Up and Close Bharat – 2021 – Part 1
1st January 2021 – 10th July 2021
My Route –
Pune, Goa, Murudeshwar, Udupi, Mary's island, Halebidu, Mullayangiri, Belur, Rameshwaram, Dhanushyakodi, Tanjavur, Chidambaram Tranquebar, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Kolhapur, Pune, Thane, Mehsana, Modhera, Mount Abu, Chitodgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Ranakpur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Rishikesh, Lansdown, Kunjapuri, Tehri Dam, Agra, Haridwar [Kumbh Mela], Bheemtaal, Saat Taal, Naini Taal, Almora, Dandeshwar, Jageshwar, Mukteshwar, Pithoragarh, Munsyari via Nepal Border, Kasar Devi, Karna Prayag, Vishnu Prayag, Nand Prayag, Rudra Prayag, Dev Prayag, Joshi Math, Gopeshwar, Chopta, Tungnath, Gupt Kashi, Chamba[ UK],Harshil, Gangotri, Rishikesh, Solan, Rampur, Sangla, Chitkul, Kalpa, Nako, Tabo, Kaza, Losar, Rampur, Mcleod Ganj, Dharamkot, Sonamarg, Kargil, Leh, Nubra Valley - Hunder, Turtuk - Tyakshi, and Pamanik, Hemis [ Hemis Mask Dance Festival], Pang, Ludhiana, Gawlior, Dhule, Pune.
Some statistics - 6 Months and a few days, Approximately 21,000 Km, My Car S-Cross Zeta Manual 1.3 Lt 2017 model. Milage I got 21.8 Km per Liter of Diesel. Expenditure approx. 35,000 Per Month includes fuel, accommodation, food. Only one night I stayed with a friend all other were paid stays.
In December 2020 there was quite a fear or such in my mind, about this road trip. Now in July 2021 I feel that such fear is not correct, and is imaginary and unnecessary. India is quite safe. People everywhere are helpful and nice. I am sure solo women travelers too will be safe. [ In fact, there are many.] [ Also playing flute to unknown people helps a lot!! ]
Unavailability of information, as well as completely wrong or outdated information, biased information coming from tourism industry, or worse, half information on blogs or Instagram has populated the internet to a large extent.
For example, it is quite difficult to find any reliable information about journey from Pithoragarh to Munsyari. Some blogs / Instagram accounts tell info that has become outdated now. Most of them go there for 3-4 days and tell what they feel is correct. Many will tell you how beautiful the Tso Moriri is, but I haven’t found any post telling that the road to there is as good as one that on moon. On Facebook groups you find people laughing and insulting the person who has asked for accommodation under 800 rupees. Whereas you practically find thousands of places, offering 500 rs per night or lower - everywhere in India where the rooms are excellent – clean with western style toilet, 24 hours of hot water and 100% safe including private parking.
Route and destinations –
First thing I realised was that some places are highly interesting [ like Taj Mahal or Golden Temple]; Some journeys are amazing but there is nothing much to see or do at the destination; [Like to Munsyari]; And some are great journeys and great destinations [ Like Ladakh]. Looking at the disappointed tourists I observed, I think it is necessary to have some idea of what we should expect from that travel.
On the 1st January 2021 I left home for Goa and then to Murudeshwar. As I had not done any such trips before, I was not sure of my abilities or the capabilities of my Car – S Cross Zeta. I just kept on going ahead – One day at a time. I would make some approximate plan for the next few days, and would follow it roughly. For sure, more research would have gotten me more places to visit. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every day of my tour.
Accommodation – Initially, I booked mostly on Oyo and Bookings. Oyo being more reliable with people, safety, and the quality of rooms. I looked for AC room [ in South ], Private Parking, and location. Rajasthan was the worst - by all means. Rooms were excellent in general but what I was told and what I got were two different things. Once I realized that ‘Walk In’ is the cheapest option I stopped advance booking. Narrow down to a couple of hotels in a online search, and go directly there, would give be the best rates. With my own car walk in was not a problem at all.
Averagely, I paid around 500 Rs per day for the room in the north and about 1100 in the south – [manly due to the need of an AC and not walk in]. Hostels are expensive than hotels. Homestays that are not listed online are the cheapest and perhaps the best. I stayed in Hotels in the South and mainly in homestays in the north. Only in Kaza I stayed in a hostel and the experience was not good.
Food – As a vegetarian I never got any issue for availability of vegetarian food. I had carried some Aurvedic medicine for better digestion, and would take it if the food was too oily or such. Travelling alone it was vitally important to keep my health intact. Himalayan national food is Maggi, which I had only once and it did upset my stomach a lot. Homestays offer you home food, and I think that is the best. I didn’t drink bottled water even once. Whatever the locals drink was good for me. I always kept a few chocolates and a box of Besan laddoos with me. Offering Laddoos to people proved to be quite effective!