When 4 friends drove over 6,000 km in a roadtrip to Rajasthan and back

29th Nov 2016

Disclaimer: Most of the planning for this trip was done by my friends - Anagha, Vineeth and Sai. The entire drive was done by Vineeth, with the navigation support of Anagha. My contribution was limited to warming the back seat, cracking lame jokes and maintaining the Official Ledger. :P

Vital things you need: - Portable chargers for your cellphones (I am presuming you will use GPS), - basic tools for the car, - Copious amount of water, - Nuts, cookies and other quick-eats, - Handsanitizer, - Toilet paper (in case someone has a "breakdown" on the way :P) and music!

Day 1

Day 1, 6:00 pm - We start from Chennai in a Ford Ecosport. Our plan was to head to Vijayawada and pick up Vineeth's Toyota Fortuner. Considering that the Fortuner was a rugged and safer (9 airbags!) SUV, we wanted to travel in it.

Day 2

Day 2, 4:30-ish am - We start from Vijayawada and hit the road towards Surat. On the way we stop for breakfast at a roadside restaurant, which served the best chicken keema and mutton keema dosas!

Smiles all around after we filled up on the keema dosas!

Photo of Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India by Rohith Girish

Unfortunately, we hit a bad stretch of road (about 100+ km) which slowed us down significantly, as a result of which we were delayed by over 10 hours. While were supposed to reach Surat by late-evening, we did so only the next morning!

Day 3

Day 3, 6:30 am - At last we arrive in Surat and check-in to Vetro Inn Spice at Surat. After a short nap, we had a quick breakfast and hit the road again. First stop on our itinerary was Mount Abu.

The Fortuner looks like a mean beast!

Photo of Vetro Inn Spice, Sumul Dairy Road, Varachha, Surat, Gujarat, India by Rohith Girish

Day 3, 7 pm - The sun had already set by the time we reached Mount Abu, so the road to the summit had closed. There was little else to do other than to enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant and later check-in to our hotel. The accommodation was scrappy, but we stayed there anyway.

Day 4

Day 4, 10-ish am - A new day and we were excited to begin our tour of Rajasthan, notwithstanding the arduous driving throughout the previous days. It was a 3-hour drive to Udaipur, the City of Lakes. The roads were well-maintained and hardly had any traffic (except for the occasional camel cart), so it was a smooth cruise to Udaipur. We even had the luxury of stopping on the way to have an impromptu photo-shoot!

What you don't know are the number of "tries" it took to capture the moment! ;-)

Photo of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

A tunnel on the highway from Mount Abu to Udaipur

Photo of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Our first destination was the Udaipur City Palace. We did not expect the Palace to be so "modernised" - the buildings were recently restored, tourists could purchase A/V guides and the Palace even had a beer cafe! We were also surprised to find the entire site clean with no litter/paan stains that mark many of our heritage sites.

NOTE: 1. You are better off leaving your car at the hotel and navigating the city's roads by rick. 2. If you have at least 3 hours to spare here and if you do not trust the local guides, I would recommend that you purchase the Audio Guide. The Palace is so rich in history that it would be a shame to not learn of it!

Day 4, 5:30 pm - After we completed our tour of the City Palace, we walked to the Ropeway station to board a cable car. The cable car ride gives an excellent view of the Lake Palace, especially after sunset. Mind you, the cars are a bit rustic and creaky, though the ride is pretty safe.

View from the cable car

Photo of City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Day 4, 7:30 pm - We had dinner at this restaurant which is situated on the banks of the Udaipur Lake. As it has a scenic setting, the place is usually over-booked, so we were lucky to have a table available even though we did not make any reservation! The food was nothing to rave about, but the whole experience of dining beside a still lake left us with pleasant memories.

The view at Ambrai Ghat was something to die for

Photo of Ambrai Ghat, Ambamata, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish
Day 5

Day 5, 8 am - Late to bed, early to rise. We were on the road again, this time to visit 2 forts that were situated in the vicinity of Udaipur city. The first one was Kumbhalgarh Fort, a majestic Mewar fortress that sits on top of the Aravalli Hills. It is said to have been extremely difficult to conquer owing to its location and the construction. You will notice that it is impossible to get a clear view of the walls unless you are near the Fort. But you cannot see the buildings within the Fort until you enter the gates. The locals say that it was this unique design which helped the rulers successfully defend the Fort against many invading armies. If you feel a bit adventurous, feel free to stroll upon the walls of the Fort!

Captured from the road leading to Kumbhalgarh Fort

Photo of Kumbhalgarh Fort, Qila Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Day 5, 4 pm - Our next stop was Chittorgarh Fort, which is said to be the largest fort in India. Unlike the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the Chittorgarh Fort resembled a town that was surrounded by walls and guarded by gigantic doors. This fort is a drive-thru fort, meaning, you can drive around in your car. You should take a local guide as the navigation can be tricky.

Stonework on a temple inside Chittorgarh Fort

Photo of Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Within the Fort is the palace of Rani Padmini, the wife of Rana Rattan Singh. Upon hearing the news of the death of her husband, Rani Padmini self-immolated herself before the invading king, Allauddin Khilji could capture her alive.

After our tour was over, we stopped by Rajasthan Hastkala Kendra, a store that sold traditional clothing. The store, run by locals who lived around the Fort, had a variety of saris made from different fabrics.

Day 5, 7-ish pm - We hit the road to Jaipur, reaching the city around midnight. Tired, famished and chilled to the bone, we check-in to our rooms and call it a day!

Day 6

Day 6, 10 am - Leaving the Fortuner in the sanctity of the serviced apartment, we hire a rick to reach the Jaipur City Palace. We took a private guided tour of the Palace, which in my opinion, is the real deal (clicking pictures was not permitted)! You get to see a portion of the City Palace that is still being used today! Most of the rooms that we visited were still being used (only on auspicious occasions though) and therefore, were actually furnished in aristocratic grandeur! After we finished the private tour, we explored the areas which were open to the public and clicked a few pictures. We also shopped at a nearby bazaar where we picked some nice Pashmina shawls!

Notice the beautiful paintings on the walls and arches!

Photo of City Palace, Kanwar Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Day 6, 4 pm - The Jantar Mantar closes by 5 pm (or so), so we made a beeline to this site as soon as we left the City Palace. The site has many artifacts of astronomical and astrological interest, so take a local guide to explain the significance of each monument.

Day 6, 5:30 pm - There was little to see here, so we just explored this place by ourselves.

Day 6, 7 pm - Dinner at Niro's. We tried the Lal Maas, but were disappointed with the mediocre flavour. Go here only if you want bragging rights, otherwise you are better off finding another local restaurant.

Day 7

Day 7, 8 am - We drove to Amer Fort, one of the 3 Forts that are built on the hills surrounding Jaipur. The road leading to this Fort is not SUV-friendly, so you may want to park it in one of the parking lots at the foot of the hill and hire a ride to take you to the gate of the Fort. This is yet another expansive Fort, so make sure that you take the A/V guide only if you have the time! As we had a packed itinerary, we picked a local guide ... even though he could have had an easy way out (owing to our time-constraint), he insisted that we spend at least 2 hours touring this place!

A sample of the interiors of the Sheesh Mahal

Photo of Amer Fort, Amer, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

If you have the time, take the elephant ride which is a more "triumphant" way of entering the Fort. The best part of this Fort is the Sheesh Mahal! As the name goes, the interiors are adorned with intricately carved gemstones and glass ornaments. Somewhere down one of the corridors, you will find a door which still has a portion of ivory work on it!

The door with the ivory work on it

Photo of When 4 friends drove over 6,000 km in a roadtrip to Rajasthan and back by Rohith Girish

Day 7, 1 pm - The "star attraction" at this Fort is the Jaivana, a huge cannon which still stands today! It is so massive that it took 4 elephants to swivel the cannon on its base! If you have the time, you can also visit the foundries at the back of the Fort where they built these cannons.

You don't wanna be in its line of fire!

Photo of Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Day 7, 4 pm - This fort is famous for being pictured in the 'Masti ki Pathshala' song in Rang De Basanti movie. Nothing much here, but you can visit the Mahals, walk on the rooftop and soak in the evening hues of Jaipur.

Our own 'Masti ki Pathshaala' moment

Photo of Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Day 7, 9-ish pm - It was a 6+ hour night-drive to Jodhpur. This stretch of the highway was under construction so there were a few deviations to take en route to Jodhpur. We reached Jodhpur by 4am, so as we did not have any hotel booking, we slept on the roadside. :P

Day 8

Day 8, 6 am - Our visit to Mehrangarh Fort was scheduled for 7 am, so we quickly freshened up, treated ourselves to a light breakfast at a nearby hotel and drove to the Fort. Mehrangarh Fort is famous for the Flying Fox zipline. It is a must-do if you ever visit Jodhpur, simply for the breathtaking views of Mehrangarh Fort and Jodhpur city and the adrenaline rush it gives you!

Please holler at our guides (the two to Sai's right) in case you see them at Flying Fox Jodhpur!

Photo of Flying Fox Jodhpur, Fateh Pol Road, Sodagaran Mohalla, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

Vineeth - ever the adventure-freak!

Photo of Flying Fox Jodhpur, Fateh Pol Road, Sodagaran Mohalla, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

After we finished the zipline, we spent a couple of hours touring the Fort. If you have the time, you can also take the A/V guide. We planned to leave Jodhpur by afternoon, but unfortunately, the Fortuner's keys got locked within the car itself. We were delayed by over an hour, but thankfully the nearby Toyota showroom staff were able to retrieve it for us!

Day 8, 4 pm - We begin our drive to Jaisalmer, the last destination on our tour of Rajasthan. We check-in to the hotel in time for dinner and retired to our rooms for a night's rest.

Day 9

Day 9, 12 noon - Our desert safari was not to begin until 1 am, so we spent a lazy morning in our rooms and eventually started at noon. Our tour operator was Jasmin Home. The owner was very courteous and he even offered us a sumptuous lunch!

First stop on the desert safari was the Cenotaphs. The first of the many Cenotaphs here was built in memory of the founder and Maharaja of the erstwhile state of Jaisalmer.

Next stop was the Jain temple at Lodurva. We saw some fine stonework and woodwork.

Inside the Jain temple

Photo of Lodurva, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

From there, we were taken to Kuldhara - a haunted village near Jaisalmer. It is said that this village comprised of 400 families who deserted their homes one midnight. Kuldhara is a habitual setting for many movies/serials and we were fortunate to see a shoot in progress. From Kuldhara, we proceeded to visit an oasis in the middle of the Thar desert. It is said that this oasis supplies water to 40 villages in the area!

After visiting all the attractions around Jaisalmer, we reached SAM Sand Dunes, the actual name of the sand dunes that dot the Thar Desert. We found our camels patiently awaiting our arrival, with their herders beside them. I will let the pictures speak for themselves..... :-)

Special thanks to Linda for clicking this picture of the 4 travellers from the South! :-)

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes Desert Safari Jaisalmer, Kanoi, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

From Ecosport to Fortuner to camels... that's how we roll!

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes Desert Safari Jaisalmer, Kanoi, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

What a happy camel!

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes Desert Safari Jaisalmer, Kanoi, Rajasthan, India by Rohith Girish

After our desert ride, which lasted for at least a couple of hours and ended with tea, we returned to Jasmin Home. We had our last Rajasthani meal and immediately started for Chennai. After 9 days away from home, we were homesick and craved the comfort of our beds!

Day 10

Day 10, 1-ish pm - We drive through the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and reach the outskirts of Pune. From there, we took the highway towards Hyderabad. Unfortunately, we hit a bad stretch of road (again!), so our journey was slower than we expected.

Approaching Mumbai

Photo of Mumbai - Pune Expressway, Sector 4B, Asudgaon, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Rohith Girish
Day 11

Day 11, 7 am - We reached Hyderabad. After dropping Sai at the local CTS Office, the three of us drove to Vijayawada. On the way, we stopped at the same roadside eatery to treat ourselves to more chicken keema and mutton keema dosas!

Day 11, 7 pm - We finally reach the Chennai bypass... oh the feeling of relief that swept over us as we released that we were coming home at last! (Sai would return to Chennai a day later)

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