This was a dream destination for many of our Jeepers from BJC, GOJ, WW & DJ, and when it was announced as a Legendary Trails by FCA – that added glitter to the beam that we were projecting to from long time. The planning for the trails started backend once the registered participants from our clubs confirmed their participation. A couple of more destinations were included on our route to the reporting location at Jaipur for LJT 2019.
For the BJC Jeepers the day started with drive from Bangalore on 19th early morning, while a Jeeper from Kerala had started off a day earlier to join us at Bangalore start point. The drive was smooth till the scheduled breakfast point and we were able to reach the break point ahead of schedule to have a local delicacy – Benne Dose of Davangere. There was an unassigned pit stop at Hubli to meet a fellow Legend Jeeper and as we were ahead of schedule the lunch point was dragged to few 100 kms further. After yet another local savory near to Kolhapur the convoy of 5 Jeeps headed towards Pune with an evening tea break to beat the upcoming traffic. In spite of the heavy traffic we reached our stay point by scheduled time. A quick dinner and retire to bed early was welcome by all to start off early next morning.
The day two drive started off on dot and reached the breakfast point on time, beating the Thane / Mumbai traffic. An appetizing Maharastrian breakfast at a prominent joint boosted the endurance of all Jeepers for rest of the day’s drive to the world famous Statue of Unity.
With yet another lunch break for the famous Gujarati dishes at Navasari, the convoy of 6 Jeeps headed to the day’s sight seeing place.
The view of the world’s tallest statue welcomed us from kms away, with the size of the statue increasing every meter we were nearing to it. Jeepers spent ample time at this famous location with a view of the biggest Dam and a late evening laser show over the statue of unity. Everyone retired at a nearest hotel for the day after the memorable visit to the status of Unity.
The day three all 6 Jeeps started rolling out 6:00 AM to the next destination Ajmer with a first breakfast stopover at Godhra after a flat tyre for one of the Jeep. The lip smacking local delicacy with a tea gave a boost to drive ahead. All Jeepers had a quick stopover at Jeep Centre in Udaipur for a tyre change and munching some snacks during lunch time. We had a late stopover for lunch on the highway towards Ajmer, thus proceeding the day’s final destination near to the Ajmer Dargah.
The day four started off with in-house breakfast at our place of stay and skipping both the tourists places en route citing to the security reasons and warnings by localities. Headed directly to the LJT reporting place at Jaipur. The streets to the hotel at Jaipur were blocked with no internet connectivity for entire day, but FCA / Trails team guided us through exclusive paths to reach the hotel. After registration and check-in, all Jeepers hopped into a nearby food court in a Mall for quick lunch / snacks. Meeting and greeting fellow Jeepers across the country – a few of them took off for shopping at local market. Everyone assembled for the briefing on the lawns and welcomed each other once again along with the trails team and FCA officials. All of us retired after dinner by the lawns as the next day was scheduled to be hectic with lot of activities / places to visit.
The day five (actual day 2 of LJT Trails) kicked off as early as 4 AM with every one reporting and rolling out towards the first break point for a hot air balloon ride. The flight took off in batches and was a most thrilling experience chasing the balloons to board the flight. It was amazing experience and the pilot was very cautious to give us a smooth ride and landing.
After the ride we headed back to the exclusive breakfast at the Samode Palace.
Later headed to the Sambar Lake for a lunch at a nearby heritage resort which was exclusively opened for our lunch. We had a quick drives to the lake bed for Flamingo sightings in batches along the railway tracks. The thrill for the day was awaiting for us at the Salt bed where every Jeeper had a stunning experience driving over the sandy salt bed. The convoy in three batches proceeded further over the Salt pan crossing to reach our halt at Khimsar. The stay at Khimsar Fort was yet and heritage cum luxury experience with the dinner at old ruins followed by folk performance by local artists which encouraged fellow Jeepers to tap their feet for a while.
The day six with a little relaxed start post breakfast towards Jodhpur for a visit to the famous Umaid Bhawan. Here we were welcomed by a local mentor who took us around the palace and also the Mehrangarh Fort along with Blue City walk towards end of the day. Yet another exclusive lunch for Jeepers was organized by the foot hills of the fort at Chokelav Bagh – perhaps we had our best food over here with the tunes by Rajasthani artists.
Couple of hours walk by shopping and food street munching typical Rajasthani country side snacks, everyone headed back to the hotel for night halt. The stay at heritage Jhalamand Garh meeting the king of the palace for Christmas eve cocktail dinner on the palace gardens.
The next day had a leisure drive after breakfast at Jhalamand Garh towards Osiyan. Every Jeeper had a track to drive on dunes with an amazing experience as how their beasts can perform on such terrain. A stopover at top the sand dunes to meet the local children and camel rides added glamor to the drives. Apart from FCA donations to the needy school children the Jeepers also accumulated a whooping amount to provide the blankets to the families of those children. The lunch on the dunes at a camp was unique and heading back to the camp site for the stay. A quick check-in and everyone headed for sunset point along with dune bashing. We had our hands on experience taming the wranglers over the sand dunes and bushes. Back again to camp refreshed swiftly – all Jeepers were taken to the Gala Dinner place on the dunes. The deserted desert was jacked up by the trails team for an unprecedented elegance. The Christmas evening went on till late midnight with live music and various drinks to beat the chilling night on desert.
This day was most fascinating drive to the jungle path for lunch with privileged permission inside the jungle. A few Jeepers were welcomed by the stunning Leopard on the jungle path – a true off-roading experience. As we descended everyone were reasoning how do we go back on this path! But the Jeeps cruised through this with ease and without any additional effort. A hearty thanks to the team who arranged for the lunch in mid of jungle. Few of us had a quick foot trek to the dry water falls and headed back to next adventure.
All Jeeps climbed the rocky mountain in dark, this was a very thrilling element of our drives. Between Uphill and Lake front a shack was setup for high tea – to be welcomed by the Princess of Deogarh. The Princess unfolded the greatness of the place and also we gained knowledge about stars from her. We headed back to the Deogarh Palace for our night stay with a royal dinner hosted by the Princess.
The last day of convoy drive started off after a yummy breakfast at the palace, heading towards our lunch stop near to Tonk. The lunch was hosted at a Royal Family’s property which was jacked up and opened solely for our group after 10 years of shutdown. A garlanded royal welcome to cherish and relish the royal life with the delicious food prepared under the supervision of the great daughter of the royal family. A warm thanks to the family, we headed to our final destination Ranthambore. After checking in to our suites, we were back to dining area for the dinner together with the entire team. Later we drove to the Ranthambore festival at Nahargarh Palace to meet and greet the top officials from FCA. Later we were greeted by the Prince Alsisar himself and later spent the night with couple of music performances over the festival city. Whilst most of us returned back from the festival city due to sub zero chillness, a few of the Jeepers spent more hours at the Den for after hours party night which went till early morning.
Our day ten (LJT’s last day of trails) was almost leisure day as the Safari got postponed due to some entry issues. We spent most of the day planning for our next trails and get togethers, cherishing the moments spent for the past 5 days. Post lunch everyone headed toward the festival location and tapped feet for those various musical performances.
Out of the blue – FCA arranged for another gala evening along with awards ceremony. Everyone were excited to receive their badge of honor for the completed Legendary Trails and few more were awarded additionally for the contests or outstanding performances.
A good bye for all other fellow Jeepers and warm hugs ended the night for us.
The day eleven for us was scheduled to head back towards south, whilst other Jeepers enjoyed the ride to Safari. We had a foggy drive for being started early morning on a bad stretch for almost an hour and later to be veered off to a better roads. The 8 Jeeps from South India followed each other in convoy to reach the breakfast point by the river side restaurant. A couple of breaks we reached our scheduled lunch point in Sagar for some delicious MP food. Beyond this point was what the nightmare drive for most of us, as the roads were in very bad shape before we could hit the normal highway to Nagpur. A quick vehicle checks was organized by FCA late night at Nagpur and later everyone retired for the day.
The day twelve kicked of as scheduled and reached the fixed breakfast point on time even though we had some hinderances on the way. A couple of tyre fixes were completed by the time the food was served. The scheduled lunch break point was replaced by a lunch at a fellow Jeeper’s farm house. Everyone cherished the homely food after so many days and thanked the family for the hospitality. Saying bye to DJ team, a late evening start off towards Bangalore delayed our destination time by many hours due to multiple breaks. A couple of them reached Bangalore few hours earlier than the rest who happened to reach by early morning. Almost 20 hours on the road was tiresome but none were exhausted to the core. The Jeeper from GOJ had another 9 hours drive back to his location and reached safely late morning.
Amidst the ongoing agitations at some places from our start point to the end point – we had a safe drive without any hurdles and at many a places the public gave way for the convoy with respect. So when’s the next trails is what in everyone’s mind…. Jeepy New Year 2020
– Anil PROMPT