|The Gujarat experience - January 2013 |
|Having already visited three of the four Dham's, it was now the turn of Shri Dwarkaji, the last Dham to be visited. |
We took the Duronto from Alld to Mumbai (atrocious food) from where we took the Air India flight to Jamnagar (10th Jan). Jamnagar airport is shared with the IAF which has a major presence there. However, the civil terminal, though small, was neat & efficient. The first thing which struck me in Gujarat was the beauty of the roads.Our drive from Jamnagar to Dwarkaji was a zip amid a landscape lined with scores of windmils.The 130 km drive barely took 2hrs 30 mins.
After darshan in the evening, we went hunting for authentic Gujarati food, but being tired, settled to eat at the hotel only which did not offer anything Gujarati.
Early next morning (11th. Jan) , we left for Byet Dwarka which is about 32 kms from Dwarka & 5 kms in the sea by boat.The boatman charged 1500/- for a to & from ride.On our return, we visited Nageshwar Mahadev. We left Dwarkaji at about 3.30 for Somnath. The 250 km drive took just about 4hrs 30 mins and we were in Somnathji at 8 p.m.
Luckily, in Somnath ji we were booked in the Sagar Darshan atithigrah which is run & managed by The Somnath Trust. This is a beautiful place to stay & is just a few metres from the Arabian sea.The second floor rooms offered a breathtaking view.
In Somnath, there are two temples of Lord Shiva. The original small temple & the newer main temple built by Sardar Patel after Independence. Unfortunately, the beach of Somnathji is not developed & was a let down. However, the main temple was majestic, clean & orderly. After darshan & lunch at Lilavati Guest House, we left for Gir National Park.
Gir National Park is about 44 kms from Somnathji & we stayed at the Gir Jungle lodge. This place has been tastefully designed in a mango orchard & offers some pretty good smells late in the wintry evenings. On our arrival, we discovered that our permit for entry into the park had been mishandled by the hotel & now wee had to manage it on our own. Luckily our driver went very early in the morning & obtained one. It was our luck that we were able to spot a few lions inside the park. The safari ended at 9 (13th Jan) & after breakfast we left back to Jamnagar from where we had our flight back to Mumbai in the morning.
One thing we missed throughout our trip was good Gujarati food. You got better stuff elsewhere but not here! Well, as they always say, the best mangoes & guavas are always exported, hence you tend to find good Gujarati food not in, but out of Gujarat. Is Mr. Modi listening?
|The Nainital experience |
|Last week, I was in Ranikhet which is a beautiful hill town nestled up cozily in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. Nainital is about 50 kms from here which translates to about 2 hours by road. |
First about Ranikhet. This is basically a Cantonment town and is surrounded by pristine pine & oak forest. There are a few colonial era, but well maintained houses located in the vicinity and are well connected by motorable roads. The best thing about this place are the various short (3-4 km) walking routes & of course the Govt. run tweed factory where you can buy a stitched tweed blazer for as low as Rs. 2050/- !
I have various memories of Nainital. Surprisingly, the Nainital of today seemed a lot cleaner & inspite of the tourist season a lot organised. The car parking is at the flats & when that gets full they divert you to the grounds of erstwhile Metropole hotel.
The Sakleys is a good place to eat & of course The Embassy & Nanak's are also there. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to visit SEM, my old school but I saw it from Tallital. While returning, do not forget to but fruits from Bhowali.
|Allahabad to Ranikhet by road |
|Last week, I had the occasion to travel from Allahabad to Ranikhet by road. |
The total distance is about 670 kms & I took a night halt at Bareilly. The total driving time from Allahabad to Bareilly was about 9 hours & from Bareilly to Ranikhet about 5 & a half hours. The road between Bareilly to Bahedi is currently very bad.The route is as under:
Alld -Lucknow 200kms. Road: Single. Heavy traffic
Lucknow - Sitapur 80kms. Road: 4 lane
Sitapur - Shahjahanpur 95kms. Road: Single
Shahjahanpur - Bareilly 82kms. Road: Single (4 lane under construction)
Bareilly - Haldwani 130 kms. Road: Upto Bahedi is terrible.Rest OK.
Haldwani - Ranikhet 83kms. Road: OF, hill driving.
On return, we took a different route which is as follows:
Ranikhet - Kathgodam - Chorgaliyan - Sitarganj - Khatima - Pilibhit - Pooranpur - Khutar - Gola/Kheri - Lakhimpur - Sitapur - Lucknow - Allahabad
This route albeit longer by about 45 kms, is not congested & has relatively good roads. The driving time would have been equal but the journey more comfortable.
|The Duranto experience |
|The Duranto trains are the best thing that has happened to Indian Railways after the Rajdhani's. |
First, they run non-stop between their destinations, thus mitigating the chances of being disturbed by boarding or de-boarding passengers at intermediate stations. It also reduces the chances of theft of luggage which has risen sharply over the years.
Second, these trains run at speeds which no other train (except Rajdhani's) run, thus travel time is drastically cut. While Rajdhani trains have a few halts, Durano trains have none, only technical halts.
Third, most Duranto trains have new coaches of German design with large windows & are generally noise free.
Fourth, these trains are high on security. Since there are no scheduled intermediate stoppages, the doors can easily be kept locked.
Food is provided on board on most Duranto trains except for a few overnight ones eg. Allahabad-Delhi Duranto. The quality of food is reasonable & can depend on the sector you are travelling.
Last but not the least, the whole train like the Rajdhani, is air-conditioned (except some sectors) which enhances comfort.
Since these trains ply on mostly long journeys, it would be advisable if the railways add a recreation car on the train which could have a cafe, a bar (debatable), a library and a games rooms - something like a CCD or Barista.