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Old 9th March 2014, 21:46   #1
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Default An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Just me, my car and the long and winding road ! This is a travelogue of my 3 week solo driving holiday across Gujarat and Rajasthan. At the end of the trip, the tripmeter read 8122 kms. Not bad, eh ?

Trip summary

Day 1 - Bangalore – Hubli – Dharwar- Belgaum – Kolhapur – Satara (750 kms)
Day 2 – Satara – Pune – Thane – Ghodbunder – Vapi – Ankleshwar ( 567 kms)
Day 3 – Ankleshwar – Baroda – Borsad – Vataman –Bagodra –Rajkot – Junagadh – Sasan Gir ( 541 kms)
Day 4 – Sasan Gir – Somnath – Sasan Gir (93 kms)
Day 5 – Sasan Gir
Day 6 – Sasan Gir – Porbander – Dwaraka – Okha – Jamnagar (467 kms)
Day 7 – Jamnagar – Dhrol – Morvi – Bachau –Bhuj – Hodka ( 689 kms – some 300 kms added because of an awful mistake on my part)
Day 8 – Hodka – Kala Dungar – India Bridge – Bhuj - Dhordo – Hodka (307 kms)
Day 9 – Hodka – Bhuj – Bachau – Malia – Dhrangadhra – Bajana (322 kms)
Day 10 – Bajana
Day 11 - Bajana –Radhanpur – Tharad – Sanchore – Barmer – Jaisalmer - Damodra ( 552 kms)
Day 12 – Damodra
Day 13 – Damodra – Jaisalmer – Thanot – Longewala – Jaisalmer ( 310 kms)
Day 14 – Jaisalmer – Bikaner ( 370 kms)
Day 15 – Bikaner – Jaipur – Jobner – Jaipur ( 409 kms)
Day 16 – Jaipur – Gurgaon (241 kms)
Day 17 - Gurgaon
Day 18 – Gurgaon – Jaipur (239 kms)
Day 19 – Jaipur – Ahmedabad (713 kms)
Day 20 – Ahmedabad – Mumbai (532 kms)
Day 21 – Mumbai – Bangalore (1020 kms)

My Faithful companion
Hyundai i10 ; 50000 km on the odometer. Yeah, I know this is not a glamorous lady, but she is mine and has a heart of gold !


Although I don’t know these three BHPian stalwarts personally, I have gained immense tips, facts, guidance and ideas from their posts on Team BHP.
  • HVK - don’t need any elaboration there !
  • Ranjitp1 – His superb travelogue of the Rajasthan trip in 2010 was a big motivator and guide
  • Ampere – not specifically for this trip, but his posts have been incredibly useful over the last few years

For a trip like this, preparation is key. There is no short cut to meticulous preparation
  • Read up Team BHP thoroughly. I must have spent 40 or 50 hours on various threads over a period of one month !!
  • Planned each leg carefully – distance, route, timings etc
  • Serviced my car
  • Stocked up on engine oil, coolant, puncture kit , torch and the list of Hyundai service centre locations enroute
  • Bought a GPS (proved invaluable)
  • Coined and followed the mantra – it is a marathon; not a sprint.

Day 1 – Bangalore – Hubli – Dhawar – Belgaum – Kolhapur – Satara (750 km)

Typical NH 4 drive ; nothing significant to add to the wealth of information on the Bangalore-Mumbai thread. Didn’t stretch too much on the first day – motto of “it’s a marathon; not a sprint” ! Stayed at Mahendra Executive; really the only choice in Satara.

Day 2 – Satara – Pune – Thane – Ghodbunder – Vapi – Ankleshwar ( 567 km)

Satara – Pune sector is, as reported, with multiple diversions and with roadworks going on. Since I started early, thankfully not much of two wheeler traffic. Pune bypass is , for all practical purposes, a city road and takes time and the patience of city driving. On to the Mumbai Expressway and cars whizzing by with me trying to stay within the 80 kmph speed limit. I must have been the slowest on the road other than the trucks struggling to climb. Disappointed at the food options – I expected better stuff on an “expressway”.

Navigating Mumbai , I enjoyed the value of HVK’s advice. The route to strictly follow is Belapur – Turbhe – Airoli – Mulund – Thane – Ghodbunder as advised by HVK. Thanks to my GPS, did this without taking a turn wrong although I am completely unfamiliar with this area.

Ghodbunder is of course a mess. No right turn approaching from Thane – instead had to go towards Mumbai city and then U turn after 5 km and join the long queue.

Rest of the drive was uneventful and nothing really to report. Stopped at the Express Mall Vapi McDonalds for a bite. On to Ankleshwar to stay at the Lord’s Plaza for the night. Visited the Golden Bridge – there are a number of tea joints here and the elite from Ankleshwar seem to drive up , park their cars and have chai at sunset. Tried to photograph the historic Golden Bridge and managed to get just one shot before the security guys shoed me way (it appears you cannot take a picture of any bridge in India – what has the world come to !!)

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The Golden Bridge was commissioned in 1881, I understand. Wow. I wonder how many creations of today will last that long. It’s a narrow bridge and yet SUVs whizz by defying all known laws of physics !

Day 3 – Ankleshwar, Vadodara – Borsad – Vataman – Bagodra – Rajkot – Junagadh – Sasan Gir (541 kms)

Now my trip really starts ! Leaving early from Ankleshwar, avoided any mess crossing the Narmada although I still took forum advice on crossing by the Golden Bridge. Even at that early time, some SUVs tried to push me into the Narmada river, but I survived.

Vadodara bypass was fine, but the stretch on the NH 8 towards Vasad and the turn off towards Borsad is a complete mess. They are doing up the road, but currently it resembles a minefield.

HVK’s advice on the forum was that the Borsad-Bagodara roads were fine but the traffic was heavy and hence he advised going up to Ahmedabad and then turning off to the Rajkot highway. I should have listened to him, but regretfully didn’t and paid the price. Interestingly it was for the exact opposite of the reason HVK gave – the traffic was light, but the roads are being done up and there are numerous diversions. A particular problem is that where the done up stretch meets the bad sector, there is a 6 inches + difference in height ! Hit this at speed and you are finished. I saw an oncoming Indica hit it at 50 or so kmph and the axle just broke in front of my eyes. Thankfully the driver was able to stop the vehicle without a major disaster. Thereafter I crawled, not wanting to take a risk on even the good portions of the road. No eating joints at all although there are enough fuel outlets. Very light traffic – probably because of the condition of the road and probably because everybody else is listening to HVK !

Post the turnoff into the Rajkot highway, again the road is being done up in stretches. But most of it is good – the hazard really is to see a vehicle coming at top speed on your side of the carriageway. I was about to curse fluently, but then I realized he was simply being diverted on to this section as his section was closed and being done up. What an awful way of doing this with no warnings – waiting for an accident to happen.

Food joints are good around Limbdi (Honest and Darshan have been reported), but I then stumbled on to the best ever joint probably in the country called Highway Food Mall (just after Limbdi when coming from Ahmedabad) . Top international class stuff and ultra squeaky clean loos. Seems to be brand new. See the photos

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Post Rajkot the road continues to be good till Jetpur. After that roads are bad all the way to Sasan Gir . Jetpur – Junagadh – Mendarda and upto Sasan Gir isn’t good. Many rough patches, with some roadworks being done.

My first introduction to Gujarat roads hasn’t been good. I expected super smooth roads judging from all the reports. Instead I got as good or as bad an experience as elsewhere. Although I was to change my opinion on Gujarat roads later, this stretch was a huge let down. Add to it the problem in Gujarat that there are no useful signboards at all. The GPS isn’t perfect and the age old method of stopping and asking people had to be resorted to. What has Gujarat got against sign boards ?

Three full days of hard driving and I’ve come to the first of the places I really wanted to see. Tomorrow Sher Khan beckons !!

Last edited by Secretariat : 11th March 2014 at 22:05.
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Old 10th March 2014, 20:28   #2
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Default Saurashtra

Day 4 - Gir National park

There are just four hundred and eleven left of the mighty Asiatic Lion which once roamed all over Asia and is now only to be found in Gir. The sanctuary is very well maintained by the Forest Dept – tourism is restricted only to 200 sq kms , out of the Park area of 1400 sq kms, and tourist numbers are strictly controlled. And this is a forest and not a savannah like in Africa, so sighting the lion is far from guaranteed which makes it all the more interesting. Imagine the break of dawn, chill in the air, the stillness of the forest, the deer sounding the alarm call, the roar of the lion, straining your eyes this way and that, and then you see His Majesty in all his glory. Something like that happened to me and I was very lucky. Even Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t see a lion in three days, it is said !

Dawn breaking
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The trail
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His Majesty has been this way
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Can you spot her - she's shy
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Lazy Bum
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Traveler tips for Gir
  • Safari times are strictly controlled. There are only three drives in a day – 6.00 AM, 9.00 AM and 3.00 PM . Each drive lasts about 2.5 hours.
  • Permits for safaris are strictly controlled – there are only 30 permits for each session. Go to Gir only after you are “armed” with a permit which you can obtain online at http://girlion.in/
  • Do not go to Gir without a permit obtained online – you have to stand in a queue maybe for 2-3 hours and even then there is no certainty you will get a permit. Book only for the Gir Jungle Trail (the Devalia Safari Park is just a glorified zoo).
  • Best chances for sighting a lion are in the 6.00 AM drive. The next best is the 3.00 PM drive.
  • It is bitterly cold for the 6.00 AM drive. Woolens , including a woolen cap is a necessity
  • Costs are Rs 1500 for jeep hire and Rs 200 for the guide – both are obligatory. You can theoretically take your own four wheel drive in, but it is not advisable as you are earmarked a specific trail by which you have to go and you are hardly likely to know them
  • Recommend Maneland Jungle Lodge (Rs 3800 for single occupancy and Rs 4800 for double occupancy – stay and all meals).

Day 5 - Sasan Gir - Somnath - Sasan Gir ( 93 kms)

Somnath is 45 kms from Sasan Gir and the road is fine with minimal traffic.

The power of construction is much greater than the power of destruction, said Rajendra Prasad on the inauguration of the rebuilt Somnath temple in the early 1950s. Somnath , the first of the Jyotirlings is a wonderful temple and a must visit if you are a devout Hindu. The temple is impeccably clean, there is no hustling for money and the aarti is soulful. The temple is open throughout the day (6.00 AM – 9.00 PM) and not closed during the afternoon hours , unlike many other temples. Photography is prohibited, and so I have only a picture from the outside.

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Traveler tips for Somnath
  • All electronic items are banned inside the temple and the security staff strictly enforce this. Leave your mobiles, cameras and even your car keys (remote locking is electronic !) in the free lockers available at the entrance. I took my car keys in, only to be turned back at the entrance and a long walk back to the lockers.
  • Aarti timings are 7.00 AM, 12.00 noon and 7.00 PM. If you can, go for this – the experience is sublime.
  • The sound and light show is now on at 8.00 PM every day . I missed it as I was given to understand it is pretty ordinary, although they narrate the history of the temple and the many times it has been destroyed and rebuilt.
No great accommodation options in Somnath. Staying at Diu or Sasan Gir and visiting is better.

Day 6 - Sasan Gir – Porbander – Dwarka – Okha – Jamnagar (467 kms)

The road from Somnath to the Gadu junction, is being done up and currently in an awful state. But after Gadu, the road is fine all the way till Okha and then on to Jamnagar. The only decent food stops I noticed were Royal Honour about 40 kms from Somnath and Govardhan, a pricey, but good place with good loos just before Dwarka.

How's that for a view from the road
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And flamingoes by the roadside
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A visit to Kirti Mandir, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi is well worth it. To the strains of Vaishnava Janato playing the in background you can go through his ancestral home and also see the exact spot where he was born. A great experience for any Indian. Be warned that the street where Kirti Mandir is, is a narrow congested street and there is absolutely no parking space – have to go a distance and find somewhere to park. Sometimes it helps to have a small car instead of the SUV giants you lot own !

No title needed !
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The exact spot where the Mahatma was born
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Rooms in the house
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Nageshwar Temple, the second of the Jyotirlings, is a little way off Dwarka and in the middle of nowhere. Its an unimpressive temple, with much hustling for money and not in the same class as Somnath. It is open throughout the day, so good for an afternoon visit when Dwarkadhish is closed.

Nageshwar temple
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Shiva stands guard over the temple

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Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka is a nice temple with a great view of the deity , even from far. Again, the no electronics policy prevails, including car keys. Temple timings are 6.00 AM to 1.00 PM and 5.00 PM to 9.30 PM and the Aarti is a sublime experience (Aarti timings – 6.30 AM, 10.30 AM, 7.30 PM and 8.30 PM). The town itself is highly unimpressive with cows everywhere (understandable, but when they bump against your car ….. ) and an overwhelming smell of cowdung.

Dwarkadhish Temple
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Went to Okha to stand on the edge of India, but did not go to Bet Dwarka as I was influenced by an earlier BHPian report that it was an unclean place. Stopped by however at the Tata Chemicals factory in Mithapur on the way to Okha – it’s one of the oldest big factories in India, being 75 years old, and for a guy from the business world was as much of a “tourist” stop !

The edge of India
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An icon of Indian business history
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Late evening drove on to Jamnagar to stay the night at Express Residency, which is right on the highway. For about 30 or 40 kms before Jamnagar, it is a sight to behold as mega factoies and their twinkling lights make a great backdrop to the drive – Essar’s refinery, GSFC’s fertilizer plant and of course, Reliance’s mega complex are all gigantic industrial complexes. This stretch is surely the Shenzhen of India.

Day 7 - Jamnagar – Dhrol – Morvi – Bachau –Bhuj – Hodka ( 689 kms – some 300 kms added because of an awful mistake on my part)

Here come the fabled Gujarat roads. The entire stretch was superb except for two stretches near Bachau and Bhuj where roadworks are going on. An absolute pleasure to drive, with low traffic and the super polite Gujarati drivers. But this was not a good day behind the wheel for me. Firstly after going for some 150 kms I realised I had left my credit card back at the hotel, so I had to turn back and clock an extra 300 km to and fro. Then after Bachau I missed the turning to Bhuj (there are absolutely no signboards and my GPS let me down) and went a fair distance towards Kandla. The lack of any decent signboards in all of Gujarat is such a letdown after the good roads. To rub salt in my wounds I noticed a marker nearing Bachau which , very helpfully, indicated that from there it was 3050 kms to Silchar !! No decent food joints along the way except Honest at Malia.

Last edited by Secretariat : 11th March 2014 at 22:00.
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Old 10th March 2014, 21:25   #3
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Default Kutch

Day 8 – Hodka – Kala Dungar – India Bridge – Bhuj - Dhordo – Hodka (307 kms)

The Rann of Kutch is quite a diverse place. The Great Rann on the western side is very different from the Little Rann on the East. The Great Rann of Kutch is a must see for seasoned travelers, and an amazing place, but is not a great destination if you are taking kids.

The White Desert is best viewed just farther from Dhordo, where a whole tented city comes up during the Rann Festival. This is a salt desert, white as far as the eye can see and nothing at all in any direction. You can walk in for a few kilometers , be absolutely alone and watch the sunset , and experience the salt glimmering in the moonlight. The salt crunches under your shoes and it is quite an amazing experience, unlike anything you have ever experienced.

With a road like this, why wouldn't you go there
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The salt desert
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Footprints in the "salts" of time
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The sun is going down
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Sunset brings beautiful colours
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The sun is down and time to head back
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Kala Dungar is another beautiful place to go to. It’s the highest point on the Rann and the views, especially of the salt desert are amazing. You have to pinch yourself to realize that what you are seeing is not a sea, but a desert with not a drop of water.

The view from Kala Dungar
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That's not a sea. That's the salt desert seen from up above
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The temple on top of Kala Dungar. My faithful companion is resting !
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India Bridge is the last civilian point you can go to without a permit. The border is 70 kms away and I was told the road is very good right upto the border. Very helpfully, the BSF run a small shack at the Bridge with water, juices and chips for travelers !

In this entire stretch there are no food stops, obviously. There are only two fuel pumps – one within 10 kms of Bhuj and the other at Khavda.

Traveler tips for the Great Rann
  • The Rann Utsav is a noisy, commercial and expensive kitschy affair, but convenient. If you like that sort of a thing, great. Else avoid it and do your own stuff, which is what I did and is easily doable.
  • You need a permit to go to the white desert at Dhordo. Permits are best obtained at Bhirandiara at the turn off from the Bhuj –Khavda road towards Dhodro. There is a police post there and getting the permit is a 5 minute affair on producing your id
  • You need no permits to go to either Kala Dungar or the India Bridge, despite what some locals might tell you.
  • To go beyond India Bridge right upto the border, you need a permit from the BSF office in Kodki road in Bhuj ( and not from the Collector’s Office as some guides tell you). But be warned that this is a slow affair and the office is closed for a long afternoon siesta. I was baulked at 4.00 PM and then decided to forget it as I wanted to reach the white desert for the sunset.
  • The Shaam-E-Sarhad (www.hodka.in) is a good option to stay in Hodka as a base for visiting the Great Rann. Its an award winning eco lodge, run entirely by villagers and where everything is made of mud, including your bed, chairs etc. You can stay in a mud house – Bhunga - or a tent, which all have attached bathrooms. Every year during the rains, this is washed away, I believe and they build it all over again. Costs range from Rs 2800 to Rs 4800, including all meals.
The Bhunga (mud hut)
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My tent
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My bed
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Isn't the tent nice ?
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Day 9 – Hodka – Bhuj – Bachau – Malia – Dhrangadhra – Bajana (322 kms)

Easy drive along great Gujarat roads. This time I made sure I did not miss the Bhuj-Bachau road and coasted along. Since almost my entire stretch was on the highway from Bhuj to Ahmedabad, it was great roads all along except for the stretches near Bhuj and Bachau where road works are going on. Again paucity of decent food stops except for two Honests, one at Malia and another at Havda. Tried one or two trucker stops, but they are with poor hygiene, full of flies and even worse chai – so no deal.

Day 10 Bajana

Time for the Little Rann , which is quite different from the Great Rann. No salt desert here, but flatlands, and still a desert. The Wild Ass sanctuary is here and while you need a permit to enter, this is easy and doesn’t require any bookings and there are no limits. Again theoretically, you can take your 4/4 in, but it’s not a good idea here too as there are no trails and you will get lost inside in 10 minutes. So better to hire a local 4/4 to take you in. This was migratory birds season and so great flocks of Siberian Cranes and the pink flamingoes were there. Add to it the Wild Ass and the Nilgai – brown does and blue stags and it made for great viewing. It was also a unique experience to be speeding along at 70 kmph on caked up mud, never mind that the dust enters every orifice of yours !

Drive on this at 70 kmph
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The Wild Ass
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You'll get lost on them
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Cranes take off when they see you
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The lovely flamingoes - go nearer and they go farther
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Rock salt is extracted
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Traveler tips for the Little Rann
  • Both Rann Riders at Dasada and Royal Safari Camp at Bajana are fine places to stay in. I chose the Camp (Rs 4500 single and Rs 5500 double, but that includes the jeep hire and drive, in addition to all meals)
  • Evenings are better timings for a safari unlike most game reserves where mornings are preferable
  • All the animals and birds here are extremely skittish and run/fly away if you approach. So best to view from far and you need a good camera for photography. I only had my mobile’s camera, so poor photographs I’m afraid.
Driving impressions of Gujarat
  • Saurashtra roads aren’t great but rest of Gujarat, including Kutch, are fabulous
  • Gujarat drivers must surely be the politest in the country. Trucks giving way in the fast lane have delighted many a BHPian, but to see a two wheeler give me way at a roundabout made me reel with shock.
  • Food options, contrary to general reporting in this forum, are not great outside of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai stretch. The Honest chain seems to be the real option, but there aren’t that many.
  • Forget the concept of a clean loo. The Highway Food Mall at Limbdi is an honourable exception.
  • Obviously vehicles in Gujarat don’t have their tyre pressures checked. I rarely found a compressor working in any fuel outlet, even in the cities and I was not prepared to trust tyre repair stops. The most novel explanation I was given in a fuel station was that a fly had got into the hose !
  • No problems anywhere with fuel. Just watch out for the warning earlier in this post on the limited options in the Great Rann.
Tomorrow, I leave Gujarat and head northwards.

Last edited by Secretariat : 11th March 2014 at 22:10.
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Old 12th March 2014, 09:46   #4
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 12th March 2014, 10:20   #5
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Thats a big solo drive, thanks for the detailed explanation and tips on Gir National Park. I am sure Rajasthan was more easy gastronomically speaking.
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Old 12th March 2014, 10:56   #6
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Default Road conditions

I had traveled in almost the same route in April-May 2011. Roads are not great , except the expressway's. No sign boards also. Very few sign boards are in Gujarati
I had traveled Vadodara-borsad-lothal-bhavnagar-palitana-junagadh-sasan gir-somnath-porbandar-dwarka-rajkot-Ahmadabad section
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Old 12th March 2014, 21:56   #7
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Thanks motomaverick for being my first commenter. Unfortunately I am not a foodie, so barely saw what was on my plate !

Thanks rkg - I had really wanted to do the Bhavnagar route as well, to Sasan Gir, but I was scared off by many a comment on this Forum that the roads were bad, especially Una to Somnath and so I chickened out to the more recommended Rajkot route.
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Old 12th March 2014, 22:53   #8
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Default The Thar Desert

Day 11- Bajana –Radhanpur – Tharad – Sanchore – Barmer – Jaisalmer - Damodra ( 552 kms)

The inspiration for this sector was Ranjitp1 , courtesy his excellent travelogue (From"Aadab & Bagunnava" Land to Land of "Khammaghani"(Hyd to Rajasthan by M800)). Thanks Ranjit.

The roads throughout were brilliant. From the Little Rann, there is no need to go to Mehsana, Palanpur , etc. The road from Bajana or Dasada to Radhanpur, Babhar Nava and Tharad is absolutely fine, except for lots of speed breakers upto Radhanpur and then its NH 15 all the way. From the Rajasthan border to 20 kms beyond Sanchore, NH15 is bumpy with some potholes, but thereafter is very good. At Barmer , if you enter town, then getting into the Jaisalmer highway is difficult because there is an overbridge under construction and the road is blocked off – rewinding and taking the by-pass is the way.

There are a fair number of fuel stations and as mentioned by Ranjit, no food stops of quality anywhere save Good Hall just before Barmer. There is a factory outlet for handicrafts and local furnishings attached – so travelers with trigger happy spouses, beware !

Good Hall
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The adjacent shop
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The Barmer-Jaisalmer section is superb – great roads and sparse traffic. But the real problem in the drive is goats and sheep – the entire ovine population of the country seems to be on this road. They even do a huddle, Indian cricket team style, in the middle of the road – driving gurus ; please advise driving strategies when confronted with the huddle ! Went on a further 40 kms past Jaisalmer to the village of Damodra to stay in tents on the desert.

The brilliant NH15
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Meet the ever present friends
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Team India doing the huddle
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Sipping a cup of tea at the camp
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Day 12 – Camel safari Jaisalmer

After 11 days of speeds in three digits, it was wonderful to touch a top speed of 5 kmph today. All day was on the camel and we covered a princely 25 kms !

Sam Dunes is a very touristy and crowded area and so I was careful to go on a camel safari skirting Sam completely. We set off mid morning and loped around across desert land, shrubbery and sands. Stopped under some bushes for lunch and a nice afternoon siesta – the weather was perfect; not too hot, nice wind blowing and there is a particular magic to a siesta in such circumstances. A cup of tea and off we were again to some isolated dunes to watch the sunset. I was entirely on my own , except for a couple of camel guides and of course, the camels. As noted in other travelogues, camels are given fanciful names – mine was Hilton ! Sunset on the dunes is very special, as anybody who has been there knows – my private view is that sunset on the desert is even more brilliant than on the beach or in the mountains. Especially if you do not have a soul nearby, as was my case.

Damodra Desert Camp was where I stayed – very pricey, but small and isolated and was what I was looking for. They have their own camels and so you can basically go wherever you want and do whatever you fancy.

Getting ready to go
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On our way
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That's the "road"
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Break time
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Lunch ready
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Siesta Time
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At the dunes
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Aren't they pretty
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Going, Going
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Day 13 – Damodra – Jaisalmer – Tanot – Longewala – Jaisalmer ( 310 kms)

By now many BHPians have made the Tanot/Longewala trip and in any case this has been made famous by the movie Border. But there are still very few people who make this journey each day and this is the place to go to really experience the desert. Towering dunes, absolute isolation, great roads, and magnificent vistas – what more could you ask for.

Tanot is much improved since the earlier travelogues. There is now a fuel station at Ramgarh, the midway point; so fuel is not a huge issue although it is advisable to tank up in Jaisalmer. The Tanot temple, as has been mentioned in multiple travelogues, is special. The Army has adopted and rebuilt it and it surely must be the only temple which has live ammunition displayed inside the temple. The story, in case you didn’t know, is that in the 1965 Indo Pak war some 400 shells were fired by Pakistan, but not a single one exploded. It is believed this was the protection of Tanot Mata and some of those unexploded shells are displayed. There is now a restaurant and even an ATM machine there (wow; progress has really come). Going beyond is possible and more than one BHPian has done it, but I did not have the patience to arrange for the permit which is required.

In Longewala, time has stood still. The burnt out Pakistani tank, the rusted vehicle, etc are all still there from the 1971 war. The soldiers in both places are happy to chat with you, as there are few visitors. If you wish to experience real isolation (and the real desert), the road from Tanot to Longewala is IT. Absolutely nothing, great road and the desert in all its magnificence just for you. The usual photos of Tanot and Longewala are there in multiple travelogues and I didn't want to reproduce the same here - so only the "different" ones.

The brilliant road to Tanot ( with our good friends)
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Ammunition inside the temple
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ATM in Tanot !
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Even a restaurant now
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What a road - to Longewala
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Have to watch out for the sands though
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Spent the evening roaming around Jaisalmer Fort – the only living fort in Rajasthan, I am told. Full of homes, shops and people, its wonderful to get lost in its maze of alleyways. Being a male I was obviously not asking for directions, getting more lost and somehow finding my way back and claiming that I was absolutely in control all along ! BHPians of healthy proportions beware that you may have to inch sideways in the wonderfully narrow streets !! A candle lit dinner on a terrace either overlooking the Fort or the city, with the significant other is an obligatory experience. Alas – some components of this formula were missing as , remember, this is a solo trip !

I was dreading/eagerly anticipating experiencing a snowstorm from inside the car, without a clue as to how to handle that. Thankfully/Regretfully it did not happen.

Jaisalmer Fort glistening in the morning sun
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Traveler tips for the desert
  • I absolutely cannot understand why the peak season is December/January. Go then if you want to be completely frozen and pay sky high prices for the privilege. February is really the time to go. No crowds, lower rates for everything and great weather. Anytime, avoid Sam like the plague, unless you are into loud Bollywood numbers and twerking around the bonfire and watching dance challenged individuals of ample proportions making a spectacle of themselves.
  • A camel safari (not just an amble) is an absolute must. If I was younger it would have been a 3 days safari at least. With advancing years, one day was the compromise. If you have a bad back, obviously this is not for you, although my came guide absolutely recommended it as a cure for backache !
  • Make the trip to Tanot/Longewala. Being a BHPian , you are obviously driving, and this is one of the more evocative drives in India. Permit for the border beyond Tanot (a worthwhile trip which I sadly missed) can be obtained at BSF Ramgarh.
  • Steer clear of the Fort if the spouse is Oniomanic. Couldn’t resist that to needle the shopping addicted. If you are the one suffering from that affliction, leave the wallet inside the car !
  • Make up for the tightfistedness by going in for the candle lit dinner on any restaurant rooftop (there are numerous) with a magnificent view of the Fort. That’s the time to slip the ring if this is a pre nuptial trip ! If that was a long ago event, you can do the same and experience a dewy eyed response reminding you of “those” days.
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Old 12th March 2014, 23:07   #9
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Very good narration and the details of the travel are very useful. Welcome to Team BHP with the passion for driving. I have traveled on all these roads at various times, and I can visualise the roads while reading your travelouge. Please keep it coming. 8000 km in 21 days and that too solo is really a challenge.

Did you travel to Dholavira, an ancient town dating to BC in the north of Gujarat?

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Old 12th March 2014, 23:11   #10
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Default The long way back home

Day 14 – Jaisalmer – Bikaner ( 370 kms)

For my money, the best road in all my trip. Great road surface, sparse traffic, even the sheep were not that many and they didn’t do the India huddle in the middle of the road. Dead straight for many a kilometer, you basically let go and the car went all by itself. A few dhabas of dubious quality midway but the only decent joints seemed to be Red Rock and Mumal, opposite each other about 200 kms from Jaisalmer. Did my best timing and went on to stay at the Heritage Resort a bit further on the highway towards Jaipur. Had a bus load of the French staying in the hotel – one Indian and 50 French left me wondering if I was in India.

It was time to take my faithful companion to the Spa. Discovered a Hyundai Service Centre right next to the Heritage Resort (what luck). Deposited my companion there while I went to roam around the Fort. Came back and got the good news – my companion was in tip top condition and the mechanics assured me I wouldn’t have a problem till I reached Bangalore back. I was awestruck at the robustness of my companion and tipped my proverbial hat in the direction of Korea.

Entering the Bikaner Fort
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Was the Raja really so big ?
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What's a veena doing in Bikaner of all places ?
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More opulence
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All that glitters IS gold
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Ivroy sandals? Tch Tch
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Pleasant cafe in the Fort
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Day 15 – Bikaner – Jaipur – Jobner – Jaipur ( 409 kms)

Surprisingly this was a good/bad drive. From Bikaner for 20 kms, road works are going on and it is reduced to a single lane for both directions. Buses and SUVs displayed their testosterone levels by indulging in macho displays and ridiculous speeds playing Russian roulette with oncoming vehicles. I decided to go completely off road and crawl at 20 kmph giving these honourable specimens of the male species a wide berth. Then the road were excellent till Ratangarh. Bad bumpy roads onwards till Sikar. Good roads thereafter. Had to go to Jobner, a village some 40 kms from Jaipur on the Nagaur road. Road started brilliantly and then descended to moonscape. I also faced a lake, thanks to some unseasonal rain in Jaipur. That was when I discovered that my faithful companion was an offroader and could also double up as a boat. Bravo !

In Jobner, I told the guys I was to meet , that I had driven all the way from Bangalore to see them and that it had taken 3 days. Much rolling of the eyes and “aahaing” followed. Then they saw my companion. Complete with KA_____. Their eyes popped out of their head. I am still relishing that sight.

Days 16-18 Gurgaon – Jaipur – Gurgaon ( 480 kms)

When I was planning this trip, the only sector I did not bother to read about on Team BHP Forums was Jaipur –Delhi. Being India’s premier tourist circuit, full of foreign tourists, part of GQ, etc etc, I had simply assumed it would be a divine drive.

Oh Boy. What a disgrace this road is. I shall not say anything more.

Day 19 Jaipur – Ahmedabad (719 kms)

Cool comfortable drive. Roads are great all through . Was conscious of HVK’s advice to avoid the Udaipur bypass and go inside the city. In "dreamland” I completely missed it and still didn’t regret it one bit – the bypass was no problem that day, even though it is single lane. Sometimes luck smiles on you. After the previous day battles with the Jaipur-Gurgaon sector in pouring rain, this was all a breeze. Stayed at Best Western Takshashila thanks to advice on this Forum. Very ordinary place, but for a night – who cares.

Day 20 Ahmedabad – Mumbai (532 kms)

Dreaded getting into Mumbai, but had to do so to have dinner with a few folks in Bandra. Dame Luck continued to smile on me. Clean drive and no bottlenecks. Again in “dreamland” I forgot to take the turnoff into Bharuch to come via the Golden Bridge and was pleasantly surprised to see absolutely no traffic jams crossing the Narmada. I eagerly rubbed my hands composing a mental post on BHP to say that a miracle had happened – only to discover an update from HVK to the effect that going via Golden Bridge is no longer necessary. I am now utterly convinced that HVK is actually 5327 separate individuals who are constantly in every road in India and are providing live updates !

Even Ghodbunder smiled on me. Didn’t have to stop the car for even one minute in crossing it – can such a thing even be possible ?? And going right down to Bandra – wow no bottlenecks at all. I know I was doing it at off peak afternoon hours, but still, is this normal or a miracle ? Coming from a Bangalore background , where you are required to lose all your humanity to get in from any direction , I felt I was in a different world.

Day 21 Mumbai – Bangalore (1020 kms)

I know this is fairly routine for the gurus here, but for me this was a novelty and a nice way to end the trip on a “high”. Absolutely nothing new to add to the wealth of information on this section in various threads. There was a moment of utter satisfaction as I parked my car in my house – a feeling of quiet pride at a trip well done. I gave my faithful companion a pat and walked out into a different world from the one I had been inhabiting for the past three weeks.
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Old 12th March 2014, 23:36   #11
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Default Close encounters of the animal kind

I will end my travelogue with a completely irreverent post .

In all my trip the biggest challenges I faced in driving was not from two wheelers, cyclists, pedestrians, trucks, Volvos or anything human on the road. My “oooh” moments were all with animals. Here is my learned treatise on the psychology of various species on Indian roads.

Dogs : I will not offend Team-BHP sensibilities by lecturing on what is already every driver’s field of expertise. I will only extol the merits of watching the tail of a dog seeking to cross the road. If it is tucked between its legs, it is going to turn back. If it is upright, it is going to cross the road. Manoeuver accordingly !

Cows and Buffaloes : Yes, we all know the distinctive behaviour of the two categories of the bovine species. A buffalo will simply plod along in the same direction as it is facing at exactly the same slow speed. Easy peesy. Ditto the cow, except that for some reason, where there is a cow, there is a calf and the calf will scamper suddenly at top speed to catch up with its mother.

Thankfully I faced no challenges either from canines or bovines in this entire trip.

Sheep : I have alluded to the dangers of sheep on roads to and from Jaisalmer in the earlier post. Having no experience in avoiding sheep at 100 kmph, I sensibly crawled along whenever I saw them. Especially if they were doing their Team India huddles (see photo in earlier post). After this experience, I can now say that 87% of the flock of sheep will plod along like buffaloes in the direction they are going, 7% will go in the opposite direction, 4% will simply stand still and 2% will first go forward and then immediately dart backward. The only safe driving technique is to stop and let all of them disappear off your peripheral vision. This is particularly true if you find a herder – he is bound to alter these crucial percentages by adding a further element of unpredictability.

Camel : My third most hair rising moment was when I was returning back from the White Desert in Kutch in pitch darkness on a great road with no traffic. I turned a corner and was immediately confronted with a magnificent view of the backside of a camel strolling peacefully in the middle of the road. Thankfully I was only coming slowly, still awe struck from the sunset experience, and so I was able to stop the car easily. The camel appreciated my courtesy by letting off a loud , you know what. Methinks camels ought to be forced to have tail lights, if you will pardon the pun.

Peacock : My second hair raising moment was in Gir, when completely out of nowhere, a peacock flew right across my windscreen. Thankfully I was again at slow speed, but you don’t normally expect to have a peacock flying right across. If you know a peacock, it really cannot fly and is a huge ungainly bird. I ducked instinctively and luckily I missed its tail by a few inches. Phew !

Horse : This was a hair touching moment unfortunately. I was cruising along at 100 kmph or so along an empty dual carriageway somewhere after Bhilwara towards Udaipur. I spotted a man riding a horse peacefully on the left extreme of the road. There was absolutely no traffic. I slowed down, gave it a wide berth and went on at the extreme right. Suddenly the horse bolted right across the road for no reason at all. Slammed the brakes, but there was no way I could avoid hitting its rear. Thankfully my reflexes were good and no real damage was done, except that my faithful companion is sporting a big dent right in the middle of its face. I was shaken.

Now I know that when I see a horse from a mile, I will completely stop. A horse is an extremely skittish animal and it takes very little to frighten it and send it bolting. If you honk, it is guaranteed to take fright. A close encounter with a horse and you and your car will definitely come off second best. Best avoided and opt to crawl quietly past. Neighing like a mare to soothe the horse is optional !

Thanks for reading my travelogue and safe driving.
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Old 13th March 2014, 10:31   #12
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Superb travelogue. You seem to have a nice flair for writing. I am still surprised that you did these roads solo. Your tips are also quite well summarized. Thank you.
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Old 13th March 2014, 12:42   #13
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

That's a wonderful writeup and a great solo travel!! What makes it more special is your choice of car - i10!! I'd love to hear more from you about your experience driving the i10. How did this typical 'city-car' behave on different types of roads you blazed over?
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Old 13th March 2014, 13:10   #14
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Originally Posted by SajiNSalin View Post
Did you travel to Dholavira, an ancient town dating to BC in the north of Gujarat?

Thanks Saji. I had my eye on Dholavira, but there is really no way to it other than to go right around the Rann Lake and I couldn't fit that into my itinerary.

I heard from a fellow traveler that excavations have stopped there because of lack of funds even though only a small portion has been excavated. Real pity, for it is a great archaeological relic. Next time will go there surely.

Originally Posted by kalpeshc View Post
Superb travelogue. You seem to have a nice flair for writing. I am still surprised that you did these roads solo. Your tips are also quite well summarized. Thank you.
Thanks very much Kalpesh. Very kind remarks.

Originally Posted by arunkrishnan4 View Post
I'd love to hear more from you about your experience driving the i10. How did this typical 'city-car' behave on different types of roads you blazed over?
Thanks Arun. Yes, i10 is not what you would expect to see on a trip like this. It handled quite well actually, being helped by the fact that I was the solo traveler and therefore it wasn't loaded up. Reliability was my big ask as I wouldn't have fancied being stranded between Tanot and Longewala. In that it performed brilliantly. There was not a squeak. It is amazing how reliable cars have become and how we take that for granted now. Imagine doing such a trip with the good old Ambassador !

Most of the roads I was driving on were good. So the i10 was adequate. I wouldn't fancy a North East trip, for example, on it.

Of course an i10 is nowhere near what a good sedan or SUV would be, but for me it was fine.
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Old 13th March 2014, 13:11   #15
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Default Re: An 8000 km Solo Trip: To Gujarat & Rajasthan

Epic Travelogue and superb narration as well. Can't imagine a single guy driving and clicking so much photos I have a new found respect for I10 from hereon
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