Saturday, 20 September 2014

Journey to the top of the world

Goa - Delhi.... the journey begins in the plains

Delhi – Sangla ... journey through the verdant valleys of Himachal

Chhitkul... the emerald green valley!

Destination Pooh...

Having done our fair share of road trips as a family, we are now intrigued by the possibility of doing a ‘Rally’ as a group. After much planning and preparation the itinerary is finalised and the nitty gritties sorted out. We are going to be a group of 17 in 3 Scorpios and one Bolero starting from Goa and going all the way to Leh via the Spiti Valley. Of this, 12 will start from Goa with 3 joining in Delhi and 2 in Chandigarh. The second team would take over in Leh and drive back via Kargil, Srinagar, Amritsar and Delhi to Goa. Apart from this being an adventure trip, we are also going out with an AIDS awareness message.

10 Jul 2014. The earth seems enveloped in a grey blanket of fog at 0530 hrs as we set out and this follows us all the way through to Amboli where the clouds almost kiss the road and the valleys play hide ‘n seek with the awestruck traveller. Waterfalls small and big, entice the passersby to tarry a while and take in the splendours of the monsoon in the Western Ghats. We bow to these temptations and take the much awaited breakfast break satiating more than just the appetite for food! 

Valley at Amboli obscured by clouds

A tunnel on the Mumbai Pune Expressway 

Mumbai Pune Expressway

The rest of the journey till Mumbai is just another highway with nothing to recommend it but a means to an end.  After the mandatory getting-lost-and-going-round-in-circles-before-finding-the-destination that we seem to do in most new cities, we reach our destination after 2 solid hours of wandering the drowning streets of Ghatkopar in a downpour worthy of .... Mumbai!  The thing to note is that more time was spent in negotiating the traffic (read: stuck in traffic) than driving! We finally reach and after a round of socialising with some local friends, we retire.

11 Jul 2014. Another 0530 hrs start ensures that we exit Mumbai without a sweat. 

Exiting Mumbai

Badoda Highway

The Ahmedabad highway is a dream.... the only fly in the ointment is the enormous truck traffic making driving on it akin to a formula 1 experience! The incessant and torrential rains don’t help either! After Vapi, the showers recede and a little bit later, disappear altogether. Lunch at Badoda after which we decide to heed some advice from frequent commuters on this route to Udaipur and take the inner route to Udaipur via Modasa bypassing Ahmedabad.

For this we exit the highway at Nadiad and take the state highway. Within 10 kms of the turnoff we have our first breakdown of the trip. Mahindra has sponsored the vehicles for this rally and promised us technical support through this tour. We call for help and are pleasantly surprised to have the recovery vehicle come by in an hour. The service personnel check out the problem and decide that the vehicle needs to go to Anand (back about 40 kms) since it is a larger service centre. Decision is taken to leave the sick vehicle with 3 members and the others to shuffle and move ahead to the designated halt at Udaipur.

We pass a small village fair and then a small pond a few hundred metres ahead has good bird life which we gleefully document....

A small village Mela

Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage

Pheasant tailed Jacana

Pond Heron

Meanwhile, a lot of time has been wasted and it is almost dark.  Udaipur seems very far off... we finally make it by 2345 hrs. In hindsight, the progress on the national highway may have been faster given that we drove after dark! A very long tiring day indeed!

It is said that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. How true this is is brought out by the fact that in spite of the exhausting journey of the day, we still find the time (and energy) to marvel at the magnificent sight of the famed Pichola lake which is spread out below our Guest rooms. The reflections of the lights from the palaces in and around the lake make for a magical setting quite like sparkling jewels beckoning from afar! The picture says it all!


Good night ... zzzz

Lake Pichola Udaipur

View from our room....
12 Jul 2014. We leave Udaipur at a more leisurely hour of 0700 hrs. A long drive without incident sees us at the outskirts of Jaipur at about 1330 hrs. Taking a detour to a goat farm on the other side of Jaipur sets us back by 2 whole hours!

Goat farm
The farm is owned and run by the father of one of the team members. A gastronomically satisfying break later, we are on our way to Delhi. The nightmare begins.... the miserable road conditions and the extremely unruly traffic crawling agonisingly forward is distressing! The quantum of traffic is adding to the woes. Coming from a relatively calm place like Goa where sanity prevails no matter the provocation this feels like alien country. I almost feel timid in comparison to the fellow drivers!

Checking into our hotel about 2300 hrs it takes us a while to freshen up, have dinner and then hit the sack. Thankfully, it is a late start tomorrow.

The entire journey from Goa till Delhi has been just driving, driving and then some more driving. The rains have kept us company till Vapi or thereabouts. After that it has been pretty much dry. In fact, Udaipur was just comfortable in the morning but the day has been very hot and it is scorching in Delhi!

The vehicle left behind has been repaired (a choked fuel filter and lines which needed replacement) and the team has brought it till Jaipur today. They will catch up with us tomorrow morning. There is a sense of quiet excitement in the team since the real rally starts tomorrow. This road trip can only loosely be called a rally since there are 4 vehicles participating and going as a team though without any competition. We hit the hills tomorrow. We are on the threshold of the most exciting part of the trip. The journey to the top of the world!

The journey continues.... 

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