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Old 11th January 2011, 15:23   #16
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Default Re: A recce travelogue

The highway between Udaipur and Abu Road is a lovely road but watch out for idiots who drive on the wrong side of wrong side!!

First they are on the wrong side and then instead of taking the shoulder they are driving towards you in the high speed lane. This is a road that climbs up and down with fast winding turns and then you have so many whackos coming at you.

But soon it was twilight and we stopped at a small chai shop. A five minute chai stop took half an hour plus. And Philip was still not able to download ;-)

I took over the drive from here and such a pleasure it was to drive through without hinderence. Tanked up again just before entering Gujrat. Only to be told that there is notrate difference between this or that side of border.

Abu Road, Palanpur, Deesa, Radhanpur, Santhalpur, Samkhyalee.....towns rolled by. Just before joined the NH8A coming from Ahmedabad we stopped for dinner. And then Bachau, Bhuj.

Scary moment. Between Palanpur and Deesa the road is almost arrow straight and heavy truck traffic transporting stuff to and from Kandla port. Against the opposing head light I got a early warning that something has run across from right to keft. I braked real hard just as my headlight illuminated a full grown Blue Buck. The critter got confused and almost turned back and I had to steer violently to avoid hitting him. Thanks to ABS I was able to steer to safety without wheels lock up. That would have been disastrous.

We were in Bhuj but no were not done as our destination was Garha Resorts about twenty km's beyond. It is situated on hill side over looking a lake. We tanked up at Bhuj as tomorrow morning there was work to be done. Not only the world was sleeping even the resort staff was sleeping when we pulled in to the parking lot. They have two huge dogs on the property. An Alsatian and a Doberman. But both are adorable and are totally friendly. May be so many guests coming in and out does that to ferocious breeds??

Any way woke up a sleepy guard and soon we were in our room. I was snoring off while Phil finally got his download completed.

It does not seem much work but when you do 1400kms in a span of 30 odd hours it is tiring. And then you really do not feel like setting the alarm for a 0500hrs wake up!! But that's what we were to do and also the guide was supposed to be joining us at 0600hrs. Sounds familiar?
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Old 11th January 2011, 16:32   #17
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Your awesome narration and those anecdotes really make a grueling drive look like a walk in the park. It's like a gripping "The Vitara Diaries"!
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Old 11th January 2011, 20:07   #18
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SUDEV >> Enjoyed the Rann pics. It also reminded me of the wise decision we made to turn back after 7kms straight into the Rann during our March 2010 trip. The plan was to reach Dholivira - Quite stupidly ambitious i would say now. But after seeing the tires begin to sink 2inches and then 3 , we decided wisely to turn back.
Add to that, unlike you, we had no backup either.

The Mandvi beach too is utterly stunning. Can you reveal how and where you entered the Mandvi beach stretch for a drive ?
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Old 12th January 2011, 10:24   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
SUDEV >> Enjoyed the Rann pics. It also reminded me of the wise decision we made to turn back after 7kms straight into the Rann during our March 2010 trip. The plan was to reach Dholivira - Quite stupidly ambitious i would say now. But after seeing the tires begin to sink 2inches and then 3 , we decided wisely to turn back.
Add to that, unlike you, we had no backup either.
Wise decision to turn back. The way to go to Dholovira is via Bachau, Rapper. The Bhuj, Bhirandiyara link is perpetually water logged or slushy.

And unlike the recce trip done by other team in end November I had no back up either.

Quote:
The Mandvi beach too is utterly stunning. Can you reveal how and where you entered the Mandvi beach stretch for a drive ?
North of Mandvi is a beach temple called Pingleshwar. near by you can access the beach. CAUTION!! before doing so have a back up or familiarise yourself as mobile does not work at most of the places. Also watch out for high tides. The best is to go inn an hour before the low tide and not be there more than hour after low tide. The tide height can be dizzying 7 meters!!!
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Old 13th January 2011, 12:47   #20
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...the 0500hrs routine began again. The day was Monday 3rd Jan. But Philip decided he had had enough of my taunts so I was served tea in bed (tea kettle provided in the room)!!!

We had ordered packed breakfast for four people the night before on phone itself so we had warm tea inside us and we had packed breakfast to carry along. We were in the car by 0600hrs. But no guide.

Phoned him - mobiles are such a nuisance - and was told that the jeep he was to travel him had a breakdown and he was still at his village about 10kms away. So off we went to pick him up. Since his village is at edge of Rann we were really not going off track.

Slowly the sun rose over the horizon and it was so nice feeling the warm rays hitting your face and warming you up. The temperature outside was just 2degree!!
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Soon we were travelling deeper in to the Rann using the tracks made by "milk" jeeps.
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The migratory bird population at this time of year is incredible. Thousands upon thousands of birds from so many different species. Here is a bunch of Demoiselle Cranes, locally known as Kurja, taking off on our approach
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The whole drive was superb and we were trying to map the tracks on our GPS. I was enjoying the warmth and behind the wheel.
P: Sir jee kuch der ruk lo na
M: Kyoon?
P: Waise hi
M: What do you mean waise hi?
P: Nahin woh break fast packet .... bumpy surface..

I got the drift. A mallu and his food can not remain away from each other long. Not that I was not hungry ;-)
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A note to all: Please do not litter. Make sure that you carry away all scraps of plastic or foil.
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Old 14th January 2011, 15:52   #21
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...the day progressed and we went more in to the interiors. It is amazing how seemingly barren land is not all barren. Despite salty soil there are pockets of greenery and here most of the "Banni" people live and make living raising cattle.

The area is know for its milk products. The "Mava" sold at Bhirandiyara cross road is marvellous and who else but our dear friend from Kerela finished off 250rgams at a single sitting.

Since this area is very low w.r.t. sea level during monsoon it gets inundated. Although water may be at best couple of feet but it makes the whole surface soft and slippery. During monsoon all the people move out to higher areas around the periphery of Rann. It was amazing that they leave their huts and belongings just before the first rains and return only when the ground is dry enough.

After monsoons the water slowly evaporates/disappears. Soon the cattle grazing starts and with soft soil the hoof marks get deeply embedded. Now this is not a problem is you are on your feet but in a vehicle it become one continuous ride over "rumble" strip.

Some of this disappears over time with repeated passage of milk jeeps - the guys who go in collect milk daily. But not all and when we do recce we mark out such areas. And then we use loader/tractor to smoothen this out to make it "rally" worthy.

Hard work. But its got to be done. Here is what Philip came up with instead of hiring a local contractor for the job. Do you think it would have worked?
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Fortunately the direction we were heading took us out near Bachau on the state highway connecting to Bhuj and we were able to get some chai biscuit before heading back in to the Rann. Sadly Phil decided that the "heavy" earth moving equipment was not up to task and so we did end up negotiating with a local tractor guy to do the job of "smoothening" tracks.

Despite our best efforts we were able to do only 30% of the area by sun down. So after a long tiring day we were back at resort for dinner by reasonably early 2000hrs.

We had a meeting with resort guy and contractor at 0930hrs next morning to discuss track and camping arrangements. Just before retiring to sleep at 2300hrs:
P: tomorrow we have to meet them at 0930
M: Yeah
P: So we will get to catch up on sleep
M: Nah. It is 0500hrs as usual
P: Why?
M: Because tomorrow we go to Kala Dungar and catch sunrise from there.
P: But that is about 70kms away!!
M: So? We will quickly go and be back for breakfast and meeting, no?
P: Breakfast bhi nahin!!
M: Good night

Kala Dungar is ......
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Old 18th January 2011, 15:55   #22
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....Kala Dungar is the highest point in Gujrat. That is what the sign board said. It is about 100kms due north of Bhuj. There is a temple at the top and a nice twisty tarmac leads to it. To the east, north and south is the flat Rann and to south is the road that connects Khavda to Bhuj.

Slightly to north west is the famed "India bridge". This is a smallneck of water that connects the Rann with Arabian Sea. And this is from where most of monsoon tides spill over on to Rann. To the north is "Flamingo Island" due to many many migratory pink flamingos that migrate from Africa to here. Beyond that is the India-Pak border. Slightly away on the east is Dholovira islands - the seat of ancient city that rivals Mohenjodaro and Harrap - now in Pakistan.

Being a high point abutting the Rann of Kutch it has spectacular views and I wanted to see the sunrise from here and see if we can bring the DS11 rally to loop to this point. The usual early morning wake up routine was endured but just when we were to start off we observed that the kitchen of the resort was open and busy serving breakfast to bunch of tourists. So we also sat down for breakfast.

A mistake.....
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Old 18th January 2011, 20:21   #23
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....it took them almost half an hour to serve tea and toast. Oh and the omelette Philip asked for. Unfortunately the sun does not wait for anyone to rise.

So we had a simple task of doing about 80kms in forty odd minutes and the last ten uphill ;-)

Crisp cold dawn and no traffic on an arrow straight road from the Garha resort to Khavda. Pure exhilaration!! In the event we captured these pictures:
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These are taken with a simple point and click camera which did not fully capture the trill of the moment.

This bird was hovering using the breeze coming up the mountain. It would stay virtually still at one spot. Then all of a sudden it would dive and out of nowhere grab an insect in its beak. Fascinating.
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A warm cup of tea served by BSF Canteen was added bonus in the cold. What I could not capture due to poor light was the entire stretch of Rann covered with water. The first time in four years I saw this. Else the Rann is shimmering white and dry by this time of the year. The last picture is what I am describing. The water boundary is barely visible.
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Last edited by sudev : 18th January 2011 at 20:24.
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Old 19th January 2011, 11:57   #24
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We drove back to the resort at much saner speeds and had a meeting with the "contractor" who would run his tractor over the really rough patches of the "track' so that the rally could be run through. That finished the morning and in the after noon we went exploring for tracks on the western fringes.

Due to abundant rains the area had just about become dry and was covered with grassy shrubs.
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Philip taking picture of car
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Car shot by Philip
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The track is firm in places and is a pleasure to drive. You can zoom past or virtually idle through at snails pace enjoying the views
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It was grassy land all around. And some times the last years tracks just disappeared.
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Involving locals is essential. Here I was talking in Hindi and getting back smattering of hindi, gujrati and local kutchchi(?)
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They were amused that we did not want to go on "damar" (tarmac) road which was quite nearby and were asking for "kutcha" tracks to get to Bhuj!!
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Crossing a narrow "bund"
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Sun was setting and we were yet inside the "Banni" area surrounded by "kikar" trees. While we could see on GPS that our track was just ahead but first we had to negotiate through this dense foliage of thorny kikars.
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Fine dust pervaded almost every where. Thanks god it was not too bad inside the nicely sealed body of GV.
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Last edited by sudev : 19th January 2011 at 12:06.
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Old 19th January 2011, 12:38   #25
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An update after a long time Sudev Ji.
The photos are amazing and your conversations and comments are hilarious.

Keep the updates coming.
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Old 19th January 2011, 13:06   #26
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@akaush: Thank god at least some "one" is reading the travelogue! Thanks for appreciation.
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Old 19th January 2011, 13:24   #27
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Make that "two" people reading the travelogue . Keep going on. You stop at the interesting bits. Not fair!
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Old 19th January 2011, 13:27   #28
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sudev definitely you have another regular visitor to this thread. Have been following this thread since the day you started off, have been holding on to my comments waiting for you to finish up.

Off-late I have been reading too much about the Rann of Kutch(thanks to the travelogues here) and it has gotten me thinking if it would be a worthwhile trip driving to Zainabad(?) and back.
We had actually planned to do a trip in the last week of Jan to Ahmedabad and back to bangalore, apparently had to shelve it for a few reasons. Do continue penning down your experiences here, will definitely be a value add to people who wanna embark on this journey.
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Old 19th January 2011, 13:42   #29
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Add another dedicated followed of this thread. Been holding onto my comments cause your story was flowing so smooth. BTW, I also saw a similar predatory bird hovering at a fixed location for about 10-15 seconds and then turning into a VSRBM!

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You stop at the interesting bits. Not fair!
Look who's talking!
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Old 19th January 2011, 13:43   #30
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@akaush: Thank god at least some "one" is reading the travelogue! Thanks for appreciation.
I have been reading your travelogues and interesting discussions between you and your wife from long, even before i became team-bhp's member. I stay in Fbd Sec 21-C, will surely meet you when i come to India next. I am a big fan and follow all your threads even if I don't post too often.

Last edited by akaush : 19th January 2011 at 13:45.
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