We are blessed to have owned this incredible powerhouse from the house of JEEP – our Jeep Compass. Taking it to challenging Mountain terrains, to Deserts, to Off-roadings, to Sea beaches or on long distance Road trips – solo or on trails, is perhaps the best way to enjoy and explore its tremendous potential of – “Go places, Do what you like”
Let me give a try jotting down some of my golden memories of this trip, that would stay for long…….
It was first week of December, Mohit Gupta, one of the prime founders of “DNCR TrailRaiders Jeep group” announced a Winter Trail to Ranthambhore, Sambhar Salt Lake and Jaipur for 4 days from 21-24th Dec, just before we finish the year 2021, shortly followed by detailed Trail itinerary. Slot for upto 10 Jeeps only was suggested due to a possible year-end rush of tourists. Within next one week, confirmed list of 7 names came up. All necessary stay arrangements were accordingly done by our main organizers Mohit Ji and Ayush Ji (another founder member), along with meals inclusions and Jungle Safari trip and all other trail related preparations.
The first 2 nights in Sawai Madhopur and the 3rd night in Jaipur.
A new Whatsapp group of 7 Jeepers was formed. Fever of excitement could clearly be felt through loads of Group messages, once the final itinerary was released !The first day being a flat drive to Sawai Madhopur, a last minute surprise addition of a detour to Sariska National Park with a “Jungle drive inside the Park in our own Jeeps” was announced. This surprise addition in the itinerary was welcomed by all of us !
Drive to Sawai Madhopur
Our first assembly point was at McDonald’s, near Manesar on NH-48 around 9.30 in the morning on a fine sunny morning. Some Jeepers were coming from as far as Noida, West Delhi, even one from Ambala.
As mine was the closest, 4 km only, both of us reached at 9.30 sharp (thinking to be the first one to report), only to find that Heena with her son Nikunj had already reached 10 mins earlier !
Since the assembly time was not very early morning, we already had our breakfast from home. We chatted and waited for the rest to arrive.
By the time 6 of us finally assembled with families, trail-stickers pasted on all the Jeeps, Tees and trail logo printed ceramic tea/coffee Mugs distributed to all the members, it was past 12.15 that we finally started !
The wait has been too long and we lost a good amount of time already 😌, when Mohit suggested not to wait for him anymore as he will catch up the convoy on way. He was stuck for one last exam of his elder daughter Urshita.
The 154 km drive to Sariska via Bhiwadi and Alwar by-pass during mid-day was full of traffic, particularly whole of Bhiwadi. We also needed to make a halt for Lunch in between.
It was close to 3 O’clock in the afternoon, Nipun managed to locate a good wayside restaurant SIGDI on Alwar by-pass. All of us, including the children were already hungry for the day meal.
Stop over for lunch was much needed.
Neatly spread out garma-garam, tasty sumptuous lunch in the open under bright, cozy sunlight was a perfect break after a long drive.
Mohit had already joined the convoy a little distance before this halt. Looking here fully engrossed over his plate (must have been very hungry). It was here that we reconsidered going to Sariska, as we already fell short of time, well enough for the Park-Gate to close. So we all agreed to skip Sariska this time and straightway head towards our final destination — Sawai Madhopur, a further drive of 220 km, that can easily take close to 4½ hours.
Time for sunset was not too far, forcing us to a non-stop drive in the dark on a single road State highway, new to all of us. As for me, night driving has become increasing difficulty from the glares on the rear view mirror and on-coming vehicles driving on full beam. But thank God, using Walkie-talkie sets in every Jeep was very helpful throughout !
Close to 9.00 we finally reached The Anuraga Palace Resort, Sawai Madhopur, near Ranthambhore – our first night of stay. Needless to mention, a very nice property with lovely appointed rooms for the whole group was carefully arranged by our two main organizers, Mohit Ji and Ayush bhai.Thanks to these two fantastic ‘Gentlemen Jeepers’ 🙏.
As it already stuck 9, we finished the check-ins quickly, took to our rooms in a row on the ground floor only and stood ready for the Dinner right away. Nice, elaborate Buffet Dinner awaited us.
The first day ended with a happy note. Our next day itinerary was to get ready early morning at 7 for a Jungle Safari in Ranthambhore National Park in an open Canter.
Jungle Safari – RanthambhoreForest Off-roading Chambal river
Filled with all the excitements of going on a Jungle Safari, all of us managed to get ready. The Canter reported at the Resort at sharp 7 in the morning.
The morning was expectedly chilly and very cold. So, we were also prepared with sufficient warm outfits to brave the cold riding the open Canter.
The safari Canter with 19 of us started within next 15 minutes. Parveen ji with her two children and my wifey stayed back at the Resort.
Our Canter was pre-booked for the Zone 4 safari. After picking 3 more tourists from another hotel and necessary checking formalities at the Park Entry Gate, our safari took off with excitement and a natural expectation of sighting one Big Cat at least !
Vinod, our Canter driver and his Guide companion (not remembering his name) appeared quite sincere in making all efforts of a sighting, seriously expecting for one.The Zone 3 & 4 of Ranthambhore forest are known for their beautiful Landscapes, Lakes, Water bodies and also considered for better chances of Tiger sighting.
They took the safari on different routes and locations through beautiful spots and stunning landscapes. But, despite their trying best, Vinod and his partner Guide were not able to spot any Tiger. At one point, according to them, we were pretty close on a Tiger trail, as one male Tiger crossed over the path we were traveling on, to the other side, deep inside the jungle only a little ago, as was evident from its fresh Big Pugmarks. Vinod drove the Canter slowly with intermittent stops, even switching off the engine at times waiting in total silence, in case….
We spent close to 3 hours on the Canter safari. One male Tiger requires its territorial area of as big as 30 km², sharing with not more than 2 Tigresses, who also require 15-20 km². Therefore, spotting a Tiger always is not easy, though have heard of many tourists spotting Tigers in Ranthambhore. It was just not our day 😌
Even Mohit Ji tried connecting the male Tiger “Romeo T-6″ in Zone-4, but as phone network was very weak inside the forest, Mr. Romeo could not be connected. 😏Nevertheless, we did enjoy the pristine, dense, natural beauty of Ranthambhore Forest for sure. Got to see some herbivores animals, Crocodiles, Peacocks and few resident birds and ducks in the lake.
This Tiger bird got attracted to baby Inaaya (the youngest, cutest Jeepher member of the group – 8 months only ❤) whilst being fed by her Mom in the Canter. The bird also looking for her share !
शेर नहीं दिखा तो क्या हुआ, Tiger bird तो देखा ! 😆😆
Roughly at about 10.45 we were back to the Resort, where our breakfast was waiting. Not wasting any more time, we headed straight for a well arranged Breakfast.
It was time for a little rest and getting fresh from the early morning Safari. Angels, Inaaya and Jenni deserved some rest. The late breakfast was heavy enough to skip a full fledged lunch.
Forest Off-roading drive
At 2 in the afternoon, everyone was ready to move for a Forest Off-roading experience in a near-by forest area, followed by a further drive of some 15 km to ‘Palighat Chambal Safari point’ on Chambal River. But before that, we took some photographs to showcase our Trail tour at the Resort 🙂
By the way, जंगल मे Maharaj Ji ka darshan nahi mila, but didn’t miss to collect these ‘Fridge Magnets’ at least.
The drive was of about 45 minutes on a narrow single carriage hilly forest road by-passing the boundaries of Ranthambhore Zone 9&10. The road was largely in a good condition and we breezed past.
The first Jeep (I think of Harpreet or Mohit) took a 90° right turn, leaving the tarmac road on to a bumpy, dusty and stoney curly pathway, slightly hilly, cutting thru thick thorny bushes on both sides and big trees in between. Looked like doing a perfect Off-roading on a totally unknown rough terrain.
With the pilot Jeep in front, rest of the six Jeeps followed, without having the slightest idea of where we were heading to !!
After a drive of approx 4 km over rough forest road, we seemed to hit a dead end, right below a huge wall of a perpendicular rocky cliff.
A large number of wild Langurs suddenly engulfed staring at us and some even started jumping over the roofs, presumably in search of food. None of us even dared to roll down our window panes.
That perpendicular rock looked to be a huge Waterfall, that would look gorgeous in rainy season. I am not sure if this was the site of Sitamata Falls !
Water catchment at the foot of the Waterfall. Here we came across 3/4 local people in a hutment kind of construction, who told us to return, as there was no motorable road beyond this point. So, without stepping out (for the Langurs), one by one we turned back our vehicles with utmost care and started back to the point till the tarmac road we turned.That was good fun doing some Off-roading !
Chambal River side
Once back on the main road, we turned right for another 15 km of scenic drive thru Mustard fields and other crops on both sides to “Palighat Chambal Safari point” on Rajasthan side of Chambal River.
A small stopover on the way for photoshoots.Another half an hour from here, we all finally reached The Palighat safari point on the banks of Chambal river. It was 4.30 in the afternoon with bright sunlight and clear weather.Lovely, scenic spot – overlooking green patches of MP on the other side of the flowing Chambal in between bordering the two States.
We didn’t have enough time for a boat-safari, but small activities and adventures by few of us added to some lovely moments !
These three dare-devils standing over the submerged cement sacks with fearless smiles on their faces, despite being warned the river had Crocodiles. 🐊 🐊
The lively gathering grew so engrossing, that the beautiful Orange Sunset gradient, almost went un-noticed ! But we were lucky to get to watch some mesmerizing moments of the beautiful Sunset hues.
Capturing the glow on natural layout of still water on rocky banks of Chambal river. Tents on sandy river bed.
Taking back silent whisper of Nature at Palighat, leaving nothing but footprints only. 👣 🙂
With the Sun going down fast, it was becoming dark. The 40 km drive back to our Resort was good, but as expected, I started experiencing discomfort and intermittent stressful driving at night, especially on single carriage road.Some of you know, that I had a narrow escape from hitting straight onto a high divider edge at a poorly lit busy road crossing at night, but still suffered a nasty bump in my front right wheel on some big size stone lying close to the divider with a huge Bang, which I couldn’t see due to glares from front and on rear-view mirror ! I thought, something terrible must have happened with the wheel/tyre. It was dark outside, I pulled down on left but didn’t step out to check any damage. Heena’s Jeep was right behind mine, she noticed the bang and jerk and immediately checked with me over phone. Thank you Heena for being so kind.😌Apparently no damage occurred and all of us reached the Resort safely around 8.I however experienced nothing abnormal throughout rest of the trail, but still got the vehicle checked at the Service Centre first thing upon my return home. Luckily, nothing reported for any repair ! A sense of relief flooded me.
Jeep Compass – yet again, proved to be a “great resilient vehicle”, at that point of time for me at least !
I am afraid, I am heading towards a potential non-participant member in major trails involving night drivings 🤔😑, but would definitely continue to enjoy all such trips thru Your eyes. 🙂
Washed up and changed for the Dinner, but not before enjoying a cozy sit out in the open central court garden at the Resort, nicely arranged for us with two small size bonfires, lot of snacks and rounds of Scotch (a treat from Doctor sahab, हमारे दिल्ली के लालाजी) and choices of non-alcoholic drinks for the ladies. A special Cake-cutting was the highlight of the Day 2 evening.
Enjoying the party 🥂🍹🥃 followed by once again, a nicely arranged Buffet Dinner.Retire for the day and a good sleep for the next day’s action…😴😴
Drive to Sambhar Salt Lake
A leisurely morning and reporting for a late Breakfast. Nothing much to do in the morning, for this was the day of check out from The Resort and head towards first to Sambhar Salt Lake and then to Jaipur for the night halt.Generally being an early riser, it was difficult for me being in the room for long. Instead, got ready, came out and had a nice self tour of the nice Property taking few pictures around.
Watching a Gujrati Dhol-Baja-Dance-Barat at the Resort that same morning was fun to watch, looked like a destination wedding at Ranthambhore. Enjoyed their खुल्लर वाला मसाला चाय with Besan ka Laddoo – “बेगाने की शादी मे अब्दुल्ला दीवाना” type 😜😜
After a relaxed heavy breakfast, we started for our next destination Sambhar Lake at 12.15 in the afternoon from Sawai Madhopur. Another bright day, drive to Sambhar was about 250 km. First thing we all had, was fuel top up. Here, the Petrol rate was as high as close to 106 a litre (6 less for Diesel) as compared to DelhiNCR at 95.70 for petrol ! The drive was smooth, starting with NH-12, then NH-16A which finally connected us to NH-48 on Jaipur-Ajmer highway.
Drive on NH-48 was straight and fast until a sudden cut towards Right ➡️ to Riico Indstrial Area with no signage, was supposed to be the road to Sambhar. The Walkie-talkie set with me either didn’t work or I may have missed the alert, I overshot the turning. Nipun and Heena must have spotted me pass by, a phone call from Nipun helped me take the next U-turn on the highway to join them already at the Riico turning. We were now three of us waiting for the others to join. Deepak and Harpreet also missed the turning.
All of us then started from this point towards Sambhar with roughly 20-25 km to go. Initially the single carriage road looked good, which eventually turned up narrow and bad. After two major turns on left, two underpasses and by-passing another road to Sambhar Town, we stopped at a point, overlooking the Sambhar Lake on the other side to assess, how far more we needed to travel to reach the Dry Salt bed – an area good for Off-roading ? This was our first sighting of the majestic Salt Lake !
Upon checking on Google map and few locals, we were suggested to travel another 8 km or so towards the West. Time was not left much for the Sunset. Crossing a Dam like barrage over the huge Lake, we crossed over to the otherside of the Lake, and after a little more drive, our Pilot Jeep finally took a narrow dusty path on right down on to the White Salt bed.
Hurray !!! we finally hit the right spot we were struggling to locate !
The vast White land with a lovely Aravali range on Left (West) and a skyline of bushes and possibly the Sambhar Town beyond on Right, the all White Salt bed in front looked awesome with, something none of us haven’t seen before ! The unending designs of Car-Tyre tracks – some circle, some 8 shaped, some straight appeared like melting into the distant Horizon ! The alluring view of the glowing Orange Sun slowly setting down behind the Aravalis on one side, and the Adrenaline rush within us going for ‘Fast and Drift-driving experience on the Salt bed’ before it was darkwith “NO speed cameras around to catch” was something unexplainable !😅😅
Once there, all 7 of us slowly drove in a line further inside. We stopped at a point over the vast White pan totally captivated for some time, enjoying and admiring the topography of the place never seen before !
It was now time for doing some fun Off-roading with our JCs. Some did wonderful driving doing Circles, some drove straight at very high speed over the Salt leaving clouds of white salt dust experiencing classic fun of Drifting ! Few of us just wandered anywhere they wished, making new tracks. However, Mohit warned us to avoid venturing too much away from the tracks, as the soil could be marshy at places we would not know and might get stuck !
Mohit performing a perfect Reverse circling.On the whole, Jeep Compass proved its worth performing excellently under varied conditions of driving !
Five of us drove further deep into the White Salt pan upto a point from where the famous Maa Shakambari Devi Templeon a rocky outcrop could be seen from a distance. I and Harpreet stayed back.
A timeless beauty, this “hidden Jewel of Rajasthan”, Sambhar Salt Lake with a surface area of more than 200 km² approx is a Ramsar Wetland designated as a ” World Heritage Site” in 1990. Sambhar Lake is not a real lake, but has shallow water at most places and is actually a Saline Wetland. A walk on it feels like a never-ending land of Silver, especially on a clear full moon night.
This vast lake with maximum length of 35½ km taps from 4 seasonal rivers – the Mendha, Rupangarh, Kharian and the Khandel besides numerous streams & rivulets. Their water reacts with the lake sediments and becomes Brine, which takes about 50 days to evaporate to form “Natural Crystalised Salt” giving it an exotic white look. We however didn’t get to see the actual Salt harvesting, such is the vastness of this Wetland.
Sambhar Lake is a very popular site for film-making. Location shootings were done here for films like Jodha Akbar, Delhi 6, Ram-Leela, Highway to name few. The famous scene of Aamir Khan landing on earth in PK was also shot here on the Salt-train rail track. Remember that scene ? 🙂
It has been a while we enjoyed to our fullest with never-before kind of an unique place to be at. With the complete Sunset behind the Aravalis, the whole ambience suddenly started getting dark.
We were to reach Jaipur, about 90 km from here through the same rural road we came from. Children were hungry by then and the adults needed some Tea/ Coffee at least. A short stopover at a nice Kiosk somewhere in Sambhar Municipality area on way was a good break.
It was now getting dark fast. I thought of starting alone little early till NH-48 at a slower pace, preferring to avoid too much risk of night driving. अरे भाई — one should live to tell the tale and sometimes write few lines on it too !Wild Nilgais (one with her two Calves) crossing on multiple spots were a delight to watch in the headlight that came as a reminder to drive cautiously in these kind of open rural areas. Others also spotted few on their way.
I waited at the junction for others to reach. Must mention here, just as when Heena came to know from Nikunj of my leaving alone early, she immediately started, tracking me several times of my position and safety over phone till the junction.
Once again it reminded me, how caring, concerned and so well integrated our Jeepers Family is !
Once on NH-48, the next 70 km drive to Jaipur was good despite movements of Trucks. As already planned to have our Dinner outside rather than having at the Hotel itself (main attraction was Daal Baati Choorma), we all headed for the famous ‘Sharma Dhaba’ in Jaipur, not very far from our Hotel.
Alacartē orderings were good and sufficient, we all enjoyed the food. Reaching there at 9 was a good time for a timely sumptuous dinner.
At “ITC Rajputana Sheraton”, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Jaipur, we finished the check-in formalities at a dedicated Reception Desk arranged for us. Great support from the Hotel as well as our fellow main organizers 🤝. It struck close to 11, we settled in our respective rooms for the night.
Drive back to home
One more leisurely morning, looked like, many of us were not interested in waking up and get ready to go home! ‘Check-out and Disperse’ was the last day’s itinerary 😆😆. However, everyone was free to either join the convoy back home or hang out in the City for sometime shopping.
But then, every good thing has to come to an end. Got ready and for the last time in the Trail, we all assembled at the Hotel’s beautiful, spacious designated Breakfast-Lounge. As expected, the massive layout of Breakfast lived well to the name of this signature property with multiple well managed ‘Live Counters’, besides a plethora of fresh fruit juices, soups, Indian & Continental choices of food and many more ! The whipped up Cheese Omelette, Stuffed Parathas and Waffle with Maple/Chocolate syrup topping were just favourites for me. Lemon tarts were delicious. 🙂🙂
It was finally time for check-out, bidding Adieu to our great JeepTrail until the next one.
Nipun with family were staying back in Jaipur with their relative, while Heena and Nikunj thought of seeing Jaipur for another day and stayed back. Harpreet I think, also stayed back.
Rest four of us Mohit, Deepak, Ayush and me were going back home.
While they were spending some more time with their children playing, we two checked out, filled up fuel first and went to Johri Bazar for Gazak, Churan and scented Supari shopping. Pyaaj Kachodi and Imarti from LMB was anyway not to miss ! Thanks to Nipun giving me the lead to pick up Jaipur’s famous “Gud Malai Gazak” from Narayanji’s (since 1953).
Our “Not to miss shoppings” from Johri Bazar 😄 loaded, we were ready to move. Didn’t get to meet others till then.
Driving past Hawa Mahal, took a quick halt at Jal Mahal, the 18th Century Red-stone Water Palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake on Amer road – an architectural marvel of the Rajput period.
We originally had an inclusion in the itinerary for a drive to Nahargarh Fort yesterday evening. But due to reaching Jaipur late in the evening, Nahargarh Fort got dropped. Continuing driving on Amer Road, the diversion-signage of Nahargarh Fort and Jaigarh Fort left me thinking, if I should still go up to the Fort we missed yesterday ! 12 km from there, a steep hill drive on a narrow road to Nahargarh OR about 5 km uphill drive to Jaigarh Fort. Risking further delay and again driving in the dark, decided to skip Nahargarh this time, but visit Jaigarh Fort, never seen before.
Happy to cover at least a Fort in our itinerary !
Although a quick visit, enjoyed taking a short walk around the Jaigarh Fort,built in 1726 by Maharaja Jai Singh on the ‘चील का टिला’ to protect the adjoining Amer Fort and its Palace complex.
It’s prime attraction is the “Jaivan Cannon”, the then ‘world’s largest cannon on wheels’, was manufactured inside the Fort’s Cannon Foundry. Popularly known as “बड़ी तोप”, it is 31.3 ft in length, weighing a massive 50 tons of Iron.Didn’t get to see this तोप, as cars going up there to Dungar Darwaza were not allowed due to heavy rush of tourists with a long uphill walkway. Was running out of time also.īNext time — putting it in my इच्छा की टोकरी।
4 O’clock in the afternoon, time to leave. A long way to home of about 220 km drive. It was also Teatime. So, made sure to have “खुल्लर वालि चाय” first and then start. The tea at the day end was refreshing !
Once finished the tea with one Pyaaj Kathcori (from LMB), rightaway started driving the downhill for Gurgaon. The road was through Amer Road joining NH-48 at Chandbaji.
Rest of the solo drive straight home with only one stop at Mannat for tea was smooth, with no hassle. Safely reached home at a reasonable good time 8.30 pm. with loads of lovely memories of happy moments, quality time we all spent together over the last four days of travelling 1150 km together ! Everyone reached home safely.
ALL IS WELL THAT ENDS WELL !
Chitra & Abhay Mittra
Jan 2022, Gurugram.
JEEP is an emotion – shall always live in my heart !
~~~ o ~~~