Wednesday, January 4, 2023

When LV met the Champ Ramki at Chennai in Jan 23

Few snaps of LV at the Champ Ramki's place in Chennai. Not to miss all the IXL trophies on the showcase behind them

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

My trip to Gujarat-Rajasthan-Mangalore

 Day 1 (Wednesday 09 Nov 2022)

The day commenced early with a late night trip to the airport as the flight was at 2:30 AM so left home at 8:30 PM on 08 Nov to catch the last bus to the airport from the front of our apartment complex. Was at the airport by 10 PM. Flight to Ahmedabad took off on time at and landed in Ahmedabad at 4:00 AM.  Went searching for the Zoom Car which turned out to be a bit of a problem as Zoom Car had changed the car from a Maruti Swift to a Tata Altroz and there was some confusion about the pick up location confusion was compounded by the fact which I had not noticed that my phone had lost it's data connection, anyway used the hotspot from my son's phone and located the car at 5:00 AM. 

The TATA Altroz Car who served us well for over 3000 Km

CE (AF) Mess

Went to Officers Mess of CE (Air Force) Gandhinagar (My son's unit) left our excess baggage there commenced the first leg of our trip at 7:00 Am with a 313 Km drive to Bhuj which we covered in 7 hours reaching accommodation at Air Force Station Bhuj at 2:15 PM. After lunch we settled into the room and after a short break left for th Great Rann of Kutch at 4:30 PM. The 80 Km took us 1 1/2 hours due to an extremely bad patch of road (damaged by the heavy trucks transporting Gypsum) of about 20 Km. Reached the Great White Rannn at 6;00 PM, just about managed to see the sunset. Hung around there till 7:30 PM hoping to see the shimmering salt on the Rann in the glow of the one day old full moon, however we realised that the moon has to be higher up in the sky if we were to see the shimmer (Recommend that this be done a couple of days before full moon as the moon rises earlier on these days).

Left the Rann at 7:30 PM and were back in the room at Bhuj by 9:00 PM. After dinner hit the sack and were asleep immediately after a long day.

Day 2 (Thursday 10 Nov 2022)

Was up by 5 AM to complete the daily crossword in the bargain managed to catch the sunrise from the room

After a sumptuous breakfast in the mess took off at 8:00 AM for the day outing and covered the 58Km to Mandvi and reached by 9:15 AM. Took a short cut to the beach and unwittingly we went past the ship building yard of Mandvi where we saw huge wooden Dhows in various stages of construction.

 Continued to Mandvi beach which we found to be as dirty as any other beach ion India, littered with garbage. Since it was morning there was no crowd. 

After a refreshing sugarcane juice drink. Drove into town went past the lighthouse and after parked the car 

Went in searching for 'Roopalee Handicrafts' found the overhyped place in the narrow streets. Gita picked up some kurtis from some other shops on the way.

Next we drove to the outskirts of Mandvi to see Vijay Vilas Palace constructed as a summer getaway by Maharao Shri Khengarji III the Maharao of Kutch. The palace was constructed over 9 years from 1920 to 1929.

Drove back to Bhuj and headed for Annapurna Hotel for a traditional Gujarathi Thali. The Thali had a number of dishes in small katori's with an option of putting aside the items which were not required and they charges were only for the items we selected. Each item was for Rs 20/- . Had an interesting discussion with the owner who gave us an insight about Bhuj town. The heavy meal based on what we selected and ate cost only Rs 340/-  for the two of us.

After the heavy lunch resisted the temptation to have a snooze and drove to Kalo Dungar (Black Hill) at 462 it is the highest point in the Great Rann and located 85 Km from Bhuj, enroute we crossed the Tropic of Cancer as well. Took us 1 1/2 hours to get there having to cross the bad patch of road again. From Kalo Dungar, India Bridge the crossing point into Pakistan, The Great White Rann and Dholavira Island.

Typical touristy photo

400 year old Dattareya Temple at Kalo Dungar

Sunset from Kalo Dungar

Panoramic shot from Kalo Dungar

Set off back to Bhuj immediately after sunset and were back in the room by 8:30 PM. Had a couple of drinks and some snacks as we were not hungry after the heavy lunch and hit the sack to set off for the next leg.

Day 3 (Friday 11 Nov 2022)

Set off at the crack of dawn at 6:30 AM for the 404 Km drive from Bhuj to Dwarka. After an uneventful drive and passing through Morbi (Site of the recent suspension bridge tragedy), the road for around 30 Km after Morbi was again in a bad shape due to white topping work, by passed Jamnagar and after a light lunch and dinner enroute reached the Govt Circuit House at Dwarka, (our shelter for the next two nights arranged by Air Force Station Dwarka) by 3:30 PM. After a quick wash took a 30 Km drive to Okha at 4:30 PM, visited the 'end point of India' with a lighthouse in the background.

At 5:30PM took a local ferry to Bet Dwarka island, residence of Lord Krishna during his stay at Dwarka. Was given a guided tour by the brother of one of the priests. No photographs allowed in the temple. Having reached at the evening aarti time it was a mad rush right from the jetty to the temple pushing through the jostling crowd of humans and cows!!!

Under construction suspension bridge from Okha to Bet Dwarka

Bet Dwarka

Sunset from the Ferry

After a good Darshan at Bet Dwarka took the ferry back and then drove back to Dwarka. Picked up dinner enroute as the Circuit House had no catering.

Day 4 (Saturday 12 Nov 2022)

Woke up early and left for the Dwarkadeesh Temple (Our second Chardham temple, having been to the first at Rameswaram earlier in March this year). Kind courtesy Sqn Ldr Hemant from Air Force Station Dwarka we were escorted into the temple to a spot just in front of th eSanctum Sanctorum bypassing the early morning rush. Saw the morning aarti and later were given a guided tour of the temple by one of the priests. No photographs again as cameras were not allowed inside.

After a quick breakfast of Poha at a local joint drove the the Nageshwar Jyotirling temple about 17 Km from Dwarka, this temple is one of the legendary temples mentioned in the Shiva Purana and is one of the twelve Jyotirlings. Didn't go in as I was in shorts, later realised that shorts were permitted. Again no photographs inside the temple.

After visiting the temple decide to drive to the 'Positra Marine Sanctuary` to do some coral viewing which was supposed to be 17 Km away, however after about 10 Km the road turned into a track and after another 5 km it became narrower, so we decided to give it up as a bad joke and headed back. Enroute while passing through Dwarka town passed by a bakery and picked up hot paav (12 numbers) for just Rs 25/- and had that for lunch with the left over dinner items. Afternoon got the car washed at a carwash. Also changed the wiper blades.
Evening decided to walk around the market and see the temple from the Gomti river side which has the main entrance with the 56 steps.
At Dwarka was surprised to hear Oman FM radio station on the car radio!!

The Gomti River
Dwarka Beach

Foot suspension bridge over the Gomti

                                                         The 56 steps to the main entrance

The foot bridge

Sunset from Dwarka
Decided to have dinner at a new hotel 'The Grand Ladudhara'. Surprisingly they had no Gujarati fare. Decided to eat Chaat and Stuffed Kulcha, the sevpuri was too salty, The Dahi Puri too sweet and hardly any stuffing in the Kulcha, overall was disappointed with the dinner. Headed back to the circuit house and hit the sack early.

Day 5 (Sunday 13 Nov 2022)

Another early morning start as we set off for Somnath at 5:30 AM. It was a pleasant drive all along the West coast of Kutch and we cover6d the 390 Km in 4 hours reaching at 9:30 AM. Just short of Somnath at Veraval we visited the temple 'Sri Bhalka Theerth Mahathmya' built at the spot where Lord Krishna left his mortal body. 

Proceeded to the Somnath temple which is also one amongst the 12 Jyotirlings which I mentioned a little earlier. The gents queue being very long only Gita went in as the ladies queue was much shorter. Again no cameras allowed so we got a few long distance shots of the temple. This temple also has a pillar constructed at the rear from which if a line is drawn to the south pole it will be seen that there will be no land mass on that line.

Skipped breakfast and proceeded to Sasan-Gir where we were booked into 'Daksh Resort' during our safari into the Gir National Park. Reached the resort at 11 AM and had our lunch at the resort. Left for the safari 1:45 PM which commenced at 3 PM. Our guide was from the Siddi African Tribe who are settled inside the sanctuary. Were unlucky during the 2 1/2 hour Safari as we saw nothing but Deer, Blackbuck and Peacocks.

After the safari we decided to head back to Somnath to see the Sound and Light show at the temple. Leaving Gir at 6 PM we reached Somnath temple at 7:15 PM well in time for the show which was to commence at 7:30 PM. Managed to skip the queue by presenting my Service ID Card, however we were stuck in another queue at the main entrance to the temple, the ladies queue being shorter Gita went in to buy the ticket and then followed a comedy of errors by the time I managed to enter the lights had been switched off for the show so I couldn't find Gita and as no phones were allowed there was no way to contact her, I decided to bluff my way in telling the security that Gita had already gone in as I couldn't find her, little realising that she did not get the tickets and was waiting for me at the entrance. I sat through the show which was not impressive as it was projected on the uneven spire of the temple. After the show still could not trace Gita waited for over an hour at the spot where we left the slippers whereas she was waiting at the entrance!! Finally went back to the car to get my phone and found three missed calls from unknown numbers, it was Gita calling from friendly policemen's phones!! Anyway all's well that ends well and we met at 10 PM. After a Pav Bhaji dinner at a local street side restaurant drove back to the resort and by the time we hit the sack it was mid-night.

Day 6 (Monday 14 Nov 2022)

Up early again as we were to got to the Devalia Park for the morning safari. Reached the reception centre at 5:45 AM and the Safari commenced at 6 AM. The Devalia Park is a large enclosed 4 sq km area where lions are housed beside smaller enclosures inside for Leopards which are captured and relocated here. Since it was a captive area we managed to see a pride of lions.

The safari got over by 8:45 AM, headed back to the resort had breakfast and started back to Gandhinagar at 9:30 AM. Enroute we had planned to visit the Lothal Archaeological excavation site but skipped it as we were running late. Finally reached the mess in Gandhinagar after a 450 Km drive at 7:30 PM only despite having hit the outskirt of Ahmedabad ay 5:30 PM, traffic was awful which was compounded  by the traffic jams at the flyover construction sites. 

Day 7 (Tuesday 15 Nov 2022)

Before starting I decided to have a look at the stepney and found that it had no air, we were lucky not to have had a puncture during the earlier six days especially the day we tried going to the Positra Marine sanctuary. We took off after refuelling and filling air, at 5:30 AM for Kevadia 235 Km away, location of the Statue of Unity. Half of the distance was through the expressway from Ahmedabad to Baroda so manage to maintain a steady 100 kmph, had breakfast of Mysore Masala Dosa and Puri at a rest area of the expressway. Further on before reaching Kevadia we found roadside vendors selling Guavas which were large and really sweet at just 30 Rs a kilo!! Finally reached The Ramada Hotel at Kevadia by 11:15 AM however had to wait till 1 PM before we got our room. During the wait we found that the cruise and dinner on the Narmada river was to recommence from 15 Nov, so quickly bought our tickets for the same. After freshening up in the room left at 1:30 PM for the Ekta Nursery which was across the river for our pre booked Tribal Thali. The meal was tasty and filling and we were back in the room by 3 PM.

As private vehicles were not allowed into the Statue of Unity site we had to either travel by the free bus service or by paid electric autos with lady drivers. At 3:30 PM took the bus to the Statue of Unity location  and spent a good 2 hours at the statue location. 

Followed it up with  the excellent 45 min sound and light show projected onto the statue. 

Headed back to the room again  by bus and after a couple of drinks headed for the Jetty, just behind the hotel, for the cruise and dinner. Which was a fun filled and enjoyable evening. The only downside being that the Statue by itself was not illuminated at night.

Back to the room by 11 PM

Day 8 (Wednesday 16 Nov 2022)11:30 AM

Another early start as we had a lot to cover for the day. Started at 6:30 AM with packed breakfast fo Sandwiches, Croissants and muffins. Reached out first stop at Siddhpur 313Km away at 11:30 AM, spent half an hour seeing the Old Mansions of the Dawoodi Bohras, couldn't go into any as most were locked and those which were open we were not allowed in.

Left Siddhpur for Patan 35 Km away and after a 45 min drive reached the 'Rani-ka-vav', a step well which is a UNESCO World heritage site. Went around the stepwell using the services of a paid guide.

At Patan visited a Patola silk saree shop to see them being weaved, the sarees cost anything from Rs 20,000 to 1 Lakh. Another 36 km and 45 min drive took us from Patan to Modhera to visit the Sun temple. The temple is very much like the one at Konarak but the upper portion is in ruins.

After spending about half an started back to Ahmedabad to visit my nephew Bijoy Shivaram (Biju) though he is not much younger than me he is my fathers sisters grandson (My father's sister was 28 years older than him). Had high tea with some Gujarathi delicacies.

Got back to the room by 8 PM and after a light dinner we hit the sack as it was another long day having travelled 525 Km.

Day 9 (Thursday 17 Nov 2022)

After 9 days o intense travel woke up late gave the car a quick wash and breakfast left to visit some of the local sites at Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad.

First at Akshardham Temple Gandhinagar. No cameras allowed sonly long shots.

Next to the Adalaj Step well at Adalaj Gandhinagar

Our final visit for the Gujarat leg of our trip was The Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

Got back to the mess by 3 PM and after another light lunch packed up and left for the station at 5 PM. Dropped off the Zoom car at the drop off site at 6PM. The car had served us well as we travelled 3185 km in 9 days.
Caught the Ashram Express for our journey to Jaipur. Train left on time at 7:15 PM. Bought some Bharuchi groundnuts at the station @ Rs 200 per kg.

During our journey through Gujarat the one common thing we saw almost everywhere was the local three wheeler called 'Jugad'. Used for transportation of goods and personnel.

Day 10 (Friday 18 Nov 2022) to Day 12 (Sunday 20 Nov 2022) 

At Jaipur to attend the wedding of my daughter-in-law's brother. For the wedding stayed at the JJ Hotel on 18th and 19th. Shifted home on the 20th. 

Also met up with a coursemate of mine who passed out with me from IMA in Dec 1976.

With Mrs and Lt Col Sudhir Khanna

Next we met up with an Army friend who were with us  at Port Blair in 1997.

With Mrs and Col PS Khangarot

Day 13 (Monday 21 Nov 2022)

The next phase of our trip started with a 175 km /3h 45 min drive to Sawai Madhopur were we hated at Raj Palace resort for our evening Safari to the Ranthambore Tiger Safari. Enroute we had some delicious Aloo Parathas at a wayside Dhaba which is normally frequented by truck drivers only. We went in my Son's XUV 500 along with his two children.

The jeep for the Ranthambore Safari picked us up at 3 PM and we were back by 6 PM after another uneventful safari having seen nothing other than Deer, Sambar, Nilgai, Peacocks, Monkeys and an inquisitive Rufous Treepie bird. The Tigers eluded us again.

The resort was nothing much to talk about with no wifi in the rooms, no intercom nd no hot water in the morning.

Day 14 (Tuesday 22 Nov 2022)

Another early morning drive when we left Sawai Madhopur at 6AM and headed for Kota a distance of 125 Km which we covered in 2h 45 min. After a heavy breakfast at Kota Station we bid bye-bye to my son and grand-children and boarded the Rajdhani express to Mangalore at 1055 AM

Day 15 (Wednesday 23 Nov 022)

The last leg of our journey commenced with our arrival at Mangalore junction at 12 Noon from where we took a taxi to The Ocean Pearl Hotel our place of stay for the next three nights during the get-together of my PSG College of Technology batchmates of 1974. After checking in we walked across to Machali a restaurant specialising in sea food had Crabs, Seer Fish and Prawns for lunch and Neer Dosa and fish and prawns again for dinner.

Between lunch and dinner caught up with Richard Lasrado whom I was meeting after over 10 years having last met him in Bangalore in 2010.

Day 16 (Thursday 24 Nov 2022)

Action packed day with  visits to the various places and lunch at an iconic eating place in and around Mangalore.

Milagres Church

At Pilikula Nisargadhama Gardens

Lunch at Giri Manja's

Toddy at 'The Toddy House'

Day 17 (Friday 25 Nov 2022)

The final day of our get-together was spent in visits to the Mookambika Temple at Kollur, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi and a trip to Malpe Beach near Udupi followed by some fun and games at night. We also wanted to visit the scenic Pithrody Beach but the van driver had reservations on the route so we had to drop the idea.

Mookambika Temple, Kollur

Sri Krishna Temple, Udupi

Malpe Beach

The PSG College of Technology 1974 batchmates with their better halves who attended the get-together

Day 18 (Saturday 26 Nov 2022)

All good things must come to an end. After a fun filled two days we bid goodbye to all our friends and caught the train back to Bangalore from Mangalore Junction travelling in the Vistadome coach to get a good view of the surroundings enroute. Left Mangalore at 11:15 AM and reached Yeshwantpur in Bangalore at 9 PM. Headed home in a UBER Taxi and reached at 10:30 PM