Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mission Rajasthan 2006 - Day 01

Delhi to UdaipurKilometers = 740

Oh…Glad that I kept my jacket, woolen cap and THE Blanket along; otherwise I would have been frozen by now. Surely, the night was chilling but what do I see here – Already Cactus???
Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen! This is 2963, Mewar Express, aptly named, as I am being taken to Udaipur – the City of Lakes in Southern Rajasthan (Mewar Region) in a Sleeper Class coach where the morning mist through the window is sending shivers through my spinal cord. But on observing closely, I realize that the Cactus has been grown strategically in straight lines on the boundaries of, what seem to be, personal farms; to keep unwanted animals away. Now that’s called Indian “Jugaad-Technology”.

We just crossed Chittaurgarh, as I overheard some locals’ conversation in the local dialect “Mewari” and according to them, it would take 2 more hours to reach Udaipur which means we would be an hour late from the scheduled time of 7 AM. But gladly, I believe the seminar we are supposed to present at the Chetak Theatre would not be affected as it starts at 9.30 AM. Fine – I take a look around and gradually the sun rises to shine waking up all my friends who had underestimated the winters of Rajasthan, especially the nights.

What follows is overwhelming – the Welcome, the Seminar, the Response and the Queries but no, those are not to be mentioned on a travelogue. Are they? As we move on to have one of the best lunches at Ravi’s house, I catch glimpses of the city. Lunch could never have been better – simple yet charming, and needless to mention, very sumptuous – Dry Phreni, Mango Sweet Chutney, Jaggery, Bikaneri Bhujia and a delicious Rabri! It becomes difficult to walk but soon I find all of us on the main road trying to catch an auto-rickshaw for our first destination – The City Fort and Palace Museum. It takes us 2 Autos to reach the Palace via Sunder Pole and when we enter, we see that the Manek Chowk – the Entrance to the Palace is quite big in size and the chains, which were used to park Elephants, can still be seen. A reasonably big fa├žade covering all the paintings, articles, and the history of the Mewar rulers within, seems impressive. Of course, I do not know what lies ahead in this trip.

The City Fort & Palace Museum of Udaipur

Cruising on the Fateh Sagar Lake

The First Sunset...

Watching the Sun Go Down!

Fading Shadows - One by One
Next, as we cruise in the motor boat through the Fateh Sagar Lake – the largest in the City, towards a scenic island called Nehru Park in the middle; my thoughts are pinned on, whether we should visit the Sukhwadia Circle – the happening place in the city. As it stands, we did visit the place, had a fairly delectable Kulfi Faluda and moved ahead to be treated at the famous Fields Club – supposed to be the club of all the Elite Residents of Udaipur City. The drinks were good as was the food but the best was the Guitar-session in the Garden outside, which of course attracted some complimentary stares, but the goodness was in the sheer enjoyment and relaxation it provided, at the outset of such a wonderful trip. The night dawned and the boys slept. The beds were cozy as were the blankets. And soon, it was 5.30 AM – time to get ready and follow the trail. What trail? We shall see…

Day 02
Udaipur to Mount Abu
Kilometres = 240

The Tavera, we had booked, arrived in time – Driver seemed cordial. I checked the papers and verified the deal as the team prepared for the day ahead. We were already 90 minutes late when we started after filling the Fuel Tank. The road was quite boring and due to lack of sleep over the last 10 days of Exams, everybody felt sleepy. Only respite on the way was a Lake – quite serene – and similar to the Periyar River. Immediately after we took a Pin-Bend from the National Highway - towards Abu Road, our first Road-Break came at “Hotel Padharo Sa” where we had a filling Brunch just before starting our ascend towards the Arbuda Parbat (commonly known as Mount Abu).

Quite a lot of Toll Booths make you contract your nose – Obviously they annoy you but you feel relaxed as you reach the Town and you feel the cool breeze basked in the comfortable warmth of the Bright Sun overhead. Rules are strict here about the Parking – There is a particular parking lot, which charges Rs. 10/- and as the team got busy stretching themselves, me and Ravi got onto our feet for Hotel-Hunting. It was quite apparent that many people do not have traveling experience as they kept on encouraging the hotel-touts on the streets. It took us an hour to settle on a hotel room – it was a suite quite cheap with Parking space. Lunch was provided for us by the dry-fruits and the munching items I had got. So, it was time for us to go directly for sightseeing.

Delwara Temples built of Marble with the capital of Rs. 18.53 Crores (this is the actual value around 700 years ago – not the current value), followed by Guru Shikhar – the top of the hill-range. This was the place where we actually made quite a few Business plans. Because of the uncomfortable staircase, Bikiran said he would make a rope-way from Mount Abu to Guru Shikhar while Kannan added that he would make one from Udaipur to Guru Shikhar. At this point, our dear Swamy “Baya” articulated his formidable business-plan which has been his dream since eternity – a Ropeway from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, which got extended recently to Leh, after knowing about Ladakh from me.

And then there was this rush to Sunset Point. But soon the ecstasy of visiting the Mount Abu faded into the regret of missing the famous Sunset. We had been late by just 10 minutes :(Although we were made to believe that we had been able to catch a glimpse of the sinking star, soon we realized it was an exhaust stream of a jet but that was so far away that I imagined it to be flying over Karachi :) You see, nobody on this planet can match my weird imaginations. Well, all this done – I had a boiled corn on the way back – tasted awesome with the first stroll of the trip in that chilly weather.

Back in the hotel room, it was decided that since Farhan is not feeling well, I would be leaving early for dinner with him to get his medicines and then, the other 4 will leave after we get back. Needless to mention, the seventh one – Hari, my dear roommate seemed to be on eternal hunger-strike and embraced sleep, almost immediately.
We went, we ate… okay, we conquered, as well – and then we came back and we slept. I was so fast asleep when those 3 noble monkeys and “Photo Waale Baya” returned that I did not hear even a word of the “points” raised about the hotel room and the Mount Abu stay.