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Old 25th June 2015, 02:23   #1
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Default The White Christmas - December 2014

I always get asked on whether I plan my vacations in advance. The short answer is NO, we don’t usually plan every bit and sometimes we don’t plan anything at all. We just take off and enjoy things together as and when they happen. All that we probably have, is a rough sketch on which direction we should be heading, and some vague plans on what we should be doing etc, but that’s about it. And I can tell you that sometimes these unplanned and impromptu trips happen to be the best vacations of our lifetime.

In December 2014, we had one such vacation where we just took off on a 6000 kms journey with no real destination. There was no preparation, no bookings, no itinerary but only one agenda – celebrate X’mas with snow!

The White Christmas - December 2014-1.1.jpg
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Old 25th June 2015, 02:31   #2
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Default So what’s the plan?

2014 had been a rather slow year with our travel plans, no week long holidays happened except for a few long weekend type of trips. And that meant that I had a lot of vacation time to burn towards the end of the year.

Sadly, even this year we didn’t have any big plans for the December time off mainly due to a couple of events that were happening in the month. Firstly, Gozu had official travel slated till mid-December and then one of my first cousins was getting married around the same time. So although I was going to be on official leave for more than half the month, our plans were limited to visiting family back in Mumbai/Pune and maybe explore some nearby options in the last week of December.

Plan 1.0:

- Attend the wedding
- Spend time with family
- Explore options for last week of December

I kept wondering on how to bring in some color to the vacation time but most of the ideas were working out to be too expensive or just too boring. Our idea of a holiday is a bit weird I feel,

- No crowded and touristy places (very hard to find in India)
- No big cities – they’re all the same
- No fancy expensive hotels (but for a few occasions)
- No places where we just sit inside the hotel for the whole day

What we usually end up with are:
  • Wildlife destinations – doesn’t have to be only the tiger reserves, birding spots are equally preferred
  • Secluded places and/or places with history – not palaces or tourist destinations where you rub shoulders with 10000 other people or struggle to get one picture without having strangers in the frame

It had been about 3 years since my last trip to Bharatpur and I was wanting to spend some quality time at the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. You can read about the 2012 trip here (http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ding-trip.html (Bengalooru to Bharatpur - A solo birding trip!)).

The White Christmas - December 2014-2.1.jpg

Last time I was there for about 3 days and I felt that it was a very short time, so I needed to plan for at least 5 days this time. But then, there was resistance from the two ladies that they’ll get bored there with nothing to do for so many days. The usual wildlife safari type vacations are okay with them but a birding trip becomes a bit too much. Pozu especially feels very restricted since she can’t even run around while I’m tracking the birds. So after a couple of discussions the verdict was that I could do the trip solo while they can chill with the family in Pune. We’d still have the last week of December available to go out together as a family.

Plan 1.1:
- Attend the wedding
- Gozu & Pozu to spend time with family
- I take off for another solo trip to Bharatpur for a week
- Explore options for last week of December

Given that I was traveling alone, I got myself booked on a train to Bharatpur from Mumbai for about 5 days, returning close to Xmas day to join for the celebrations. This was the only plan as yet, rest everything was very fluid and it could go either ways.

The White Christmas - December 2014-2.2.jpg

As I setup the automated out of office response, it was still a couple of days for the wedding and Gozu was still out on her business travel. Taking the opportunity, Pozu and me took off from Bangalore and parked ourselves at the Old Magazine House property at Ganeshgudi. It is one of the lesser known properties managed by the Jungle lodges & Resorts and mainly a birding attraction. Given the last -minute booking, we managed to get only a dorm bed and not a room, but that just meant that Pozu was even more excited about sleeping on the bunk beds.

Plan 1.2:
- Spend a couple of days at Ganeshgudi (Pozu & Me)
- Attend the wedding
- Gozu & Pozu to spend time with family
- I take off for another solo trip to Bharatpur for a week
- Explore options for last week of December

Deep down I knew that by the time we’re done with the trip, the revision number would have already moved to version 2 or higher.
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Old 25th June 2015, 02:38   #3
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Default Birding At Ganeshgudi

We reached Ganeshgudi pretty early in the day, all thanks to a new route that I took, off the Hubli-Dharwad highway rather than the Bangalore-Haveri-Bankapur-Kalghatgi-Haliyal-Ganeshgudi route that I’ve used earlier. There is a unmarked mud road exit off the Hubli-Dharwad toll road that lets you join the Dharwad-Haliyal SH28 which is a nicely paved highway. So the new route was Bangalore-Hubli-Exit before Dharwad-Haliyal-Ganeshgudi. This may be a bit longer in terms on kms on the gps, but its definitely faster on time.

The White Christmas - December 2014-3.1.jpg

Ganeshgudi is a very relaxed place and birding is also a non-strenuous activity here. There are watering holes made by the JLR guys on the side adjoining the forest where a lot of birds come through the day. So you basically don’t have to run behind them, instead you could enjoy sitting and watching them at leisure and occasionally clicking pictures. Although some of the species are seasonal, there are enough resident species to keep one occupied. There is now a curtain blind installed to avoid startling the birds due to people movement, which also helps keep a check on photographers who always want to get closer to the subject instead of maintaining a safe distance.

The White Christmas - December 2014-3.2.jpg

The White Christmas - December 2014-3.4.jpg

I was lucky enough to witness a couple of pairs of the Great Hornbills near the bridge area which is famous for the hornbill sightings. But the morning fog and the shooting distance made it difficult to get good pictures. Overall, it was a nice couple of days spent at the resort and definitely a new experience for Pozu with the dorm stay.

The next day we left early morning to reach Pune by evening. It was the day before the wedding and I had to pick up Gozu from the Mumbai airport. So I dropped Pozu at my sister’s house and then drove to Mumbai to pick up Gozu. She was returning from an offsite meeting and had a rather adventurous ride from Mussourie to Delhi airport just in time to be able to make it for her flight. It was a little past midnight by the time we were back home in Pune. The next day was going to be a long day starting 7AM and ending about midnight.

The White Christmas - December 2014-3.3.jpg

Everything went off well at the wedding, it was pretty cool to meet a lot of family members that I haven’t met in years. We all had a really good time and it was about 2AM by the time I hit the bed. The next day marked the beginning of my solo vacation!
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Old 25th June 2015, 02:48   #4
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Default Birding at Bharatpur

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.1.jpg

With the wedding done with, it was time for me to embark on my trip to Bharatpur from Mumbai. The train was scheduled at 11AM and that meant that we had to leave Pune early in the morning to avoid the traffic rush. In Mumbai, I dropped the two ladies and the car at her sister’s house and hurried in a taxi to the train station. The train journey was nothing great to talk about. Traveling alone in a train isn’t something that I’d prefer but given that I had plenty of time at hand, the 2nd AC was definitely a cheaper alternative when compared to the insane air fares.

I was carrying a lot of camera gear and that was my biggest worry in the 18 hour journey, so I made sure that my luggage was hidden well under the seats and didn’t give a sense of what it’d be carrying. I kept guard until about 3AM, more so because of the family infant traveling with an infant. I must have slipped into deep sleep for about an hour when I suddenly woke up only to realize that my phone had gone missing. It was kept in the netted pouch on the upper berth but someone had cleverly moved the curtain and quickly gotten to it. The SIM card must have been thrown out immediately for there was no response when I tried dialing with a fellow traveler’s phone. I did a quick check on the rest of the stuff and was relieved that everything else was in its place. I lodged a complaint with the TC who was sleeping in our compartment and he casually gave me a receipt saying that the chances of finding it were close to zero.

The idea of not having a phone for the next whole week made me realize how dependent on technology, but it also meant complete freedom from interruptions while I was at the park. I called home from the guest house and told Gozu to leave a message there in case there was something that needed my attention. Now I didn’t have a phone which meant that I couldn’t contact my cycle rickshaw driver, but the good man made it a point to come to the guest house to check on me since he knew I was arriving that day. It was about 9AM when we headed to the park, the weather seemed quite nice.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.2.jpg

The first thing one could notice at the park is that the birds were very less in numbers as compared to when I was here in 2012. The water levels were decent but its late arrival had affected the migrant population. The pelicans and storks had given a total miss to Bharatpur, even the ducks were fewer in numbers and scattered over a large area in search of food. There was some earth moving work that was being done inside the park which caused a lot of disturbance right during the migration period which could have also impacted the bird arrival. Net-net, it wasn’t going to be as exciting as my last visit but I was sure that I could get most of the shots in my wish list over the next 5 days.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.3.jpg

After a bit of exploration within the park it was time to pack up for the day. The next day was going to be an early start to make sure I get the most of the morning light.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.4.jpg

To everyone’s surprise, the next day was totally fogged out. Near zero visibility in the morning as we approached the park and it didn’t really improve until noon.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.5.jpg

There were reports of a Sarus pair being sighted and that was the highlight for the day. The birds were completely at ease and walked so close that it was impossible to frame them with the 600mm. It was a good hour long engagement but the haze was a spoiler since it affected clarity in the pictures.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.6.jpg

The weather continued to remain foggy all through the day and it was expected to continue like this for the next 3-4 days at a minimum. I was now in a dilemma whether to continue my stay and sit through the foggy days or return back. I wanted to visit Chambal for the Indian Skimmers, but the reports from there weren’t encouraging as well. A guide who had just returned from the place said there are barely two couples that were sighted on their trip.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.7.jpg

So after speaking to Gozu I decided to head back and use the days doing something else. Things were obviously not as per plan, but the silver lining was that I had gotten most of the shots that I needed so there were no big regrets.

The White Christmas - December 2014-4.8.jpg

I had managed to get booking on the early morning train to Delhi and then a flight to Mumbai later that evening. It was time to return back to base and figure out a new plan.
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Old 25th June 2015, 03:00   #5
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Default So what’s the plan again?

The flight from Delhi to Mumbai was pretty good, especially since I flew Business Class. Nothing better to cheer you up than the preferential treatment you get on an otherwise screwed up trip. I was going to reach Mumbai around midnight and the next day morning all of us were supposed to leave for Pune with the kids and then Gozu was supposed to fly to Bangalore for a couple of days to finish some 1x1 discussions.

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.1.jpg

It was a little after breakfast and we were just sitting around talking about possible destinations that we could explore in the last week of December. The best we could come up with is to visit Mahabaleshwar which was going to be packed with people and possibly as expensive as an international trip. I remember I was taking Gozu’s case that if we had the full two weeks, we could have still gone out and done something fun and adventurous. What happened next was a big surprise!

Fed up with my taunts, Gozu asked me to cut the chase and tell her what was going in my mind, she knew I was on to something. She was in no mood to do the Bangalore trip either, especially since she was officially on holiday and those discussions could be done over the hpone . She said that if my plan enticed her, she might just cancel her trip to Bangalore and we could take off on that day itself. The ball was now in my court and the pressure to deliver an irresistible offer was insurmountable.

In my head I was calculating the possibilities:
  • Given our last 3 trips to Gujarat and last years’ trip to Rajasthan, both states were out of question.
  • Ladakh was out of question coz we couldn’t drive and flight tickets were crazily expensive (just to get to Delhi to begin with)
  • Kashmir seemed like a good option but I wasn’t sure of the interior road statuses and that needed some research time and route planning, so decided to keep it out for now
  • Our trip to the North-east had been getting pushed for the past couple of years but 14 days wouldn’t have been enough to do it starting from Mumbai and ending in Bangalore
  • There were recent reports of cold wave in the north and that it had snowed in Shimla a few days ago. Having done the Spiti route twice I was pretty sure I could pull off a trip to Himachal without prior planning.

That was it, I quickly made my sales pitch, “Would you like to enjoy a white Xmas this year?”

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.2.jpg

(This postcard picture was in my head while I was doing my mental mathematics, I'm glad that I could actually execute it the way I visualized it.)

After some brief moments of silence, Gozu’s short answer was a definitive YES. But that was followed by expressions like “You’re crazy!”, “We’ve not carried any warm winter wear”, “Should I go shopping?”, “What to do about my flight tickets to Bangalore?” etc. What she didn’t ask was “Where are we going?” which was good since I didn’t exactly know that either.
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Old 25th June 2015, 03:09   #6
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Default Done with the plan, now we gotta make it work!

The conversation with Gozu took less than 5 minutes, and now we had a sense of direction to go somewhere unknown. From “no plan” to a “super duper no plan”, our vacation was now turning into an exciting adventure.

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.3.jpg

Gozu’s sister was watching us have this conversation and she wasn’t able to cope up with the holiday plan we just signed up for. That’s when I made her an offer to pack off both her kids with us on this uncharted holiday. Not knowing what to say, she agreed (brave lady I must say!).

So now it was going to be Gozu and me, and the three musketeers (Pozu and her two cousins). The kids were super excited about the idea of a holiday together, they didn’t care where we were going either.

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.4.jpg

Once the plan sanction was done, it was time to figure out what we needed to make it happen:
  • The Fortuner was serviced right before we left Bangalore so there was no maintenance needed
  • We borrowed warm clothing from her sister for Gozu and myself, the kids had their stuff already
  • Seating arrangement was charted with two kids in the middle row and one on the last row to accommodate for pozu’s booster seat and giving each one enough elbow room to avoid jostling for space
  • Given that we were going to need half of the last row seat, the luggage was rationalized to fit the remaining space. I dropped most of my camera gear and settled with just one camera and lens combination.
  • The snacks bag was replenished with more goodies for the trip. Yummy sandwiches were assembled for the first leg of our journey.
  • Sufficient quota of water was taken in 5L and 10L bottles so as to avoid buying 1L bottles (our little contribution towards reducing plastic waste on this planet)
  • Gozu’s air ticket was the non-refundable category booking so there wasn’t too much to be hassled about except that it was darn difficult to get in touch with anyone at AirAsia to get it done. Eventually I just sent the email that they asked for and stopped thinking about it.
  • The start time was decided to be 12AM (midnight) which gave us less than 12hrs to get everything in place.
  • There was no definite route plan – we were headed towards Shimla and that’s all we knew.
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Old 25th June 2015, 03:16   #7
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Default And the trip to neverland begins....

The kids were so excited about the trip that they stayed awake until we got into the car at midnight. I had managed to catch up on some sleep in the evening so I was good to drive through the night. So after the customary goodbyes, it was time for us to start rolling.

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Pozu’s cousins – Ammu (early teens) and Abbas (7) have been on long road trips with their parents but I didn’t know how they’d hold up on the 18 hour long drives that we do. The plan was to halt whenever we sensed any discomfort with any of the kids, after all this was an aimless vacation and we didn’t even have a schedule to begin with.

The late night start meant an easy exit from Mumbai and soon we were mile crunching on the good roads of Gujarat. We were in Udaipur at breakfast time and we decided to take a break for the kids to get freshened up and also give my wife a few hours to finish off her meetings for which she was traveling to Bangalore. After the heavy breakfast, we were pretty sure that we could skip a stop for lunch and keep going until we halt for the night.

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.6.jpg

We were back on the highway and it was about 7PM when we parked at the Elements Mall in Jaipur. Dinner was going to be at the McDonalds based on popular request from the little ones. It was about 18 hours since we left Mumbai and the kids were just fine, they had been playing games and singing songs when they weren’t napping. We got ourselves a room at the Apple Inn which is a short distance away from the mall – quite a decent place for transit travelers.

Given the fog situation up north, we had decided to leave only around 11AM on the next day. We left after a nice long breakfast and soon we were on the highway. The plan was to take a detour near Rewari and bypass Delhi to reach Panipat directly. The roads were pretty good for most of the way and we could maintain decent average speed all through.

At around 6PM we were crossing Zirakpur when we suddenly saw a Decathlon store right by the highway. We had a few things on our list to buy for the cold weather which we were planning to buy in Shimla, but this was a welcome sight. So off we went and shopped for some shoes and gloves for the kids with the assurance that they’ll hold up pretty good in the weather.

A little while later we were on the Himalayan Expressway and the weather was definitely changing. We kept driving through the twisty roads and bypassed Shimla heading towards Kufri. In all our previous trips, we have always bypassed Shimla and that was the intent this time as well. For some reason, I never liked Shimla where the sight of buildings have taken over the whole mountainous landscape. Similar story is with Solan where we visited a few years ago, but that’s just me, no offence to the people who belong to either places. It’s just that they’ve taken away the beauty of these places with the multi-colored houses that have emerged all over, but isn’t that true with most hill stations in India.

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Kufri seemed to be a better option to stay at least to begin with and then we could always explore other options. While on the way, I had done a phone booking at the Kufri Holiday Resort and so we knew that we had a room for the night. It turned out to be a good idea since it was almost midnight by the time we reached the place and got ourselves in the cosy double room with a heater.

It wasn’t until morning that we realized what lied outside. The view outside the window was of a small street and a mountain slope full of snow, some of it now turned into ice. Nonetheless, it was amazing to wake up to the scene, our mission was almost fulfilled.

I checked for the places of interest and found out that there wasn’t too much to do except for a zoo and some fun type activities at the resorts. Driving through the zoo made me realize that although I ran away from Shimla, more than half of its tourists were now in Kufri at the zoo. Further ahead of the zoo we found a nice secluded park which was filled with pristine white snow. This wasn’t the run down brown ice that is found in most places that are trampled by tourists, it was pretty much untouched. It was the perfect place for us to have fun and play in the snow, and that’s what we did.

The White Christmas - December 2014-5.8.jpg

After spending almost 4-5 hours at this lovely place we moved ahead to find some food knowing that it was well past lunch time. We stumbled upon a nice hotel overlooking a valley of forest, it was called Toshali River View I guess. He agreed to get us some sandwiches and hot tea/milk so we were sorted for the moment. I enquired if they had rooms but given the season, they were running full until after New Years’ eve.

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Old 25th June 2015, 03:26   #8
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Default Sarahan - The Trip Gets Even More Interesting

Once back at the hotel from our snow playing exercise, we were now thinking if we’d want to stay back in Kufri or move on to a more peaceful and secluded place.

The White Christmas - December 2014-6.1.jpg

I would have loved to do the Spiti route upto Kaza but the temperatures in Kinnaur and Spiti were showing below Minus 5 to Minus 10 Deg C through the day and nights were a freezing -18 Deg C or below. We weren’t prepared for that kind of cold, moreover, the bigger issue was diesel freezing in the car for which I had no remedies. So we decided that going further into Spiti with 3 kids was not a good idea at that time.

Narkanda was also running full of tourists and hotel bookings weren’t available. That’s when I stumbled upon the HPTDC at Sarahan. I hadn’t heard of the place before but it seemed to be a pretty big religious tourism destination. It was about 150 odd kms from Kufri and roughly about a 4-5 hours drive. The best thing was the resort was showing empty with absolutely no bookings for the next couple of days. Since the internet connection wasn’t all that good, I spoke to the hotel guys who confirmed that I could directly land up there anytime instead of making a booking on the web. So now there was a plan for the next day. We were loving this trip!

Next day morning we checked out of our hotel in Kufri and set out towards Sarahan with an open mind. We had no booking obligation so we could essentially park ourselves any place that looked good on the way.

The White Christmas - December 2014-6.2.jpg

The roads beyond Kufri were a mixed bag, most of it was paved but there were some really rough patches as well which we all enjoyed equally. On the way I enquired for a booking at the Rampur HPTDC which is located right at the banks of the mighty Sutlej but that was running full. So we continued our march towards Sarahan after being misled by the google maps on a couple of occasions beyond Rampur.

Finding the Srikhand hotel in Sarahan wasn’t difficult, it’s pretty much the only big hotel in that town and is situated right next to the Bhimakali temple. Given that we had the whole hotel to ourselves we were given a choice of rooms to stay. There is a new building which has modern looking rooms whereas there is a heritage building which is more like a cottage right outside the main office. The cottage has a nice lawn and boasts of a superb view of the Srikhand peak. The cottage rooms were huge with high ceiling and I was concerned whether the room will remain sufficiently cosy for the children in the night. The hotel staff assured me that the cottage rooms stay warm because of the old architecture and the wood construction. And if I didn’t like it, I could always switch rooms if there was a problem.

The White Christmas - December 2014-6.3.jpg

I must admit that this was one of the most special stays we’ve had in a long time. The ambience of the place, the solitude, the ever accommodating staff personnel, the awesome food, the sleepy town, empty streets, snow covered peaks all around, everything was just WOW!

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Our stay at the Srikhand hotel coincided with our anniversary and also Gozu’s birthday. We thoroughly enjoyed both the days doing pretty much nothing except sitting outside in the lawn and getting some sun. The kids had plenty of time and space to play around so there were no complaints from them as well.

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One of the days we visited the Pheasantry which was fully snowed out and a bit difficult to reach. We decided not to be too adventurous with the three kids walking on hardened snow and gave it a miss. Apparently the near extinct jhurjhurana is being bred in captivity here apart from the other variety of pheasants found in the Himalayan region.

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The other local attraction is the sunset point where we had a very interesting incident. As we reached near the spot we found a few security personnel guarding the place and two trucks parked by the side of the road along with 3 or 4 big SUVs. I parked my car a little ahead and walked back only to be intervened by one of the officers. They requested me to wait since there were some high profile dignitaries having a meeting at the sunset point and they were just about wrapping up. I told him that it’s okay but hopefully they’d vacate before I lose the sunset view to which he giggled and said that won’t be a problem. In a few minutes a few folks walked back and sat in the SUVs and drove off, one of them was the IG visiting the area is what I gathered. What followed their departure was a call of madness, soon there were at least 40-50 fellows working to clear out the arrangements. They had put up a full shamiana at the spot with loud speakers, amplifiers, full kitchen setup, red carpet all the way, sofa chairs, center tables, flower vases, lights etc. It was nothing short of a private restaurant setup at the venue. I’d love to have something like this done for my meetings someday, absolutely hilarious! Anyway, we were able to catch the glimpses of the sun as it went down behind the mountains so it was mission accomplished.

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Old 25th June 2015, 03:33   #9
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Default End of Good Times!

The White Christmas - December 2014-7.1.jpg

After a good 4 days of relaxed stay at Sarahan, with a heavy heart we gathered courage to start our return journey. The original plan was to back track the same route we took while going up, so we left early morning with Jaipur as the halt for that night. But destiny had something else planned for us that day.

We reached Zirakpur at about 6PM after getting delayed in Shimla and dodging the return traffic on the twisty roads until Chandigarh. The kids wanted to play around at Decathlon before we moved ahead and I obliged. Soon we left Zirakpur thinking that we should be able to make it to Jaipur a little past midnight, but I was wrong!

About an hour as we approached Karnal we got hit by a white wall, it was the fog! Zero visibility at about 8 or 9PM in the night. The speedo was now ranging between 10-20kmph with the needle touching 30kph occasionally. I was supposed to take a deviation from Panipat towards Rohtak and then to Rewari in order to bypass Delhi. But that route had absolutely no big towns and hotels that I could remember so taking a risk on that route with the fog was not a good idea. Given the amount of traffic on the road I was pretty sure I could get to Delhi by midnight and we could find a place for the night. So I kept following the other blind drivers and we all crawled slowly towards Delhi.

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Only after I reached Delhi I realized that the situation wasn’t any better in the city. The visibility was hardly 10m and all I could see was the edge of the road if I kept to one of the side lanes. There was no way we could see a hotel from the road. I thought it’d be better to find something in Gurgaon so I don’t have to tackle the city traffic in the morning, that was a big mistake!
As we take the flyover towards the airport that continues to Gurgaon, I spotted a big array of hotels on the left, below the flyover. But sadly there is no exit and I obviously didn’t want to take a risk going in reverse in that foggy conditions. So we continued and then took the next exit for Gurgaon. I was now relying on the GPS accuracy of Google maps since we couldn’t see anything. The situation was so bad that at a circle under a flyover there were about 4-5 cars standing and none of them could see where the road was to take the turn. Finally one of the drivers got down to inspect for the edge of the road. Everyone followed him slowly as he drove with his upper body out of the window of that tiny M800.

My options were thinning out, there was no way we could find any place there with those conditions. So I took a call to get back to the main highway and keep heading towards Jaipur. I was hoping we’d find a decent highway hotel to stop for the night. With great difficulty and careful driving we were back on the highway. We were now cruising at 30kph at the max until we could find some bolero going at breakneck speeds through the white walls. I would follow them keeping a sufficient distance but soon they’d disappear and I’d come back to the 30kph speeds. This went on for the next couple of hours and we finally managed to find the Ramada hotel in Neemrana. I think it was 2.30AM when we checked in, and we were on the road since 6.30AM, a really long 20 hour drive.

The White Christmas - December 2014-7.3.jpg

Given that the fog won’t clear out until after 11AM we decided to leave only at noon. Roads were good all through and we kept chugging at a good pace. But then a GPS mix up cost me over 2 hours in Jaipur. I missed the bypass and went into the city which was nothing but a nightmare. Google showed me roads that were either blocked or absolutely impenetrable. Finally I decided to back track my way and then took a peripheral route which was relatively okay. It was already evening by the time we exited Jaipur and the maddening traffic had taken a toll on my patience. We kept going and at about 2AM I started feeling tired. So we pulled over at one of the toll booths where they had enough tea stalls and vehicle movement and slept for a couple of hours. Absolute bliss, right when you need it!

After the short but powerful nap, I was now in much better shape to drive again. I continued driving through the dark hours with Gozu helping me out for a few hours in the morning before we reached home at around 10AM. Almost a 22 hour run to cover 1350 kms from Neemrana to Mumbai with some rest time buffered in, not bad to end the trip.

At the end of the vacation, here’s what our itinerary looked like:

- 2 days of birding at Ganeshgudi
- 2 days in Pune for the wedding
- 4 days trip to Bharatpur and back
- 10 days trip to Himachal
- Back home in time to begin work

Overall this was a really good vacation, started with no plans and ended with some superb memories!

The White Christmas - December 2014-7.4.jpg
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Old 25th June 2015, 04:51   #10
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Default Re: The White Christmas - December 2014

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 25th June 2015, 08:21   #11
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You truly illustrated the statement the whole is more than sum of its parts! Small parts of happiness here and there; and you have BIG vacation!

The beautiful snaps and the happy faces say it all.
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Old 25th June 2015, 14:51   #12
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Default Re: The White Christmas - December 2014

Wonderful trip(s)!

Sarahan - nice place it seems. Possible to club with any other locations nearby?

What is the last photo in post 4??
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Old 25th June 2015, 21:20   #13
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Congratulations. Nice pictures. Absolutely stunning place.
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Old 25th June 2015, 22:27   #14
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Default Re: The White Christmas - December 2014

Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing

Originally Posted by amolpol View Post
And I can tell you that sometimes these unplanned and impromptu trips happen to be the best vacations of our lifetime.
I agree, trips are best enjoyed unplanned. I remember, in my younger days, my uncle used to come over for dinner and he always changed the topic that a particular destination hasn't been visited. My father used to say lets go!

We packed our bags the same night and left in the morning without any itinerary. I miss those awesome trips
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Old 26th June 2015, 08:09   #15
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Default Re: The White Christmas - December 2014

Awesome travelogue garnished with some well-crafted pictures. And such a lovely group with three happy kids
Really liked the way you structured this write-up, with just the right amount of photos. Thanks for sharing!
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