Sitting in the car we generally recite the trip objectives and our will to accomplish. This is to reinforce the confidence, relive stress and indent the plus factor in you. My wife and I rolled out at 6.08 am.
I had to continuously power my GPS navigator and my android phone, which is bit lavish on battery.
I used the inverter to connect the charger to one and the other I connected it to the USB. I mounted both the instruments for clear vision of skies for GPS. I needed to protect them form heat and Sun, during the day. I programmed them, but in excitement I forgot to record, the trip and save the track.
In the first leg, I had to pay toll twice once Rs. 29 at Thane and next Rs 50 after Ghoti.
It was 332 kms from home Thane-Mumbai to Ellora caves. It was an 8 hour drive. GPS advised Thane- Nasik- Sinnar – Shiridi- Vijapur - Devgoan – Ellora as the shortest route. It may have been shortest, but a bad choice. By saving 15 kms on a shortest route, I faced a bad patch of 100 kms and one additional hour of driving.
The lesson: Do not follow GPS blindly. Use local wisdom if not yours, in selecting the route.
The drive was very comfortable up to
I was advised that I carry a Google latitude enabled phone with GPRS, Wifi and GPS, switched on, all throughout. My son from a distant land,
Initially I felt like a prisoner of war escaping with a radio collar. So many watching my whereabouts, so many tracking me, I felt every thing other than lonely. I am just joking, indeed I felt very cared for.
On day One, they kept calling us periodically to check the coordinates. With GPS devise, mobiles ringing, my navigator-wife was enacting the communications officer from the Army Signal Corps.
Keeping the arduous trip ahead I had unknown concerns about my car. Is the pick-up nice? Is the engine making additional noises? While shifting to higher gear, when the clutch is pressed; I used to get engine raving as if accelerator pedal is lowered. I had serious doubts about the condition of clutch. It took me along time to infer that the raving of engine was because of my bad footwork. I think I was tense, within.
While driving I had to keep in mind constantly, that I am stranger once I am out of my RTO zone. Normally, our observations depend on the nativity of car; local, out of district, out of state. We grow cynical and aggressive in commenting driving skills with farther car registration. I had to play very careful while overtaking local vehicles. These are the lessons we learn from long distance sorties. “Cars we own, roads we share.”
The drive was very comfortable with cabin temperature of 24 degrees. In the last leg, we blindly depended on GPS and it faithfully brought us to the destination.
We checked into Hotel Kailas at around 2.30 pm. Hotel, bang on the road, just 500 mts away from Ellora caves and
The hotel was basic in amenities. Air-conditioned but has no remote; usage as per hotel settings, hot water available only when the Sun rises; no hot water when you need early in the mornings, room service non-existent, no phone in room and you need to travel to the reception to enquire or order, staff are courteous but of no tangible use. So the hotel scores a maximum of 2 ½ out of 5.
In the heat of summer we planned to visit Ellora caves. We thought of hiring a guide so that we may be more enlightened compared to our bookish acquaintance. Another surprise, the official guide demanded Rs 750 for two hours. We though it better to limit experiences to our bookish knowledge of caves.
This was my second trip to caves. Together with my wife, I visited the center of tourist attraction, the
Being passionate about Buddhist cave architecture, I concentrated on caves 1 to 10; known to be Buddhist monasteries and shrines of 7th century AD.
I took quite some pictures, good ones. I could over come excitement and shoot at calm. Later I moved to caves 1 to 14. It meant quite a bit of walking. I was enjoying my presence, clicking picture. Lo! camera alerted ‘no memory, card full’ I was scared, surprised, wonder struck and frustrated. I had only my Nikon D 5000 with me, no camera bag, attachments, accessories, cards, battery. I had left them in the car to reduce payload. I wondered, my 8GB card showing memory full with around 50 pictures at 8 mb per shot. I feared some problem with card, camera or specially, with me.
I had to walk down to the car, take another card and all photo-rations. Again, I walked up to the farthest cave and shot.
So the lesson: do always carry the entire kit with you when moving to farther places, irrespective of load and luggage. Secondly, check that the card is formatted before use. My 8 GB card had four movies on it, so poor thing didn’t have a heart to accommodate my photos as well.
Always carry a point and shoot camera. I always carry a Sony-point and shoot camera for crisis management and back-up for those ‘once in a life time’ pictures.
I use Canon Rebel Xt when I need to use auto settings. It is best with auto settings. Nikon D 5000 is not good with auto, often you need white balance even with auto. I use Nikon D 5000 in lowlight conditions where I have to use manual adjustment and shut off flash.
The entire area became desolate by 7.00 pm. It was difficult to get dinner. Hotels looked closed, but one of the hotels offered to feed us. It was a working meal. I forgot, earlier during the day we got to shop briefly. We bought Paithani sarees as souvenirs, indeed expensive souvenirs.We retired rather too early at 9 pm planning for the next leg of the journey to Maheshwar.
I consulted my travel agent to draw a driving iternary to Sanchi covering important archeological sites and wild life sanctuaries within about 14 days. I was suggested a route covering Ellora – Maheshwar – Sanchi –Jabalpur- Kanha – Akola- Mumbai. It looked too shallow. I thought of including Kahajuraho and /or Bharhut. Just one change increased the route to over 3500kms. I worked again on the route points of interest vis- a-vis, personal limitations.
I had done 2000 kms drive earlier, comfortably. Being on the farther side of fifties, this time I wanted to grant some comfort during the drive. I wanted a two-day break in between the entire journey where I can rest and provide proper care to my car.
I included two days at Pachmarhi. This sounded more appropriate for drive during summer months.
My travel agent did the hotel bookings and roughly suggested the distances and road conditions. Being summer I insisted on air-conditioned accommodation, hotels away from city on a budget of Rs 2000 perday.
Jalgaon - Maheshwar 339 kms
Pachmarhi - Pench 272 kms
Manmad to Mumbai 236 kms
Local drive 600 kms 3000 kms
The drive iternary included
I ensured that on any day the total driving time did not exceed six hours, considering distance and driving conditions. I plan to cover this distance between 1st and 16th May 2011.
In the process of preparation I had three objectives in mind; in the same order of perference, safety, convinence and comfort.
I started studying the route suggested by google maps and my MapmyIndia GPS navigator. I took the print outs of maps. For navigation, I have google maps on mobile, mapmyIndia navigator, printed maps for each section of drive and state maps. Such a back up is more of a habit than necessitiy.
As a ground rule I prefer sticking to National highways and use select State highways recommended with local wisdom. It may add few kilometers extra to my route but give me and my car some extra comfort and safety.
I drive Maruti Swift Vxi with ABS and K series engine; with premium petrol I get speeds of 80 kms per hr at around 2000 engine rpm. With that kind of vehicle i draw 13.4 kms per lt on city roads.
Vehicle condition being excellent, there is little concern on fitness of machine. I have now to concentarte on the road conditions, my conditions and issues of safety on remote roads.
The gadgets on car icluded an inverter (160 watts /240 v AC), laptop connected to car audiosystem, tons of music and chosen films in three languages, dedicated GPS navigator, dedicated digital barometer for weather forecast / altitude / temp, emergency lamp, binoculars, and a pepper spray can for self defense, independent cell phone with google lattitude indicating my location to my childern at Mumbai and Switzerland, state maps, detailed segment maps - hard copies, soft copies on laptop.
Contingency and route logistics included car maitenance/repair kit, medical kit , relavant emrgency rations on board, detailed information on vehicle service stations, insurance listed garages, specific mediclaim hospitals, on route. Phone numbers and refernces of few local citizens on way.
Th car check-up, maintenence and toning up was done ten days prior to the jouney. Me and my car waited eagerly for the start of the jouney.