Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ep. 2 Part 1. Kutch nahi dekha toh Kuch bhi nahi dekha..

Episode 2 : Western India
Ep. 2 Part 1.
Kutch nahi dekha toh Kuch bhi nahi dekha..
Woke up a bit late in the morning than planned as were tired from previous day's drive and shoot.. Well, I kinda feared that that's what gonna be the routine for next two months or so and was mentally preparing myself. We discussed that we will try to spend atleast couple of days in a place instead of moving out next day. But again, all depends on the place, mood and ofcourse the financial position.
As per plan, it's the state of Gujarat that's in our sight and we wanted to see what's the hype about Rann of Kutch. Why Amitabh ji wants us to spend few days in Gujarat? We really wanted to find that out by ourselves. Unanimous decision was taken to visit the Little Rann of Kutch first and then to decide where next. Because, Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha..
We started from Daman around 11.15am instead of the target of 8am :p Yeah, we are two lazy buggers who refuse to get out of bed early. After lazing around having a not so good breakfast, we've packed our bags. The roads were pretty good and soon started covering the miles. Soon we were at Bharuch and crossed the Golden Bridge at Narmada. Man, that bridge is really small for having two way traffic. Even after folding in the sideview mirrors, the Scorpio kissed another car at one point. Luckily it came out just with a very minute scratch. After crossing the Bridge our plan was to find a decent restaurant to have lunch and we were surprised to see so many "decent" hotels on the Gujarat Highway, literally. Most of the roadside hotels/dhabas were named as "Decent Hotels" and just couldn't stopped ourselves from joking about the Ratlam station scene from the movie "Jab We Met" :p. Luckily we didn't get into any such situation and just a had a simple, decent dhaba meal at a place called "Sarvottam Hotel"..
Just before the journey, at Pune to be specific, Sid has given me strict instructions to drive within sane limits of speed. He even threatened to abandon the trip if I don't. That sounds fine to me and I drove peacefully enjoying the surroundings for most of the time. Now after the decent food at not Decent Hotel, I was a bit sleepy and let Sid take the wheel. I was pretty sure that after the long lecture about high speed driving by his majesty himself, he would be driving in a sane speed. So I dozed off without any worry.. After sometime I woke up with a feeling that the car is reaching it's escape velocity and about to leave the earth's gravitational pull. Once I was able to gather my wits I realized that we are still on earth only. Well, we were at Baroda-Ahmedabad expressway and Sid decided to test the limits of the car. And I decided to click a proof of that so that I can blackmail him later. So whenever next time he opens his mouth about high-speeding I just saw him the pic of the speedo. For the record, I didn't take the car to more than 120kmph during the entire trip and he actually have crossed 150kmph on the first chance he got :p Yeah, Boys will be boys only, but he is going to hear about this during the whole trip..

Ahemedabad Expressway

Sunset after Ahmedabad

The good condition of the roads remain till we cross Ahmedabad and crossed Sanand pretty soon. We did contemplate about staying at Ahmedabad for a day but we were not very sure about the plan and so decided to move towards LRK. We have done a little research on staying options at LRK and two names came to forefront, Rann Riders and Dessert Coursers. But we couldn't get thru the contact number of Rann Raiders and we luckily get the connection of Dessert Coursers. I also remembered reading HarshVardhan's travelogue about Dessert Coursers and felt that it would be a nice place to stay.

We reached Dessert Coursers (Camp Zainabad) by 8.30pm around. One need to take a left at Dasada for Zainabad and on hindsight, I felt it was good that we chose Dessert Coursers as it was much closer to the little Rann than Rann Riders at Dasada. Although there might be a different route from Rann Riders to the Rann, which I am not aware of. May be if I visit next time then I'll try Rann Riders too. We've been welcomed by the owner (Mr. Dhanraj, a pretty interesting person). And his boys have shown us the Hut type accommodation. It had a very rustic charm and we instantly fallen in love with the surroundings. Soon the dinner was served in the common dining area and it was a decent affair. Mr. Dhanraj took some interest in us, probably because we've driven from a long distance. He soon found that Sid is an avid dog lover. Mr. Dhanraj had around 7-8 dogs in the compound and he seemed to be very fond of them. He joined us for dinner and told us many stories about the place, Rann etc. In fact after the dinner he offered Sid to take a puppy as one of the female dog was due for birth. Of course we had to decline as we had a long journey ahead and getting a puppy from Gujarat to Bangalore would never be possible. After dinner I have taken a few random pics of the place at night and hit the sack soon. Plan was to wake up early and go for a Safari at the Little Rann to catch a glimpse of the Wild Asses or Khurs and the migrating Flamingos.

Common Dining Hall @ Dessert Coursers,

Sid enjoying the Jhula

Our plan was to wake up early in the morning and start by 6/6.30 in the morning. But as usual 6am become 7am by the time we could start. The assigned guide was ready and was waiting for us. We just gathered our gears and started the small drive to the Little Rann.

Not so early morning @ LRK

After crossing couple of small villages the guide showed the route to enter the Rann. Soon we could see a herd of Khurs grazing around. They looked very similar to their cousins from Ladakh region. They seemed to be used to the human presence and as long as we kept some distance they didn't bother about us. We spent around an hour and half among them and tried to capture them thru our cameras. The 2X TC definitely come in handy.Wished we could see few more inhabitants like Nilgais or the foxes. But they turned out to be bit elusive that day.

Few of the Wild Asses pics from the load that I've gone crazy clicking :p


Mother & Son,

Young ones,


The loner,

Next plan was to catch a sight of the beautiful foreign visitors. No, don't get any other ideas as I am talking about the stunning Flamingos who visit India during the winter time. We soon reached a big Lake/waterbed and we could spot a huge colony of Flamingos. But alas, this time the 2x TC and 70-200mm combination was not enough. They were very far away. So instead of concentrating on photographs we decided to spend some time just watching them. The way they would suddenly fly off in a formation and land nearby is a sight to behold. We again spent more than an hour there. The Flamingos did came a little forward but not enough to satisfy my photography needs :p. Naah, I am not complaining, I am not birder. But still made a mental note of visiting our foreign visitors again sometime later.

Dance of the Flamingos,

We, the Flying Flamingos,

So are we ..

Marching Flamingos,

I ain't no Flamingo, so I ain't gonna dance, fly or walk for you..

Neither would I :p

We've decided to move on as it was getting late and we were pretty hungry by that time. Dessert Coursers had given us a packet of small bites but it was not enough and we needed some heavy food. So we hurriedly returned by 10.30am around so that we can have something to fill up our stomach. Yes, we love our food and just can't wait for it.

The rain forsaken Land of Rann..

There is a mirage ahead,

But alas, we mere mortals plan and God, sorry I meant the Govt. plans something else. As soon as we came out of the Little Rann and hit the road, we hit a major roadblock. The roads are getting newly laid and they've stopped all vehicular movements on the road. Now after a wait for more than an hour, which felt like eternity, we were able to move once they moved their heavy machinery. But again, it was not an easy task as only a small part on the side road was open and Scorpio turned out to be too big for it to cross. There were big stones laid on the side of the road and no way I can take the car over them. Had to wait for some more time, luckily there were only few vehicles behind. Thankfully the guys working on the road came with their tools and removed the stones and at last we could move on. But this delay also meant that we won't be able to catch the breakfast and have to now wait for the lunch. Anyway, we decided to wait at the dining hall itself, yes we were hungry. We started discussing our next plan on what to do next. I was voting in favor of staying for another day but Sid Vetoed it as the cost per head was beyond our per-determined budget. We didn't want to spend too much during the initial period itself as having cash is very important for a long trip as such. In the meantime Mr. Dhanraj joined us again and as usual the discussion veered towards different topics, spreading from dogs, horses, Khurs, Rann, Gujarat, India and World. We met his young son too and boy, that kid sounds almost 10 years older than his age. Interesting young kid who loves riding his horse and he spends lots of time with his father at the camp during his vacations.
Anyway, during lunch we again discussed about staying there for another day as I wanted to go back to Rann and capture the flamingos during Sunset. We even thought about driving to Bhuj after Sunset. But again had to curb my intentions in front of Sid's reasoning. But as a consolation prize got some time to have a nice afternoon siesta. Decision was made to move towards Bhuj for our next Kutch ki Khoj.

and till cows come home, ok fine, buffaloes come home for the next chapter :p :p

Place stayed : Dessert Coursers, Zainabad
Cost : 1750Rs including Breakfast,dinner and lunch and Rann Safari.
Stay quality/comfort : Huts made like old rustic homes. Attached shower and bath.
Food : I had veg food and it was on the normal side.
Driving conditions : Very good roads almost for 95% of the trip. Only pain point was the Narmada bridge crossing at Bharuch.

Ep. 1 Part 1. All alone if need be..

Episode 1 : Western India
Ep. 1 Part 1.
All alone if need be..
The apartment is in a mess, I am not sure what to carry with me for the road trip apart from the Camera gear. As usual the camera bag is ready to go but nothing else is. So its time to hasten up and pack the usual suspects i.e. clothes, toothpaste, brush, toiletries. By 2am after lot of deliberations, packing and unpacking, everything seem to be ready, probably have packed the kitchen sink too :).. Time to hit the bed, according to plan the start time is 8am but when there is a long trip ahead, can a restless mind sleep? After fighting hard with the thoughts and excitement for the time lying ahead I got lost into the dream world very late.
11.30am next day, the mighty Scorpio roars to life. "Welcome to Scorpio. Please fasten your seatbelt for a safe ride", yeah, why not, safety first. The car is loaded to the brim, fuel tank is full and a wide road ahead. So the journey starts for our friends. First destination is Pune, where I would pick up Sid the kid from his home. Sid is the other nutcase who also have left his job and probably also doing some soul searching after an era of corporate of madness. Anyhow, now is the time to drive a long 900kms journey for me, all alone to Pune from Bangalore.
NH4 has been my playing ground for many similar road trips and there were nothing much to worry about except for the driving alone for the first time. Initially I was bit worried about how would I cope up with driving all alone on the Highway on a long journey. But soon the groove sets in and the Scorpio was munching miles fast. A quick but slightly heavy breakfast at Kamath Upachar, Tumkur ensured that I'm stuffed for some time. The road is pretty good as usual and uneventful. But while crossing Belgam, saw one of the most amazing sunsets ever. There were different hues of color painting the sky, as if to let me know that the journey is going to very colorful indeed.

Stopped for a moment to capture the play of light near Belgaum,

The Sky had a very strange and different color, a very hue of light blue,

And just in half an hour or so, it turned out be a riot of colors around the time of Sunset. I really felt blessed,

Even the opposite was bathed with the crimson color,
16761433696_17e44509b6_c.jpg by Kaushik Saikia, on Flickr

The lovely sunset really lifted up my mood and I felt super refreshed. Soon darkness fall upon and I started mincing miles. Now is the time to reach Pune by midnight. Sid called me up few times and in fact have suggested me to stay over at Kolhapur and make the rest of the next day. But I was pretty much determined to reach Pune that day itself and in fact I was not at all feeling tired. I did thought about stopping at Satara, we stayed in a nice hotel during our Kaas valley trip a year before [need to write a log about that trip too, may be next :p]. But later decided to move on as I was pretty sure of reaching Pune before 12.30am. Dinner time was at Kolhapur but I did a mistake of having food at McDonald's instead of trying the local cuisine somewhere. May be it's because I was driving alone and I was missing a navigator. But fret not, a navigator and a co-driver and more importantly a good travel companion is just few hours away and would not miss any such things for the rest of the trip. As I calculated before, I've reached Pune around 12.30 at night and welcomed by a sleepy Siddhartha. Now time for me to take a good night's sleep and a rest day as Sid has few chores to finish before we can start our trip.

We had one rest day at Pune as Sid has to finish few of his household chores and also we wanted to do some shopping for nick-knacks for the road. By evening Sid decided to take me around Pune in his two wheeler. Have to say, for me, not being on the driver seat was a hair-raising experience :p :p. Sorry, no pics of Pune as I didn't carry my camera during the ride :p..

Pune - Nani Daman
I always wondered how the Mumbai-Pune Expressway would be and was very excited to drive on this road. It surely was an awesome road to drive on, pretty fast and as smooth as it can get. Sid was pretty much aware of my intentions and warned me that if I drive anything more than normal then he would cut short the trip :p. Yeah, right, let's see who maintains the speed limit. I was very much tempted to try my luck but I was able to refrain myself from trying anything stupid. We have a long road ahead and we are going no where by driving like crazy. Instead we decided to soak in to the road and the surrounding. We did stop midway for breakfast + lunch. And as we were on Pune Mumbai route how can't I not buy some yummy chikkis. They were just awesome and I have bought some to take home too ;)
Our next challenge was to cross Mumbai without getting stuck or scratches. Thanks to HVKumar and gang's awesome guidance and Google maps, we were able to cross Mumbai in no time. Wish we could meet HVK but couldn't as we couldn't make out a plan for Mumbai. May be sometime in the future we will. Our plan for the day was to reach Daman and we had absolutely no idea what Daman has to offer us.

Somewhere after crossing Mumbai,
Nani Daman

The roads were pretty impressive and we minced miles pretty fast and soon were at Daman. Our target was Devka Beach as we wanted to take some sunset photos. Initially when I saw a black colored shoreline I was kinda got sad thinking it to be a dirty beach. But how wrong I was as the next moment realized that it's the color of the rocks and not a dirty beach. We were delighted one the prospects of being able to take some nice long exposure photos of the beach.
Next question in mind came was about the staying option. As usual went for the good looking hotels and and was surprised at the high price rates there. Why wouldn't they, all of them have regular customers from the nearby state which have prohibition on anything alcoholic for a long time. So we've decided to check in some not so impressive looking ones and found a very decent budget hotel just next to the beach road. And they had ample parking space too. Checked in fast and then went out to find a location for shoot.

By the time we could find a location to shoot it was already about to be the time for sunset. In my hurry I learnt the lesson of not to be in hurry while in a rocky seashore. I did slipped a few times on the rocks but luckily no injury to me or my gear. Thanks to the lucky stars. I was careful after that and settled downed in a nice place to capture the moment of beauty ie Sunset over Devka beach. And instead of my poor writing let the pics talk,

The rocky beach of Nani Daman,

Panoramic view of another lovely sunset,

My favourite among the Daman pics,
8408566345_aa9d2e9254_c.jpgDaman-Sunset by Kaushik Saikia, on Flickr

After Daman our plan was to visit Gujarat. But we wanted to visit the Kutch region specifically and was wondering if we could change some plans and visit few more places too. We were not sure what to expect for the Kutch regions and these were completely uncharted territories for us. Our original plan was to visit Kutch (both LRK/GRK) and then to move on to Rajasthan and visit Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur and then to Delhi. But fate seemed to have something else planned for us.

Contd... Kutch Nahi Dekha toh kuch bhi nahi dekha Ep 2. Chapter 1

Prologue : Touching India on four wheels by two aimless souls

South-West-North-East-NorthEast-South - Touching India on wheels by two aimless souls..

The engine sputtered and then stopped showing no signs of life. Cranked again, and again and few times more. All I can hear was the whirr of the fuel pump (or was it just my imagination, can't say for sure) but the engine just refused to start. Tried to pump the CRDI pump vigorously but it's just not working. I was bit of sliding to panic mode. The nearest workshop is probably 300 kms away and there was not a single mechanic to be found in the vicinity. 300kms of serpentine mountain road lies between the stranded car and a probable workshop and that means it's probably impossible to tow the car too. Is it the end of our long adventure and probably end of story for the mighty Scorpio which till now has braved almost everything that has been thrown at it. Well, we will get into that later. Let's go back and see how we actually have ended up in a place which is 3000kms far away from the start point of our long journey.

They say, if you need to do stuff that really means something to you then you need to sacrifice your comfort zone and gun for what you want.The routine daily chores of office and home has been becoming too monotonous with no light at the end of the tunnel. One needs to move on to see the light and to see the light for the soul and what best way other then to leave everything behind and go for a long journey. May be such a journey would fill up the void created by the bubble of corporate world, may be it'll help to see the world in a different way, may be it'll open up the clogged minds to a different vibrant world. Let's try to find out what is gonna happen next." Well, to be honest, those were the crux of the discussions that few of our friends were having off-late. Yes, there were sane voices too but when insanity strikes hard it's difficult to ignore it. I've been thinking lot about taking a break as I was almost on the verge of breakdown with the load and pressure at my workplace. And when one of my friend had seriously asked me why don't we quit and go for a tour of India, I didn't want to let go off this opportunity. And thus came out the keyboard and a mail went out carrying my parting words.

I was expecting that my mail would be accepted and soon would be a free bird. But as always, corporate world takes it's own sweet time with negotiations and other tactics to delay one's leaving as long as possible. But it did happen, albeit a bit late, close to 10 days than originally planned and I was ready to rock'n'roll. No more corporate world, no more deadlines to meet, no more of strings to hold oneself back. The world outside is beckoning, the roads are inviting and a mind is ready to let loose in the world unknown.

PS: And no, I am not going to break the tradition and here are some teasers :p :p





16782890811_f6612a1d1d_z.jpg Kaushik Saikia

Episode 1-The start - All alone if need be
Episode 2, Chapter 1 : Kutch Nahi Dekha toh..

Episode 2, Chapter 2 : Unity in diversity..

Episode 2, Chapter 3 : Touching the Westernmost..