The Grand Tour of
5 October -
An unforgettable experience
The Grand Tour of
5 October -
An unforgettable experience
In a two-month period, January to March 2007, Tim “Jingers” Riley, Arne Hertz and I, accompanied by colleagues from our Indian partners Go India Journeys, undertook a comprehensive survey of the route, checking all the accommodation to be used and attractions along the way. We covered over 15,000 km - around twice the final route distance.
This was a wonderful experience for all concerned and we can promise you a truly fabulous trip.
The final route follows the general lines of the original Provisional Itinerary, but takes account of the constructive and helpful comments made to us after La Aventura Panamericana - in particular, the wish for some days to be a little shorter - and of the realities of motoring in India, where comfortable average speeds tend to be lower than in other parts of the world. As a result, we have divided some of our original days by inserting an additional overnight halt, and we have put in an extra rest day - making seven instead of six. To make this possible, we have had to cut out the southernmost loop of the route, including the overnights at
We also had to move Agra to a later point in the route, to avoid an impossibly long day on bad roads from Corbett to Gwalior, and have cut out the rest day here as, Taj Mahal apart (a two-hour visit before breakfast), there is much more to see at Jaipur. One casualty of this route change may be our use of the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel at Agra, where we are waitlisted for our new date there, but the alternative, the Taj-View, is a good hotel, and I believe that our two nights in Oberoi’s Wildflower Hall at Shimla will more than make up for any disappointment here.
Our visits to the tiger reserves made it clear that by far the best chances of actually seeing tigers are at Bandhavgarh and Kanha, so we have inserted an overnight at the former and cut out the second night at Corbett. My own close-up view from elephant back of two tigers feeding will remain one of the unforgettable experiences of my life.
The lack of reliable maps made it a long, hard job to find the kind of route we were looking for: quiet and pleasant secondary and rural roads through interesting scenery, off the beaten track, away from busy main highways. However, I am delighted to say that we have succeeded in putting together an itinerary that fully meets these aims. On the three or four occasions where we do use longer stretches of trunk highway, to cover long distances quickly, we found these in every case to be relatively traffic free, enabling good average speeds to be comfortably maintained.
Finally, I am glad to report that we were able to record a GPS track of the whole route (apart from a few optional detours), as well as some 500 waypoints, on our Garmin GPSmap 276C, and plan to make a CD of these available to participants. In view of the lack of good maps, I think this will be an invaluable navigation aid.
Thursday 4 October Most participants are arriving in Mumbai (
Friday 5 October If your vehicle is being shipped in, you should arrive at the latest early this morning in Mumbai (
Saturday 6 October Registration of participants; last minute preparation and official inspection of vehicles. Evening: send-off party and dinner in our hotel. Taj Mahal Hotel
Sunday 7 October: Day One: Mumbai - Aurangabad (432 km/270 mi) We avoid Mumbai’s notorious traffic jams by making an early start in front of the hotel, with a ceremonial flagging-off at the Gateway of India, the great waterfront arch built by the British which for many was their first sight of India. We take an easy route out of the city, then use quiet secondary roads to climb the spectacular 800m (2,600ft) Malshej pass into the rocky
Monday 8 October: Day Two: Aurangabad - Indore (406 km/254 mi) We spend a couple of hours visiting the equally fantastic (but earlier - 200 BC to 650 AD) Ajanta Caves, and then take a pleasant run northwards, with short detours to a couple of India’s unknown surprises, an impressive but seldom visited hilltop fort reached by a 4 km jeep trail, and a great modern Hindu temple complex. Overnight at the modern industrial city of
Tuesday 9 October: Day Three: Indore - Udaipur (398 km/249 mi) A cross country run into the desert province of Rajasthan, through the little town of Sailana, full of picturesque old houses, where we can visit another unknown surprise, the maharajah’s palace and cactus garden. At
Wednesday 10 October: Day Four: Udaipur - Jodhpur (336 km/210 mi) A shorter day’s run allows plenty of time for sightseeing, as we use lovely country roads through the hills to visit two terrific places off the beaten track, great rambling Kumbalgarh Fort and the impressive Jain holy site of Ranakpur, a medieval cathedral of richly carved translucent marble. There’s an optional 15-km 4x4 forest trail. We stay the night at
Thursday 11 October: Day Five:
Friday 12 October: Day Six: rest day, Jaipur. The old walled town of Jaipur, the Pink City, is so beautiful, so unspoiled and has so much to see and do (including excellent museums and wonderful shopping) that we just had to make it a rest day. Tonight, weather permitting, we will have an elephant polo match (
Saturday 13 October: Day Seven: Jaipur -
Sunday 14 October: Day Eight: rest day,
Monday 15 October: Day Nine:
Tuesday 16 October: Day Ten: Amritsar - McLeodganj (201 km/125 mi) The reason why Amritsar is a must is the fabulous Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh sites, an unforgettable place to visit; do so early in the morning, taking a tuk-tuk from the hotel. A poignant place is the Jallianwala Bagh memorial garden on the site of the terrible massacre in 1919 of 379 unarmed civilians by British soldiers under the orders of General Dyer. Then we head north-east to Pathankot, terminus of a little known narrow gauge railway. We climb into the lower
Wednesday 17 October: Day Eleven: McLeodganj - Manali (179 km/112 mi) Take a little time to stroll round McLeodganj or Dharamshala before setting off on this day, shorter in distance but using some spectacular but slow mountain roads, including 15km of gravel - there’s an asphalt option. There’s a loop on by-roads to pass through “Little
Thursday 18 October: Day Twelve: Manali - Shimla (252 km/157 mi) A short but stunning day’s drive through the mountains, including the rugged Jalori La pass (3,220m/10,550 ft), the highest point of the trip, brings us to our sumptuous country hotel 15 km before Shimla. Oberoi Wildflower Hall
Friday 19 October: Day 13: rest day, Shimla. A day to explore the virtual summer capital of the British raj, Shimla, where colonial administrators escaped Delhi’s fierce heat, and which still retains many reminders of those days; or take a short ride on the “toy train”, Shimla’s narrow gauge railway; or just chill our at our superb hotel. Oberoi Wildflower Hall
Saturday 20 October: Day 14: Shimla - Ananda (297 km/186 mi) Another great day’s drive through the mountains, starting with 100 km of scenic minor roads (some gravel), then using secondary highways skirting Dehra Dun to reach Rishikesh, where pilgrims purify themselves in the Ganga (Ganges), here a clear mountain river, and the hill resort of Ananda. Ananda-in-the-Himalayas
Sunday 21 October: Day 15: rest day, Ananda We spend the day at this fabulously luxurious spa, where a wide range of optional activities beckon, including white water rafting on the Ganges, and a visit to the evening ceremony at a temple in Rishikesh. Ananda-in-the-Himalayas
Monday 22 October: Day 16: Ananda - Corbett Tiger Reserve (284 km/177 mi). This is a real driver’s day, running almost continuously on remote, slow and twisting mountain roads, about 55 km on gravel, through spectacular scenery, including breathtaking views of the
Tuesday 23 October: Day 17: Corbett Tiger Reserve -
Wednesday 24 October: Day 18:
Thursday 25 October: Day 19:
Friday 26 October: Day 20: Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve (304 km/190 mi) The temples open at sunrise (about 06:05 today), and this may the best time to see the sculptures, before setting off on quiet, well surfaced roads down the hilly spine of the country; but leave before 09:00 if you want to arrive at Bandhavgarh in time for an afternoon game drive. Tiger's Den Resort/Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge
Saturday 27 October: Day 21: Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve - Kanha Tiger Reserve (236 km/148 mi) Nobody can guarantee that you will see a tiger in the wild, but your best chance of doing so is at one of these two national parks. Through animal cries and other clues, the rangers and guides know where a kill is made during the night, and arrange for elephants stationed in the park to converge nearby. Your jeep takes you to this point, where you mount on to elephant back to approach very close indeed to the tiger (or, in our survey crew’s case at Bandhavgarh, two tigers) devouring their prey. A breathtaking, unforgettable sight. After we return from the safari, we take a quick and easy journey on excellent, attractive country roads to Kanha, where we stay two nights in high quality game lodges. Tuli Tiger Resort/Wild Chalet Resort
Sunday 28 October: Day 22: rest day, Kanha Tiger Reserve We take morning and afternoon game drives spotting game, and looking for the elusive tiger - this is another good place for them - or just relaxing. Tuli Tiger Resort/Wild Chalet Resort
Monday 29 October: Day 23: Kanha Tiger Reserve -
Tuesday 30 October: Day 24: Nagpur - Hyderabad (540 km/335 mi) At Wardha, we make a pilgrimage to Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, preserved as he left it, a peaceful and memorable place, where you can see his personal belongings and watch hand spinning and other rural crafts; then it’s a long run south to the great old city of Hyderabad. We had been afraid that the
Wednesday 31 October: Day 25: rest day, Hyderabad There’s an optional visit to the historic area around the famous Char Minar minarets, and the Lad Bazar, a wonderful place to find a bargain - Hyderabad is a world centre of the pearl market. In the evening there’s the chance to see the son et lumière at the great Golconda Fort, followed by a traditional Chowki dinner at
Thursday 1 November: Day 26:
Friday 2 November: Day 27: Hospet -
Saturday 3 November: Day 28: rest day in
Sunday 4 November: Day 29:
Monday 5 November: Day 30: Chiplun - Mumbai (255 km/159 mi). Our last day is a short one, following the main highway (which isn’t too busy) up to Mumbai, to arrive early afternoon at the ceremonial finish at the Gateway to
Tuesday 6 November If not done yesterday, deliver your vehicle to the shipping agent (or back to the rental company) first thing, and fly home; but why not stay for a while and take advantage of the special deals we will be offering in Mumbai,
The above programme is provisional and subject to amendment. The distances given are approximate. The total distance is approximately 7,574 km/4,734 mi.