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Old 24th November 2021, 18:47   #1
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Default A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner

We drove to Delhi around Diwali in a 2012 Toyota Fortuner manual with 1,24000 km on the odo and spent extra time soaking in Rajasthan. Drove from Bangalore via Mumbai - Ahmedabad - Jawai - Jaisalmer - Bikaner to Delhi and returned via Chittorgarh - Nagpur - Hyderabad to Bangalore. The car did not miss a beat and we were in good shape too at the end of the drive. The Toyota proved its worth for cross country drives, easily chewing up the miles and allowing us to be adventurous when an opportunity presented itself.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-pokhran.jpg
Pokhran

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 18:07.
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Old 24th November 2021, 18:50   #2
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Default Bangalore to Mumbai

The highlight of this section was the food halt at Kolhapur for some lip smacking mutton and rotis. Otherwise it was an uneventful drive till The Park, Navi Mumbai. The drive had no hiccups except for the alignment going out of whack somewhere near Davangere and I having to wrestle the steering to make it go straight. One of the things with authorized service center's is that they invariably mess up the alignment. I had to replace the front shocks on the Fortuner before the trip and had to rely on the service center for alignment and it showed on the first long drive. Its always best to take it to a specialist for alignment and balancing. Just to make matters worse, we picked a puncture too that I noticed on the post dinner stroll at the hotel. Quickly asked around for a tire shop nearby and the hotel staff were clueless. But its Mumbai and this city never sleeps. Just round the corner of the street was Kareem bhai and his little tire shop. Got the valve checked and replaced. It was 10pm by the time we got back to the hotel.

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 16:50.
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Old 24th November 2021, 18:52   #3
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Default Mumbai to Himmatnagar

The plan was to start early for Dowlat Vilas Palace at Himmatnagar the next day from Mumbai. Exiting mumbai had its own share of pain but we knew what to expect and took it in our stride. I got pulled up by a cop after exiting the Baroda-Ahmedabad expressway for wearing the mask on my chin. It did not matter that no one else including the cop who waved us down wore a mask. Such is the power of an outstation vehicle. It can certainly galvanize a sleeping system into action.

Ahmedabad had chaotic traffic and the cop experience just made the feeling worse. But a little out of Ahmedabad town on our way to Dowlath Vilas Palace at Himmatnagar, it was all calm and peaceful with very good roads to drive. Reached the place around 9pm that evening and as we were the only guests for the evening, had the place all to ourselves. The food was tasty, the staff were polite and nice and the rooms were large and comfortable. The Maharaja of Dowlath Vilas Palace was a car aficionado and was very possessive about his collection. He would not even take it out for vintage car rally's for fear of over enthusiastic people falling over each other for photographs and perhaps endangering the cars themselves. He was also known to work on the cars himself.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-dsc04079.jpg
Maharaj Narendra Singhji of Idar's collection is special

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 18:08.
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Old 24th November 2021, 18:59   #4
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Default Himmatnagar to Kotri

The next stop was at Kotri Rawla and we wanted to make this as our base for doing Jawai bandh. All along the drive into Rajasthan, we saw the Rabari's grazing their cattle. They made quite a sight with their majestic whiskers and colorful turbans, shepherding cattle through the semi arid landscape.

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Rabari

The Rawla or havelis of Rajasthan are great places to stay and we ended up at Kotri Rawla near Jawai enjoying some wonderful hospitality from Nirav, Susan and their little daughter Ananya. The food was superlative especially the Lal Maas and they had two hounds cheel and baaz, who were very friendly with guests.

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Entrance to the Rawla

The same evening after arrival, we set out to the nearby stables where and polo horses were being trained. Met Daljit who was in charge of the stable and he turned out to be a fantastic repository of Polo stories.

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Horse stable entrance

The evening at the rawla was accompanied by chanting from the nearby temple reverberating through the small village. This was a temple that no one could visit due to the honey bees that had made it their home. The pujari was the only person who went in and out.

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 18:09.
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Old 24th November 2021, 19:04   #5
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Default Ranakpur and Jawai

The next day was a packed day for us. We decided to pay Daljit a visit early in the morning to see the horses in action.

Returned to the haveli and after grabbing a heavy breakfast, we set out for Ranakpur to see the 15th century Jain temples. It was a fabulous sight to see the massive construction and intricate work on the inside. It was also superlatively squeaky clean. The harsh sun and the large area really made us sweat the whole morning.

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Ranakpur jain temples

The next stop was Jawai and an evening safari in one of the famous gypsy's. But before reaching the safari start, we went around on our own little excursion and reached a dead end with a beautiful picturesque setting. We heard a lot of alarm calls here but did not catch sight of anything.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-jawai.jpg
Jawai

Dashed straight to the Safari start point and met our guide and driver. The drive was extremely thrilling and the sightings were good. Saw crocodiles, lot of birds and got a taste of the gypsy's prowess on the rocks and caught a magnificent sunset from a hillock. Jawai bandh is a beautiful area and even though the leopard is the signature attraction, the place has a lot more to offer than just the cat. With our top notch luck. we managed to keep the leopard away the entire evening.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-dji_0005.jpg
Jawai Bandh


mountain goat

We were famished by then as we had skipped lunch that day and therefore headed straight for kotri dreaming of succulent pieces of Laal maas and soft rotis accompanied by some delectable salad laid out on a dimly lit table with the temple chants in the background. The next day was to be our exit from kotri and we took the morning easy, reading and walking and tucking into a heavy breakfast. We got two turbans for ourselves from the nearby market to remember the Rabari's before we set out on the road to Mt. Abu.


A hypotenuse walk

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 18:45.
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Old 24th November 2021, 19:07   #6
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Default Kotri to Mt Abu

The drive to Mt Abu was easy and fast. Roads were in top condition and we were making very good time until we saw a board mentioning polo forest. After looking up the place and quickly going over some literature, we decided to pay the place a visit. Turned out to be an excellent decision as the drive itself was superb. We had to keep the car at the visitor parking and take a rickshaw to tour the forest. A lovely sun temple, a dam and tasty Maggie was what we encountered at Sabarkantha. The sun temple inside the forest is fabulous and is how a temple should vibe in my books. Large hills and vegetation around and a very quiet setting with nothing inside to spoil the mood.

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Sun temple at Sabarkantha

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Maggie tasted great here

After this it was a straight run to Mount Abu. We wanted to reach before it got dark. The drive to the hill was fantastic with a very curvy twisty road and a setting sun giving company. There weren't too many vehicles and it was a very enjoyable drive up to Bikaner palace which was our place of stay. The palace was big and had an old world charm. The rooms were big and cozy and the hospitality was outstanding. The night was cold. We planned to catch the sunrise at Guru Shikhar the following day.

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Bikaner palace hotel, Mt Abu

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Guru Shikhar views

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At Guru Shikhar for sunrise

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cold morning and a patch of sunlight for breakfast

We proceeded to see the Dilwara temples and the statement that I had read about this rivalling the Taj in the intricate work was absolutely true. The marble carvings were just wow. No photography is allowed inside the premises.

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 19:02.
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Old 24th November 2021, 19:14   #7
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Default Mt Abu to Jaisalmer

What can one say about Suryagadh. It was royal hospitality and the 45 acre property with countless staff just blew us away. The kalbeliya dancers performing to Rajasthani folk was a highlight at sunset. The music and dance was just made for the desert and we sat immersed watching the flexibility and grace of the dancers.


Kalbeliya dancer


A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-dji_0034-2.jpg
Khaba Fort, Jaisalmer

Driving to Longewala was an unforgettable experience. One understands what it is to be in a desert with the arrow straight roads stretching for miles and miles and the stories we got to hear of the valor of our armed forces at Longewala just made everything feel unreal. The night of 4th December 1971 saw the Pakistanis with 2000-3000 troops and Chinese and American tanks creep up on the Indians at midnight with the stated intention of having lunch at Longewala and dinner at Jaisalmer. They completely forgot about Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri and his band of one hundred and twenty soldiers stationed at Longewala. The brave Major and his men though heavily outnumbered and without air assistance until morning, valiantly defended the border post until backup arrived. So violent was the backlash that the Pakistani army had to beat a hasty retreat forgetting their lunch and dinner plans at Longewala and Jaisalmer. The documentary on the Battle of Longewala is a must see at this remote desert outpost.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-enroute-longewala.jpg
Towards Longewala

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At Longewala

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Sam dunes

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Tanot

We used the audio guide at Jaisalmer fort and found it more useful than the regular guides telling random stories to make the visit interesting. After walking around the fort for better part of the day, we set out to catch the sunset at Kuldhara.

Kuldhara mesmerised us with its magnificent sunset. But what was more invigorating was to have Gambhir Singh with us. He was a larger than life figure amidst the ruins of the old palival Brahmin “basti”. We met in an odd way. I was blissfully flying the drone unaware of the fighter aircrafts above me doing a sortie. Home guard Gambir Singh was tasked with hunting down the fool who dared to fly the chinese hummingbirds near the border. He came on his motorcycle and met a wonderstruck mallu mumbling something about photography but in ten seconds, we had become friends. He was very welcoming and invited us to see the Kuldhara sunset from the ruins and also walk around the basti to the place where the women folk had performed sati while the first rays of the sun fell on the them almost one hundred fifty years ago. The Palival Brahmins being traders also accumulated wealth in their houses, hidden deep under the rooms in pits. This caused a lot of folks to come searching for wealth in these ruins.

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Kuldhara ruins


Suryagadh farewell

Last edited by megazoid : 25th November 2021 at 18:32.
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Old 24th November 2021, 19:21   #8
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Default Jaisalmer to Bikaner

The next day would take us to Bikaner. I got a speeding ticket near Jaisalmer. Was doing 112kmph on an 80kmph highway. Apologized, paid up and moved on. The drive to Bikaner was a breeze with the excellent roads making short work of distances. We stopped enroute to watch the Demoiselle Cranes at Kichan on their yearly winter migration. Laxmi Niwas palace at Bikaner was the place of stay and we were bang on time for the sunset.

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Demoiselle Cranes, Kichan


Tarmac mimicking a dune

Ganga Singh was a man we heard a lot about at Bikaner. He was everywhere but when we came to know more about His Highness, it was awe inspiring to learn about his abilities and his contribution to Bikaner. The Lalgarh Palace and the Junagadh fort had his stamp all over them. To learn that we was the ruler of Bikaner from 1888 to 1943 and this was the longest period any king had ruled Bikaner ever and to also realize that Bikaner benefitted immensely from his wide ranging abilities and interests just made us gawk at the stunning figure of His Highness with an impeccable handlebar moustache. To learn that he had a special soup spoon to protect that very moustache from being soiled was rib tickling.

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-laxmi-niwas-bikaner.jpg
Dinner at Laxmi Niwas, Bikaner

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The palace

A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner-laxmi-niwas-palace.jpg
An ageless champion in the foreground too.


I have never tried the audio guides at historical places much but the Junagadh fort offered us a chance to use one and we quite liked it. All this happened in an interesting fashion. After parking at the fort premises, we alighted, planning to walk around the fort with a designated guide. The guide who came running to us mentioned that business was dull due to no foreign tourists and he had to put up with Indians. We were a bit taken aback and asked him what was wrong with the Indian tourists to which he had nothing much to say. After giving him a piece of my mind about why I thought he liked the foreign travelers, I also stated to him that we also did not prefer Indian guides very much and told him clearly that we intended to see the fort properly without his help. And that is how we landed up with the audio guides. I have never seen a fort so elaborately as the Junagadh fort partly because of the audio guides and partly to make sure that I gathered every bit of information without the afore mentioned guide’s assistance.

Last edited by megazoid : 26th November 2021 at 20:53.
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Old 25th November 2021, 15:59   #9
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Default Delhi to Chittorgarh

Diwali was a gastronomical delight amongst other things and we had a fabulous time catching the Diwali fervor in the capital. The pollution was a worrying factor and many a discussion revolved around how to deal with it. After a couple of weeks in Delhi, it was time to kick start the return leg of the journey back to Bangalore and we decided to come via Chittorgarh. Got the wheel alignment done this time properly before starting out. I was reading about Rani Padmini and Rawal Rattan Singh and the formidable Alladin Khilji and really wanted to see the place with all its history. We started early morning from Delhi for Chittorgarh and progress was painfully slow for better part of the day. The jaipur highway resembles a city road now and with the farmer protests going on, the journey wasn't exactly smooth. Nevertheless, we made time and reached our place of stay, Hotel Castle Bijaipur at Bassi. It was a 350 year old mansion in a getaway location. It turned out that we were the only folks here as well and that meant we could roam freely around the place. Food was terrific and the the rains were incessant. Was planning to see the Chittorgarh fort the next day and it sure was going to be wet affair.

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Chittorgarh fort in the rains

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Rani Padmini's palace

The Jouhar kund was unbelievable. To imagine these beautiful ladies self immolating when the Rajupt's went to the battlefield was agonizing.

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Hotel Castle Bijaipur, our place of stay at Bassi

Last edited by megazoid : 26th November 2021 at 20:52.
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Old 25th November 2021, 16:05   #10
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Default Chittorgarh - Nagpur - Bangalore

The drive from Chittorgarh to Nagpur via Ujjain was decent but slow until we reached Harda. From then on it was exceptional roads all the way to Nagpur. Harda Betul stretch was superb. Somewhere near Ajai, we had a chota tea break. That night we got a lot of rain as we entered Nagpur but zero traffic. So progress was swift.

Made our way to The Pride on Wardha road and called it a day. The next day would be home and we wanted to be well rested for the long haul to Bangalore. The drive was easy and roads were mostly deserted. Nagpur to Hyderabad was ultra smooth with Hinganghat being partially patched and Hyderabad to Bangalore wasn't too bad either except for the stretch between Kurnool and Gooty which had deviations that were bad.

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The final odo reading

Except for consuming gallons of diesel, the big Toyota didn't put a foot wrong and I had no issues driving the manual for the duration of the trip. Wish cars like these came more often.

Last edited by megazoid : 1st December 2021 at 12:16.
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Old 2nd December 2021, 06:29   #11
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Default Re: A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd December 2021, 09:49   #12
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Default Re: Jaisalmer to Bikaner

Quote:
Originally Posted by megazoid View Post
We were a bit taken aback and asked him what was wrong with the Indian tourists to which he had nothing much to say. After giving him a piece of my mind about why I thought he liked the foreign travelers, I also stated to him that we also did not prefer Indian guides very much and told him clearly that we intended to see the fort properly without his help. .
Similar thing happened with me when I was in Agra few years back and I too scolded a guide. But later, my wife gently (you know what I mean) told me that he probably makes more money with foreigners and hence he must have instinctively told the truth! I felt bad for my short temper. So, later in the trip, made it a point to hire a guide even when there was no need, and paid them slightly more than what they asked.
By the way, excellent photos and you have added "Polo forest near Mount Abu" in my bucket list now. Thanks for the nice post.
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Old 2nd December 2021, 11:25   #13
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Default Re: Mt Abu to Jaisalmer

Quote:
Originally Posted by megazoid View Post
What can one say about Suryagadh. It was royal hospitality and the 45 acre property with countless staff just blew us away. The kalbeliya dancers performing to Rajasthani folk was a highlight at sunset. The music and dance was just made for the desert and we sat immersed watching the flexibility and grace of the dancers.
Suryagarh at Jaisalmer is by far is one of the best experience I have ever had. It is an amazing place constructed in yellow Jaisalmer stone, the gardens, breakfast in courtyard with Sarangi performance in Jharokha and evening Kalbeliya dance, makes it an experience of a lifetime!
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Old 2nd December 2021, 11:30   #14
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Default Re: A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner

Wonderful photolog, nice write up of the experience


Quote:
Originally Posted by megazoid View Post
The guide who came running to us mentioned that business was dull due to no foreign tourists and he had to put up with Indians. We were a bit taken aback and asked him what was wrong with the Indian tourists to which he had nothing much to say. After giving him a piece of my mind about why I thought he liked the foreign travelers, I also stated to him that we also did not prefer Indian guides very much and told him clearly that we intended to see the fort properly without his help. And that is how we landed up with the audio guides. I have never seen a fort so elaborately as the Junagadh fort partly because of the audio guides and partly to make sure that I gathered every bit of information without the afore mentioned guide’s assistance.

This is a common behavior I have observed in certain 'Touristy' spots in North. Don't want to start a debate but this is purely based on my experience in UK, Delhi and HP. Simply because a foreign tourist pays more and doesn't haggle on the price much, the locals take (or used to) Indian tourists for granted and the level of service was abmisal. This is applicable even on local transport, if you take. For example, at Haridwar - all local Rickshaws will try to fleece you by quoting 2x to 3x of the actual daily fair that locals pay. Pandemic gave them an opportunity to correct themselves but they have refused to learn and are back to their normal ways of fleecing the tourists as much as possible. Anyways, always be careful of what the local guide or taxi/auto operator tells you or asks for. They are like a used car dealer - shouldn't be trusted easily.

On the contrary, Goa is the complete opposite. Never felt any such discrimination for my 'residency status'
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Old 2nd December 2021, 12:29   #15
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Default Re: A little Rajasthan in a Toyota Fortuner

Fantastic travelogue, @megazoid! The stories as well as the photographs are fantastic. Really enjoyed reading this.

The Fortuner looks majestic in those settings and backdrops of Rajasthan. Can not imagine any other vehicle that would look so awesome and yet so at home in these places.

It is impressive (as well as inspirational) how you guys always find some nice offbeat places in your explorations, and avoid the main touristy areas and the crowded cities. Your travelogues always bring in this fresh perspective and tell us about places which are relatively less covered by others. Thank you for sharing this.

Last edited by Dr.AD : 2nd December 2021 at 12:32.
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