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Old 2nd December 2008, 09:47   #61
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Nice bisons! All of them (or most of them) took their time to pose for the camera. Why don't you give a real distance shot of the animals (not zooming) if you have one.
What's so special about the 'Rhino'?
I know there is a very realistic looking statue at the entrance of Gorumara, but in this picture the trees appear much closer.

You know, since June (when I visited), the forest seems to have grown quite a bit (as if I am an expert!). The effect of the monsoons, and the three months of closure I think.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 10:02   #62
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I found Mirik very beautiful. The sky exploded in spectacular colours at sunrise during our stay. It was December last year. Since we were the only people staying at the DGHC tourist lodge (not the cottages) and were given the best room overlooking the lake. The people were extremely friendly and helpful and the tea was too good. I think it's the water which makes a difference when we have the same tea here at home (same tea leaves you know, from the same pack). The food was from Jagjit (DGHC TL don't cook), and was delicious.

I had told you about the drive to the orange orchards. Not much to see there (other than the oranges and meet the friendly locals), but the road was steep, going down almost at 45 degrees, so just for the drive. But anyway, it wouldn't have been much compared to the Rock Garden trip you mentioned, but I was scared. We were in a Xing.

Walking around Mirik is tough work for the leg muscles, it's all so steep, and we walked up to the monastery as well, including my mother.

Sorry, couldn't help putting in my experiences. I am loving this travelogue!!
But didn't get enough of the winding roads through the tea gardens. Do post some more. There should be a few pictures of the Ikon at the tea estate?

Last edited by Lumina : 2nd December 2008 at 10:13.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 12:09   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
We were not able to visit the monastery due to shortage of time. Did you go to the helipad in Mirik? A few local students told us that Mirik was much more beautiful earlier i.e before the beautification drive started and destroyed large number of trees in front of the lake.
How can I forget the Mirik Helipad, the place made famous by a drifting Esteem. They dont allow tourists with their cars in there since then, just kidding. We wanted to get there but was short on time, besides had no intention of subjecting my already ailing ride to any additionally inflicted torture you see!

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Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
But, how close were you from the Bisons?
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Originally Posted by Lumina View Post
Why don't you give a real distance shot of the animals (not zooming) if you have one.
Good that you asked this.

I did not have a real distance shot, but just took a screenshot from a video file.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-untitled.jpg

Very close indeed.

Infact the Bisons were not shot at a long range at all. The only problem being the light, or the lack of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
As a matter of fact, I came to know from the forest officials at Gorumara that Gorumara and Chapramari and the adjoining forests are now teeming with Bisons and they have become a real menace to the adjoining villages. In fact, the forest officials are now considering to re-introduce tigers in the core areas of Gorumara and towards the Bhutan hills, to bring some balance in the food chain.
There used to be Tigers in Dooars years back. The Bison menace is actually very terrifying. The accompanying forest guard on the second day started the journey by saying that we are going to see the animals but they actually harm us a lot. I bet it wasn't the right thing to say, but he couldn't help it. We just told him, we are going to see the forest and not just its inhabitants.

Even the forest guard on the first day during the elephant incident, was amused of having seen the elephant come so close to the car. Quoting him in bengali itself "Garir ekdom kache eshe gechilo bol" (It came so close to the car isn't it?)

The drivers knew the forests better.

The bison herd being so close was a greater danger than the elephant. We had moved backward later on. They were crossing the road and accumulating on the otherside, few keeping a tab on us from behind the bushes.
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-img_97631.jpg

Last edited by 1100D : 2nd December 2008 at 12:11.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 14:24   #64
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Excellent travelogue. Have you considered writing as an alternate profession? At least try blogging.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 18:11   #65
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Actually the elephants seldom make a full blooded charge, its always a mock charge. The only possible exceptions to this are the elephants in musth and some tuskers who become nasty over time. So one has to be careful of these guys also needs to be wary of Cow elephants which are nursing a young calf when they are at their wits end as well. I had shared these pics in another thread nevertheless would not mind doing it again even though I dont want to hijack this thread as I have been glued to this for the last few days.

Am not sure if the bisons up there behave in a different manner as compared to the ones down south because the bisons seldom attack until they are threatend. I have passed grazing bisons in my bike and in one case we have had a bison passing us while a group of us were chatting in a resort in Yercaud. At no point have I been threated on the contrary invariably I have felt "Opportunity Lost" to take a pics as they tend to take cover the moment they sight us.

This shot was taken from my Wagon R when we had spent almost 10 minutes with this guy on the Masinagudi highway to Ooty. Not only he ambled along the sides of the road he walked further forward and then stood in the middle of the road. We waited all the while for this guy to go back to the forest, the only concern for me was if some nut would come the opposite side and honk in which case I was exactly in the line of fire
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-227038521_22b674f122_b.jpg

This was as good as a chage you would get. In this case this was a nursing cow elephant which got threated because of passing vehicles by default when we stopped we had to pay the penalty for the earlier vehicles, nevertheless a shot which is among the better ones I have taken till date due to the situation and the absolutely minimal reaction time I had. In a matter of seconds the elephant charged us with trumpets blowing and then turned back into the forest. This was taken on the main Mysore - Ooty highway.
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-279710551_7c8d5b1dcf_o.jpg
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Old 2nd December 2008, 22:16   #66
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Originally Posted by pypkmsrikanth View Post
Actually the elephants seldom make a full blooded charge, its always a mock charge.

Am not sure if the bisons up there behave in a different manner as compared to the ones down south because the bisons seldom attack until they are threatend.
Firstly, absolutely stunning pictures those were.

About the Elephants you are right, but the behaviour of the loner being always unpredictable.

Okay, I did not mention this, the example we encountered is a locally known havoc wreaker, called "Mahakal". The Forest Rest House Manager pointed it out to us as its tail was the identifying feature. The story of how he lost it, would tell you the pain he had to endure.

About Bisons, we have been told from generations in our parts that they actually attack frequently without provocation based on their mood that day. May be that the Bison code of conduct might have inconsistencies across the different languages it is written in.

Day 8 - Saturday 22nd November.

Another day of early rising, but this time to start early from Mirik and head southwards towards home. However, we would stop at Bahrampore (Berhampore).

The early Morning photograph of the Mirik Lake (Sumendu Lake) saw mist right on the water surface.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture6.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture5.jpg

At 8:30, after having breakfast, we wished Mirik Bye Bye!


The Downhill run to Bagdogra, via Motigara, took around an hour and 10 mins. Let me mention a fact that I was discussing with someone today, whose scorpio had burning brakes on a descent. The driver was, ofcourse, upbeat about having brought that vehicle down to Siliguri for repairs, but he was't pleased to know, as I divulged before his employer, that the fault was his. On asking, he told me that he was doing the downhill run in the vehicle on 4th gear. This actually lead to the brakes working overtime, it heat up, brake fade set in, he increased pressure and then the eventual brake failure. He was not pleased to know that I was pinning the complete blame on him rather than, what he was putting the blame on, the vehicle. While descending the vehicle needs to be in the same gear under engine braking as it would be, if it were going uphill, its a thumb rule that has to be kept in mind especially if you havn't driven on the hills before. The second thing is, the chances of vehicle oversteering on a hairpin is much much more on a downhill run. So descending is much more critical and dangerous than ascending. The third thing, vehicles running uphill has the right of way, so choose crossing points beforehand when you see a vehicle on the opposite side. On reaching the plains, take it easy for the first few kms for the brakes to cool down.

We topped up at Bagdogra and switched drivers. We were sailing smoothly till about a few kms from Kishengunj where we had to stop as the vehicles ahead weren't moving. Little weaving through traffic we were at the head of the Jam, which was caused by "rasta roko" being done by locals. I went out to have a look. It looked as if the locals were protesting against something. Someone asked me to wait for sometime, as it would clear out soon. But contrary to that, I was seeing more people pour in. I tried negotiating, but very soon I realised that both me and my Dad are doing the wrong part of the Jobs. I went back to the wheel and Dad came to Negotiate. I was also trying to negotiate but with my car if it would climb up the central median into the center portion of the expressway as Father was negotiating with the few leaders there.

Oblivious to me, I was seeing a situation in the car going on, when my Sister and Wife was trying to get on the nerves on my daughter, who eventually burst out crying. It was irritating, but then I was mostly concentrating on getting the rear right and the front left wheel hit the median at almost the same time after each other, which it did. We were into the central portion, crawling. Soon, I had the locals direct me out of their Rasta Roko, Dad was shaking hands with some of them. Soon we switched drivers again and crossed Dalkhola into the irritating NH34.

One thing that we always abide by, on long journeys, is to wear ordinary looking clothes, that dont look too attractive. On this occasion, my father before leaving the vehicle had instructed the inmates of the vehicle to make the small-lady cry. While he was negotiating, he was directing their attention to the ill baby who was crying.

Had a little tea break at Dalkhola. The Dhaba's at Dalkhola are actually situated on the NH31 before the left turn for NH34. On the way to Siliguri, one will have to turn right onto NH31 then make a U-turn at the next cut-out to be able to access them, if required.

A typical Indian Highway

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture1.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture3.jpg


Soon We were flying into Raigunj. Another Truck Jam, this time overtaking all the stranded trucks and then on event of there being a vehicle from the opposite side, I was making use of the shoulder on the extreme right to give them a clean effortless run, thus, also making my job easier. At 2:45 we were at Malda, We had Lunch at on Hotel Kalinga, which has a rooftop restaurant. There are quite a few there, like Chanakya etc.

View from Kalinga

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture2.jpg

Having left Malda it was a pedal to metal run against the setting sun to reach Moregram around 100kms away. Having seen the road condition there earlier, I did not want to reach there under headlights. But unfortunately, we had traffic to deal with. The lights went out just as we reached the trechourous stretch.

Sunset run

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture4.jpg

But light, we were not worried with, because we had that in adequate from headlights of many heavy vehicles, all at crawling speed, trying to chose a smaller pothole from a larger one. Soon we were at Moregram.

At this point we were going to go straight onto Berhampore only 30kms from there, instead of taking a right turn into the Panagarh route. Little did we know that the 30kms will take us one and half hours to cross. In the whole trip, till then the fully loaded car never scraped its underbelly, be it at Rock Graden or taking some diversion, but here it did a few times. What was also disturbing was a set of Busses that were flying on these potholes together, and then stopping at a few stops enroute, allowing the others to pass. One of them being from the State owned WBSTC. Dont know the plight of its usual passengers. Slip disc guaranteed.

There were many trucks with broken axles enroute. Last few kms to Behrampore we saw another truck jam, which we bypassed the same way as before. This Jam was caused by two trucks colliding. The rear axle of one truck gave away as it was passing another truck from the opposite side, ramming its rear into the side of the other. However since the road was bad, both were at very low speed.

Undoubtedly the worst surface I have seen after having seen Baharagora in Jharkhand on NH6 over the years (there 22 kms, Jharkhand border-to-border used to take, till 2005, 3 hours to cross)

We reach Bahrampore, and luckily we found the WB Tourism guest house right after the bridge across Bhagirathi. We halted for the night there. The dust being generated from the broken NH34 was to be seen to be beleived. The balcony of our room had a thick layer of dust, but the attendant assured us that it was dusted in the afternoon. Luckily our rooms were dust free.

A day that began with a lovely sight of Mist on the Sumendu Lake had to end with sight of potholes and dust on the NH34, with sounds of trucks revving in lower gear to keep their momentum going.

A typical sight of this animal going round its own tail

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture7.jpg
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Old 2nd December 2008, 23:10   #67
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Loved the misty morning pics at Mirik. I got a few similar shots during by recent drive to Nashville, TN.

It completely beats me why the NH34 turns into this state every year and nobody cares about it. It is the only lifeline from the plains to the NB hills with a heavy traffic load. Who know when the proposed expressway between Kolkata and Siliguri would come up. I have been hearing about it for the last 5 yrs atleast. May be its part of the EW Corridor.
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Old 2nd December 2008, 23:37   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
It completely beats me why the NH34 turns into this state every year and nobody cares about it. It is the only lifeline from the plains to the NB hills with a heavy traffic load. Who know when the proposed expressway between Kolkata and Siliguri would come up. I have been hearing about it for the last 5 yrs atleast. May be its part of the EW Corridor.
Land has been acquired but then the same outfit that jeopardised the Nano project is up there winning land losers votes. The EW corridor is the NH31, which explains its expressway standard.
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Old 3rd December 2008, 06:02   #69
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Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
It completely beats me why the NH34 turns into this state every year and nobody cares about it.
This road has got the sanction and funds from NHAI to be converted into a 4-lane highway. That's why its regular maintenance budget has been frozen. But politics has stopped the widening project. So, it's neither here nor there kind of situation for the past five years or so, as you say.
When we went in May 07 there was a wooden bridge near Raiganj called Domohona which had collapsed and army had to restore it, because NHAI or local administration had no budget for repairs.
Luckily we read about it while we were in Darjeeling and it was repaired by the time we came down. I think even now trucks cross the bridge on a one at a time basis. This is our National Highway. Can you imagine?
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Old 3rd December 2008, 23:31   #70
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A school in Bahrampore
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture1.jpg

Day 9 - Sunday 23rd November.


"Ekdum Suijjerland (Switzerland said in a Bengali tone)" the manager of the WBTDC lodge remarked speaking to us about the riverside road connecting the area where the Lodge is situated to the famous Hazarduari Palace at Murshidabad. He said 10km's will take 10mins maximum.

Well, welcome to the ninth day and the final day of our family outing. We had decided to stop over at Bahrampore on the return journey and explore around a little, like the nearby Murshidabad town, which is the most historic town in Bengal of amazing importance in the past.

After having our breakfast, the Ikon 1.6 and its passengers rolled towards the road by the river and the Switzerland connection was obvious, the cows. Although they did not have the bell on their necks. The road surface, though paved and a welcome change from what we saw on the NH34, was full of little ripples. But then, not many are previleged enough to know that the roads in switzerland were far better even 20 years before one first visited the country 20 years back.

Anyway, 10 mins were spent just going past the bazaar they setup at the start of that road. Chickens, Muttons, lungi clad people being on the road
ensured that progress was quite slow but steady. Soon we were at the Murshidabad entry checkpost. We had to stop to pay the Levy. A white t-shirt, white trouser clad, long haired, short gentleman made an appearance. He went straight at my Dad's window, informed he is a guide, he would like to have a word with him, directed me "Bhai switch of the car, no need for wasting fuel". I simply obeyed, as I sensed entertainment, besides, not many days we get to experience this.

Dad told him that we only wanted to see Hazarduari, to which he took big offense, "Murshidabad is such an important place on the chest of our great country and you want to see only Hazarduari?" I gestured to my sister to control laughter. Dad informed him about the shortage of our time, and he said, "let me assure you, I will utilise the time you give to me, and show you around. Getting me is your good luck. Everybody knows me in this area, I am the Sanjoy Guide."

The Sanjoy Guide
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture2.jpg

He said, he will fit into a small space my father would liberate on his left side and his small frame did.

As the car rolled again, the livewire began his performance. At times he was asking me to drive a little slower so that he can time his lecture with our arrival at a venue. Everyone around knew him, and seeing his face made way for our car!! (The real reason I will say later)

First up was the Mirjafar house/Jafragunj gate and the cemetery (Mirzafar and his family is buried there) surrounded by the famous Moti jheel

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture3.jpg

The Moti Jheel (Looking at it it does not seem that it has any historical significance but this horseshoe shaped waterbdy has seen a lot)

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture4.jpg

Very soon we were faced with the prospect of not following the context of the guides tales but savour in the entertainment. He took offense, he said, I will ask questions, Murshidabad is not a laughing matter. lthough I wasn't laughing externally.

From there we went to this fantastic Jahan Kosha cannon, the history of it is also attached!
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture5.jpg Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture6.jpg

Then we went on to the Katra Mosque. Some pictures there. The founder of Murshidabad lies there.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture7.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture8.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture9.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture10.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture11.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture12.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture13.jpg

It was time to drive on to the Hazarduari palace, that we actually came to see. Hazarduari as the name implies, thousand doors. There are 900 real doors to this palace and 100 fake ones (made of concrete and painted in wooden color). It has the famous Armory room containing amazing period exhibits from Arms to oil paintings of the princes, old clothes to palanquins. Photography inside being strictly prohibited, one had to deposit mobiles at the gate too.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture16.jpg

Just opposite the Hazarduari is the Imambara and in the same premises is the Madina Mosque, that has in it the sacred soil of Madina brought in by, if I am not mistaken, Mirzafar.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture14.jpg

Chowkbazar palace was just across the street.

But then time was running out, it was time to wish the guide goodbye. Murshidabad obviously demands a longer period of stay there to let the place speak its history to you. But then apart from the history of Murshidabad, we also found the phenomenon called Sanjoy Guide. We took his phone contact and promised to see him again. Recommend meeting him for the revelation he is.

we head straight to the Lodge, collected our stuff and hit the road. This time the destination was Howrah, our home.

But having said that, I had already mentioned the 30kms that we had to face from Moregram to Berhampore. Continuing on the same NH34 southwards would make us reach home, but the road condition was deplorable. Driving back 30kms to Moregram was also a pain. Just to give you an idea of the road surface of the little we encountered of that surface on our eventual route.

This my fiiends is a NATIONAL HIGHWAY (and not that it has suffered any recent flood or something, it stays like this forever)
Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture17.jpg

Driving North on NH34 for a km or so we took a left turn, a road that goes to Kandi, Kuli, Andhi, touching Sainthia, and coming out on Md Bazar on the NH60 (The Panagarh-Moregram highway).

The road had scatterred potholes the initial 8-10 kms, then a good surface, till Kandi, 28kms. Kandi to Kuli about 6 kms was not bad. But Kuli to Aandhi around 5 kms had sporadic potholes. Andhi to Sainthia being 15kms had stretches of Good and bad mixed. Where it was bad, it was real bad.

A statebus overtaking a private one, the rightwheel is on the road burm. Needless to say the surface is uneven, but does the driver care? The passengers think, this is quite a great ride, akin to Suijjerland.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture18.jpg

But driving on this stretch we encountered something unexpected. A group of camels, kept grazing, unattended.

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture19.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture20.jpg

Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.-picture21.jpg

After taking snaps we drove off discussing in what ways the camel comes in handy, not even dwelving on the "horse designed by a committee" angle.

After 62 kms of careful driving we reached the Panagarh-Moregram highway. The throttle was given the boot, reason, the setting sun, and the fact that we did not have anything to eat since breakfast.

We reach Panagarh by daylight for a "Tarka Roti" session. Then on, home was 150kms (164kms by the route we actually took on the way back) away, but on the expressway.

Dad took over, however there was a huge truck jam at Panagarh. It took us 30 mins to extract ourselves from that.

After hitting the expressway, Dad handed the car back to me, saying he was unable to see anything. He had a recent laser surgery on his right eye, which he felt was completly unnecessary given that his vision problems were actually in his left eye. But then the Opthalmist must have known better.

After taking charge, it was just a matter of keeping the steering held, blipping at the trucks, soon we were home. Towards the end, I was driving dead slow, cause did not want this to get over. But it still did.


It was just supposed to be a family reunion tour, but what did it turn out to be!

Thanks for bearing with me on this journey! The roads were too bad.

Last edited by 1100D : 3rd December 2008 at 23:34.
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Old 4th December 2008, 01:36   #71
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I was looking more more of Sanjoy Guide! I am looking forward to the videos.
Excellent Travelogue.
I must also say that your photography skills have improved phenomenally over the years.
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Old 4th December 2008, 02:52   #72
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Very nice travelogue, loved every bit of it.

BTW, are those new Santa Fe's being tested? They are probably being tested for the worst road conditions or offroad conditions. Is the Toyota a LandCruiser?
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Old 4th December 2008, 05:52   #73
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I think the camels are for Eid sacrifice and the foreign cars are being driven for delivery to Nepal.
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Old 4th December 2008, 09:37   #74
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Nice trip altogether, got to know some new places as well.

Your session with sanjoy guide reminded me of Bashir Guide when we went there in 1999. He started with a huge bell behind the palace and kept on talking. He also told stories of the one Rani who was told to drink 12yr old boy's blood and she got addicted and started killing 12yrs boys, then Raja punished her with Live Kabar, she was dressed like a bride with all jewellerys and walked down one Kabar, There are lots of jewellery inside this kabar and blah blah....

Why no pics of the nice river bank next to the Palace?

Abhi
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Old 4th December 2008, 13:41   #75
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An excellant travelogue 1100, that had me glued from start to end. However my curiosity about the guide still remains unsatiated..

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post
The Sanjoy Guide

He said, he will fit into a small space my father would liberate on his left side and his small frame did.

As the car rolled again, the livewire began his performance. At times he was asking me to drive a little slower so that he can time his lecture with our arrival at a venue. Everyone around knew him, and seeing his face made way for our car!! (The real reason I will say later)
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