditions (which were pretty good) and since we had taken only 10 hours during our onward journey, we took it easily.

We got up at 7AM, got ready by 8PM and took breakfast at Hotel Ginger. The Wi-Fi in our room was very weak so I used the PC in the lounge to read about the routes for the next days, check my email, facebook etc.
By 9AM, we had settled the amount at the reception and we drove out of the hotel. Mohith started the day at the wheel.

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Let's go!

When we were inside the city, Rajesh purchased a dozen of huge Lemons that you get in Guwahati.
One of his colleagues from Guwahati had told him it seems. I was doubtful that they will stay fresh for another 12 days. So I didn't buy them.

We had a little more than a quarter of a tank of Diesel plus 10 litres in the can. So we decided we will fill it at Shrirampur which is around 250kms.
We took NH 37 till a place called Agia via Dudhnoi. From there we went towards North Salmara and then to Kakrojhar and Gossaigaon.

Some photos enroute:

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Chugging along...

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Crossing the Brahmaputra

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From the beast's eyes

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Duck crossing!

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Educational lane!

By 2:30 PM, we almost reached Shrirampur and the low fuel indicator was glowing for some minutes now.
Since we had 10litres in the can, we decided to test the mileage of the vehicle because we were already getting a very good mileage.
We didn't want to fill it earlier and then get tensed about reaching shrirampur fuel station. We delayed it as much as possible.

After some time, Mohith finally stopped and decided to empty the 10 litres into the tank. GPS showed 50kms to Shrirampur. We had driven over 800 Kms from the last refill-Thatís over 13Kmpl!

I always switch off the engine while fuelling my vehicles at fuel stations (a habit that I have developed since I fill at Shell). So I asked Mohith to switch off the engine - BIG MISTAKE.

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After the refill, Mohith cranked the engine and...Airavatha refuses to start.
Mohith cranks again...No, it fails to start. Three more times and it fails. We had created a vapour lock!
I opened the bonnet and looked for the hand priming pump. I couldn't find it.
We then tried starting the car by pushing it. Luckily for us it was a flat road and we could push it both ways easily.
Even after pushing it 4-5 times, it was not starting. I then cranked again but now at half clutch.
This was equivalent to someone pushing. The car moved ahead a little but didn't start.
After doing this for some ten times, the SUV finally growled back into life. We all breathed a sigh of relief and I cursed myself for having asked Mohith to shut the engine off.
Had we filled it when it was still running, we wouldn't have wasted this time. Also in the first place, we must not have done a "mileage test"

After having learnt things the hard way, we moved on. I was the driver now.
Enroute we just gave a friendly honk to the Assam police, who had taken 500Rs bribe during our onward journey.

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Bye Bye Assam

By 3PM, we reached the Shrirampur fuel station and filled the beast. We got 12.03kmpl-the second best FE of the trip.

After this, we stopped at a Good looking Dhabha and ate our lunch. It was 4PM by the time we left the Dhabha.
I was the driver now and Rajesh took the navigator's seat. I showed him the route we have to take and told him to guide me at junctions where there is a possibility of missing the route.

Enroute we made a small change in our plan. We decided to go to Darjeeling the next day as we had a day to spare because of the many changes in our original plan

So Rajesh checked out some hotels in Darjeeling and read reviews. Everywhere, parking was a problem. Either we had to find some place in the mountains or the hotel would arrange for a slot somewhere in the road but not in the hotel.

We finally decided on a resort where the resort guy told us that they have easy ample parking space in front of their gate.
Having experienced the power of BHPian Sutripta's knowledge, I also sent a message asking him the route conditions. He reiterated that finding a parking place is next to impossible and Darjeeling also has some vehicular restrictions.

Personally I wanted to drive during the day. So with all these in mind, we decided to drive to Darjeeling from Siliguri the next day and stay at Siliguri for that day.

I had short-listed a few hotels in Siliguri and we had booked the number 1 hotel in that list during our onward journey. We now decided to try out number 2 in that list to save some vitamin M.
Rajesh called up that hotel and booked a room over phone. It was 6PM by then. We told him that we would be there in 2 hours.
After this, we called up the Darjeeling resort and booked that too.

Everything was going fine till 7PM. When we reached Nagrakata, Rajesh misread the route and told me to take a road which I did.
After 10-15 minutes on that route, we realized that it was really bad unlike what we had seen during our onward drive.
We then asked people around and found out that we were moving towards Jalpaiguri (although finally it would go to Siliguri)
Immediately I took a U-turn and corrected our mistake. This small missed route consumed another half an hour.

We reached Siliguri by 8:30PM. But there was a huge traffic jam as we entered Siliguri. The President of the country had come there and traffic was really slow everywhere.
In some places, police guided us and in other places, we just went with the flow. We also used our mobiles to make sure we were in the right path.
We drove in some very small lanes, over some railway bridges and many other diverse conditions.
We finally reached the hotel; Hotel Monarch Aaanchal in Shiv Mandir area on NH31 at 9:30PM.

We checked in to the hotel and ordered our food from their restaurant and slept by 11 PM.

Day 12 Statistics:
From: Guwahati (AS01)
To: Siliguri (WB74)
Distance: 522Kms (27844-28388)
Time taken: 12:00 hours
Average Speed: 45.3Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Hemanth(299Kms)
States: 2 (Assam & West Bengal)
Fuel filled at: Shrirampur ODO 28138 at ₹54.35/ltr
Tolls paid: None
Kitna Deti Hai?: 12.3Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:46.
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Old 26th June 2014, 23:30   #17
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Day 13, 23-Oct-2013: Siliguri-Darjeeling

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We got up at 6:00AM the next day, got ourselves ready and also had the complimentary breakfast at the restaurant and finally headed towards Darjeeling at 8:00AM.

The roads were beautiful and there was the small gauge railway track on one side for the DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) and lush green trees around.
We slowly started ascending the mountains and temperatures gradually started dropping. We stopped at many places for photographs.

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Siliguri to Darjeeling

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DHR track crossing the road

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Size comparison

As we climbed up, we saw many girls in school uniforms standing by the road asking for a lift.
As we moved ahead we saw more and more of these High schoolish girls asking for a lift.
Surprisingly only girls were waiting and asking for a lift. We wanted to help but were initially apprehensive.

At one place, we saw a High schoolish Girl along with a small boy standing and asking for a lift. Seeing the Boy, we took some courage and stopped and took them in.
It was right opposite their house and they spoke something in their language and waved at people who looked like their parents.

We spoke to her and got to know that transport is tough and to go to school, they have to take a lift from any vehicle that passes by. She told that she was in 7th grade and her younger brother was in 2nd grade.

The Boy's school came first. We dropped him. 10 Minutes after that, we reached the Girl's school too. As she got down, we heaved a sigh of relief.
It may be a daily routine for that girl, but we were not very comfortable giving her a lift.

Before she got down, she showed us a big landslide. She told that it had happened two days ago.

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Just as we went ahead, we faced a roadblock. We were asked to take a detour because of the same landslide. It was just before Kurseong.
We had to take a route that passes through wonderful tea gardens but really steep and sharp Hair pin bends.

In almost all of the bends, the Safari's turning radius was too big and I had to stop midway through the turn take a reverse and then turn again.
Added to that it was really narrow and there was opposite traffic and also. If that was not enough there were many Omni taxis behind me honking at me every time I stopped for a reverse. Being the matchboxes they were; they could easily turn.

After many such hair pins, I got a rare big hair pin. I stopped there just for a breather, as a time to take some photos and more importantly to let all the Omnis and Wagon-R s pass me so that I could drive ahead further in peace.

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After 10 minutes, we drove peacefully and joined Hill cart road on the other side of Kurseong.

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Misty mountains

As soon as we joined this road, we saw many security personnel both from the Police and the military.
After that we saw 100s of sumos and other vehicles and they had Trinamool Congress flags and some other red flag belonging to some other party.
A little later, seeing the posters (without being able to read), we understood that the Chief Minister Momotha Didi was coming to Darjeeling.
With this traffic, we took some time to reach Ghoom. We got to see the Heritage toy train for the first time here.

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First view

We got a parking place to my surprise. So I stopped it there and called our resort guy.
He initially asked us to ask for Madan Tamang resort and people would guide us. But then he told that he'll come in his car to take us.
In 5 minutes he came there just in time before the Police asked us to move.

He took us to his resort and the biggest relief for us was there was ample parking place (although on the road) and it was a non-traffic road.

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The beast can breathe easy now

The time was 11:00 AM by now. We just checked the rooms and they were very nice.
Rajesh and Mohith finalized a deal and then came out. No formal check-in was done.

Immediately we asked him about sightseeing to which he told that heíll arrange a taxi as driving a Safari would not be a wise option.
Since it was already 11:00AM and it gets dark very soon, it would just be half a day.

He agreed to take us to 7 sightseeing locations:
  1. Japanese Temple
  2. Peace Pagoda
  3. Mountaineering museum
  4. Zoo
  5. Cable car
  6. Heritage Train ride (tickets extra)
  7. Finally Mall road

He quoted ₹3000/-. We bargained a bit and finally closed the deal for ₹1500/-.
He told that the train ride would be ₹500/- per head and told us that we would have to give that in advance. Without wasting much time we hopped onto the WagonR.

First stop, he took us to the Peace Pagoda. What we came to know there was that the Japanese temple was also in the same premises (we had thought they were two different spots)

We spent a good 1 hour there taking pictures and enjoying the beauty.
When we entered, it was clear and cold weather but slowly mist started building up and it became more beautiful.
The peace Pagoda brought back memories of my Leh Trip although the latter is bigger and the views around it was much better.
There is something about these peace pagodas that our mind becomes so peaceful

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Japanese Temple

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Peace Pagoda

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Dome of peace

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Guardian of peace

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Poor footwear...

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From the King's eyes

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White covered in white

After this visit, we were then taken to the Zoo. Here too the mountaineering museum is in the same campus. So that ticked 4 of the 7 sightseeing spots.

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Darjeeling zoo

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Mountaineering Institute

I was more interested in the Himalayan red panda but as I walked around, I found so many other diverse fauna that we spent more than an hour looking at all of them.
The Zoo authorities have nicely adopted the hilly terrain for making separate areas for the animals.
The areas for the animals were below the walking path and people have to look down from the top.
Although it gives nice view for the eyes, for the photographs, it is not so good since it is like a top view
However the red panda and a wild cat and some other animals are at eye-level.

At the entrance there was a black bear which stood up to show a White V on his chest. The children around enjoyed it.

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The red panda

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Jungle Jungle pata chala hai...

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Bored panda

After seeing all the animals, we saw that there was a shop which gives people a chance to wear the native dress and take pictures
I was not interested as I already had one such photograph taken in Manali. Rajesh and Mohith wore that dress and took some photos.

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Gorkha Rajesh

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Don't mess with me

Apart from that we shopped some gifts-Some handmade paper lamp shades and some caps.

By this time, we had less time left for the Heritage train journey and we also had the cable car trip. We didn't want to miss those.
So we just went till the mountaineering museum entrance and took a photo but didn't go inside

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"May you climb from peak to peak"

As we came out of the zoo we called our taxi guy and the WagonR was ready and he rushed us to the cable car point.
He asked us to come back maximum by 3:15 as the Heritage train ride would start at 4PM from the Darjeeling railway station. After a 5 minute wait in the queue, we finally stepped into the cable car.

It took us down the steep valley with tea gardens all around. It was a very beautiful sight.
As we descended down, mist covered us and it was a cold and beautiful sight. One way journey was some 15 minutes.

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The cable car

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Wah Tea!

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Click! Click!

We took many snaps which would make good profile pictures in Facebook
After these beautiful 30 minutes, we finally came up and got down the cable car. It was around 3PM


Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:47.
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Old 28th June 2014, 13:53   #18
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Day 13, 23-Oct-2013 Continued...

We were hungry. There were small shacks outside this cable car area and we saw some hot momos. We ordered some 4 plates of momos and ate it as our quick lunch.
We finished it in 20minutes and called the taxi guy again and he quickly came and picked us up.

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The momo girl!

We were some 5 minutes away from the railway station when we encountered a huge traffic jam. It consumed 30 minutes but still was not showing signs of clearing up.
He told us that this was because of the arrangements for Mamatha Banerjee's arrival.

In this time we spoke to him about the Gorkhaland issue and he told that there is very little common between Bengalis and the Gorkhaland and there have been very less development of Darjeeling area.
Since they were demanding for a new state, he told that the CM is coming just to tell them that it is very much part of West Bengal and she would take efforts to develop it

Now even after 3:35PM, the traffic was stuck and vehicle had come to a grinding halt.
Our taxi guy told us to run down to the railway station. He called another guy and told him to get the tickets to the railway station.
He asked us collect our tickets from one of his agents in a shop opposite the railway station

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The Darjeeling Railway station

We got down and walked to the railway station. The guy was waiting there and he handed over the ticket to us.
The train had already come. We went inside just in time and sat down on three separate window seats.
I saw the tickets and the printed price was ₹350/-. It was as though we were charged a convenience fees of 150/- per ticket!

The 19th century steam locomotive began chugging along and started to move out of the Darjeeling Fuel station. This train is part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) network

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Indian Rail

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The Frontier Man

The narrow gauge train takes you back in time and itís a wonderful feeling. Itís one of the last running steam locomotives and hence is a World heritage site.
With the lack of space in the mountains in many places it moves so close to many houses and many parked vehicles.
All the distance it runs parallel to the road and in many places it crosses path with the roads and road traffic stop to give way. Itís more or less like a steam engined tram

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Chukku Bukku

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Centimetres away...

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Real close

Every bogie had an operator who seemed like operating a wheel to turn and a lever to brake.
Although itís good to see that the train is still running I would have expected them to keep it cleaner.

10 minutes into the ride, on the road side we came across the convoy - We saw "Didi" in the Convoy
Suddenly another group in our bogie got up and started dancing and shouting "didi didi didi..."
We were astonished to see people getting excited on seeing a Politician and we were like "What's the big deal"
We were busy taking some pictures while they were going bezerk as if they had seen a miracle.

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My Profile Pic on FB

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He just loves posing

In another 10 minutes we reached a stop called Batasia loop. The operator told that the train would stop here for 15 minutes and we could get down and take some pictures.

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Stop at Baltasia Loop

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Itís a Loop with a man-made garden in the centre and a war memorial for the Gorkhaland martyrs.
There are some nice flowers in the garden and in general the location is very scenic. We spent all the time taking pictures and enjoying the beauty.

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Remembering the martyrs

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Of Pinks...

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...and whites

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Gold is precious

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The train started again after 15 minutes. In 10 minutes from here, we reached Ghoom. This is officially the highest railway station in the country.
The operator told that the train would stop here for 45 minutes and we could get down and visit the DHR museum.

We went inside the museum and spent a good 30 minutes inside the museum.
There was a wealth of information inside about the DHR and its various unique aspects

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...No, they are not antiques : )

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The driver

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Time machine

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The birthdate

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North east frontier railway

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Preserving the past

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Itihaas ke panne

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Loops and Reverses

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We came out and had some snacks in the station and sat inside the train.

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I've got mail!

By this time it was 5:15PM and was dark. The train chugged back to Darjeeling station by 5:30.

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Let's go home

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End of Duty!

We asked directions to the mall road and went spent time shopping for some souvenirs, jackets, the famed Darjeeling tea, shoes and shawls.
I also withdrew some cash from the ATM for our expenses. By 8:00PM we finished all our shopping and then called our taxi guy.
He told us to walk up to a road from where he would pick us up. In 20 minutes, we were picked up and then in another 10 minutes we were in our resort cottage.

The guide was a good guy and showed us the maximum that he could show in the limited time we had.
We were happy. So we gave him 1800 in total and he was happy too.

Our plan for the next day was to go to Gaya in Bihar which was 500Kms from Darjeeling.
Rajesh asked him if there was only one route to Siliguri. He told that we could take another route which also touches Nepal Border.

Suddenly Rajesh got an idea and asked him if we could drive inside Nepal. The driver told that we could go with just a small check and an entry at the border
So we decided that just for the sake of records we will drive into Nepal - A different country- in our Safari.
So we decided to enter Nepal but not spend time and move forward and reach Gaya.

It was really cold inside but the dinner we ordered had enough HOT items to keep us warm.
We had enjoyed the day and we enjoyed the dinner. We chatted for some time and then slept by around 10PM

Day 13 Statistics:
From: Siliguri (WB74)
To: Darjeeling (WB77)
Distance: 73Kms (28388-28461)
Time taken: 3:00 hours
Average Speed: 24.3Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Hemanth(73Kms)
States: 1 (West Bengal)

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:48.
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Old 8th July 2014, 23:55   #19
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Day 14, 24-Oct-2013: Darjeeling (WB77) to Siliguri (WB74) Via Nepal (ME)!

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I go up at 5:30 AM on the ring of the alarm. It had become a norm that I would get up first and get ready and the other two get up later.

As soon as I got up, I saw our cottage window which was covered with mist. It was a beautiful sight to start with.
I rubbed my eyes, opened the cottage door and stepped out. Whoosh came in a blast of chilled air.
I immediately closed the door and then came back and went inside the warm blanket.

After a minute or so, I got up; ready and determined to face the cold. I opened the door and went out and quickly closed the door.
It was cold but it was just a matter of seconds before my body could adjust to the cold.
I walked beside our cottage on to the other side of the mist covered window. The view I saw was simply breathtaking.

I saw the crest of Mt. Kanchenjunga-The highest mountain in India. The sun had barely come out and the rays had painted the tip with a golden hue.
I just stood there for a minute in awe of the beautiful sight. After wards I came back inside and took my camera and went back outside and took some pictures standing there.

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Great Morning!

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Our cottage

After some 10 minutes, I came back inside. The Window panes were completely covered with mist and it was a wonderful sight.

Then it was time for the biggest adventure of the day-getting into the bathroom and finishing the morning activities
The cold floor and the cold water from the sink is one tough thing to cope up with.
After a couple of jumps on the floor, I was able to stand and after 5 minutes, the geyser could also heat up the water to a nice temperature. I could now touch water
All these days I was wondering what could be the title of my travelogue but never had given a serious thought to it.
But while taking shower I started to think about it. Eureka! I got it! I got the title of the travelogue.

I'll call it NEWS. For 2 reasons.

N.E.W.S=North East to West in a Safari. Because thatís what it is all about.
N.E.W.S=North East West South. At the ends of my trip, I would have achieved my childhood dream of travelling to the four corners of the country.

I really loved the title and after not having found the title for so many days, I found one standing under a shower!
The below picture which I got on Whatsapp sums it all

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Best place to think!

In 30 minutes I was ready. As soon as I came out, I saw the mist had slowly turned into water droplets on the window panes
As a common human nature, I thought of writing something. What better than the new found title.

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The Title...

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...The Synopsis

By 6:30AM, all three of us were at the dining area of the restaurant. We were welcomed by beautiful Mannadey songs on television. I was nodding my head to the melody but soon realized that the songs were telecast as the music legend had breathed his last early morning that day. We finished our breakfast watching a TV show about him.

Tea was being prepared and we went out to the balcony for this. We spent another 15 minutes watching the beautiful Kanchenjunga and sipping hot tea. Amazing combination it was.

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Balcony Seat

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Tea Time

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Sip on!

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We finally settled the amount at the resort and we started our day with Rajesh at the wheel.
We had to pass a military area before we could join the Hill Cart road. There were some nice inspirational quotes on walls.

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Our Story!

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Our Team!

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Looking forward...

Slowly we drove past these. We had almost reached the Hill cart road, but at the last turn, we came face to face with a huge military truck carrying children to their school.
It was at a curve. The truck was on the Valley side and he could not back out as there were more vehicles behind him.
We couldn't drive ahead. So Rajesh came back in reverse. In the next couple of seconds, Mohith shouted to stop which Rajesh did.
Rajesh had not noticed a gutter on the left side and the rear wheel had almost gone into it.
Had Mohith not noticed it, we would have fallen on the left side leaning to the mountain.
Rajesh, put the handbrakes, accelerated hard and then released the hand brake and got the beast out of danger.
Mohith then got down and guided Rajesh and we slowly came past the truck. That was a lucky escape.

Pretty soon, we were on the Hill cart road and drove to Ghoom. At Ghoom, Instead of going towards Kurseong, we drove on the other road which goes along the Nepal border. After an hour's drive, we came to a view point with the same beautiful view of Kanchenjunga. Small shops here welcomed us to buy tea/ice-cream/souvenirs/Binoculars etc...
They told us that we were now in Nepal. Although we didn't buy anything from them, we spent some 5 minutes there.

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View of Kanchenjunga from Nepal!

After that, we continued our journey, but I started driving now.
In 5 minutes, we were at the India-Nepal border. We got down and asked the Police about the formalities.
He told a simple entry in both the countries' register is all it takes to enter Nepal.
The policemen also told that the Nepal market is famous for cosmetics, shawls etc...

Rajesh went to make the entries while I drove Airavatha.
First the Indian side of the gate was opened and we stood in the no man's land.
Once the Indian side entry was made, Rajesh moved on to the Nepal side and the Vehicle also was let past the Nepal gate.
Once the entry was made, we were instructed to come back to make an entry when we go out of the country

After this, we were overlooking a big Arch which is the entrance to Nepal. Airavatha finally set his foot in a Second country.

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Country #2

It was the first foreign country visit not just for the vehicle but also for Mohith and Rajesh and it was more special for Rajesh because he doesn't have a Passport!

After this, we had to stop at the customs office for a check. Our documents were verified and a person checked our vehicle.
After this 15 minute process, we were allowed to proceed.

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Nepali Customs office

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We drove for 10 minutes and finally reached the market area. We parked Airavatha at a paid parking area and started walking around.
There was an array of products that we could buy. But Cosmetics and Warm clothing were the main highlight.
All of us purchased a lot of cosmetics, shawls, Jackets, Sweaters, Shoes to name a few.
We had decided not to spend too much of time. So we finished our shopping by 10:00AM and decided to head back.
But I remembered one last thing...I went to a shop and asked for Nepali Currency.
Although the rate was 0.6 INR per Nepali Rupee, they demanded 1 Rupee. I purchased some 200Rupees worth currency.

Finally at 10:30AM, we were out of the Arch. Rajesh got down and went to the Nepali Police check-post for the entry as we were told.

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Back to homeland

But when Rajesh went inside, he realized that there was no entry needed.
Instead he was taken inside a curtained chamber and The Nepali police asked for some "Karcha Paani"
Rajesh asked them how much he needed to pay. He was more surprised to hear the amount than the fact that he was asked for a bribe.
They demanded ₹50/-! Yes just ₹50/-, I use the word 'just' because we were expecting ₹500 at least and ₹50 was unheard of in India.
Rajesh gave them the ₹50 without any more discussion and finally we crossed the border again and entered India.

So on Records, we had driven the Safari to another country!
My title NEWS was changed again and finalized here.
It would be N.E.W.S=Nepal and East to West in a Safari

After this, we headed straight to Siliguri; Roads were wide but still had many Hair pin bends.

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Headed down

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Nice curves

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We saw GOD!

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The last of the metal bridges

By 11:30AM, We reached Mirik Lake which looked very commercial and an uninspiring one.
Although we stopped for a moment, we didn't feel like going for a boat ride or any other activity. We continued forward
My noon, we had got down the mountains and we were on the plains. By this time, we felt that it would be too much to aim for Gaya for that day.
So we called up the same hotel in Siliguri that we had stayed two days ago and reserved a room for us.

At 12:20PM, when we had almost reached Siliguri and we entered this Military area on the outskirts of Siliguri.
There was a memorial/Museum. Since we were not driving any more, we just stopped there and decided to take a look around.
Had we changed our plans earlier, we could have spent more time in Darjeeling or in Nepal. But now whatever had happened, had happened.
They had displayed a MIG 21, A 25 pounder gun, a Vijayanta Tanker. We spent our time there till 1PM and moved out.

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Tanker and Tanker

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25 Pounder

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Holding it high!

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Remembering the martyrs

1PM and It was lunch time when we Reached Siliguri. As soon as we reached the city we came across this huge Spencer's Mall.
We decide to have our lunch there. As we went inside, we saw Inox movies inside the mall.

With this, Mohith got this idea of watching a movie. I am not a regular movie-goer and watch only one movie an year or one movie per two years.
I was least interested in it and refused. But Rajesh also agreed with Mohith and he also wanted to go to a movie.
I told them that I'll go and sleep in the hotel and they could watch the movie and come back. They were not ready.
They started blackmailing me emotionally saying that they would go only if I go
Finally the two were successful is pulling me into it. We went to see the movies they were screening. One was a Bengali movie and the only other Hindi movie was BOSS.
It was a typical Akshay Kumar Movie and I hate those to the core. I told Mohith and Rajesh again to spare me from the torture.
But they did not budge, they told me that I can sleep inside but not refuse to come. I don't know what revenge they were taking on me but I had no other option but to agree.
They purchased 3 tickets and the show was to start at 2PM. We had an hour's time for our Lunch.

We went to the food court and finished our Lunch.
After lunch, we went to the movie. Although I tried hard, I could not sleep because of the volume. So I decided to enjoy the Bakwaas movie
I was laughing during an emotional scene and crying (at my situation) during a comedy scene.
I somehow tolerated the 120mins of torture. When I came out I was so relieved that it is hard to write it in words.
It was so similar to the experience I had 10 days ago, when we finally got to drive on a 4 Lane road from Kharaghpur after having driven on the horrible NH6

It was 5:30PM when we finally got out of the mall and went to the Hotel. We checked in and were given the same room as we had got 2 days ago.
Now that we had stayed back in Siliguri against our plans of going up to Gaya, we had to tweak our plans a little.
I opened the map and pretty soon, we decided that we will drive to Lucknow the next day.
I also studied the road conditions on...where else but TBHP. It gave us the confidence that the 1000 Km distance can be done in a day.
After reaching Lucknow, the plan for next day was to spend half a day in Lucknow and then drive to Agra where we already had a confirmed and paid booking.
We short-listed a few hotels in Lucknow and finally booked a good looking Business hotel.

After the plans were done, we ordered a light dinner. After dinner we slept and that finished the 14th Day of the trip.

Day 14 Statistics
From: Darjeeling (WB77)
To: Siliguri (WB74)
Distance: 98Kms (28461 - 28559)
Time taken: 4:30 hours
Average Speed: 24.5Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Hemanth(69Kms)
States: 1 (West Bengal)

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:48.
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Day 15, 25-Oct-2013: Siliguri(WB74) to Lucknow(UP32)

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I got up at 5:00AM and we were all ready by 5:45AM. We cranked up the beast and then started to load the boot.
Rajesh settled the bill and came out and told us that he was out of cash! I too didn't have much in my pockets.
As soon as we drove out of the hotel, we stopped at the first visible ATM and refilled our pockets with cash. It was 6:15AM

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Good morning

Mohith began the day at the wheel and we took the Dalkhola route and had decided that, that will be our first stop for Diesel and also for Breakfast.
It was an uneventful drive and it took us a little less than 2 hours to reach Dalkhola.
We filled up the tank and then decided to have our breakfast in the attached BP Ghar Dhaba (Since it is a COCO Station)
We were the first customers and so service was not that slow. Nothing great about the breakfast to write about

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BP COCO Dalkhola and the Ghar Dhabha

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Maintain cleanlines...please!

By 8 AM, we were on the road again. Mohith continued at the wheel.
By 8:30 AM we were at the Purnia Bypass junction, where we took right towards Forbesganj. This is where we enter Bihar.

The road conditions from here were wonderful from here except for a small stretch of bad roads near ForbesGanj. The Bridge across the Kosi river however looks as though it would fall any time. If a truck drove past you, wou can feel the bridge vibrating. A scary experience.

This was NH57 and we followed this road till Muzzaffarpur crossing Forbesganj, Pratapganj and Darbhanga.
We had heard these names only on television for varied reasons but now we were actually passing through these places. It s a special feeling; at least for me.

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Beautiful roads...

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Fast roads

At 1PM, we were at Motihari and we stopped at Indian oil COCO fuel station. We filled up diesel and also had lunch at the "Swagat" restaurant.
They only had Roti and Dal which was more than sufficient for us. We received a confirmation from makemytrip for the Lucknow Hotel while we were having lunch. It was 2PM when we left this place.

After passing Muzzaffurpur when we leave NH57 and take NH28, the roads deteriorated. Traffic was very slow mostly consisting of Trucks and a few cars/jeeps like ours in between.
The trucks were kicking up a lot of dust and it was a very irritating drive. The 20 odd Kilometres took almost 2 hours
For Mohith and me, it was not a new experience and the 2nd-day road still took the cake for the worst road in the world.
But Rajesh was fed up and even asked a bike rider for the road conditions ahead. He gave a nice reply...
"Saar aap Bihar mein hain na saar, tabhi rasta aisa hain. Bihar khatam hote hi rasta achcha hai saar" (Since you are in Bihar, roads are like this. Once you cross Bihar and enter UP, road is good)
We smiled at his reply and moved on.

By 4:45PM, we came to the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh border. Mohith had been driving since morning; Just after the border, when he had driven 600Kms, he stopped and we changed seats.

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Sham baaki, Baat baaki

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Time for a driver change

As per the bike guy's words, the roads turned nice from here. The sight of a toll gate was a soothing one after the tiring drive.
From there, I drove non-stop for 350Kms in around four and a half hours; which was an impressive speed.
I started feeling tired after that. We had another 40 odd Kilometres left to our hotel. But I didn't want to take any chances.
Mohith was refreshed by then and he took the car again and drove till our destination.

Meanwhile Rajesh called up the hotel and informed them that we would be there by 10PM.
The reception guy acknowledged. At 10:15PM, we finally reached there. The hotel was pretty easy to find.
It was in Kaiserbagh area on a food street. Just what we were looking for in Lucknow.

As soon as we entered the hotel, we confirmed our booking and asked him about the food. He told that their restaurant will be open till 11PM.
But we wanted to enjoy the food in Lucknow on the street-That's what it is famous for isn't it? He told that the street will also close by 11PM.
So we didn't even unload the luggage and headed straight to the street. However we took the room key cards from the receptionist.

The next half an hour was the most delicious time of our trip yet. We went to one of the many eateries.
We looked at the simple menu and ordered Biriyanis and Tandoori Kebabs with a bottle of Sprite to go along with it.
It was also the most silent meal we all had, for, we were busy in eating the food. Lucknow lived up to its name.

We would have ordered more, but Police came and asked everyone to shut shop as it was time.
Although disappointed we couldn't make it early, we were happy that we could have a delicious Lucknowi Biriyani in Lucknow

By 11 PM, we finished our dinner and we headed back to our hotel. At the end of this street we found a Paan shop.
It attracted our eyes as it read "Ghanta Paanwala" or "Bell Paan guy"
We asked him what itís all about and he said that we had to ring a bell if we liked his paan. Pretty much like "Pizza hut"
We ordered 3 customized paans and finished our food intake for the day. It was a nice finish to the otherwise tiring ~1000Kms drive day
We rang the bell and walked towards the hotel.

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Ghanta Paanwala

At 11:15, we returned to our hotel and took our luggage from the vehicle and headed to our room.
The lobby, lifts, passageways and everything gave us a nice and modern 3-star hotel feel
As soon as we swiped the key card and opened the room, what we saw surprised us!

The room was not at all cleaned after the previous occupants had left.
Empty snack packets were thrown around on the floor, Bed sheets were also were on the floor
Empty coke cans were on the table, ash tray with cigarette butts lay on the table. Bath towels were thrown on the bathroom floor.
Rajesh lost his temper on seeing this. He called up the reception and gave them a piece of his mind and asked the manager to come and check the state of the room.

The Manager came immediately and apologized and told us that he'll give us a new room.
We were really angry because we had called him before coming, and actually entered the room close to an hour after check in.
The manager gave a triple-bed room because of his mistake although we had booked twin-bed room with extra bed.

It was almost 00:00hours by the time we slept. The next day was only a 350Km drive so we were not worried.

Day 15 Statistics:
From: Siliguri (WB74)
To: Lucknow (UP32)
Distance: 998Kms (28559-29557)
Time taken: 16:00 hours
Average Speed: 62.3Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Mohith(600Kms)
States: 3 (West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh)
Fuel filled at: Dalkhola ODO 28677 at ₹57.39/ltr and Motihari ODO 29080 at ₹56.18/ltr
Tolls paid: 14 tolls totalling to ₹880
Kitna Deti Hai?: 10.8Kmpl and 11.4kmpl

Day 16, 26-Oct-2013: Lucknow (UP32) to Agra (UP80)

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After a nice night's sleep, we leisurely got up at 8:00AM, in time for the complimentary Breakfast.
The breakfast was the usual ones we get in a Business hotel.

We had planned to shop some Chikan work clothes which is the trademark of Lucknow.
We asked the receptionist and he told us that is a good shop belonging to his brother but he told it will be open at 10:00AM

So we went back to our room and got ready. But I called up a friend of mine who hails from Lucknow.
She told us not to go anywhere else but a shop called "Nazrana Chikan" in Hazratganj area of the town.

It was close to our hotel too. We checked out of the hotel at 10:30AM and drove to Hazratganj.
We parked the vehicle in an underground parking facility. It was a nice facility with a well maintained park on ground level and vehicle parking space under it

There were many shops in the market, but we went inside the shop suggested as my friend was a designer.
The shop had a wonderful collection of clothes in a broad range.
We shopped more than what we had planned to and we purchased something for almost every relative/friend of us.
Just imagine, 3 men spending 3 hours on shopping for clothes

After this, we again called our friend from Lucknow and took her suggestions for a good place for Lunch.
We were suggested Aminabad area. We got to park our car in the Book Market road and we walked down the Naaz Cinema road.
This is one of the roads a foodie must visit in his lifetime. Wow! what delicious food, words just can't explain.

We tasted some Nice Briyani, the famous Tunday Kabab among others.
But the highlight of the afternoon were the sweets. We filled our stomach up to our throats with all the sweets that we saw
The Jilebis, Jamoons, Rasamalais, Milk cakes, Lassis....and the list goes on

We were so busy eating that little did we realize that we had not taken even one photo either for the previous day's dinner or for this day's lunch. We had made a big mistake of not even carrying our camera with us.
I immediately took out my phone and took some snaps. The Pictures don't do justice to the experience but please excuse me, I have only these

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Milk cake

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Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet Lassi

Finally we started our 350Kms drive out of Lucknow towards Agra at 3PM with Mohith at the wheel.
It was a fast and easy drive on good 4-lane roads throughout. Enroute, we filled up diesel at Kanpur.

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Lazy day at office

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Drive into the Dusk

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Night Shift for the truck I guess

Mohith drove for 216Kms, Rajesh drove another 160Kms and by 9:30PM we reached Agra.

As we entered Agra, A guy on bike came behind us shouting something. Rajesh wondered what had happened and stopped. He came to the window and gave a card and Said "Guide sir, Guide. Tajmahal, fort, Fatehpur sikri...Guide sir guide"
Rajesh took the card and drove on. By the time we reached the hotel, there were around 50 such guides who followed us. We ignored everyone and reached our hotel at 10:00PM

Since we already had a confirmed booking made on makemytrip, the check-in happened very fast. We ordered a light dinner as the taste of the delicious Lunch was still lingering in our mouths.

By 11:00PM we slept, eagerly looking forward for the next day. We were going to the AIRTEL INDIAN GRAND PRIX 2013

Day 16 Statistics:
From: Lucknow (UP32)
To: Agra (UP80)
Distance: 376Kms (29557-29933)
Time taken: 07:00 hours
Average Speed: 53.7Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Mohith(216Kms)
States: 1 (Uttar Pradesh)
Fuel filled at: Kanpur ODO 28677 at ₹57.10/ltr
Tolls paid: 5 tolls totalling to ₹345
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.6Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:49.
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Day 17, 27-Oct-2013: Agra (UP80)

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This was a day which we were eagerly looking forward to. We were going to the Formula One Airtel Indian Grandprix 2013.

With 4 races remaining in the year, Alonso (on 207 points) had a remote chance of still winning the driver's championship. Vettel (on 297 pints) only needed a 5th position or higher to win the championship
Vettel took the pole in Saturday's qualifying followed by Rosberg and Hamilton. Alonso was in the 8th Position. That almost made it decisive unless something terrible happened to Vettel

Over the past month, there were serious doubts of the race being cancelled for some entertainment tax issue. The case was in court.
Fortunately the court however adjourned hearing to a week after the race and so the race would be held as per schedule.
It was almost like the last Indian Grandprix until an unknown period of time.

If that was the issue with the event and its organizers, we had our own personal issue. We had initially purchased 4 tickets.
After Avinash had cancelled, a friend of mine had agreed to join us for the race. He had come the previous night from Mumbai and stayed with a relative of his in New Delhi
At 7AM in the morning, He called me and asked if we could pick him up from Noida which was the last Metro stop.
There were buses arranged to the circuit from Noida but it was only for ticket holders it seems.
Since all the 4 tickets were with us in Agra, We didn't know if he would be allowed into the bus.
I told him to try to get into the bus explaining our situation. I sent him a picture of a ticket on Whatsapp if needed.
We had decided to leave early to pick him up if that would not work out. So we had our breakfast at 8:30AM
By 9AM, he called me and told that he was allowed inside the bus and we could directly meet him at the circuit. That sorted out, we decided to leave at 09:30AM

I took the parking sticker and pasted it on the front windshield; made sure we had all the 4 tickets with us and then started the Vehicle.

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Mohith began the day again and very soon we were out of the Agra city, again we were followed by many guides till the outskirts.

Pretty soon we were on the Yamuna Expressway. It was such a delight to see humongous wide roads. This was supposedly the best road in the country.

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The Yamuna Expressway

We could easily cruise at very high speeds. But there were innumerable boards warning us that it is under electronic surveillance etc.
So we stuck to 100Kmph. Although many cars were speeding past us, we didn't. We stopped at a lay bye to take a couple of snaps

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I go anywhere

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Another "Live to Drive" location

It was 9:45AM when we got onto the YE, and it was 11:30AM when we took the BIC exit. With clearly marked boards it was very easy finding the way to the circuit and also to the Parking lot.

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Exit to Speed

As expected I spotted many TBHP stickered cars in the parking lot. A couple of pictures...

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LTDs every where and a spoilt Punto

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Let's Go Baby

By 11:45AM, we met my friend. He had spent around an hour outside the track and had made friend with a shopkeeper outside.
There were hardly any food options available except for some sandwiches. We were allowed to go out and come back only once so we decided that if need be, we will come out and have sandwiches

The actual entry into the circuit didn't consume too much of time. We were handed a pair of ear buds when we were let in

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Speed Ticket!

At the stroke of 12, I got the first view of the circuit. We were in the north picnic stand.
It was a wonderful stand (from the price point); we could see the Turn 1 on our right and the near-hairpin Turn 3 on our left. The main stand was in the background too
The rise in elevation between Turn 1 and Turn 3 is so evident to the eye. This coupled with the tight corner made sure that we could get some nice snaps of the cars.
We took a position on the far side of the lawns close to Turn 3. The air was covered with smog as expected and I wondered how the drivers could even see the track.

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The North Picnic Stand

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Spot the beast!

Before the F1race, the MRF challenge F2000 race was going on and we could see those cars on the track.

After that finished, all the F1 drivers were taken on an open truck with a huge Indian flag fluttering at the back. Slowly people started to pour in and most of them occupied places near the fence.

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Driver's Parade

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Flying high!

Finally at 3PM, the race was ready to start. The smog never looked like clearing (I hope they shift the race to seasons other than winter).
The emergency helicopter took to the skies; the cars were at the initial grid. Mohith took one of the cameras and went to the right most corner where he could get a view of the initial grid

We finally heard the roar of the engine. Synchronous to this, the roar of the crowd in the grand stand echoed all around. I wanted to fully experience the sound and so I didn't put the ear buds.
As the cars took the warm up lap, and came close to us ...GOOSEBUMPS! That sound still reverberates in my ears. Luckily for us it was in 2014 that the new rules altered the sound (which is pathetic)

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Warm up!

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Highest support

The crowd was cheering all throughout the warm up lamp. Apart from the Ferrari, Force India got the loudest of cheers.
After this warm-up lap, the safety car did another final round. The silver AMG speeding on the black track is just an awesome sight. Itís like a silver bullet passing by you.

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Silver bullet

Ok, now it was time. 1-2-3-4-5 the red lights came on and then...RACE! It was a hair rising experience with 22 cars revving hard and coming towards you.
As we got the first view, it was turn 1 and there was a collision! We saw debris flying in the air.
Vettel was in the lead with Massa behind him. He had started 5th in the grid, so he had made a nice start. Behind him were Rosberg and Hamilton.
In the next 5 seconds, when all the cars moved ahead, we saw one of the Caterham Renault cars with a broken front wing pulling to the right. That was the first retiral of the race.

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Turn one, One retired

By the next lap, Massa was leading. I was like...Wow! But then I saw on the giant screen that Vettel had made a pit stop and hence Massa was ahead.

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Race leader for a few laps- Felipe Massa

After sometime, Vettel was again in the lead. But now we saw that Alonso was somewhere at the back. This pretty much decided the champion.

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No chance now Alonso

After around 10 laps, the sound was getting too much. I put on the ear buds. By this time, Massa made a pit stop and Webber was now leading.

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The other Caterham

By around this time, the order of the cars had changed because of the pit stops and retirals and it was getting tough for me to follow.
This was my first race live, which helped me understand how good television is for following the race.

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Indian National flower-Lotus

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Force India

But luckily for me there was a German guy sitting behind us with two boys (may be his sons). He had Binoculars and he was explaining everything in detail to the boys. I gave my ears and it was again easy to follow.
Once in a while, I used to zoom my camera into the giant screen to see the standings.

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Unsung heroes

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Toro Rosso

When the race was 20+laps old, we were really getting hungry. There was some food supply but it was just not enough. We took turns to go to shops and buy whatever we could eat and drink.

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There was a Marlboro shop where they were giving a free cigarette lighter per pack of Cigarettes. One of the lighters had a Ferrari logo on it.
Even though none of us smoke, we purchased 4 packets and three of us took the Ferrari Lighter and Rajesh took a black lighter without any logo.
I was expecting to spot one shop at least which would sell souvenirs. But there were none. So we purchased this lighter. On return, we thought we will give it to some colleagues who smoke.

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Only souvenir

In the 40th lap, Webber retired because of some problem (read later that it was an alternator problem). He was taken in a Honda Activa in front of us and later his car was taken on a truck.

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Alternator issue = Alternate transport

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Tata to the rescue

By 4:30PM, Vettel had won the race and he took the driver's championship of the year.

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Final standings

His elaborate celebrations and donuts on the starting grid were all visible to us on the giant screen. We watched the podium ceremony also on the giant screen.

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A 'fine' celebration

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience for us.
We came out of the circuit at 5:00PM and I walked with my friend till the pick-up buses which were supposed to leave at 5:30PM.

After that we started to drive out of the BIC at 5:15PM; as expected it was a slow drive. We thought that we will go up to Delhi and take a quick look at the India Gate and drive around Rashtrapathi bhavan area.
So we took the route towards Delhi. We drove for half an hour but couldn't even cover 10Kms as the traffic was just too much.
So we decided not to continue further and took the next possible U-turn. We again joined the YE and headed back to Agra. By 8PM we were inside Agra.

We started searching for a good place for dinner. We initially thought of stopping at Dasprakash Paradise-Itís a famous hotel in Mysore and it would give us a homely feel.
But I don't know what happened later, but we decided to go to Hotel Agra Ashok.

As expected out of a 3-Star hotel, it was a nice restaurant. Apart from us, there were only foreign nationals
We took a look at the Buffet spread and it was a was a nice one. So we opted for it instead of A-la-carte

By 10:00PM, we finished our dinner and reached our hotel. Without wasting much time, we all dozed off into our sleep

Day 17 Statistics:
From: Agra (UP80)
To: Agra (UP80)
Distance: 390Kms (29933-30323)
Time taken: 12:30 hours (4:30 hours of driving)
Average Speed: ~86Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: equally shared between Mohith and Rajesh (195Kms)
States: 1 (Uttar Pradesh)

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:50.
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Day 18, 28-Oct-2013: Agra (UP80)

This was a day completely reserved for sightseeing in Agra. Rajesh and I had seen Agra before but it was the first time for Mohith.
The only two places we had in our list was the Taj Mahal and the Agra fort and if possible to squeeze in any other place.

We got up leisurely at 7:00 AM, got ready by 8:00AM, and finished our complimentary breakfast by 9:00AM.
We went to the reception desk and took a "attractions around Agra" pamphlet.
By 9:15AM, we left the hotel and headed straight to "The Taj Mahal"

As experienced the previous two mornings, we were literally attacked by "Guides". We ignored every one of them and parked our vehicle in the parking lot.
As if the Guides weren't enough, the hawkers too surrounded us with Taj replicas, postcards, carpets, glass pens, whips, and what not.
We somehow managed to escape out of it.

It was already hot outside and so we decided to take a cycle rickshaw till the entrance from the parking lot.
It was a good ride because he took us for a ride

After a few hundred metres, he told us that the Taj would be closed for half an hour between 9:45 to 10:15 for cleaning.
He told he will take us to UP handlooms for shopping. From my previous shopping experience, I knew that the products are not good quality ones. So I had decided not to buy anything here.
I told Rajesh and Mohith the same too but they seemed to be interested in buying gifts.

When we went inside the shop, we were shown many sarees and one special saree made out of Banana silk which could pass through a finger ring attracted Mohith and Rajesh.
The shopkeeper told that all these items are made by prisoners.
He then told us that if we do not like this, we can exchange it anywhere in the country and even in our hometown of Bangalore.
Mohith bought a saree of ₹3000. After that, they showed us marble jewellery, leather purse, shoes and other items.
Mohith purchased a bag. The cycle rickshaw guy took us till the entrance and dropped us. He only charged ₹20 as agreed earlier.

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Tickets please!

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Taj compound

When we went to the entrance, more guides came to us. Rajesh and Mohith decided to hire one just to have fun hearing to what he says (similar to the movie Slum dog Millionaire)
He agreed for ₹100 while all others outside were asking ₹400(bargainable of course).
At the same time I saw that there was a counter for Audio guide. I took one just to experience-I had seen one such thing in Mysore Palace which was good.
The guide initially explained about the tombs outside and some other small things.

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Ready to enter

We then moved inside the arch. The first view of Taj Mahal from inside is enough to captive anybody. Mohith stood there in Awe of this Majestic beauty.

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Love at first sight

I got busy in clicking pictures from many angles. There were photographers on hire. They would give all the photos on CD and also print it there itself. They had printers and copiers with them.
I generally don't take too many portraits but Mohith loves taking his photos. So he hired one even though we had 3 DSLRs with us.
We slowly walked along the centre path taking many photos and finally reached the main building.

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Wah Taj!

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White beauty

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Love everywhere

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WOW-Wonder Of the World

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Tomb-close up

The intricate carving on the walls both inside and outside amazes us. Yes I know that Marble is one of the softest stones around but to do things that are done there takes some special skills.

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Love Sepia

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Symbol of love

In some places there are colourful stones laid on marble but it is hollow beneath. If you put light over these, it glows. There are people who hold small torches to show this to us and they charge 10INR for this.
We paid one such person and he showed some areas with such carvings. It is really amazing. Inside the mahal, photography is not allowed so we couldn't take any pictures.

In half an hour we were out of the building. We took a walk around the Taj and the guide showed us the foundation a probable black Taj mahal that was planned on the other side of the Yamuna.

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We slowly started moving out but all the way turning back to see the Taj mahal. Mohith just couldn't stop staring at it. Finally by noon, he took one last look at it and we came out.

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One last look

My Audio guide, which I returned back, was a useless piece of junk. Earphones were not very good; there was no flow to the explanation. I wouldn't recommend it.
The one which I had seen in Mysore Palace is very good compared to this

By this time, the guide asked Mohith how much he paid for the saree. When he told ₹3000, he told him that it is not worth more than ₹1500.
Mohith was shocked and disappointed. The guide asked us if he can take you to another shop and show the prices.
I turned it down. But Mohith wanted to check the truth. So he took us to a shop just outside the Taj complex.

True to his words the sarees were sold at ₹1400 indeed. This shop guy asked us if we took it in the UP handlooms.
He asked us if they told that it is mad by prisoners
He asked us if they told that we could exchange anywhere in the country.
We were just nodding like idiots. Mohith was really angry and decided to get back the money from the first shop.

I was not very confident that he can get it. But he decided to get it back. So he went to the first shop while Rajesh started shopping for some sarees in this shop.
Mohith came back in 30 Minutes. He was successful in getting the money back
In fact he told us that he dealt it in a smart way. He acted as though he had lost his Wallet and didn't have any money to go back home
He was singing "No ullu banaoing, no ullu banaoing"

With the same money however, he purchased two sarees here and Rajesh too purchased a couple of sarees.
I saw a few stoles for females and I purchased some 3 of those. By the time we returned to the car it was almost 2PM.
Again we were surrounded by hawkers with their many items. I purchased some glass pens for kids and left he place.

We paid the guide ₹150/- as Rajesh and Mohith were impressed. I hadn't heard what he said.

We now drove in search of a restaurant. Pretty soon we found a Dasprakash-Not the one we had seen the previous night but a new and modern one.

We went inside and didnít bother much about the menu. We ordered a south Indian Thali for everyone.
Generally I avoid eating south Indian food in North India and otherwise. I always try to eat local cuisine wherever I go.
But here, the hotel looked good and the brand name suggested that it will be good.

The owner of the restaurant spoke in Kannada. Hearing this, we felt really happy and spoke to him for a few minutes before the food came in.
Dasprakash lived up to its brand reputation and we got some amazingly delicious south Indian food. Every one of us was reminded of our home food.

Satisfied with the food, we came out fresh and gleaming. We headed straight to the Agra Fort. It was 3:30PM by then.

We parked our vehicle and entered this good looking red fort. It is one of the well maintained forts in the country IMO. Rajesh purchased the entry tickets.

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Agra Fort

While he was in the queue, I spotted many people taking photographs and some people caught my attention

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Who told taking photos is easy?

Slowly we walked inside the fort looking at the nice architecture. We didn't hire any guides but at important places overheard other guides
We were already tired because of the temperatures so we were walking slowly and taking pictures everywhere. I'll let the pictures and its captions do the talking from here on.

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Watch window

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Taj view

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Cultural confluence

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I see red everywhere

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I love to play

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Green in red fort

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Ek duje ke liye

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Chip and dale

Finally by 5:00PM, when the sun began to come down, we started our walk back to the car.

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Bye bye

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Going down...

By 5:30PM, we reached our car and Rajesh drove us all towards our hotel.
Enroute we went to a Fuel station and filled up diesel for the next day's journey.
From there when we started again, we spotted a car wash facility. We stopped and gave the vehicle a much needed wash.
He did a thorough wash which lasted for almost an hour.

We then went to our Hotel. Initially we thought of ordering dinner there itself. But we saw a KFC outlet just opposite to our restaurant. So we went there and got some take away food for the night.

Later we purchased some Agra Petha from a sweet shop just beside our hotel.
They tasted really good and he promised that they will last for at least 10 days more. So we purchased 3 different flavours that tasted good.

After this, we had dinner for almost 3 hours discussing all topics from work to friends and to our trip.
Mohith and Rajesh started to miss their family very much and started feeling homesick. I don't know if it was with the south Indian thali that we had for lunch or the KFC food.
Whatever it was they started counting the remaining days and wanted to reach home soon. We still had 6 more days!

I called up the reception desk and asked them for the final bill. They promptly sent it soon and we settled the hotel bill and gave some tips to the room service guys.
We ended the day at 11:00PM. The next day was another 1000Kms drive to Ahmedabad and we had to leave early.

Day 18 Statistics:
Fuel filled at: Agra ODO 30347 at ₹56.75/ltr
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.9Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:51.
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Day 19, 29-Oct-2013: Agra (UP80) to Ahmedabad (GJ01)

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This was a just-drive day for us and so we left early. At 5:45PM, Mohith began the 1000km day. Being early morning, within no time we were out of the city.
We took the Agra>Jaipur>Ajmer>Bhilwara>Chittorgarh>Udaipur>Ahm edabad route. By 9:00AM, we had reached Jaipur.

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Straight and Empty
This picture above shows the lack of driving sense of our countrymen. Ideally those tyre marks should be on the left lane, shouldn't it?

On the highway, There were this typical Jaipur pink sandstone sculptures on sale.
They had many things from lamp shades to animal statues to stone benches.
Since it was early in the day, there were no people in any of these shops.
However I spotted one person just putting water to the entrance of his shop and getting ready for the day.

I immediately asked Mohith to stop the vehicle. I wanted to take something back home. The advantage of driving your own BIG SUV is this. I purchased two medium sized lampshades and two small elephants.

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Things I purchased from the "Pink City"...taken some days after our trip

The bamboo artefacts from Assam, lot of Chikan clothes from Lucknow had already taken up lot of space. And now these things not just filled up the boot but also took up the floor space of one seat in the second row.

After we had passed Jaipur, we stopped at a good Restaurant for our breakfast. I don't know why, but we ordered Indian-Chinese. We got some nice and delicious noodles and fried rice. After 45minutes to an hour, we continued.

The sun came up by now, the traffic however was less. Tolls, 4-lane roads and high double digit cruising speeds were the only things I remember.

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Drive, Drive and just drive...

By 11:00AM, I started feeling sleepy. I went back and slept flat in the second row. At Chittorgarh, Rajesh and Mohith had made a refuelling stop. I was sleeping there too

At 12:30PM, I lost my sleep. The vehicle had stopped. Still heavy-eyed, I asked "Where are we now?"
Rajesh was looking around to find the place name to answer me. Just then, I heard a huge thud sound just above my head.
ACCIDENT!, we were hit by a truck from the back! It was close to the same side to which I had my head.

We had just finished taking a toll ticket and this truck came and hit us from behind. We stopped just after the gate to assess the damage. It was a big one!

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We got hit!

The truck guy took his toll and I signalled him to pull over. But the Moron came intimidatingly close to me and then drove past without stopping me. He was also shouting and looked like a mad guy.

We were in a shock, one because of the hit and two because of the way he reacted. I came back to the car and looked at the damage. Although we initially decided to catch the truck and stop him, we collectively decided not to get into useless hassles.

Mohith was shocked and asked Rajesh to drive. He had driven around 544Kms till then and it seems he had decided to stop when he reaches 600Kms. But then after this incident, he was shaken. So he didn't want to drive further.

Our next stop was for lunch near Udaipur. We stopped at a decent restaurant. We don't know what we ordered because the accident and disappointment had occupied our minds. Although we were saddened by the incident, we took consolation about the fact that it was not that big that it could stall our progress. Mohith was feeling guilty but we tried explaining that "An accident is an accident". we should take all these in our stride.

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We hardly noticed that we had spent close to 2 hours for lunch. but finally we left the hotel at 4:30PM. I took over the driver's duty.
By around 5:45, we reached the Rajasthan-Gujarat Border.

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Entering Gujarat...

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Seema Samapth

Just after crossing, we were stopped by the police. They initially asked where were we coming from and where we were headed to.
They then asked if we were carrying any alchohol. We said no. but he wanted to check. We got down and opened the boot.

Seeing the huge amount of luggage, he came to know that searching would be tough. So he asked more questions about our drive. We just told him that we had gone on a week-long trip to North India and after seeing the formula one race we were returning back.
We didn't want to say that we had gone to Arunachal and things like that. It was simply not necessary.

He checked a couple of our bags and found nothing. He told us that if we had alcohol with us, consequences would be serious. I confidently told him just one sentence..."We have nothing illegal in our car. If you feel we are telling lies, we don't mind you checking the entire car. You can search to your satisfaction". Seeing my confidence, he let us go.

Two hours from there,we had reached Ahmedabad. Using our mobile phones we reached Ginger hotel. the checkin process was quick and easy. Once we were inside our room, we quickly ordered our food and finished our dinner in no time.

Rajesh called up Avinash to tell him about his vehicle. He took in his stride very well. He told us not to worry too much as this is all part of life. He told us to enjoy the rest of our trip and give the car to repair, and then hand it over to him. He didn't want to see his vehicle is a bad shape (of course, who would like to see their vehicle dented)

With this we ended yet another eventful day which was supposed to be uneventful.

Day 19 Statistics:
From: Agra (UP80)
To: Ahmedabad (GJ01)
Distance: 957Kms (30350-31307)
Time taken: 15:00 hours
Average Speed: 63.8Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Mohith(544Kms)
States: 3 (Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan & Gujarat)
Fuel filled at: Chittorgarh ODO 30966 at ₹55.19/ltr
Tolls paid: 14 tolls totalling to ₹686
Kitna Deti Hai?: 10.85Kmpl

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Day 20, 30-Oct-2013: Ahmedabad (GJ01) to Dwarka (GJ34)

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We had to drive 500+kilometres this day. So we thought if we leave early, we'll reach Dwarka by evening.
We had planned to visit the temple in Dwarka the next day and also cover Porbandar the next day.
As per plan, we had to start back from Dwarka early in the morning of November 1st.

We settled the hotel bill and left Ahmedabad at 6:00AM sharp. For a change, Rajesh started the day.
Our plan was to take Ahmedabad>Rajkot>Jamnagar>Dwarka route.

Our first stop was at Chotila where we found a BP COCO fuel station; we refuelled there.

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The hands that built the fuel station

Just before Rajkot by 9:00AM we stopped for breakfast. This is where we realized that we were in Gujarat.
The food was awesome in the restaurant and we tasted many Gujarati Delicacies.
Not just the food, but the distance we had covered also showed us what Gujarat is known for - Development.

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Delicious food

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Delicious roads

Rajkot was half the distance at 225Kms. we had covered this in just 3 hours. At this pace we would reach Dwarka by noon!

When we realized this, we decided to change our route from Rajkot and cover Porbandar the same day itself and then go to Dwarka. We also could leave the next day itself to Ahmedabad after visiting the Dwarka temple.

Rajesh continued at the wheel and in another 2 hours...exactly at noon, we had reached Porbandar-The birth place of The Mahatma.
We asked for directions to Kirti Mandir-The house where M.K.Gandhi was born. In 15 minutes, we reached the spot beyond which vehicles are not allowed. We were instructed by people to park our vehicle at a parking lot close by.

Rajesh doesn't like MKG, so he told us that he will not come further and he'll stay in the car.
Even after I persuaded him, he didn't budge. So Mohith and I started walking towards Kirti Mandir.
It is in a small lane with old shops on both sides of the road. There is a big Arch overlooking this street.

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Road to Kirti Mandir

Once we walk through this Arch, we come to a junction and we have to turn right. The road gets narrower.
100mtrs down the road, on to the left side, we see Kirti Mandir. It is a cream-Red colour building which is now converted into a museum.

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Kirti Mandir

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Birthplace of bapu

As we enter through an old wooden door, we see a big hall. We have to leave our footwear here.
All around the hall, we can see old photos of MKG and freedom movement exhibited. On the left we see the entrance of Gandhi's birthplace. We see a huge board with details of the house.

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A legend is born

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home sweet home

The boards guided us to a room which is the exact place where The Mahatma was born.

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Labour room...

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Birth of MKG

It is a different feeling being in the house where such a great personality was born and spent his early days.
After taking a look around the house, we slowly came out of the house and back to the big open area at the entrance.

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Around the house

The floor was burning by now and we could hardly keep our feet on the floor. We ran across to the passage full of photos. We saw many rare photographs featuring Gandhi and of the freedom fight era.
There was also a 'Temple' of Gandhi and Kasturba

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Kirti Mandir

At the end of this passage, they have a library full of books which we could read.
At the end, there was a counter selling some things. I purchased the Auto-Biography of MKG and a CD having some rare photographs.

We came outside and the main door was closed and two girls were playing around. As we tried to open the door, they closed it. Surprised, I tried to open it again. She held it firmly. Initially I thought she was playing with me but at the third attempt I realised she was begging. She was a small girl so she couldn't stop us from opening it.
I came out and Mohith also followed. Just when he was about to come out...One hand of his was on the door. The girl intentionally closed it with all her might and Mohith's finger got stuck. He yelled out loud and jumped in pain.
He was so angry that he would hit her back. But he controlled it (May be Gandhi's birthplace had an effect on him)

Finally we came back walking towards the car. It was sultry weather and we were sweating like hell. The smell of fish in the air added to our discomfort. We saw a sugar cane juice shop and we ordered 2 glasses and drank it down quickly.
We called Rajesh but he didn't want it and he asked us to come to the car. So we went back to the car.

It was 1:30PM and I started to drive. The next 100 Kms to Dwarka took just 75 minutes even though it was a median-less road. Enroute we stopped at couple of places for photographs.
Time for some photos...

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Zero above MSL

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Look at the size...

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Scary horns

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Trucks and Tracks

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Long and tall

When we are at the doors of Dwarka, we can see the huge Dwarkadish temple beside the beach.
Very soon, we came across the "Welcome to Dwarka" Arch.

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"Welcome to Dwarka"

It is a small town and finding our hotel was not very difficult. We had to be careful driving through the small roads however.

We parked the vehicle in the hotel basement, and checked in. We told we would order food, but found out that he doesn't have a kitchen at all. It was 3PM by then. So we enquired where we might get food. He suggested that we go to the main road and look for some dining halls.

We didn't waste any time and got down to our car again and went to the main road. We found a couple of dining halls and they were closed. There were no usual restaurants here. At a third dining hall, we were lucky as he was still serving food.
A tasty vegetarian food meal after a 9 hour drive in hot and humid weather is nothing short of heaven.

We had our fill, paid our bill and were on our way out while the restaurant owner stopped us. He was all of 30years and spoke good English with a Guajarati accent. He asked us where we were from and other things. He gave us his Visiting card.
His visiting card had all the Sightseeing places in Dwarka printed at the back. He explained a few things about the points (basically temples) and wished us luck. We felt good and left the place.

Came back to our hotel and took some rest. We studied the visiting card which had around 6 places. We decided that we will visit the Bhadkeshwar Mahadev temple(suggested by that dining hall guy) and the Sunset point the same evening and the Dwarkadish temple the next day.

After an hour's rest at the hotel, we came out and drove to the Bhadkeshwar Mahadev temple. Itís a small temple of Shiva some 50mtrs out in the sea. Nothing was great about this apart from this.
We then waited there for sunset. People slowly started coming in.
There were horse and camel rides for people, a couple of chat shops, some guys selling seashells
Even then it was not a huge rush by any means. There was a new area being developed with lot of benches to view the sunset.

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Spot Mohith!

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Looks like Autralia shifted to India

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Horse ride anyone

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Ship of the desert

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Hit me baby one more time

We slowly walked down to the beach. There was a family with a small girl collecting seashells. Mohith joined them and collected some seashells and gave it to her. I was busy clicking photographs . It was one of the most relaxed evenings of our trip. The sun finally started to come down quickly.

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Collecting seashells

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Lets go home

This sunset was the climax of our trip. This was the West end of the nation. We had accomplished our East to West drive. It was one special feeling. After the sunset, we put the camera on the tripod, took one picture with all the four of us.

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He ran out of road....AGAIN!

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East to West...accomplished

I had decided to grow a full beard just for a change and what you see in the photo is a 20 day old beard

We came back to the hotel. Because of the late lunch, we were not hungry. So we just drank a big cup of Badam milk each (although the hotel didnít have a kitchen, they had basic utensils to give us coffee/tea/badam milk)

Our plan for the coming days were:
  • 31st October: Drive back to Vadodara-600Kms
  • 1st November: Drive from Vadodara to Aurangabad-500Kms
  • 2nd November: Spend the day in Aurangabad
  • 3rd November: Aurangabd to Bangalore-1250Kms

But now Rajesh and Mohith were really home sick and wanted to go back home as soon as possible. They both wanted to drive 1000Kms till Pune the next day and then on 1st November from Pune to Bangalore and spend 3 days at home.

It took a lot of convincing to tell that we do not get such long leaves frequently and that we must make the best use of it. But they were not keen, now that we had completed the East to West.

So we made a compromise, I agreed to remove the one-day-stay in Aurangabad and so finally we changed our plan like below
  • 31st October: Drive from Dwarka to Surat 700Kms
  • 1st November: Drive 700 Kms from Surat to Pune via Aurangabad (just visit the Bibi Ka Maqbara or Mini Taj Mahal)
  • 2nd November : 900Kms drive from Pune to Bangalore

This way we could reach one more day earlier. I so wanted to cover Bibi Ka Maqbara since it would be a special one to cover Both the actual Taj Mahal and its lookalike. Rajesh and Mohith had never heard about the Taj Mahal lookalike and hence were least interested. But somehow agreed to this plan.

That was the end of an important day of our trip. WE RAN OUT OF ROAD...AGAIN!

Day 20 Statistics:
From: Ahmedabad (GJ01)
To: Dwarka (GJ34)
Distance: 520Kms (31307-31827)
Time taken: 09:00 hours
Average Speed: 57.8Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Rajesh(411Kms)
States: 1 (Gujarat)
Fuel filled at: Chotila ODO 31468 at ₹59.05/ltr
Tolls paid: 6 tolls totalling to ₹230
Kitna Deti Hai?: 12.61Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:54.
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Day 21, 31-Oct-2013: Dwarka (GJ34) to Surat (GJ05)

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I got up at 5:30AM. We all were ready by 7:00AM. The Dwarka temple was at a walking distance from our lodge so we walked down.

The huge tomb of the temple is a beautiful sight to look at. In the early morning cool weather, it looked that much more beautiful

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Dwarkadish Temple

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Another view

As you can expect from any temple, there were a lot of beggars outside the temple. We passed them and entered the compound and took some pictures of the temple.

There were a lot of photographers who would give instant photos. Seeing SLRs in our hand they didn't bother us at all. We actually gave our camera to one fellow and asked him to take a photograph. I expected he would deny but he took a couple of snaps and gave it to us.

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West end

Mobile phones and cameras were not allowed inside the temple and there was strict police protection for the temple with metal detectors and frisking. We had to keep everything in a well kept cloak room.

After all the security cover, we finally entered the temple. The architecture of this temple is amazing. The sandstone carvings are really beautiful. While I was going around the temple and looking at the work, Rajesh and Mohith seeked the blessings of the deity.

Seeing me, one of the priests, came to me asked me if I was a hindu or not!! I was shocked by the question and was silent for a second or so. But then smiled at him and said "Yes". He left after that.

More than anything, the thing that I liked most about this temple was the cleanliness. ISCKONs around the globe are clean of course, but this was very clean even though it is a very old temple.

The back gate of this temple faces the ocean and the early morning view of the Arabian sea was just awesome. We had to capture all the images of the temple in our heads as no cameras were allowed.

After spending half an hour at the temple, we came out and started walking towards our hotel. We had walked a mere 25 metres and we saw a snack point which had just opened. It was a small shop with only one stove and a counter and a couple of chairs for people to sit. The food items kept on the counter looked hot, fresh and very good. Although we wondered how he would prepare so many items with only a small stove, we went in to have our breakfast.

There were some authentic Gujarati food items and we tasted every item. all were really delicious. Just as we thought we had finished all, the owner's wife came with a basket full of hot Aloo Bondas. Wow! we ordered a plate of that too. Seeing this, we asked him and he told that the food is prepared in his house in the adjacent lane, and sold here. He told that he only prepares tea/coffee in the shop. Finally we finished our breakfast with a hot cup of tea.

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Gayathri Alpaahar

From there we went to our hotel and checked out. At 8:00AM, we had started our drive.

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Good bye Dwarka

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One last look

We took the Jamnagar route to Rajkot. The roads even though were narrower than that of the Porbandar route, had less traffic and was equally fast.

As decided the previous night, our destination for the day was Surat. I was driving while Rajesh looked for hotels. He shortlisted a few hotels. But then I asked him if there was a Ginger hotel , he told he didn't check. When he found out that there was indeed a Ginger in Surat, without thinking twice, we decided to book it. Rajesh is a "no credit cards" person so I had to book it myself. We decided to make the booking during lunch.

We reached Rajkot by 11:15AM - that's 250Kms in 3 hours non-stop.

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National highways of Gujarat

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Rajkot Cricket Stadium

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Keep smiling

Just after passing Rajkot, we filled diesel at an IOC COCO fuel station. I was not tired at all and so continued driving.

At around 1:30PM. we stopped at a nice and big restaurant for lunch. I don't actually remember what we had for lunch as I was busy on phone booking a room in Hotel Ginger for the same night. With many bookings in various Ginger hotels across the country, this booking was a very easy one.

After lunch, I continued driving. By 3:00PM, we were at the ring road junction of Ahmedabad. We had taken 9 hours from Ahmedabad to Dwarka during our onward journey (including Porbandar). We stopped for a while and thought of visiting the Sabarmati ashram but then we thought it would take a lot of time to enter the city and then come back out.

We took the entry toll of NE-1 (National Express way-1) to Vadodara at 3:30PM. This is undoubtedly the fastest express-way in the country.
We covered this 100Kms stretch in 1 hour - what makes it special is that our maximum speed never was more than 110Kmph. For me, this the "Autobahn of India"

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"Autobahn of India"

Moving ahead, we covered the next 90Kms in another hour to reach the outskirts of Bharuch.
Here on the highway, we saw that there was a huge jam ahead of us. We could see a Km long traffic stalled on the highway. We also stood behind the huge line-up.
We thought we would be stranded for quite some time. But luck was on our side. We had exactly stopped at a location where there was a median break.
A policeman came on his bike and asked us to take a right turn into a small village road. We followed his instructions and many more vehicles followed us. We were among the first few cars to take this detour.
After a few metres we stopped again but this time in this narrow road. We thought we were stuck! But it was just closed railway gate which had halted the traffic-it was only for 5 minutes.
I would have driven the entire distance if it was on the highway, but now I lost interest. So I gave the vehicle to Rajesh. Since morning I had driven 650Kms. Surat was less than 100Kms from here onwards.

The next day, when I saw the news, I came to know that the traffic jam was because Narendra Modi had come there to lay the foundation to build the World's Tallest Statue-The Statue of Unity - The 597ft statue of Vallabhbhai Patel!

Later on by 5:30PM, we were inside the Bharuch city and among its slow moving traffic. Although it was slow, we never got stuck.
At 5:45 we came to the banks of Narmada and we had to cross this narrow metal bridge built in the 1881!

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Built in 1881

A traffic cop was at the entrance of this 123 year old bridge. It was so narrow that he was stationed there to instruct everyone to close their ORVMs and drive.

We closed the mirrors and I took my camera out of the window and he asked me to keep it in or lose it

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Just enough for a Safari

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Cockpit view

As we crossed the bridge, sun sank into the Narmada.

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Driving on this bridge was a nice experience. The traffic Jam on the main Highway was a blessing in disguise, or else we would never have come inside Bharuch

The next 80Kms to Surat took two hours of our time and by 8:00PM, we were inside Surat.
We had to pass through the textile market area. The many textile shops amazed us. Even though I knew Surat was a textile hub, the scale of everything was wonderful.
Especially the many multilevel flyovers were a good sign of good infrastructure planning and good administration.
We knew that the next year, Narendra Modi might be contesting for the PM position and we just wished that he becomes the PM and would possibly be successful in implementing the "Gujarat model" in other places too.

At 8:30PM we reached Ginger hotel Surat. Parked the car, took the luggage and checked in.
After freshening up, we came to the restaurant for dinner. Everything about this restaurant was normal. Expect that there was a special table.
As soon as we saw that, we went and occupied that table. What was that? Look at the picture.

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We ordered our food and while we were waiting for it to arrive, we asked the waiter to take some pictures of us inside the Auto rickshaw.

After this 'Special dinner' we went back to our room and slept.
Before that we called out homes and told that we had finished Dwarka sightseeing and the next day we will drive down to Surat

Day 21 Statistics:
From: Dwarka (GJ34)
To: Surat (GJ05)
Distance: 741Kms (31827-32568)
Time taken: 12:30 hours
Average Speed: 61.8Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Hemanth(652Kms)
States: 1 (Gujarat)
Fuel filled at: Rajkot ODO 32118 at ₹59.05/ltr
Tolls paid: 9 tolls totalling to ₹394
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.01Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:55.
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Day 22, 01-Nov-2013: Surat (GJ05) to Pune (MH12)

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Being a day with "Just" 600 Kms of drive, we took it a little easy and woke up at 6:00AM and started our breakfast at 7:00AM.
We ate one of the most delicious Dosas in the hotel and surprisingly it was in Gujarat and not in Karnataka or Tamilnadu or Andhra Pradesh.
They were so crispy and light that we must have had around 5 Dosas at least. We could have had more but other people were waiting for them and moreover the servers at the restaurant started staring at us

We settled the final bill and packed the vehicle left. Like most of the other days, Mohith was the first to drive. People were still jogging on the roads and the whole city was just waking up.
We took the NH6. Initially we were caught in a small traffic jam at a vegetable market on the outskirts of the city. After we passed the market, there were no problems.

By 9:30AM we were nearing the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. A fort on top of a hill was an indication that we were about to enter Maharashtra-The land of forts.

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The land of forts

Roads were mostly under-construction 4 lanes in Gujarat with many toll gates getting finishing touches. As we came closer and closer to Maharashtra, construction works increased and so did the deviations and detours.

Just after we crossed the border, in a detour, we had a single road and we faced a traffic jam.
The root cause being a Red Tin Box (supposedly a bus) of Maharashtra Government Transport that had broken down on the road.
The narrow two lane road was a bottle neck. Everyone was trying to squeeze through without letting others go.
Finally 3 to 4 bikes came in and created a lock. No one could go anywhere. After 15 minutes, some people became citizen policemen and started guiding vehicles.
After our Accident two days ago, Mohith was not the same driver anymore. He tried manoeuvring the beast but was more nervous.
Even after I urged him to drive, he told that he couldn't drive and told me to drive. We exchanged seats without getting out of the vehicle.
This traffic jam consumed 1 hour of our time. And we were finally out of Gujarat. After that we only had median-less roads with many trucks. This reduced our average speed to a great extent.

By noon somewhere near a place called Dhule, we stopped for diesel.

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Some reservoir near Dhule

Later on, we took the Dhule bypass. Just after the bypass, we joined NH3. It was a 4-laned highway. Before we could even feel happy, The GPS told us that we had to leave that high way and take the SH 22 which was again a single road.

It was 1:00PM by then and we were hungry. Since morning we had not seen any good options to eat. So we were not confident that we would find any good ones going further.
As soon as we joined the SH, we saw a Dhabha. Although it was not very good, we stopped there and had our lunch just for the sake of eating. As expected, the food was not very good. We just ate some rotis and dal and we resumed our journey.

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Narrow roads

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Lakshmi Pooja is coming soon

By around 2:00PM we had passed Chalisgaon and reached the beginning of a ghat section. There was a forest check post where we were stopped. Rajesh got down and went inside with all the documents.
He checked all the documents and finally asked for the fitness certificate. Rajesh told that the vehicle is less than 2 years old.
Inspector told that he was not asking about the vehicle but a fitness certificate for the driver! Rajesh was like..."What the Hell!"
He told that he had never heard of anything like that. But the inspector told that the previous night some driver with fever had caused an accident and so they wanted a medical fitness certificate for the driver.
Rajesh started arguing but he was not ready to agree. Luckily for us, a truck came at that time. These trucks appear like moving moneybags for the police and our car was nothing for them.
So they asked us to leave. As soon as he said that, Rajesh came running and asked to drive even before the inspector could change his mind.

We finally we at the doors of Aurangabad at 4:00PM.

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The gate to Aurangabad

We passed the Ellora caves but with our changed plans, we didn't stop there. As we had decided to see only the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara a.k.a mini Taj Mahal, we followed the Phone's instructions and reached the site.

Though it was not as beautiful as THE Taj Mahal, it was nice in its own way. However, you can fool someone less informed into believing that it is the Taj Mahal.
It is called the Taj of Deccan. Though itís a national heritage site, itís not that very well maintained.
We clicked pictures around the site. With Mohith's experience with different poses at Taj Mahal, he tried some of them here

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Bibi Ka Maqbara a.k.a Taj of Deccan a.k.a Duplicate Taj Mahal a.k.a Mini Taj Mahal

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Yours Truly

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Mohith trying one out of the many poses that he learnt in Agra

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No poses for him

Photography is allowed inside the main building unlike the Taj Mahal.

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Sanctum of the Tomb with the tomb of 'Bibi'

We spent around an hour and finally came out.

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Pillars of the mosque

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Mosque on the western side of the monument

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All around the walls

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Stone mesh

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Black and white

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Details on the roof

We were sweating hard and decided to take some refreshments.
Some cool drink, mango slices, and cucumbers at one of the many shops outside were good enough.

At 5:45PM, we finally started. Mohith drove from here. I fell asleep in the rear seat as soon as we were out of Aurangabad.

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Penultimate day coming to an end...

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On fire!

The next thing I remember is getting up at 9PM with some 50Kms remaining to Pune.
At sharp 10:00PM, we reached our hotel in Akurdi. This was a hotel that our company employees frequent when on official duty.
I had also visited this couple of times before. So the receptionist knows me and hence the check in was a breeze.

We put the luggage in our room and got fresh and headed straight to the restaurant. Somehow we did not want to order food to our room.

Since the next day we would reach home, this would be our last dinner together in our trip.
We recollected all the good memories of our trip...and the accident too! We raised a toast to celebrate our accomplishment.
At 11:30PM, we came back to our room and slept within seconds.


Day 22 Statistics:
From: Surat (GJ05)
To: Pune (MH12)
Distance: 646Kms (32568-33214)
Time taken: 14:00 hours
Average Speed: 46.1Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Hemanth(268Kms)
States: 2 (Gujarat & Maharashtra)
Fuel filled at: Dhule ODO 32730 at ₹59.06/ltr
Tolls paid: 8 tolls totalling to ₹203
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.33Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:56.
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Day 23, 02-Nov-2013: Pune(MH12) to Bangalore (KA05)

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Emotions are so powerful that it can make people do what they are not used to. I found this out this day...When I got up at 6:30AM, I was surprised because Rajesh and Mohith, who were always getting up after me, got up before me and were ready

Since it was Diwali, the hotel management had told us before that they'll not be able to serve breakfast because most of their staff was on a holiday.
After I was ready, we all packed our bags for one last time and settled the hotel bill and by 7:30 we were all set to go home!

We called our homes and told that we have left Surat towards Pune: D

As we reached the outskirts of Pune, the two sights that we all loved were the board showing the distance left to Bangalore and the tunnel on the Highway. Those two simply meant that we were going home. I may sound repetitive but itís an amazing feel!

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Bangalore 832

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Home on the other side...well not exactly

While Rajesh was driving, I was in the second row. I took our booklet where we were entering all the distances data, expenses, fuel details etc...
I entered the Kilometers driven by each of us into an excel sheet. Once completed, found out that Mohith had driven 4600 Kms and I had just crossed the 4000 mark. Rajesh had driven a little over 2000 Kms. All these readings were only till the previous day.

When I read this out loud, Mohith got excited and wanted to cross the 5000Kms mark. With around 900 Kms left in the day, only he could complete that.

Crossing the Khandala ghat section starting from Bengrutwadi was like a race as usual. With slow trucks and zig zagging cars, it requires some skill crossing this. For Rajesh, it was a first time experience and he was amazed, to say the least.

After finishing this section, Rajesh wanted some rest and all of us needed to have breakfast. So we stopped at a new restaurant.
The breakfast took a lot of time to arrive and a couple of customers even fought with the owner and took their coupons back and left. But we used the time to purchase some Chikkis and Bakarwadis. Though not the best, they were enough as a snack while driving.

At 10:00AM, after having spent an hour for breakfast, Rajesh continued to drive. He drove till 11:15 AM, when we had reached Kasegaon where we stopped for hopefully the last fuelling stop of the trip.

Rajesh had driven 201Kms by then and declared that he will not drive again in the day and his driving account finished at 2374Kms.
Mohith now jumped into the driver's seat. He was excited to complete driving 5000Kms.

It was a day of emotions. One hour after Mohith took to driving; our eyes saw the following picture...

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Feast for our eyes!!!

...Well, what is it? It is the first toll of Karnataka and seeing Kannada alphabets after more than 20 days! It was in Kognoli Belgaum and we happily paid ₹30 and moved forward.

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The roads being brilliant, we made quick progress

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5643.jpg
Headed straight home

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5642.jpg
Fast waves

Seeing the picture above and the fact that we were going home on Deepavali (Diwali), The Maruti Suzuki ad came to my mind

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Need to be home for Diwali

Who said India Comes home in a Maruti Suzuki? If you ask any one of the three of us, we will say INDIA COMES HOME IN A TATA

By around 1PM, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Belgaum; itís not a huge and lavish hotel but a good garden restaurant that I go to whenever I drive on this road. We spent half an hour for lunch and out we went.
The bearer here had a nice quote on his T-shirt and seeing that we did "The second best thing that lips can do"

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-20131102_133610.jpg
Take your guesses for the first best thing!

Our next stop was at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha or simply the Second Vidhana Soudha. It is the winter legislature house of the state.

It may have been built to reinforce the fact that Karnataka has control over Belgaum and it may have been a huge waste of Money. Whatever it might be, it looks good on the highway.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5651_2_3_tonemapped.jpg
Suvarna Vidhana Soudha

When we were somewhere in between Davanagere and Chitradurga, our colourful trip was coming to a colourful end

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5685.jpg
Colourful end to our trip

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5694-2.jpg
Rainbow from EAST TO WEST

Mohith had driven for over 400Kms and more importantly he had exceeded driving 5000Kms in the trip. Satisfied, he gave the vehicle to me and only 250Kms remained. It was 4:45PM.

It was a Saturday and also a Long weekend of holidays from 1st November to 4th November because of Kannada Rajyotsava and Deepavali. So the traffic was really less which helped me in covering the 250Kms in just 3 hours.

First, we went to Rajesh's house. As he rang the bell, His wife opened the door and went speechless for a few seconds. Then she asked how we came a day earlier. While I explained her the changes and that we wanted to surprise everyone, Rajesh ran inside and lifted his 2 year old son and hugged and showered him with kisses!!! It took 15 minutes to unload his luggage and for us to leave

10Kms later, it was Mohith's turn. He being a bachelor staying in a single room, there were nobody to receive him, poor guy. Unloading his luggage took 20 minutes. I was now alone and started to drive towards my home.

All along the city, I could see fireworks on the roads and in the sky, It was like the whole city was celebrating our accomplishment, our homecoming

I reached my home at 9:30PM. I parked the car in the basement, took as much luggage I can, took the lift and finally I was standing in front of the door. I pressed the door bell and my father opened the door. He was surprised but being a man of less expressions, he took the bags from my hands.
As he moved away, my wife could see me. That scene, what followed next, I'll never forget in my life.
She got up from the sofa, came running towards me and before she could reach me, which was hardly a 10 step distance, her eyes were filled with tears and her smile was the widest it could possibly be and it culminated in a tight hug. My eyes became moist too

My mother was very happy too and asked me how I came a day early. I explained what had happened and my wife gave a friendly punch. It was a wonderful few minutes.

After that, she saw my beard which was fully grown and hated it to the core. She asked me to remove it as soon as possible. I told her that I would keep it for a couple more days.

Later I got fresh and sat on the dining table. That dinner was the best dinner in the last 23 days.

After the dinner, I went with my wife to the terrace of our apartment and took the photo of how the city were celebrating our home coming

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5756.jpg

We then went to the car and took out the remaining luggage.
I called up Avinash that we reached home safe and successful. The final reading on the ODO was 34117 - a total of 11705 Kms!

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-20131103_075434.jpg
Final ODO reading-Picture taken the next day

With no alarms to wake up to and no distances to cover the next day, I slept like a baby that night...

Day 23 Statistics:
From: Pune (MH12)
To: Bangalore (KA05)
Distance: 903Kms (33214-34117)
Time taken: 14:00 hours
Average Speed: 64.5Kmph
Longest single-driver drive: Mohith (418Kms)
States: 2 (Maharashtra & Karnataka)
Fuel filled at: Kasegaon ODO 33415 at ₹60.09/ltr
Tolls paid: 15 tolls totalling to ₹790
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.40Kmpl

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:56.
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Old 3rd August 2014, 23:43   #28
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November 3rd Morning, my biological clock automatically woke me up by 6AM.
I got ready immediately as though I had to travel further
I came out of my bedroom and found a nice aroma of home cooked festive breakfast. I enjoyed it to the core.

When I finished breakfast and was washing my hands, my sister and brother in-law came home by that time. My sister immediately scolded me for the beard I had grown and asked me to remove it. I told I will keep it for a few more days. I then started searching for my 2 year old nephew-He was inside another room playing with his toys.

I called him out. As soon as he heard my voice he came out running in happiness. Poor guy, as soon as he saw me with the beard, he got scared and ran to his mother crying. He couldn't believe it was me. He didn't come to me at all. That was it; I immediately went back to the bathroom and took off the beard. This took 30 minutes of time as even the Gillette Fusion's 5 blades struggled

After 30 minutes, when I got back my French beard, my nephew came and hugged me and played with me.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_1956.jpg

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_5721.jpg

I then went down to the basement and took the final ODO reading photo as I had not taken that the previous night. Now when I see the photos, Co-incidentally the snap of the initial reading when the car left my home and the snap of the final reading at my home were both taken at 7:41AM

Somewhere in the afternoon, I spoke at length with Avinash about our experiences of the trip. He told me that he will not see his vehicle with the dent. He asked me to give the car after it was repaired

The next 2 days, I didn't go out anywhere; I took good rest at home during the day and the evenings were spent in bursting crackers and celebrating Deepavali with family. Apart from this I short-listed all the good photos of the trip and showed it to my family.

Finally, On Tuesday, the 5th of November 2013, I took out the Airavatha and headed to office. Mohith was coming late to office that day as he had gone to his native place-Mysore. So when I went to my desk, almost all of my colleagues surrounded me asking me about the experiences of our trip. The first quarter of the day almost went in this.

I opened my mailbox and somehow got myself acquainted to office life and the things that had happened in my absence. This year however I remembered my office computer password (Last year I had forgotten)

In the evening, Mohith took the vehicle for service while I went back home in my company cab. The service executive told him that the dent repair may cost around 8K and the full paid service would cost around 15k
We didn't want to get it done in a local garage as it was Avinash's car and so we left it there. The SA told us that the vehicle would be ready in 4 days.

Then on Friday, Surprisingly the car was ready and delivered. The service and the dent removal costs were however way more than the estimate. We were charged a total of 29K as against the estimate of 23K. However we were really happy with the work. We paid the amount and took the vehicle.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-20131112_143910.jpg
Accident? Where?

While I drove back the vehicle, I was even more surprised. The vehicle drove like a gem. It was the smoothest ever drive in all that I had driven the beast. Such a wonderful feeling it was, that it brought me images of the 2010 advertisement of Tata Indica Vista

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-surprised.jpg
I was surprised

The same evening, Avinash came home on his bicycle and took his Airavatha. We folded the seats and put his bike inside and off he went home. I heaved a sigh of relief. You feel light once you return back any item lent to you by someone.

This is when the whole thing started to sink in. What an amazing journey it was. This year's trip was more about the direction than the Destination.
Of course, there were many places that we could've have spent more time in (Like Varanasi, Gaya, Shanktiniketan, Jaipur etc.), but we had done something that very few have done.

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- We had driven close to 12000Kms in 23 days! (while the East to West distance is 3500Kms)
- We had seen the still-unspoilt-by-man Arunachal Pradesh to the most developed state of Gujarat
- We had driven through 13 States and Union Territories
- A neighbouring country Nepal
- Slow and bad roads of West Bengal to the fast lanes of the Buddh International F1 Circuit
- One of the wonders of the world-The Taj Mahal
- Bibi Ka Maqbara - the look alike of Taj Mahal
- We had tasted diverse food items like Bengali Rosogollas, Agra Pethas, Lucknow Pan, Lucknow Kebabs, Lucknow Biryani, Gujarati Dhokla, Asamese Bamboo shoot curry, Rajasthani Dal Bhati Churma, Lonavla Chikki....and the list goes on...
- Driving over Hill stations, Flat lands, Deserts, Forests, Ferries and other different topographical features
- Driving in Rain, Hurricane, over flooded bridges, Torching sun, Gusting winds, Driving Without high beams, landslide areas etc...
- Staying overnight at 5 star hotels to Business hotels to Inspection Bungalows
- Interacting with people speaking so many different languages

Whoa...I can continue this list with so many other things. In short,It was a once-in-a-lifetime journey

Personally I had my dream fulfilled, the childhood dream of travelling to the 4 corners of the country

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-note.jpg
Dream Fulfilled!!!

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dream-drives.jpg
Dream Drives!!!

The story doesn't end there. Last year, one of my friends had gifted me a wheel key chain for having completed the North-South drive.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-img_20120924_162647.jpg

He forgot this time. But, in over 15 days after my East-West drive, my wife gifted me with something which is the most invaluable gift one can get.
She gifted me with a Baby Girl on the 21st of November.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-img_20131121_140208.jpg
My gift

When I distributed sweets in my office, many in my office were surprised as to how I could leave my 8-month pregnant wife and go on a mega-drive and more surprised as to how my wife permitted me to go.
Well, to all of them, I had only one thing to say..."I'm lucky to have her as my wife". And their reply was "Yes you are"

Till the baby is three months old, it is a little easier for husbands because traditionally the wife goes to her mother's place. Itís like a second innings of bachelor's life

So I got some time which I utilized in making a Photo Album, Writing a short Travelogue for the company Magazine etc.

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_9408.jpg
Photo Album

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-dsc_9411.jpg
Travelogue for the company Magazine

I also finished the expense report and other details of the trip. Some snapshots of what I have prepared are shown below

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-picture-kms.jpg

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-speeds.jpg
Average Speeds

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-diesel.jpg
Diesel prices

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-fe.jpg
Kitna Deti Hain

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-expenses.jpg
What consumed how much?

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Who spent on what?

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How much did it cost?

Complete Statistics:
From: Bangalore (KA05)
To: Bangalore (KA05)
Distance: 11705Kms (22412-34117)
Drive time: 216:15 hours
Average Speed: 41Kmph
Distances driven by: Mohith(5030Kms), Hemanth(4301Kms) and Rajesh(2374Kms)
States/UTs: 13 (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat)
Fuel filled: 21 times at an average of ₹56.76/ltr
Tolls paid: 98 tolls totalling to ₹8303
Kitna Deti Hai?: 11.3 Kmpl

Compared to last year's ₹40,000 plus, this year I ended up spending a lakh of rupees per head.
But compared to last year,
  • Diesel rates had increased by ₹12.4 on an average
  • We had driven 2000Kms more
  • We were only three people sharing
  • On an average toll price/Km fro the entire trip had seen a ~15% increase. ₹0.70/Km in 2013 compared to ₹0.60/Km in 2012. (Compared the Pune-Bangalore tolls for this)

In the meantime, Avinash celebrated his birthday in March. I gifted him one Live to Drive key chain that had just arrived.
But we were looking for some ideas for his birthday cake. Since it was his Airavatha that was the hero, We gave this cake to him.

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Happy Birthday to avinashsg...

Last year, it took me 11 months to finish my Travelogue, so I wanted to start early. In fact I created this thread on 30th December 2013!
But very soon, my daughter came home. Even though my wife complains that I have to help her more in baby care, I had very less time for the travelogue.

The assembly line is a blessing for people like me and situations like this. Slowly I kept on building the travelogue. During this time, I came across this link which I would like to share here. The author has put this together very well.

14 Ways in Which Travelling Changes You

Details are in the above link but I'm quoting the 14 things that he has mentioned. I agree with each one of them.

1. With every trip you take, you become just a little wiser.
2. You start appreciating the little things in life.
3. You become more open minded.
4. You realize that in life, not everything goes your way.
5. You become a lot more patient.
6. You become more adaptable.
7. You start believing in yourself.
8. You contract a condition known as wanderlust.
9. You learn to be thankful for what you have.
10. You come closer to nature.
11. Loneliness doesn't bother you anymore.
12. You learn to put things in perspective.
13. The people you meet on your travels change the way you think about the world.
14. You learn that itís the journey that is important. The destination, not so much.
By July, I realized that I had completed very less. So I told my wife That I had decided to finish it as soon as possible and from then I dedicated more time to the travelogue

I felt that it would be very good if I make this travelogue public on Independence Day. Somehow I have managed to do that.

Also Today (15th August 2014), Mohith is going on his maiden Ladakh ride from Manali on a rented Bullet. I wish him all the good luck with this.

Finally I would like to finish my travelogue with this picture...Suggestions welcome

N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari-ew.jpg

Last edited by hemanth.anand : 15th August 2014 at 12:56.
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Old 15th August 2014, 22:07   #29
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Thread moved to travelogues from Assembly Line section.

Excellent Travelogue. Hemanth.
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Old 15th August 2014, 22:23   #30
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Phew! I just could read the first 10% and that itself had my cup of happiness brimming over! Way to go Hemanth. A true classic. Has a texture and taste of every thing ! 5-Stars from me.
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