Monday, 26 June 2017

Weekend Trip to Diveagar - Shrivardhan - Harihareshwar

We were looking for quick 2 days monsoon trip to the beach. Considering time and distance, we decided to visit Diveagar and try to explore the Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar area. I have been to Diveagar and Harihareshwar a few years back so aware of route and places.

Travellers for this trip were me and Renuka

Diveagar Beach
Diveagar Beach

About Diveagar, Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar:
Shrivardhan is Taluka city located in the coastal region. It is also a birthplace of first Peshwa Balaji Visvanath.
Harihareshwar was blessed by Lord Shiva and famous for Lord Shiva Temple.
Diveagar is village which is famous for a weekend beach destination. It was famous for Suvarna (Gold) Ganesh Temple but unfortunately, an idol made up of gold was stolen in the year 2012. All 3 destination is famous for its beautiful beaches.

The best route to reach Diveagar is Pune – Paud Gaon – Mulashi – Tamhini Ghat – Nijampur – Mangaon – Right turn after Mangaon ST stand – Mhasala – Diveagar.

Day 1: 25 June 2017: Pune to Harihareshwar to Diveagar:
               We woke by 5-5:30 and left home at 6 AM. We took Tamhini route. There was light rain shower till Mulashi. We had breakfast at Quick Bite restaurant. A Little bit high in price but serves quality food. We took multiple pit stop to enjoy the monsoon nature and waterfalls. Water flow was limited due to the start of monsoon season.
              We decided to visit Harihareshwar first and then stay at Diveagar. If time permits then we planned to visit Shrivardhan and nearby places. Shades of Paddy green field and beautiful nature in monsoon makes your journey more pleasant. We reached Harihareshwar by 11 AM.
              Harihareshwar temple was crowded by tourist when we reach. Harihareshwar is known as Kashi of Southern India. Temple is surrounded by Holy hills named as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv and Parvati. Temple and nearby area have huge mythology history associated with it. Pradakshina (Parikrama) route is unique and interesting. It starts behind the temple.you need to climb a small hill and then get down from another side. Take a walk around the rocky coastal hilly area which is exposed to strong sea waves and wind. Parikrama becomes very risky during high tide as entire path is covered by sea waves with the strong water current. For monsoon, the route is closed for safety reasons. Harihareshwar Beach was covered with sea due to monsoon high tide.

Parikrama Route, Harihareshwar
Parikrama Route, Harihareshwar

Harihareshwar Beach
Harihareshwar Beach

             We left for a destination after temple visit. It was 1 PM in clock and we were looking for a restaurant. We reached Shrivardhan and took a lunch break at restaurant Prasad. It is famous for seafood and always full of tourists. There is enough parking space available.
              After tasty seafood. We reached Aaravi village. We checked Pratima resort for stay but Manager/Caretaker refused our stay even though rooms were available. He told us that, there is no other guest for Sunday night stay and he has to appoint all staff just for 2 guest which is not cost effective. We were ok with his valid reason. We like the property which was located close to Beach.

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach
Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

             We began our journey towards Diveagar. You cannot miss Aaravi beach (Also known as Kondivali beach) while driving to Diveagar via coastal highway. The road is not in good condition but drives along the sea is pleasant. Aaravi village is located on the southern point of beach whereas Kondivali village is on the northern side of the beach. Hence it is known by both names. Beach towards Kondivali is Rocky. We took a pit stop here and then left for Diveagar.

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

Aaravi Beach OR Kondivali Beach

               We reached Diveagar by 3 PM and searched hotels for stay. We finalised Hotel Cocohut who offered us good discounted deal. The hotel has AC rooms and very small Swimming pool. Hospitality was good and all staff was helpful. We had rest and then went for walk on the beach which was within walking distance from Hotel. We had dinner in hotel's restaurant and the food was Average. They need to add Konkani food which was missing in Menu.

Expenses:
  • Car petrol: INR 1000/-
  • No toll on this route
  • Breakfast at Quick Bite: INR 370/- (Poha at 70, Cheese Dosa at 120, watermelon juice at 90)
  • Parking at Harihareshwar: INR 40/-
  • Coconut water: INR 60/- for 2
  • Car parking near restaurant Prasad: INR 30/-
  • Lunch at Restaurant Prasad: INR 400/- (Prawns Meal at 180 and buttermilk at 10 each)
  • Hotel stay: INR 2500/- for 1 night (standard rates are INR 4000/- to 4500/-)
  • Dinner: INR 670/- (non-veg soups, Masala Papad, pomfret fry, Veg dish and Rotis)

Day 2: 26 June 2017: Diveagar to Shrivardhan - Pune:
             Heavy rain from early morning forced us to stay in the room. By 8 AM, heavy rain stopped and I went on the beach for walk/jog. Breakfast was complimentary with stay and food was good.
            After heavy breakfast, we went to the beach. Due to high tide, entire beach was covered by waves. Diveagar beach is famous for its wide width and safety factor for swimming. Due to the monsoon, sea waves was ruling on the beach. There were limited Watersports available on each. Water is muddy and water current was strong. We prefer to enjoy the monsoon mood from distance rather than entertaining into the water.

Diveagar Beach

              We returned to the hotel and did check out in the noon. We visited Rupnarayan temple which is located close to the beach. Vishu Idol is very old and it is in form of Dashavatar. Idol is beautifully carved in black Sagamravari stone. As per history, the temple was built between year 800 to 1300. Madhavrao Peshwa used to visit this temple along with his wife Ramabai Peshwa.

Rupanarayan Temple, Diveagar
Rupa Narayan Temple, Diveagar

              After Rupnarayan temple, we visited Suvarn (Made up of Gold), Ganesh Temple. This was the main attraction of Diveagar. On the special day of November 17th, 1997 (Sankashti Chaturthi as per the Hindu calendar), a villager found a copper box in few feet below farming land. When the box was opened, they Ganesh idol made up of pure gold and ornaments belonging to Lord. This discovery has turned the village into Holy place.
            Unfortunately, gold idol and Ornaments were stolen in March 2012. Thieves killed two security guards as well. Later thieves were captured but gold idol and ornaments were melted. Currently, the temple is under renovation and original rock base idol is placed in the temple.
            We had a tasty meal at Bapat Khanaval. It is famous for typically pure veg Konkani meal and Modak as sweet. After Lunch, we left Diveagar.

Veg Meal

               Our last destination was Shrivardhan. This is known as one of the oldest towns from Maharastra. It is also a birthplace of first Peshwa Balaji Visvanath. Now Peshwa temple is built at the birth place. The town is also popular beach destination. Recently beach is developed with a beautiful walkway along the beach. There are few view points built and benches for relaxation. We spend the remaining afternoon on the beach.

Shrivandhan Beach
Shrivandhan Beach

Shrivardhan Beach
Shrivardhan Beach

Shrivardhan Beach
Shrivardhan Beach

               We left Shrivardhan by 5 PM. We choose Tamhini Route for our return journey. Tamhini Ghat welcomed us with Heavy rainfall. We reached home safely by 9:30-10 PM

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: Complimentary
  • Coconut water: INR 50/- for 2
  • Maggi at beach: INR 30/-
  • Lunch at Bapat Khanaval: INR 305/- for 2 people (Veg meal at 120, Modak each at 15, Solkadi at 10, Shrikhand at 25)
  • Dinner: At home

The contact number for your reference:
  • Cocohut Hotel: http://www.cocohut.in
  • Pratima Beach Resort: Mangesh 9028388642.
  • Bapat khanaval: +919423837967.
  • Hotel Prasad, Shrivardhan: 02147-222445, +919623155551.

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Trip to Beautiful Sri Lanka (Nuwara Eliya-Yala- Mirissa)

We were looking for quick and short international trip in the month of May. After long discussions, we (Pritesh-Renuka, Aditya-Neha, Saurabh-Vrishali, and Anannya) decided to visit Sri Lanka for 5 days. A week before the trip, we booked our flights and set for the Trip.

Friends...

About Sri Lanka:
              Sri Lanka is Island country in the Indian Ocean formerly known as Ceylon. Country name was changed to Sri Lanka in the year 1972. This place is also known as King Ravana’s Lanka as per Indian Mythology (In Ramayana).
Sri Lanka has variety in tourism and you can visit the country for Culture visit, Beautiful beaches, Dense Green Forest, Hill Station, landscapes, Hiking activities or adventure activities.

Our Trip Plan
Day 0: Pune to Colombo via Chennai and Stay near Airport (Negombo)
Day 1: Negombo to Nuwara Eliya. Whitewater rafting at Kitugala
Day 2: Nuwara Eliya
Day 3: Nuwara Eliya to Yala and Safari at Yala National Park
Day 4: Yala National Park to Mirissa
Day 5: Mirissa to Airport for Return Journey

Traditional fishing in Sri Lanka
Traditional fishing in Sri Lanka

I have shared popular travel plans/circuit at the end of Travel Blog.

Day 0: 28 April 2017: Pune to Colombo via Chennai
              We all gathered at Pune airport by 2 PM from respective Office/Home location. We booked Jet Airways flight till Chennai and then Sri Lankan airline from Chennai to Colombo. Saurabh was in Chennai for office assignment so he joined us at Chennai airport. Layover time in Chennai was 4 hours and then we board Sei Lankan Airline. We applied for online VISA whereas collection/Stamping was at Colombo airport. We did the Online booking of Bangalow at Negombo from Airbnb. We rented a vehicle for 5 days whereas we did walk-in hotel booking for respective locations. Our Driver "Bandhu" welcomed us at the airport and we left for our stay location which was 8 KM from the airport. As Bandhu knows the English and local language very well, he acted as translator during the entire trip. BTW, English is widely spoken at a Tourist destination.
The bungalow was built in British style and well maintained by Garden around it.

Our vehicle for 5 days

Expenses:
  • Pune to Chennai Jet Airways (Single journey): INR 14858/- for 2 person
  • Chennai to Colombo to Chennai (Sri Lankan Airline): INR 27200/- for 2 Person
  • Chennai to Pune Indigo Airline (Single Journey): INR 6560/- for 2 person
  • Sri Lanka Visa: USD $20/-
  • Local SIM Cards: LKR 3600/- for 3 SIMs [$9/-in USD per SIM]
  • Bungalow Stay at Negombo: INR 4891/- per 1 night for 7 people
  • Toyota Hiace Car Rental for 5 Days: USD $490/- [INR 32340/- for 5 Days] (for 7 People)

Day 1: 29 April 2017: Colombo to Nuwara Eliya:
              We all woke up after 7:30 AM. We planned to start Sri Lanka tour by 10:30 AM. After Breakfast, we left Negombo for our first destination. Our first destination was whitewater rafting at Kitugala which is on the way to Nuwara Eliya. After 4 hours of journey from beautiful Ghat section, we reached for rafting.

Our Stay at Negombo

              We parked our vehicle and went at the starting point of River rafting by Auto (Also known as Tuk Tuk). Total river rafting distance was 7 KM with around 6-7 Rapids. Everyone was aware of rafting Technics expect me and Renu. Our mentor/Guide explained us Rafting rules/techniques and after 15 min of training, we were ready for the fun ride.

White Water Rafting at Kitugala

               We had a great time and ride was managed so well to stay safely in the Raft. Our trainer took a raft in one of the Rapid falls against the water flow. Water pushing you back with the force and still your tiring to climb the Rapid which was an amazing experience. After all Rapids, we got a chance to float along the river which was very relaxing. The entire experience was captured in GoPro Camera.

White Water Rafting at Kitugala

              After river rafting, we freshen up and left for our remaining journey. It was 3 PM in clock and all were too hungry. We stopped our car on road(Ghat) side food stall. Only Egg Hopper was Available which was a local dish. We had our meal. As we were approaching Nuwara Eliya, Weather changed from humid to freezing cold. By 7 PM, we reached Nuwara Eliya.
             We booked Bungalow for 2 nights which was hardly 1 Km away from town. For dinner, we went to Grand Indian restaurant. you can get all Indian Dishes here but the food was average in taste. Our Day 1 ends with the memory of Adventure ride.

Expenses:
  • River Rafting: LRK 15500/- for 7 people. [USD $15/- per person OR Around INR 1000/- per person]
  • River Rafting Photos with Memory Card: LRK 3500/- [USD $22/- OR INR 1500/-]
  • Lunch: LRK 1455/- for multiple Egg Hoppers, Tea & Toast [USD $10/- OR INR 615/-]
  • Nuwara Eliya Stay: LRK 61400/- for 7 people [USD $400/- OR INR 25800/-]
  • Grand Indian Restaurant: LRK 7100/- for Veg and Nov veg Dishes with Rotis [USD $47 OR INR 3000/-]

Day 2: 30 April 2017: Nuwara Eliya:
              We woke up by 8 AM and went for a morning walk. We got to know that there is route besides hotel which goes to the highest village of Sri Lanka name as Shantipura. There is small watch tower built to enjoy the view of the village. You can reach at top by walk from Nuwara Eliya or by Auto Riksha (Tuk Tuk)

Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka
Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka

              Weather and view of Shantipura were pleasant. Small homes from village surrounded by step farming of tea. We spend some time in early morning and climbed down for breakfast. Bungalow owner prepared Local food in breakfast which was tasty.

Shantipuram Village: Highest Village in Sri Lanka

               After 11 AM, we left the hotel for Sightseen. Our first destination was tea plantation and factory. Sri Lanka is 4th largest tea exporter in the world. You will find tea plantation around Kandy, Nuwara Eliya etc. We visited one of the famous tea factories. A person from Tea factory explained us the process from Picking leaves from Plant till the packing of tea powder. They showed us a different variety of tea powder and how to identify it. It was just 30 min tour inside the factory.

Tea Factory

              They offered us complimentary tea in their tea Cafe. An idea is if you like the taste of tea, then you can buy tea powder/tea bags from their factory outlet shop. Overall visit was good. Tea power which was for sale in the shop was of international quality. After purchasing variety of tea, we left the place.

Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka
Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea Plantation

              We went in Nuwara Eliya's local market for a walk and some shopping. As we had heavy Brunch, we preferred having light lunch at local restaurant. We tried some authentic chicken dishes and egg Kottu dish.
              The last destination for today's was Gregory Lake. It is just a few km away from the heart of the city. This lake is worth a visit in the evening as this offers a beautiful view of the town, Landscape, and mountains. It also has a lot of activities for everyone like games, boating, and food. After sunset, entire lake front is lit up. After spending quality time with friends, we went in the town for dinner.

Gregory Lake, Nuwara Eliya
Gregory Lake

Gregory Lake
Gregory Lake

Expense:
  • Viewpoint entry for Shantipura Village: LRK 50/- each
  • Light Lunch in local restaurant: LRK 910/- for 7 people [USD $6 OR INR 400/-]
  • Coffee: LRK 50/- each [USD $0.30 OR INR 21/-]
  • Gregory Lake entry (Non-SL entry): LRK 1400/- [USD $9 OR INR 600] (Entry fee is LRK 50/- for locals)
  • Dinner at Milano Restaurant: LRK 2494/- for 7 [USD $16 OR INR 1050/-]

Day 3: 01 May 2017: Nuwara Eliya - Yala:
              For a change, We all woke up early morning and started our journey by 7 AM towards Yala national park. The curvy road passing through the beautiful tea plantation. We took a small break at Ella. This place is famous for international tourism as it offers plenty of hiking trails around the town.
By 12 in the noon, we reached Tissa (Also known as Tissamaharama). We searched for hotel options and decided to stay at Echo safari resort at Tissa Lake. The hotel is located on the bank of Lake. The property is very well developed with all required amenities. Most of the rooms offer you a lake view and we selected Lake view rooms. The hotel has clean large size pool. They have a poolside closed restaurant which serves varieties of food dishes in Veg and Non-Veg. Authentic food in the meal was plus point for us.

Sita Temple

Echo Safari Resort, Tissa

               We had lunch and till the time, our safari arrangement was done by our Driver. Safari jeep picked us from the hotel. Yala national park entrance gate is around 25-30 km from Tissa. We reached at entrance gate by 2:15 PM and after paperwork (which was done by safari driver), we entered the forest.

Way to Forest... Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

Yala National Park
Yala National Park

             Yala national park located in the southeast of Sri Lanka and some part of the forest is directly exposed to coastal line of Sri Lanka. It is divided into 5 zones (local people call zones as Block) whereas only 2 zones are open for safari. We had a permit to explore both the zones. Later we got to know that there is no strict rule to cross the zones (In India, you cannot enter in another zone without having Permit and permits is issued for particular zone only)

Yala National Park... Clicked By Renuka Kulkarni

Black Neck Stork... Clicked By Renuka Kulkarni

               Yala national park has a good population of Asian Elephants. Around 350-400 Elephants present in Yala whereas count varies as per their Migration. It is also one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Each block contains around 20 leopards.

Elephants in Yala National Park
Elephants in Yala National Park

Leopard from Yala National Park

             We entered in Yala Park by 2:30 PM. With a few KM drive, we spot the first mammal which was Jackal. He ran away quickly and somehow we manage to take a record shot. Further, we saw many wild buffalos.

Jackal in Yala National Park

              We saw spotted deer, Sambhar and Nilgai. Our eyes were looking for a group of Elephants. After some time, we spot a small group of Elephants with small baby Elephants. Even though spotting an Elephant in Yala or in (South) Indian forest is not too difficult but still, it gives you satisfaction after watching huge mammal. We spend some time there and then moved ahead.

Elephant Rock from Yala National Park... Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

Baby Elephants with Mother...Clicked by Renuka Kulkarni

              We also saw much variety of wetland birds such as Cranes, black neck Stork, Ibis, Painted Stork, Spoonbill, open billed stork etc. Our target of Safari was to spot Leopard and huge male elephant. After an hr. Drive, we finally spot Leopard in the bushes. He was relaxing in the bushes. It was a pleasure to watch beautiful predator. We spend some time, with the hope that he will move out from Bush so we can click few photo. Our wait was paid off after 25 min when another Leopard made Royal entry from Grass and joined his friend. It was an amazing moment and treat to the eye.
Soon other safari jeeps join the place and we left for our further journey.

Leopard sighting

Leopard sighting

               We went in Yala national park's beach for a quick bathroom break. Park have installed restrooms near the beach for all safari tourists. Beach was clean but water waves were very high and rough. It was a good place to take a short break from Safari.

Yala National Park Beach

               After beach break, our safari began. On the return journey, we saw Elephant groups, crocodiles, Wetland birds, and deer. Head on the walk of female elephant was a thrilling part but she left us alone and changed her path. By 6 PM, we came out of the park. It was memorable wildlife safari at Yala National Park. Jeep dropped us at the hotel.

Head on walk of Female Elephant

Yala National Park
Yala National Park... Elephant, Crocodile, Wetland bird and lake area from Forest

Now it was time to relax in the pool followed by tasty dinner.

Expenses:
  • Tip to Hotel staff: LRK 500/-
  • Breakfast: LRK 950/- [USD $6-7 OR INR 400/-] (Omelet Roll, Cutlets, boiled corn, and water)
  • Yala national park safari: LRK 33600/- for 7 members [USD $220 OR INR 14000/-]
  • Stay at Ekho Safari Tissa: LRK 70706/- for 4 rooms [USD $460 OR INR 29700/-]
  • buffet Lunch: LRK 6340/- for 6 people [USD $42 OR INR 3000/-]
  • Dinner: It was a part of Stay

Day 4: 02 May 2017: Yala - Mirissa:
              It was a lazy start and all gathered in the restaurant one by one. As we reach a bit early, we spend some time near Lake. After tasty heavy breakfast, we spend some time around Pool. We left the beautiful property by 1 PM. Our last destination was Mirissa beach. By 3 PM, we took a break for Lunch. Our driver Bandhu suggested a restaurant which is owned by local and governed by Ministry of Agriculture. There are multiple counters which offer you local food prepared by ladies from nearby Village. We tried dishes like Tender Jac fruit cutlet, Asmi, Balancing Roti, Rice with local curry and juice. The food was the good and Different experience of True Sri Lankan taste.
             On the way to Mirissa, we took a pit stop at Matara Beach. It was a small and popular beach in Locals. We reached Mirissa by 4:30 - 5 PM. After few hotel search, we booked rooms at Paradise beach club resort which is located on the beach. Fabulous view of beach and sea from the room was the plus point o the resort.

Beach view from Room

             We spend evening time on the beach. Due to monsoon (Monsoon start in South SL by mid-May) time, waves were high and aggressive. After some time, we came back to the resort to enjoy the pool. Dinner was average in the resort. Very fewer options were available for veg people. It was our last night in Sri Lanka.

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: it was a part of Stay
  • Lunch: LRK 1785/- for 7 people [USD $12 OR INR 750/-]
  • Stay at Paradise beach resort club, Mirissa: LRK 81400/- for 4 suit rooms [USD $540 OR INR 34500/-]
  • Dinner: it was a part of Stay Package

Day 5: 03 May 2017: Mirissa - Colombo - India:
           I and Renu woke up early in the morning and went to the beach for a walk. Mirissa beach is curved in shape and small hilly island on the end of one side. You need to cross 3-4 feet sea water to reach the island whereas, in non-monsoon time, you can take a walk on the sand till island. There is board claiming that this is private property but locals don't believe in it. View of Mirissa beach from the island is beautiful.Beach was clean and hardly any tourist in the morning time. We spend around an hour and return to the hotel.

Sunrise Time

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach

            Mirissa also offers whale watching tours organized by different groups. We all wanted to go for it but unable to fit it in the available Time slot. You can board the boat by 6 AM for whale watching. Tour is around 4 hours and if you unable to spot a whale, they extend the trip by another 1-2 hours. Still if you unable to watch whales then operators give you a next day ticket without any cost.
            After getting ready, we all gather for breakfast. To our surprise, there were a lot of options for veg and non-veg. The taste was much better than the meal which we had last night. We left the hotel by 12 for Colombo Airport.
            On the way, we took out stop at a Galle. Galle the is coastal city from Sri Lanka. The city was ruled by Portuguese and you can see many Portuguese architectural style building. Galle fort the is the prime attraction of the city. It is a largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans. This is UNESCO world heritage site. The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the "Ramparts of Galle. We unable to explore the fort due to lack of Time. Other places in Galle is Lighthouse, Galle cricket stadium, temples, and churches.
             We had some souvenir shopping in Laksala souvenir shop before we start our final journey to Airport. To save time, we had pack lunch in the car from Pizza Hut.
We reached the airport by 5:30 PM and boarded flight to India at 6:50 PM.

Expenses:
  • Breakfast: it was a part of stay package
  • Lunch at Pizza Hut on expressway food mall: LRK 1620/- [USD $10 OR INR 720]
  • Tip to Driver: LRK 1000/-
  • Shopping: As per product
  • Dinner: In flight

Contact details:

Famous Trip plan/Places in Sri Lanka
Culture/Temple visit: Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Habarana, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, and Colombo
City: Colombo and Galle
Hill stations: Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Ella
Forest: Yala national park and Minneria national park
White water rafting: Kitulgala
Trekking / Hiking: Nuwara Eliya, Adam's Peak and Ella.
Surfing: Mirissa, Arugam Bay, and Weligama
Whale watching: Mirissa, Kalpitiya, and Trincomalee.
Beaches: Negombo, Galle, Mirissa, Matara, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Batticaloa

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Monday, 20 February 2017

Road trip to Little Rann of Kutch (Part 3: Rajasthan - Gujarat Road Trip)

Every year, we plan a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year we decided to go for a long road trip and then we planned to explore Rajasthan & Gujarat. While return journey we took a halt in Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.
Our road trip route was Pune - Udaipur - Haladighati - Kumbhalgarh - Jodhpur - Phalodi - Jaisalmer - India-Pakistan Border (Pillar No 609) - Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) - Vadodara - Daman - Pune
Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Little Rann of Kutch (LRK)
Little Rann of Kutch (LRK)

               To avoid length of Travel blog, I have divided it into 3 parts. First 2 parts were on Rajasthan and Third part was from Gujarat which was the last leg of our journey. In this part, will like to share my travel experience of Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) and Vadodara.

Travel Blog link for Majestic land of Rajasthan Part 1: Udaipur-Haldighati-Kumbhalgarh
Travel Blog link for Majestic land of Rajasthan Part 2: Jodhpur-Khichan-Jaisalmer

About Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) and Vadodara:
              Little Rann of Kutch is also known as LRK. It is Salt marsh and small in area as compared to Kutch hence known as Little Rann of Kutch. It is Famous for Indian Wild Ass and LRK is declared as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. LRK is the home of local and migratory birds.
             Vadodara is the third largest city from Gujarat State. The city is famous for Laxmi Vilas Palace and a variety of local food.

Day 9: 16 Feb 2017 - Jaisalmer to Little Rann of Kutch:
               We left Beautiful Jaisalmer by 6 AM. We wanted to cover 500 km distance and reach before sunset. We choose route as Jaisalmer - Barmer - Sanchore - Tharad -  Bhabhar - Radhanpur - Dasada - Bhavna Resort & Farm. The road was newly built till Sanchore with less traffic. We took a lunch break at Radhanpur (Gujarat) and had tasty Gujarati Thali at Hotel Sagar. We reached Bhavna Resort by 3:30 PM which was a pre-booked resort. they have more than 25 cottages spread over a large area. Plenty of parking space is available.The cottage has 1 large Room, small room to keep bags and clean bathroom. All cottages are AC cottages and maintained well. They serve an only pure veg meal which was very tasty.
            We took some rest and then went to Nava Talaw (In English "New Lake") for bird watching. We booked next day morning safari in LRK. Nava Talaw is the home of much migratory wetland bird. We went there with very less expectation and just to enjoy the Lake area.
             My Camera was stopped working due to Error 20 and Error 30 on Day 6 (After a visit to Khichan Village). Fix was not possible which stopped me from doing Photography. Our further road trip journey was without my Camera so We decided to capture the moment on iPhone and on Handicam.
              The area around Lake is dry and similar to Rann. A personal vehicle is allowed. We followed the route instruction shared by Resort owner. Painted stork and Eurasian Spoonbilled stork welcomed us when we entered in Lake area.



              We approached towards lake.you can drive in Rann but better to keep watch on the road as well. Before we hit Nava Talav, We spotted a group of Greylag Gooses. They belong to Goose family and large in size. They are winter migratory birds travel from Europ and Asia.



               Soon Nilgai and Indian wild Ass appeared on Lakeside area. Indian Wild Ass is only found in Gujarat. We stopped for some tine to observe the activities of Duck and Mammals. After some time they moved away from us and we left them alone.





           We parked our vehicle and took a walk towards Lake. Lake was full of Wetland birds. From distance, we observed Geater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, ibis, and Pelicans. Slowly we went close to the Lake and settled down to observe them.





            We witness sunset at Nava Talav Lake and then returned to Bhavna resort. Birds sighting and mammal spotting were unexpected for us. We covered most of the birds and mammals in Lake area which was planned in LRK Safari.
            We had tasty Gujarati veg meal at Resort and took rest soon.

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 2800/-
  • Lunch at Hotel Sagar, Radhanpur: INR 213/- (1 Panjabi Thali, 1 Gujarati Thali, and 1 Curd)
  • Bhavna Resort Package: INR 5383/- for 2 people (1 Night stay in Cottage, 1 Dinner, 1 Lunch, Breakfast and Safari for 2 people)

Day 10: 17 Feb 2017 - Little Rann of Kutch & Vadodara:
            We woke up by 5:30 AM and left the resort for morning safari. Open jeep picked us from the resort. After few km drive, we entered in LRK area. On entering to LRK, Wooly neck stork pair welcomed us. We have seen many wooly necked storks around our city so we stopped for a couple of minutes and moved ahead.



There was no fix wish list of bird or mammal but the main focus was on Birds. We spot common crane in the way to LRK's waterbody. On the first waterbody, we saw wetland birds like Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, northern shoveler duck, ibis etc. Here are few Videos from LRK



We spend more than 3 hours in Little Rann of Kutch. We saw Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo in the Lake area. Marsh Harrier and Montagu Harrier has joined the Lake. It was a wonderful place for bird watching. We searched a lot of Owls and Indian bustard in Rann but unable to spot them.






              We took some rest after safari and then had Lunch in Resort. After a tasty meal, we left Bhavna resort for our next location. Our next location was Vadodara. We had a visit to Ahmedabad 2 years back and now our focus was to cover return distance rather than tourism so we choose Vadodara.
            Ahmedabad to Vadodara highway was beautifully built. We reach at Vadodara by 4 PM. We searched few hotels and then booked a room at hotel Kalyani. We left the room at 6 PM for shopping. My wife had a good time in local cloth market. After shopping, we had dinner in Mall followed by "Ghazi" movie. We just returned from various sites which were involved in 1971 war and this movie was also based on 1971 war.

Expenses:
  • LRK forest Permit: INR 400/- for 2 people (Camera Charger is INR 200/-)
  • Gujarat Toll 1: INR 14/- (Bhavna resort to Ahmedabad road)
  • Gujarat Toll 2: INR 85/- (Ahmedabad to Vadodara Expressway)
  • Hotel Kalyan: INR 1226/- for 1 night
  • Pani Puri near Hotel Kalyani: INR 70/- for 7 plates (He served 6-7 types of different Pani in Pani Puri)
  • Sharing Auto from Hotel Kalyan to Sursagar market: INR 20/- for 2 people
  • Non-Sharing Auto from Sursagar market to Hotel Kalyan: INR 40/-
  • Auto from Hotel to Inorbit Mall: INR 50/-
  • Dinner in Mall: INR 366/- for 2 people
  • Movie Ticket: As per Rate
  • Uber from Mall to Hotel: INR 78/-

Day 12: 18 Feb 2017 - Vadodara:
            It was a lazy start and nothing much to do in Vadodara for us. Our only destination of the day was Laxmi Vilas Palace. We visited the palace at around 10:30 AM. Laxmi Vilas Palace was built by Gaekwad Royal family who ruled Baroda (now name change as Vadodara) State. Palace was completed by 1980 by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. It is said that Palace is four times the size of Buckingham Palace. Palace was built with Mix of Indian, Islamic and European architecture style.
            Photography (by camera or mobile) is strictly prohibited. Palace also has a museum which has Kings personal belongings, painting and sculpture. It also has a replica of toy train which was princes personal toy train. Original toy train was donated to SayBagh. Visiting hours of the palace for the public is from 11 AM to 5 PM. The audio tour is available for detail exploration.
           After a visit to Laxmi Vilas Palace, we started our return journey to Pune. We took night halt in Vapi at wife's relative house. Also, my father's best friend's house was close to Vapi which was on our list. We had a quick visit to Devka Beach, Daman for sunset. Beach was neither clean nor brown/golden Sandy. We spend some time and returned to Vapi

Expenses:

  • Gujarat Toll 1: INR 85/-
  • Gujarat Toll 2: INR 65/-
  • Gujarat Toll 3: INR 55/-
  • Gujarat Toll 4: INR 65/-

Day 13: 19 Feb 2017 - Vapi to Pune:
              We left Vapi by 10 AM and started the journey to Pune. We chose route as Vapi - Thane - Navi Mumbai - expressway - Pune. We reached home safely by 5 PM with memorable memories from Majestic land of Rajasthan

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 1500/-
  • Maharastra Toll 1: INR 60/-
  • Maharastra Toll 2: INR 55/-
  • Lunch at Barbeque Nation, Mumbai: As per Rate
  • Expressway Toll: INR 230/-

Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Bhavna resort: +919427216059, +919099459137.
  • Kalyan Hotel: +919998222968.
I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Road trip to Majestic land of Rajasthan (Part 2: Jodhpur-Khichan-Jaisalmer)

Every year, we plan a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year we decided to go for a long road trip and then we planned to explore Rajasthan. While return journey we took a halt in Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.

Our road trip route was Pune - Udaipur - Haladighati - Kumbhalgarh - Jodhpur - Phalodi - Jaisalmer - India-Pakistan Border (Pillar No 609) - Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) - Vadodara - Daman - Pune

Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Smile, please....

To avoid length of Travel blog, I have divided it into 3 parts. In this part, will like to share my travel experience of Jodhpur, Khichan, Jaisalmer and India-Pakistan border

Travel Blog link for Majestic land of Rajasthan Part 1: Udaipur-Haldighati-Kumbhalgarh

About Jodhpur, Jaisalmer:
               Jodhpur is a second largest city after Jaipur from Rajasthan State. The city is also known as Sun City for the bright and sunny weather throughout the year OR Blue City because of the blue colors that decorate many of the houses in the old city. The city was built as the new capital of the state of Marwar to replace the capital Mandore.
               Jaisalmer city lies in the Thar dessert. It is also known as "Golden City" as yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in every architecture of the city gives a yellowish-golden shade to the city. Jaisalmer is named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, who founded the city in 1156 AD. Jaisalmer is famous for Tent Stay and Camel Safari in Sand Dunes.

Blue City: Jodhpur
Blue City: Jodhpur

Day 5: 12 Feb 2017 - Jodhpur:
               Our day began bit Late today. We had breakfast and left for day sightseen. We decided to visit Umaid Bhavan Palace first and Fort for sunset time. Palace was just 3-4 km from the hotel. Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of the Largest private living residences from India. Palace was built on the hill and foundation stone was laid in 1929. Palace was ready by 1943.Now Half of the palace is converted into 5-star hotel property. Royal Family of Jodhpur is also live in this palace. Very small section of Palace is open to the public as Museum.

Umaid Bhavan Palace
Umaid Bhavan Palace

Entry to Umaid Bhavan Palace
Entry to Umaid Bhavan Palace

              The museum is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. It consists of information of Umaid Bhavan Palace, Royal Family's belongs and Old Photographs of Royal Family. It also has a collection of Vintage cars used by Royal family. It takes around an hour to visit the museum.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

Corridor inside Umaid Bhavan Palace

Traveller

               Our next place was Jaswant Thada. It is a Royal monument built in marble. The place is beautifully built with garden and lake. It was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh of Jodhpur State in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It was lunch time so we went for Lunch. We had tasty Rajasthani food at Gypsy Dining Hall.

Jaswant Thada
Jaswant Thada

Beautiful flute played by local inside Jaswant Thada

              By 4 PM, we went to our last destination for the day, Jodhpur fort. Jodhpur fort is known as Mehrangarh Fort. Timing to visit Fort is from 9 AM to 5 PM. you can hire local guide or Audio tour devices to explore the fort. It was my second visit and first with Wife so I became a guide for Renuka. Quickly we took tickets and entered in the fort area. Fort was built in the year 1460 by Roa Jodha, Ruler of Mandore.

Palace from Jodhpur Fort

             The fort consists of important places to visit such as Palace, Zenana Deodi, Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Weapon Gallary, Elephant's howdahs Gallary, Palanquins (Palakhi) Gallary, Daulat Khana, Turban Gallery, Paintings. Also, you can visit Upper bastion to visit the collection of Cannons and small walk on another end for Chamunda Mataji Temple.

Sheesh Mahal

               There are entrance gates to reach the main Palace. Jai Pol entrance was named to celebrate victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner. Fateh Pol entrance was built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals. Final gate named Loha Pol. Zenana Deodi is Palace's part which was built for Kings' wives. Moti Mahal means Perl Palace, is decorated with Perl colored and Glass decoration. It required around 2 hours to explore Palace and Galleries.

Shahi Palace

             After palace visit, we took a walk towards Chamunda Mataji Temple. You can view a collection of cannon on the top of the fort which includes famous Kilkila Cannon. Chamunda Mataji Temple was Rao Jodha's favorite goddess which was the kul devi of the Pratihara rulers of Mandore. we reached at the temple by 6 PM and decided to spend time till sunset.

Blue City, Jodhpur
Blue City, Jodhpur

            The back side of the temple has 2-3 small windows which offer you a breathtaking view of Blue City. Most of the house of old city was shaded with blue color. Old City area is known as Brahmpuri for the many Brahmins that live there. Sunset from this place was simply fabulous and perfect way to end the Jodhpur sightseen. There is a Pooja takes place in the temple at sunset time. After attending Pooja, we left the Fort.

Blue City

Blue city Sunset view
Blue City Sunset view 

             We went for Dinner at OTA Restaurant to celebrate our Anniversary. Food and service were good. It was a good place to end our day from Jodhpur.

Expenses:
  • Umaid Bhavan car parking: INR 40/-
  • Umaid Bhavan entry: INR 60/- for 2 people (Camera free)
  • Jaswant Thada entry: INR 30/- for 2 people
  • Jaswant Thada camera fee: INR 25/-
  • Lunch at Gypsy restaurant: INR 501/- for 2 people
  • Car Parking at Jodhpur Fort: INR 40/-
  • Jodhpur fort entry: INR 100/-
  • Jodhpur Fort entry for student: INR 50/- 
  • Jodhpur Fort camera fee: INR 100/-
  • Dinner at OTA restaurant: INR 1200/-

Day 6: 13 Feb 2017 - Jodhpur - Khichan - Jaisalmer:
               We left the hotel at 6 AM. Our first off beat destination of Khichan village near Phalodi. Home of Sevaram Malli Parihar from Khichan village is an attraction to visit the village. Every year, thousands of Demoiselle Cranes visit Khichan village in the Rajasthan desert during winter. These cranes are migratory birds from Mongolia. It has a long white neck stripe and the black on the foreneck extends down over the chest in a plume.It has a loud trumpeting call, higher-pitched. The demoiselle crane is known as the Koonj or Koorja.

Cranes at Khichan Village
Cranes at Khichan Village

Demoiselle Crane at Khichan Village
Demoiselle Crane at Khichan Village

            Sevaram is working from last 17-18 years to maintain their daily routine visit to Khichan village. He had large open plot converted into feeding center for Demoiselle Crane. They are not captive birds. Required food is spread in open plot for birds. Daily they visit this feeding center by 7 AM. Birds visit Khichan village from different forest/Rann locations (Around 30 to 60 km from village) for food. They spend around 4 hours in the village. They visit in the count of 12,000-15,000 every year.

Demoiselle Crane
Demoiselle Crane

             After feeding time, all birds fly to nearby Lake which is around 1 km from Village. All gather at Lake for drinking water and then they fly back to forest/Rann locations. Entire village help in this noble cause. The village achieved international recognition when it was featured in Birding World magazine in an article titled, “Khichan - the Demoiselle Crane Village"

Demoiselle Crane

              Sevaram takes care of this feeding center and also help in the rescue operation. He also keeps track of bird's daily activity and maintained daily bird visit count in Village. You can drive early morning to the village to witness the bird's activity. Sevaram offers to stay at his home without any cost. It was our pleasure to visit this incredible place.

In Flight

Demoiselle Crane

              After Khichan village, we went at Lake by 10 AM. Slowly groups of crane started gathering at Lake. Within an hour Lake and the entire surrounding ground was houseful by Cranes. It was amazing to see the change from empty Lake to full House Lake.

Demoiselle Crane at Lake

               We were about to leave Khichan village and the unexpected event happened. My Camera stopped working due to Error 20 and Error 30. Now further road trip journey is without my Camera. We decided to capture the moment on iPhone and on Handicam.

We at Khichan Village

              Our road journey to Jaisalmer was resume after Khichan Village visit. Distance from Khichan to Jaisalmer is around 170 KM. When we were around 40 km away from Jaisalmer, I saw one Egyptian Vulture flying low near the road. I took car aside and we started watching him. Soon Vulture settled down in the desert. When we were observing from Binocular, we release there are 2-3 types of Vultures. As we both are into bird watching, we decided to take a walk into dessert. Desert has some bushes so we took advantage of bushes as hiding place while approaching towards Vulture.


            Soon we released that, It was Vultures party on Dead Donkey. slowly we reduce the distance between us and settle down behind a small bush. There were 5 types Vultures in the party along with Egles and Crows. Vultures which we identified were Indian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Eurasian black vulture. My Camera was not working so I enjoyed the movement and captured it in video Camera. The distance between is was hardly 20-25 feet and we can clearly able to listen to their movements. It was simply feasting to eyes. What a lovely welcome in the desert. I have posted few Videos on Blog.



              We left this place and resume our journey to Jaisalmer. We took a break at Jaisalmer War Museum which is just 12 km from Jaisalmer City. War Museum is a tribute to all soldiers who made the sacrifice. The museum is open on all days and No entry fee to visit the museum. They have 20-25 min video on Indian Army which makes you feel proud. There are nominal charges for a short film.

Jailsamer War Museum

              There are two halls, one Indian Army hall and Laungewala Hall. Indian Army hall has information and history of Indian Army. The Hall also displays arms and ammunition captured, as also equipment used during various wars by the Indian Army. Laungewala Hall showcases the information of famous Battle of Laungewala along with an actual picture and 1971 war events. The museum is small but must visit the place to respect the Indian Army.

Roll of Honour

              We reach Jaisalmer by evening time. We have planned 2 night in Jaisalmer and 1 night in Sam Sand dunes. We decided to take the experience of Jaisalmer Fort Stay. Fort has many guest house and Homestay available inside the fort. We choose Deep Mahal hotel. Room walls are sharing walls with Jain temple. We went on one of the restaurants on the top of Fort to witness Sunset. It was relaxation time to enjoy the Sip of coffee with cool breeze and sunset.

Sunset from Fort...Clicked from iPhone

We had our Dinner at Free Tibet restaurant. It was a good place from a location point of view but we didn't like the taste. The weather was freezing cold at night but city view tempts us to enjoy the night view from Fort Bastion.

Is anybody home? Clicked on street inside the fort

Expenses:

  • Car Petrol: INR 2300/-
  • State Highway Toll: INR 75/- (Paid for all 4 Toll at 1st toll else INR 25/- for each toll)
  • Khichan Lake entry: INR 30/- for 2 people
  • Lunch at highway Dhaba: INR 300/- (Masala papad, Paneer Veg dish, butter roti, cold drinks)
  • Jaisalmer war museum entry: INR 40/- for 2 people
  • Jaisalmer Stay at Deep Mahal: INR 900/- for 1 night
  • One Coffee on rooftop restaurant: INR 40/-
  • Dinner at free Tibet restaurant: INR 480/-

Day 7: 14 Feb 2017 - Jaisalmer and Sam Sand Dunes:
               We left the hotel to explore the fort by 9 AM. Fort was built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal. This is also known as Sonar Quila which means Golden Fort due to the color of yellow sand. Fort has a double line of defense due to two walls. Fort has 4 massive solid entrance to enter in the fort area. Around 5000 people stay inside Fort.

Jaisalmer Fort

               Fort has Raj Mahal which is now converted into Museum. Palace opens at 10 AM till 5 PM. The audio tour is also available to explore the fort area.  Palace has Darbar Hall, Queens Hall, multiple Gallery having a collection of weapons used by King, paintings etc. Fort can be seen in 1-2 hours. Apart from Palace, there are several Jain temples inside Fort area. Carving on the walls are the highlight of temples. Fort also has Market Street which is the oldest market from Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer Fort wall

Fort View

Market Street inside Fort

              After a visit to Fort, we returned to the hotel for check out Process. We left Jaisalmer city for Sam dunes. On the way to Sam Sand dunes, we decided to visit Bada Bagh and Kuldhara Village. Our first destination was Bada Bagh. Bada Bagh is a memorial place of all King's of Jaisalmer starting with Jai Singh II. There is entry fee but somehow not maintained even after charging to tourist. No proper parking space is available at Bada Bagh.

Bada Bagh
Bada Bagh

            Bada Bagh means Big Garden which was built in the year 1743. Some Chhatri is in ruined state whereas few are intact as it is. Be careful, as there are no proper walkways available in Bada Bagh and we saw a lot of broken liquor bottles. Wife had a small injury due to broken glass which penetrated through footwear. when we registered the complaint at security, person apologizes and ensure us to take action soon. Apart from this, It was average visit.

Bada Bagh
Bada Bagh

             Our next location was Kuldhara village. Kuldhara is an abandoned haunted village near Jaisalmer. Many years back, all villagers left this village as King's Diwan (Chief revenue officer) asked a girl to marry him else he will kill all the villagers. There are many version of stories available by local. The true reason is still unknown.

Kuldhara Village
Kuldhara Village

             Locals from nearby village don't allow to visit the village after sunset as they believe that village is haunted. The village doesn't have anything expect ruined houses and ruined Temple in the center. You can climb temple for an aerial view of the village. Lanes and brick homes, equidistant from each other, are neatly laid out. As per Locals, There is a curse by villagers while leaving this place that No one would be able to re-occupy the village and whoever tried faced paranormal activities. Now, the Government of Rajasthan decided to develop Kuldhara Village as a tourist spot.

Kuldhara Village
Kuldhara Village

             We moved towards our final destination Sam Sand Dunes. As peak season was over (Weather was still freezing cold), many people suggested us to search stay after reaching Sam. We reached Sam by 4 PM. All most every tent resort was empty and people were ready to sell night stay at low cost. Dhaba owner from Kanoi Village suggested us to do Desert and then search for Tent stay after sunset. Hotel owner will offer you lowest rates. We kept Bags in the car and decided to visit the Thar Desert for sunset.

Reaching Sam after Driving more than 1800 km

Thar Desert

            We booked Safari jeep which took us in Thar desert. The ride was bumpy (Purposely they take you on dunes with high speed for a bumpy ride) and not recommended for old people. We enjoyed the ride. After reaching Thar, we hire Camel for long safari. Camel rider took us deep inside as we wanted to rid of tourists and looking for peace.

Thar Desert
Thar Desert

Lonely but lovely Thar Desert
Lonely but the lovely Thar Desert

            After 30-40 min camel safari we were far away from people. Camel rider (Old aged person) settle down in dunes and we took a long walk. No one was around us and we witness one of the most beautiful Sunsets from Desert. This was only possible due to offseason. We gave time to each other in the lonely but lovely desert. All Desert photographs are taken by iPhone 6s.

Sunset at Thar Desert
Sunset at the Thar Desert

              We came back to a point on Camel where our jeep was parked in Dessert. Before it gets too Dark, we came back to Sam. We checked few Tent resort and choose Shiv Tara resort. Sam dunes stay package offers you Night stay in Tent, Culture program, Snacks/tea-coffee during the program, Bonfire in cold weather, Veg Dinner, Breakfast and Camel Ride or Jeep ride (It is optional as rate changes as per safari type). We skipped safari and breakfast as we planned to leave early morning for an International border visit.
               Culture program was average as it has a modern touch to engage tourist. They also play DJ songs to invite tourist to dance with a local performer from the group. Somehow I like Udaipur's culture program (Bagore ki Haveli) which was focused on only cultural program and its value. Overall it was a good experience to stay in tent and close to Desert.
               Few Resorts from Sam and travel agent from Jaisalmer arrange Tent Camping in Thar desert. Rates are high and one/Two local accompany you as security and for preparing Dinner/Breakfast.
              We were eagerly waiting for tomorrow as we are going to drive our vehicle till international border (India-Pakistan Border Pillar No 609). We had all required permission from BSF and Indian Defence office. I have seen Wagha Border which is commercial and open to tourist but Tomorrow's border location was raw border area.

Expenses:
  • Jaisalmer fort entry: INR 200/- for 2 people
  • Jaisalmer fFortcamera fee: INR 100/-
  • Bada Bagh entry: INR 200/- for 2 people
  • Kuldhara village car entry: INR 50/-
  • Kuldhara village entry: INR 20/- for 2 people
  • Soda at Kuldhara: INR 30/- for 3 glass
  • Lunch at Kanoi Village: INR 160/- for 2 people (Rajasthani veg dish and Rotis + Cold drinks)
  • Entry Toll for Sam Sand dunes: INR 50/-
  • Gypsy desert ride: INR 800/- (INR 900-1200/- during peak season)
  • Camel Ride inside desert: INR 400/- for 2 people on 1 Camel (Need to Bargain if not as part of hotel package. Owner started at INR 6000/- for 2 camel and final cost was INR 400/- . Camel ride was for 2-2.30 hr as offseason began in Sam due to exam time)
  • Tip to Camel Rider: INR 150/- (He took us in the deep desert & total ride time was 2-2.30 Hrs.)
  • Tent Stay at Shiv Tara: INR 1600/- for 2 people (got walk-in discount as peak season charges INR 3000/- per people and low season chargers INR 3000/- for 2 people)

Day 8: 15 Feb 2017 - Tanot, India-Pakistan Border, and Jaisalmer:
              We Left Sam sand dunes by 7 AM. Our first destination was Tanot Mata Temple and then International Border. Our Route was Sam - Kanoi - Left from Kanoi Village - Left at T junction after Serawa Village - Ramgarh - Tanot. There was hardly any vehicle and we loved the morning drive. We had quick breakfast at Ramgarh village. This is the last village where you can expect food and Mobile network. Ramgarh onwards, only BSNL network work with the average network.
Ramgarh to Tanot drive was memorable. Straight smooth road with very less traffic and lovely dunes. It is must visit place for a road trip. 

Reached Tanot

               Tanot Village is close to the border with Pakistan and famous for Tanot Mata Temple. Tanot village is known as the last village of India close to the border. Temple is maintained by BSF and Indian Army. During 1965 and 1971 war, Pak army launched bombs targeting Temple but none of the bomb able to hit Temple. In 1965 War, Pakistani Army dropped bombs targeting the temple but not even one exploded. After the war, the Pakistani General actually requested to visit the temple. This request was granted and the Pakistani General went to the temple and paid his respects.

Tanot Mata Temple

unexplored Bombs display

              The Same story was repeated by Pakistan in 1971 War but unable to touch the Temple. you can see unexplored bomb kept inside the temple. Temple is clean and very well maintained. After Temple visit, We visited BSF check post to complete the formalities for a border visit. We had all required permission from BSF and Indian Defence office. 
              We began our journey of 19 km towards the border. Civilians are not allowed to go beyond this temple towards border without permission and documentations. We were expecting someone from BSF will join our vehicle. At second checkpoint (which was 1 km from the temple) we got to know that we have to drive alone till Border fence. Looking at our faces, BSF gave us confidence that just follow the main road and we have solid fence throughout the border to avoid border crossing.

Road to International Border Pillar No 609

              Our 19 km Journey was our lifetime experience. Straight smooth road with huge sand dunes on both the sides is heading towards Border. Not a single vehicle crossed us during the journey. Our eyes were staring at the horizon as we were expecting Border post, Fence separating our neighboring country. 
              Soon we crossed one small sand hill and saw 2 check posts. We realized that one post belongs to us and the second one belongs to Pakistan. We drove the car slowly towards our check post. From that point, We were able to see Border fence. We stopped our car few meters before check post and BSF officer waves hand to drive the car till post. We parked our i20 at the check post. 
             It was a proud moment for us as we parked car few feet before Fence. Yes! Few feet from Border. We can clearly see the Pakistan's check post and border pillar No 609. We were standing on the Edge of our Nation and can see Pakistani land across the border. One of the BSF soldier from post welcome us as they were already informed about our visit. 

Border Pillar 609 is just 4 km way

             We spend some time at border check post. BSF Soldier explained us geographical importance, How and Why Fence was built by (Only) Indian Government and Indian Amry. They shared us few challenges which BSF team faced due to our neighboring country. They answered our queries on valid questions as well. Our experience and feeling were next to impossible to express in the Blog. Photography at check post was not allowed and border landscape photographs were not allowed to post.
            We left International Border with the proud feeling that we touched the border. We are living safely because BSF (First Line of Defence of Indian Territories) and Indian Army performing their duties by sacrificing family. Salute to BSF and Indian Army. We Drive car slowly till Tanot as we wanted to capture every bit of Journey close to the border.



             We completed check out formalities at Tanot and took snacks break. There is small canteen at Temple run by BSF where you can get limited food Items. It was 12 in the clock and we decided to visit longewala for longewala War Museum. Longewala is war memorial which is 19 km before India-Pak international border. This was the same place where brave Indian Army fight against Pak largest army which was fully equipped with Tanks. Famous Bollywood movie "Border" was inspired and based on this war.

Way to Longewala

At Longewala

Memorial has war information, Tanks, and jeep which were captured by Indian during the war and a short movie on 1971 war. The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was fought between 2000 Pakistani Soldiers with 45 tanks and Brave 120 Indian Soldiers commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri with M40 gun Jeep. 4 Hawker Hunters help Amry on next day morning. 




Pakistani Tank captured in 1971 War

             We left Longewala by 3 PM and had lunch at Ramgarh. We came back to Jaisalmer for night stay. Our last place to visit from Jaisalmer was Ghadsisar Lake. It is Drinking water lake for City. Boating is available in Lake. We just had a walk around Lake. We did walk-in booking at Shahi Palace.

Ghadsisar Lake

We had tasty dinner at Shahi Palace Hotel's Rooftop restaurant. Our Rajasthan Road Trip comes to an end with beautiful memories. Tomorrow we will leave for LRK, Gujarat.

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 1800/-
  • Sweets for BSF team located at Border tower: priceless for us. The number doesn’t matter against happiness and their sacrifices for us.
  • Snacks as Lunch at Tanot canteen: INR 80/- (Samosa and Milk. Ramgad is the last village where you can get a Lunch)
  • Longewala Museum Movie entry: INR 50/- for 2 people
  • Juice at Longewala: INR 40/-
  • Lunch at Ramgarh village: INR 155/- (We had lunch at 4 PM)
  • Car parking at Gadisar Lake: INR 50/-
  • Stay at Jaisalmer: INR 600/- for 1 night (Basic hotel with beautiful fort view from Rooftop)
  • Dinner at Shahi Palace Hotel Rooftop restaurant: INR 435/- for 2 people
Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Shree Mohan Villas, Jodhpur: +919929006571, +919680583508
  • Sevaram Mali, Khichan: +919982372596.
  • Hotel Deep Mahal, Jaisalmer: 02992-250390, +919414365509.
  • Dylan Cafe & Guest House: +919828561818
  • Shiv Tara Desert Camp: +919636004062, +919413974062 (Budget Desert Camp Stay)
  • Rajputana Desert Camp: +919828878724, +919461008724 (Bit Costly but better arrangement and ambiance)
  • Gateway of Desert: +919950999777, +919928814283.
  • Soheb Desert Jeep Safari: +917727871989 (We took his service for Jeep Safari)
  • Uras Desert Safari: 09610366966.
  • Abu Desert Safari: +919983847476.
  • Khan Desert Jeep Safari: +919829830294.

Please click on Next blog to read about our further journey: Road trip to Little Rann of Kutch

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune