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Old 14th January 2016, 11:42   #1
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

ROYAL RAJASTHAN FORTS, PALACES, WILDLIFE AND MORE -
9500 KMS ACROSS SOUTH, WEST AND NORTH INDIA



What do you do when you want to quit your job and have some time before the next big venture?

What do you do when a vacation actually turns out to be a month or a few days over?

What do you do when there is a sticker behind your car that says “Live to Drive”?

Well, the answer is simple – take the car out, let the rubber hit the tarmac and let some destinations be known and others – well unknown.

Ok, some known and some unknown or better still get on with the journey and make your own destinations on the fly.

And so, distinguished co-travellers, moderators, ladies and gentlemen, presenting an approx 9500 kms on the highways across south, west and north India. Majority of the time was in Rajasthan (which is where the vacation was) and the rest were some other side trips like Goa or Sakleshpur.

Starting from basecamp, Karnataka I drove to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Goa, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Chandigarh before heading back to Bangalore via Konkan and Goa. This is a drive through the western ghats, through vibrant Gujarat, through royal Rajasthan, through the jungles of Ranthambore through the fields and roots in Haryana, through coastal Konkan, through beautiful beaches of Goa and the lovely coffee plantations of Sakleshpur. The following places were covered –

Bangalore – Pune – Mumbai – Vadodra – Ahemdabad - Udaipur – solo

Udaipur – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Longewala – Jaisalmer – Sudasari (Desert National Park) – Sam Dunes – Jaisalmer – Jaipur – Ranthambore (with friends and family)

Ranthambore – Jaipur – Gurgaon (multiple local visits around in Haryana/NCR Delhi)– Jhajjar – Sultanpur - Chandigarh – Gurgaon – Delhi – Jaipur – Udaipur – Vadodra – Mumbai – Pune – Goa – Mangalore – Sakleshpur and back to basecamp Bangalore – Solo again and then Mysore for a few hours and back to Bangalore.

Time period - 5 November to 13 December 2015

The vehicle - Trusted & Reliable Ertiga ZDi, already crossed 50k.


Now, back in 1988-90, my elder brother was posted in Pokharan and we had visited Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Sam Dunes, Bikaner, Barmer a few times. I had driven in several of those drives driving from Hisar in Haryana. So, for me it was not really first time. However, when you "Live to Drive" any destination is not just great...its wow!

However, there is hardly any place in India which has not undergone any change. 25 plus years is a long time and particularly when you consider the changes in government policies, the changes in tourism, the changes in communication and advent of internet (to mention a few). With this background, you will have to pardon me, if I go back in memory lane occasionally reminiscing over how it was back then. Has India - the idea, the essence, the philosophy, the image, the persona, the brand, the stature, the character and the standing in the comity of nations changed? Certainly - lots has, lots will and we will continue our slow steady march.



INDIA

For some...

India is an image
India is a brand
India is an idea
India is a democracy
India is the old civilisation

India is the ocean
India is the desert
India is the Himalayas
India is the wildlife
India is the beaches

India is mother
India is peace
India is non-violence
India is family life
India is values

India is spicy
India is very hot
India is cold
India is humid
India is monsoon

India has Pongal
India has Durga Puja
India has Christmas
India has Guruparv
India has Eid

India is historic
India is enchanting
India is mesmerizing
India is surprising
India is astonishing

India means respect
India means diversity
India means honour
India means dignity
India means home

.....to be contd.



India has so many flavours that I never miss an opportunity to drive around and see our magnificent country. An opportunity presented itself and I seized it with both hands - to drive and see the country ... yet again.

Throughout the journey hundreds of pictures have been clicked and I will put up the selected ones. However, before others, lets seek some divine intervention that this goes off smoothly. Walking through Jaipur, I came across this wonderful composition -

Seeking Divine Intervention

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At Karwar beach this thought crossed my mind - Do you see

A Shell or an Ocean of Opportunities?

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Be my co-traveller on this, long drive, a story telling and a visual extravaganza.

Last edited by Rajain : 27th January 2016 at 11:22. Reason: Spelling
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Old 14th January 2016, 12:40   #2
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

Allow me to introduce you to our friends.

In Mumbai and Pune we have some friends who love travel and driving holidays. With the same group 5 years ago we had also driven to Leh in 2011. I repeated Leh in 2014 again driving from Gurgaon in a Safari Storme with different friends. This journey was in my trusted stead the Ertiga which had just crossed 50K before this month long travel.

The trusted Ertiga - Somewhere in the western ghats in Maharashtra

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Or at Longewala on the border in Rajasthan

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Or at a traditional 100 yr old Haveli in my village in Haryana

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In some parts of this rather long drive I was joined by friends – so we had planned a 15 day trip in Rajasthan. There were 3 other cars – a Hyundai Elantra, an Innova and a Mitshubishi Outlander. The planning for the Rajasthan trip had been done a few months ago when all of us met in Mulshi close to Pune.

My apologies for going off track, but some pictures of Mulshi are in order, where the planning for the 15 days in Rajasthan had been done. So, we had an offsite to plan for a longer travel!

Pictures from EcoGrid, a really quaint place in the hills. We went trekking - to the hill you see in the later picture (just before the white flower image), the waterfall that looks small - was actually a few hundred feet and there was a cave right below it. In pouring rain we went there - sat and had our deliberations!

Ecogrid - the place we stayed

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Cute Crab

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A huge waterfall (picture taken from behind the waterfall)

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The cave - behind the waterfall - where we sat and had our 10 minute deliberations! All drenched. Of course, a more detailed planning was done at the EcoGrid and over subsequent mails

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The forest in full bloom

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From a distance - the waterfall

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A beautiful hibiscus

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EcoGrid again

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Last edited by Rajain : 27th January 2016 at 11:11.
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Old 14th January 2016, 13:16   #3
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

Since I had more time than the others, I also combined parts of the journey for work. So, Mumbai, Jaipur, Delhi NCR and Chandigarh had work. On the return journey from Gurgaon I was joined by my nephew who wanted to take his Scorpio out for a spin.


Yes, this ‘keeda’ of long drives runs in the family. More than 20 years ago I had done a Gurgaon to Bangalore in a Maruti 800 with my brother. He was to later drive to Bangalore - Gurgaon, Gurgaon-Hyderabad-Gurgaon in his Wagon R. Last year my eldest brother had gone to Antarctica and trekked to South Pole. My nephew and his mom came driving along in their vehicle with me. He had a wedding to attend in Kochi and hence the Goa-Mangalore section. On his return he took Hyderabad – Nagpur – Babina – Agra – Gurgaon.


Gurgaon has family and close to Jhajjar (Haryana) is my native village. So, it was the first for me to drive to my native village in my own car. In the opening post, the haveli you see, is our ancestral haveli.


So, presenting to you a travelogue across India. This journey through lovely straight highways, Deccan Plateau, Western Ghats, Thar Desert, Gangetic Plain, Green fields, Forests, River beds and more. This travelogue is largely focussed on this journey through Royal Rajasthan and through bird and animal national parks that came enroute.


While I had driven from Bangalore to Mumbai and onwards to Udaipur, the friends from Pune/Mumbai joined forces at Fountain Hotel at Godbundar and together we drove till Udaipur. There were 3 other cars, as mentioned above – a Hyundai Elantra, an Innova and a Mitshubishi Outlander. Another family were to join as well and had to drop out at the last minute due to a family emergency. They were scheduled to drive in a Honda Mobilo.


So, ultimately, for the Royal Rajasthan visit the following cars undertook the journey - a Hyundai Elantra, an Ertiga, an Innova and a Mitshubishi Outlander. Some family members flew into Udaipur so ultimately we were 16 friends and family members.


Here was the Rajasthan plan –

2 days in Udaipur 7-8 November

2 days in Jodhpur 9-10 November

1 day in Sam Dunes 11 November

2 days in Jaisalmer 12-13 November

2 days in Jaipur 14-15 November

2 days in Ranthambore 16-17 November

1 day in Jaipur 18 November


At different places some friends dropped off and some joined in. For instance, a friend and his family returned from Jodhpur (Elantra). So for the rest of the journey, 3 vehicles continued. Then from Ranthambore the Innova and Outlander went down south to their basecamp in Pune and I headed north to Gurgaon.


After spending almost 2 weeks in Gurgaon I returned back to basecamp Bangalore. The route taken was Gurgaon-Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahemdabad-Vadodra-Mumbai-Pune-Kohlapur-Goa-Karwar-Mangalore-Sakleshpur and Bangalore. The night halts were at Udaipur, Pune, Goa and Mangalore.


In the days prior to the departure, I had got the Ertiga thoroughly serviced – the usual filters and oil. Besides that for a few days I toyed with the thought of replacing the battery and the tires. The battery was Amaron (OE) and had done 3.25 years and the tires had done 51k. None were close to end of life though I would say towards the end of life. I ended up replacing the battery (got Exide) and new tires – Michellin Primacy. This time I took the following model 195/60 R – 15. I had 205 earlier but felt 195 will also do justice – and they certainly did.


A quick feedback on the service, battery and tires. The service was actually done on a Sunday at Pratham on ORR. I met with the Works Manager, a person who has grown through the ranks there and has known me for 3 years. I was clear – it’s a long drive coming up and please ensure that the service is top notch and leaves nothing to chance.


The service was done to my satisfaction and thankfully, it being a Sunday, the volume of cars for servicing was far less. Castrol Edge was (and has been) the preferred engine oil. A couple of days later I also made the decision in favour of getting the battery replaced. Exide was the choice I made and I got a good deal for the exchange of the 3.25 yr old Amaron. And just 3 days before the departure the tires were also changed. A bit of back and forth at Cherry Tire Centre. In spite of prior call and information he did not bring 5 tires and eventually left me with 3 new and 2 old by the end of the day. The next day I went back and he had organised the remaining 2. He also did wheel alignment and balancing. All in all, while the experience of having to go back and get the tire done was painful and time consuming but the cost made it up.


And so, the vehicle – new battery, new tires and fully serviced was now ready and waiting for this lovely long drive. As the day drew closer, like in previous long travels, I loaded the car the prior evening. I am particular about a few things – water and cooked meal. This is one discipline that I have followed over the years and has generally been good.


5 Nov - Bangalore to Pune – Simple straightforward drive. Really nothing worth reporting. Have done this drive a few dozen times before as well. Just a couple of snaps along the way.


6 Nov - Pune to Mumbai - Usual drive across the expressway. Have done this a few times before.


7 Nov - Pune to Udaipur – Again simple straightforward. Friends and their families caught up at Godbundar, Fountain Hotel and now, in 4 cars we headed out. Three families joined. One more was to join but at the 11th hour they had to drop out due to some urgent family commitments.


Just a few pictures of the two days. The real vacation was to begin from Udaipur. Some other family members also flew into Udaipur. The way we had structured the vacation plan was for those who were taking one week off they would join in Udaipur and depart from Jaipur one week later.

The drive from Pune to Udaipur was uneventful – long straight stretches, some bit of truck traffic but largely uneventful. The Narmada bridge is fairly well regulated these days. All vehicles except trucks are sent to the smaller bridge and it’s an easy cross.


Some pictures to get the ball rolling.


5 Nov - Bangalore - Pune
Starting out
- at my apartment complex in HSR Layout, Bangalore

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Milestones along the way

Some that tell you how far the destination is...

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Some that make you think where is the destination -

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Lovely straights

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The State Assembly in North Karnataka

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Drove through the day...around sunset - closing into Pune

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6 Nov Next morning at Pune and the drive further on till Mumbai

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Between Pune and Mumbai came across this Endeavor that also had a Thule box on top

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At the Worli Sea Link

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7 Nov - Mumbai to Udaipur -
All of us met up at Fountain hotel at Godbundar and started our journey further north.

On the Vadodra - Ahemdabad expressway. I have been on this expressway a few times. This time, I must say it was at its best. Those little hills that get formed due to heat or any minor pothole - nothing. The expressway was as good and a flat as it possibly can get.

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Perhaps the only picture we have of all the four vehicles.

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At Udaipur all of us were booked at Boheda Palace – a neatly tucked away, nice and warm hotel. It was just 1.5 kms form the train station. The view from the rooftop restaurant was outstanding. From the rooftop restaurant the Udaipur fort was clearly visible and at night it particularly made a wonderful image. The rooms, the food, the service and the location – all get 5 stars. We were a group – several kids, families and the hotel will get full marks from me (as well as the others). I would recommend the place – total value for money.

Those who were flying into Udaipur had started to arrive in the day and those of us who were driving in, reached well after sunset.

By the time we reached Udaipur, the Ertiga had done approx. 1940 kms from basecamp in Bangalore. Except a few kms - all of this was solo. And I loved it.

The temperature at Udaipur had dipped a few degrees. Nothing very cold but a few degrees below Pune or Bangalore.


So, what would the next few days in Rajasthan be...royal of course. Stay tuned.

Last edited by Rajain : 27th January 2016 at 12:46. Reason: Spelling correction
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Old 14th January 2016, 13:42   #4
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

8 Nov - Udaipur local.

After reaching Udaipur, we quickly realised that our vehicles won’t be able to navigate the small lanes of Udaipur and we needed autos.

So the next day was spent in autos. In Udaipur we went first to the doll/puppet museum, then the "Sahelion ka bagh" and later to the Udaipur fort. Let the pictures roll.

From the puppet museum

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They also had a live performance. The craftsman came and mingled with the crowd.

From here we went to a small garden which had lake on one side and the Maharana Pratap statue around a garden. Some pictures from this place.

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From the puppet museum we went to "Sahelion ka Bagh"

Pictures from the bagh. The fountains were nice and I experimented with shutter speed.

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After a nice lunch - including 'lal mach' (mutton curry) we drove past a lake and reached the fort.

The lake (I now forget which one of the four lakes it is)

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It had been more than 25 years since I had seen the palace and the fort. I was waiting for see what changes time and various government initiatives would have brought.

Coming up a full walk through the fort and the palace.

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Old 14th January 2016, 14:10   #5
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

9 Nov Contd...


ROYAL RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan has forts
Rajasthan has palaces
Rajasthan has forests
Rajasthan has deserts


Rajasthan has tales of bravery
Rajasthan brings to mind battles
Rajasthan has stories of courage
Rajasthan holds honour supreme


Rajasthan reminds you to
Perish or hold your head high



I had eagerly waited to see the Udaipur fort. I had first come here in mid 80s as a student. A few years later I had come again. Now, after so many years I was eager to see what changes, what difference this place may have undergone.

I will have to compliment the management of the fort who have taken pains to manage and maintain this historic monument. It is a far cry from 1980s when there used to be graffiti on the walls and general dirt all around. It also had a light and sound show in the evening which too was very good.

Let the pictures do the talking. The outside façade of the fort. There will be more pictures from the other side.

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Once inside, the audio guide, the tickets etc - were all very well organised. Dozens and dozens of buses full of foreign tourists were there.

Pictures from the inside the fort-

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Though the place was full of people but I must say, it was clean and it was generally well kept. The crowd management too was good.

Some more pictures -

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Old 14th January 2016, 14:42   #6
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

9 Nov Contd...

Some more pictures from the Udaipur fort. Various sections inside - the various mahals, residential quarters, kitchens, decorations and some small passages for escape.

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One of the hotels in the lake.

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And the landscape in the far end

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Several kites flying around

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Back inside the palace

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Old 14th January 2016, 19:24   #7
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

8 Nov - Contd...

As the sun was setting, the fort staff was trying to shepherd everyone out.

Some more pictures from inside the fort.

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As the sun came down we came out of the fort. I had a chilled Pepsi in a place overlooking the lake and was a few minutes short of the sunset.

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With the sun down, we waited for the light and sound show. This was held in the lawns of the fort with the lights coming up on the exterior walls of the fort. It was ultimately a visual treat. Enjoy the pictures -

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Finally back at the hotel. Long day. It was time to pack and not before walking around, admiring the nice hotel. Once again, a mention of Boheda Palace, their décor and service.

Some artefacts in and around the hotel, the view from the terrace, a vintage beauty parked outside.

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The hotel had a lovely fort view terrace where we also had our meals.

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With this signing off from Udaipur. The destination next day was Jodhpur. With this wonderful beginning, it was eagerness and huge smile as we signed off from Boheda Palace and Udaipur.

Coming up next the Jodhpur chapter.

Last edited by Rajain : 25th January 2016 at 20:48.
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Old 14th January 2016, 20:02   #8
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

9 Nov - Drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur

We settled our accounts and bid the wonderful Boheda Palace hotel goodbye.

On this day it was a simple drive across some arid landscape to Jodhpur. Pretty much routine. We had originally thought of going through Ranakpur but decided against it.

Our stay in Jodhpur was at Mandore Guest House in Mandore. While the approach road leading upto Mandore Guest House gave the feeling of being in the middle of cattleshed but in fact Mandore Guest totally surprised us.

It was a wonderful place full of character and taste.

Totally worth recommending to family and to international tourists. The reasons are the same – tastefully done up place, neat, clean, large rooms, tasty food timely and courteous service and above all the place had a character.

The guest house was close to the Mehrangarh fort. Our first task (even before finishing lunch) was to go zip lining. This was by “Flying Fox” at the Mehrangarh fort. After some initial warm up and basics of training, we were led to the first of the six zips. Besides, of course, the zip lining being good (read safe) it was very scenic.

The company providing this adventure activity was "Flying Fox". Modest amount of 1600 rs, 6 trips across various hills. Good fun. We returned to the hotel with rats doing Olympics in our tummies. Ate like ... well I ate like myself!

Just a couple of shots there and the neighboring area.

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See the black speck in the middle of the picture...6 lengths across hills of zip lining

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The water bodies below the zip lining offered lovely birding opportunities but it was getting dark and to get from the hill back to the fort although was a small trek but not one I would undertake in darkness. Decided against it.

At the Mandore guest house, it was quite colourful and had a nice small garden. The evening was spent in general chatter and a enjoying the live performance on evening ragas by one of our friends.

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I was keen to shoot the flowers in the modest garden. I did this while walking around the next morning.

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Some more pictures, now in daylight of Mandore Guest House.

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After a hearty breakfast we set of to go check out Mehrangarh fort. Thankfully we were close to the fort. Hotels in the rest of the city would be some distance away. We had anyway gone there the previous evening for 'zip lining'.

This fort was built in 1460 by Rao Jodha and so there is a Rao Jodha falsa. The entrance winding and the turning not easy for an elephant to break through the imposing door. Typical war planning tactics of the time.

The fort history is related to Rao Jodha. He became the fifteenth Rathore ruler in 1458. One year after his coronation, Jodha was advised to move his capital to a safer and secure place. In Jodhpur, the thousand years old Mandore fort was gradually deteriorating. This led to the foundation of Mehrangarh Fort. Built on a hill, this fort is well fortified. The invincible fortifications are six meters thick. Some of the walls still bear cannon marks they had once withstood.

The fort management, which is in some cases is a trust or in some cases a member of the family still around and managing it like a business. There are parts of the fort that have small spaces for performers and some other parts that have been leased out for a café.

Some pictures of the performers, the fort management staff and other artisans. Full marks to them for giving the feel of the days gone by and making the whole place and experience very authentic. I sought permissions before taking any close up portrait.

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Mehrangarh fort is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan...perhaps the whole of India.

Coming up next, the artefacts, the mahals and the interior decoration of the fort.

Last edited by Rajain : 26th January 2016 at 15:16.
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Old 14th January 2016, 20:45   #9
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Default Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and More - 9500 kms across South, West and North India

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur


10 Nov - Jodhpur Local Sightseeing

Gone are the days when we used to have graffiti on the walls, general dirt and filth at our historical splendour. Ok, I concede, there are some places still left where its not as clean as it should be. However, I am happy to report that after 25 years, I found Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur much cleaner, better administered and far better for tourists. Mehrangarh fort at Jodhpur, no different. It was well organised, with multi lingual headsets for audio guide, well demarcated places, general feel of place of historical significance.

After getting to the main courtyard, one realised and fully appreciated the kind of work that existed back in the day. Be it the 'howdah' or the walls or the ceiling decoration in the various mahals, it was an outstanding effort by the artisans ad workmen available to the king. In any case would they have a choice to say "Maharaj - go find someone else...I am not working!"

I will run out of words to describe how good some sections were. Let pictures do the talking -

The fort from a distance

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A metal 'sand model' of the fort

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The intricate work on the walls - red sandstone

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Inside the fort - the various 'howdah' and 'palaki' section

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A close up of the red standstone and some more walls

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Coming up pictures from the inside, the artefacts and the various mahals...stay tuned.

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Old 14th January 2016, 21:19   #10
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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

10 Nov Continued...

The Mehrangarh fort is huge. Several artefacts and decorations. More pictures -

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This Palki was kept separately and away from the rest. The story on this was a battle had been fought because the king heard this was the best palki he could lay his hands on. Since it belonged to a neighbouring king a battle ensued.

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A lovely staircase -

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Another section of the fort

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The pictures below are of perhaps the most intricate mahal. Enjoy the artwork -

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The parapet of the fort with canons

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Some more well decorated sections and some more artefacts

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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

10 Nov Contd...

Some more pictures from the Mehrangarh fort

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After thoroughly soaking in the spirit and feel of the Mehrangarh fort we had a quick lunch break and headed for the Umaid Bhavan Palace.

This palace is named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, the grandfather of the present owner Gaj Singh. This palace has 347 rooms. Sections of the palace are the residence of the royal family and a section of the palace is with Taj hotels. Another section is open to public and houses a museum.

Umaid Bhawan Palace was called Chittar Palace during its construction time in 1920s due to use of stones drawn from the Chittar hill where it is located. The foundations started coming up in 1929 and it was eventually completed in 1943

This is a more modern palace. Being a modern palace, it certainly impresses with its modern art collection, the way the palace was kept cool, its collection of utensils etc.

The palace with its royal throne chamber, an exclusive meeting hall, the various private dining halls, a ball room, a library, an indoor swimming pool, four tennis courts, wooden squash court, royal lobby and beautifully decorated walls makes for a spectacular visual treat.

Enjoy the pictures.

First the construction, the decoration and the halls.

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And now the utensils.
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Last edited by Rajain : 26th January 2016 at 01:02.
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Old 15th January 2016, 00:18   #12
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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

10 Nov - Contd...

The Umaid Bhawan Palace. This is a modern day palace, built less than 100 years ago – but very modern and architecturally very accomplished (among other contemporaries).

By comparison, I have seen the Mysore palace, Vadodara palace and of course we were in Rajasthan and so the palaces there too. Some of it can be attributed to more recent construction and therefore the benefits of modernity. However, full marks to the staff that works so hard at maintaining the palace.

Some more pictures from the palace. The artefacts. Of particular significance is the collections of time pieces. Back in 1930's Jodhpur had become and international airport as well. There used to be flights from Paris and London coming into Jodhpur.

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The palace continued to impress with it being so grand.

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View of the city

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Coming out of the palace there was the collection of cars. I saw all the 12 of them. However, with dark light and a glass cage around the cars, getting a good picture was not easy.

However, what was easy was to get good pictures of my own car.

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Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_1931-1280x853.jpg

With a wonderful stay once again in Mandore Palace, and a hearty breakfast next morning we packed up and left for Jaisalmer and onwards to Sam Dunes.

11 Nov Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to Sam Dunes

From Jodhpur, one family returned back to Mumbai. So, the Elantra had to turn back and we were now Innova, Ertiga and Outlander. Two decades ago, this drive used to be almost full day.

I remember once arriving in Jodhpur by train and then taking a bus to Pokharan. That bus journey took 6 hours and another 3.5 would have been till Jaisalmer. Better highway meant Jodhpur to Jaisalmer was dispatched in 4 hours.

Our stay in Jaisalmer was in 2 parts. Out of the 3 nights, one was in tents in Sam Dunes and the rest 2 in Zostel Helsinki. So, after a quick lunch at Zostel Helsinki, we were led to the tents where we were booked.

Sam Dunes, that I recall 25 years ago, was simply that – dunes and a few camels. Desert, pristine to its best. Almost nothing else. Today, it is a world of difference. There are dozens of companies which have put up hundreds of tents. The entire landscape is dotted with tents. I understand that these tents come up in September and go on till end March. Then they are taken off and there is almost no overnight stay tourism at these places.

There are several tent companies which are on the road but that also means they are somewhat far away from the dunes. To get to the dunes what better than the ship of the desert – camel. And there is also the great Thar (Mahindra). We were lucky to have our tents about 5-6 kms inside the desert away from the road and within a stone’s throw from the dunes.

After a quick check in, we took the camels and quickly headed to the dunes. We stayed there till sunset. Some pictures of our tents followed by pictures from the dunes.

Some pictures of the highway - through the towns of Ramgarh and Pokharan.

The first indications of desert sand had started to come in. Years ago one could see this kind of sand starting Jodhpur.

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Don't miss the local harvesting contraptions

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Car cooler visible

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We reached Hotel Helsinki, quickly had lunch and then drove off to Sam Dunes, another 60 odd kms till our tents.

So, will we get to see the sunset with camels walking in the backdrop? Stay tuned.

Last edited by Rajain : 26th January 2016 at 15:29.
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Old 15th January 2016, 00:53   #13
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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

11 Nov - Sam Dunes

Soon after checking in and freshing up we left for the dunes - which, luckily were within a few hundred meters. Camels had been requisitioned and were waiting.

It was hazy and the sunset was not the most clearest. However, the sand and the dunes presented a wonderful experience. Its a pity we spent only a couple of hours on the dunes. We really should have spent more.

Let pictures do justice to the sand dunes and desert safari -

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You can see our tents in the far end...thankfully that close.

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Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2278-1280x853.jpg

Our cars parked in the desert. No road, of course. Some vehicles, not driven very well, did get stuck before reaching these tents.

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After sunset, there was a folk dance and a cultural programme. Some pictures in the wonderful star lit sky.

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Dinner was served and we retired. Dinner was nothing outstanding though it was good. Perhaps we were too tired and ate little and slept.

Our tents in the desert

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Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2472-1280x960.jpg


Next morning was a local surprise. We figured there is Desert National Park about 25 kms from where we were.


12 Nov - Desert National Park, Kuldhara and Jaisalmer


Sam Dunes, Desert National Park and Jaisalmer - Next morning some of us had planned to go to the Desert National Park. It was reasonably cold when we drove out to go to the park.

This little known park was about 25 kms away. By the time we reached the place where we had to buy tickets it was day break and the counter had not yet opened. It was no surprise that we were the only people there.

After buying tickets and taking a guide along we proceeded inside. Various birds and animals greeted us. This park is known for the Great Indian Bustard. After almost two hours of driving around we were lucky to spot a couple of them – in the far distance. Enjoy the pictures.

A large variety of birds (several of which I can't make out) and the usual chinkara


Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2503-1280x853.jpg

Laggar Falcon

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Rosy Starling

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Common/Long legged Buzzard

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Long legged Buzzard

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Long legged Buzzard again

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Within the national park we drove around 30 kms on the main tracks and were allowed to walk. There was a local guide provided to us by the forest department.

What more did we see? Stay tuned.

Last edited by Rajain : 27th January 2016 at 12:53.
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Old 15th January 2016, 01:12   #14
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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

12 Nov - Desert National Park, Kuldhara and Jaisalmer

More pictures from the Desert National Park.

I am no birdie, and hopefully will get the names correct Egyptian Vulture and the Great Indian Bustard were a good sighting. Several in flight as well. The last picture, of the shepherd really make for a fine composition.

Enjoy the pictures -


Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2702-1280x853.jpg

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2722-1280x853.jpg

Long legged Buzzard

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2575-1280x845.jpg

Just a crow in flight

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2752-1280x850.jpg

Black Crowned Sparrow Lark

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2768-1280x853.jpg

Some Pipit?

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2775-1280x853.jpg

Rosy Starling

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Indian Roller

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Indian Roller again

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Hoopoe

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Rosy Starling

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2863-1280x853.jpg

Next are pictures of Egyptian Vultures

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Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_3049-1280x853.jpg

We were eager to see the Great Indian Bustard. Our guide informed us that they were spotted a couple of days ago in an enclosure a couple of kms away. By enclosure it basically keeps the shepherd ad their flock away. And it becomes rather exclusive to the bird who can fly in, be in the area with total exclusivity. After scanning this area we drove for another half a km before our guide said park and quietly come out of the vehicle. I was reading somewhere that only 200 of these birds remain and of course they are endangered. At a far distance - the winged beauty was walking around.

The Great Indian Bustard at a distance

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2987-1280x797.jpg

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_2982-1280x836.jpg

And a shepherd with his flock

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_3156-1280x853.jpg

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Old 15th January 2016, 11:59   #15
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Default re: Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India

12 Nov - Desert National Park, Sam Dunes, Kuldhara & Jaisalmer


After spending almost 3 hours at the Desert National Park we returned to our tents, had a quick breakfast and checked out.

Some parting shots before we departed from the tents.


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The previous night was also Diwali and so we had carried a diya - and lit it in the middle of the desert.

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Our destination in the day was Kuldhara, the deserted village and back check in into Zostel Helsinki. Sam Dunes to Jaislamer is a quick short drive of an hour and Kuldhara is a short diversion from the road.

We stopped over at Kuldhara. The story that has been narrated through the generations is that one local king came to the village and wanted to take away a beautiful girl from this village. The village elders negotiated a one-day time to think and the king said he would return the next day. Well, in a land known for honor and dignity, the entire village emptied overnight and left it deserted. I was informed that 85 such villages exist. Usual superstition that no one now stays overnight there due to ghosts also appears to have been narrated through the years. Some pictures on the way to and from Kuldhara.

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After a couple of hours at Kuldhara we headed back to Jaisalmer and checked into our Zostel Helsinki. Now, back 25 years ago Jaisalmer was a small reasonably neat and clean small town. Well, now, it is still a small town and reasonably dirty. Our hotel was the last building of the town and there was no more buildings further. The fort was within 2 kms and so the town has not grown in size, however, what it has grown is in its garbage. There were heaps of garbage all over and it appears that the municipality either does not exist or it does not work. Either way, sad affair that this town is in shambles. In the evening we walked over to the fort – which is also nothing to write home about. People stay inside and therefore it’s like any other colony. Some pictures of the fort at night.

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While parked outside the fort, wearing a hat and a camera around my neck, two people, one carrying a video camera approached me and asked which country I came from. When I told them I drove from Bangalore, I felt they would want to walk away but after regaining composure, they started asking me usual touristy questions as the video camera was rolling.

Since people stay inside the fort, there is the usual challenges of power, space, water, hygiene, parking and the like.

There are also hawkers. So a colourful shot -

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_3302-1280x853.jpg

Diwali was still being celebrated. Houses were decorated but what was most amusing was kids putting crackers inside canons and trying to fire them. The canon barrels were also being used for - well launching rockets!

Some parting shots from inside the fort

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We retired for the day back in Zostel Helsinki.

A picture from inside Zostel Helsinki

Forts, Palaces, Wildlife and more - 9,500 kms across South, West and North India-dsc_1988-1280x960.jpg

The next day was another drive. This time to the real remote desert areas - of Longewala.

Last edited by Rajain : 26th January 2016 at 15:38. Reason: Added detail
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