Friday, 26 April 2013

Travelog: Seven Jyotirlings and other stuff, 14 days Part 3/14

9:30am We started from the hotel after the breakfast. It was not
great but we still stuffed ourselves to make sure that we survive without any additional food intake for the day.
10:45amCrossed Newasa, looks like a pretty nondescript town with a single highway passing through the city.
11:25am We cross Ahmednagar, go towards SH 222. The drives through the towns are always very painful and slow you down completely.
As we drive along SH 222, the landscape changes completely, it is almost a drive to nowhere. The road is narrow, just about one and half lane and overtaking is extremely difficult, fortunately there is very little traffic so one can make quick progress.
11:55AM We cross a small town called Bhalwani. This whole stretch of road is very interesting, the land around it looks absolutely barren, but there are small towns all around. Each town has a school.
A Panorama of SH222
The road is fun to drive, almost like a hill drive but without hair-pins or incline. The road has sufficient twists and turns. The only problem is that buses in this area seem to like to drive almost in the middle of the road. Once you are stuck behind a bus, it is a while before you can over take him.

The road continues for a while leading to join Pune Nashik SH50 highway
12:51pm We join Nahik-Pune highway going towards Pune. Sarja Hotels, the hotel looked brand new and toilets etc were properly maintained.
The road gets significantly between from here onwards. As we are driving towards pune, around 35 Kms from where we join SH50, on the left hand side there is a very nice restaurant called
15 minutes drive away from this hotel is a town called Manchar, this is where one needs to take a right turn to go to Bhimshankar Jyotirling. One needs to keep an eye for this, because it is very easy to miss this.
1:10pm We reach Manchar and take the road towards Bhimshankar Jyotirling temple. The road is called Manchar Bhimshankar Road, it is a  very narrow, village kind of road but atleast it is tarred. When we went there, there was no traffic so life was easy. But on the days when there is lot more traffic, I can see this would be very difficult to navigate.

4:00pm We continue on this road and reach the Bhimshankar temple at around 4pm. At places the road is dangerous with place for only one vehicle and ditches on both sides of road. We also found small settlements around this road.

 There is a nice parking area just before the temple.
One should be careful to not buy prasad etc. too early. This place does not have any good shoe stand. So your prasad vendor also doubles up as your shoe stand.  Particularly in sunny days, buy the prasad from the last vendor so that you don't have to walk barefoot in hot road. The temple itself was very hassle free. Unlike many other places, not too many pujari-types hassling you.
We were in and out of temple in less than half and hour and were on our way back enroute to Nashik.
We had to endure 3 hours of same narrow road before we land up on SH50.
6:25pm Reached Manchar and turned left to go to Nashik.
7:45pm We reach Vithal Kamath on SH50. By this time it was looking very likely that by the time we check-into the hotel there won't be any dinner left. We we decide to catch something to eat here. The food was reasonable and rest rooms were reasonable. Nothing to write home about but not unusable either.
8:45pm Crossed the town of Sangamner
9:26pm Crossed Sinnar
10:30pm Finally we reach Hotel Ibis in Nashik and check-in. The place is ok, has parking in open. Here is my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Travelog: Seven Jyotirlings and other stuff, 14 days Part 2/14

Day #2 of the drive, the plan was to getup early, and leave for Aurangabad after a quick breakfast. We could only leave by 9:45am after breakfast and completing checkout processing at the hotel. We started our drive towards Ahmednagar and Shirur.
10:15am Crossed Koregaon
10:50am Crossed Shirur
11:15am We stop at this complex called The Smile Stone, has a bunch of shops and eateries. The toilets are clean. There is a coffee day as well here. Ample parking space is also there. Seems to be a popular stopping point for people travelling on this route. There are signages for the place almost 15 kms before its location and it is very easy to spot.

12:25pm Crossed Ahmednagar
1:55pm We entered Aurangabad city. 3:00pm.
We had booked Hotel Lemontree but the location of the hotel in Google Maps is marked incorrectly so it took us a while to find it and check in. We were finally in the hotel by
Since we were only in Aurangabad for a day, we had to finish all the site-seeing that day itself. The hotel seemed nice, they have a large pool, rooms are big. But once you travel outside of metros, you realize that the definition of service changes completely. Everything is leisurely.  If you order a bottle of water, you should not be surprised if it takes half an hour to one hour to get.
Pretty much everybody has started arranging buffets for breakfast, lunch or dinner. But after filling your plate with food, you realize that breads (roti/nan) may take half an hour to arrive.
Once bowls are finished, they may take another half an hour to arrive.
Once you are out of metros in India, you should tune yourself to these service standards. I did the mistake of expecting too much to start with and was disappointed. In hindsight, they probably were doing the best that they could and it was considered great service in these places.

4:00pm We left to visit Ghrushneswar Jyotirling and Ellora caves. 
4:15pm Crossed Daulatabad fort. Since we had little time, we did not plan on stopping here. See the video below, Daulatabad fort can be seen on the left side.

We continued our journey towards Ghrushneswar Jyotirling temple. The road is narrow but surface quality is good.
4:35pm We arrive at the temple. There are couple of parking areas near the temple, the access is very narrow to these areas but since this was not a peak day, it was easy getting in and parking. As soon as you get off the car, there is usual set of vendors who approach you but that was not a huge hassle here though.

The temple was pretty much deserted and we could do the darshan pretty quickly. We were in and out in about 45 minutes. The next stop was Ellora Caves. These caves are less than one kilometer from this temple. Ellora Caves, like most ASI monuments, close at sun-set, so we really did not have sufficient time to do justice to this place. Unline Ajanta caves, Ellora caves are spread over a larger area but the good thing is that you can rent autos and they will take you to each of these places.
5:15pm We reached Ellora Caves. One needs to buy ticket to get in. Here are couple of Panorama photographs of Ellora entrance.
Here is another one with slightly different angle.

Ellora has multiple caves which are numbered. We visited only some of them. Here are some assorted photographs from these caves.

6:30pm The monument closed and we were kind of kicked out of the place. We started our drive back. After little shopping on the way, we were back in hotel by 8:00pm.
Since we had planned to leaving early the next day, we had the dinner and called it a day.

Travelog: Seven Jyotirlings and other stuff, 14 days Part 1/14

The D-day arrives, we had planned to leaving really early morning so as to reach Pune before sun-set. But as usual when one is planning for a long trip, mostly in car, with family, logistics take too much time. Finally we were out of our home and on the main road by 6:30am.
We decided to skip the city traffic by taking BETL towards electronic city and then continuing on to NICE road. We were on to NICE road at 7:00am.
7:32am Exited on to Tumkur road (or AH47  as it is labelled everywhere). It seems this road is part of Asian Highway project and hence labelled as AH47. AH47 runs from Gwalior in MP to Bangalore in Karnataka.
8:05am we reach Kamat Uparuchi just after Neelamangala.
A quick breakfast and move on our way.
As we continue on the road, we realize that road quality has improved in last six months. Last October, there were many more diversions, now many of these places the road is complete so we make quick progress of our journey.
9:05am We reach a place called Antharasanahally.
10:01am We cross Hiriyur.
10:27am We cross Chitradurga.
11:28am We cross Davangere.
12:12pm We cross Haveri
1:05pm We cross Hubli
1:24pm We cross Dharwad
2:21pm We reach near Belgaum town.  As you are driving towards Belgaum, you can see majestic Suvarna Saudha building standing in middle on nowhere towards your right.

We decided to have lunch in Belgaum. Since we were looking for a restaurant where we can get quick lunch and also
We decide to have lunch in Belgaum. Since we were looking for a restaurant where can quickly get-in and get-out without driving too deep into city. we go to Hotel Sankam Residency for the lunch. The place was suggested by one of my friends and it is accurately mapped on Google Maps so was very easy to find since I use Google Navigation as my primary navigation device.

Although a Kamat is also nearby, during my last trip, I found the toilets etc. so dirty that those were almost unusable, particularly with family around.
This hotel was good in that sense that restaurant and rest rooms were clean and totally usable.
It is also a good place for refuelling etc because it is almost 500 kms and most cars would require refuelling here.
The petrol station next to the hotel also accepts credit cards so that makes it easier. On long trips I dont really like to spend cash so that I can save it for real cases when it is needed and there is nobody to accept cards around.

4:15pm We reach Nipani
4:45pm We skirt Kolhapur
As soon as we enter Maharashtra, suddenly we find ourselves competing with many two wheelers and other slower vehicles like tempo and other small freight carriers. This brings down the speed dramatically.
5:45pm We cross Karad
6:33pm We skirt past Satara. The town that we go through is Khed.
7:15pm We cross Khandala
8:00pm We start seeing proper city traffic.
8:45pm Reach hotel and check in. Following is the google map of the route that we followed.

View Larger Map
We stayed in Royal Orchid Central, Pune. Click on the hyperlink to see my review of the hotel.