REVISED DAY SUMMARY as at 1 November 2013
Get to know India and its customs a little before the event, take a couple of days to imbibe the atmosphere that is Mumbai. Whether travelling from Europe, the Americas or elsewhere, it is a good idea to settle and relax into a healthy holiday mood before we set off. Of course, you will need to collect your vehicle; for the named driver this means arriving a few days early for the ticking of various boxes and signing on the dotted line prior to accepting the keys; I'm afraid there is no way around this piece of bureaucracy. It is also important that you repack and double-check your load in preparation for the journey ahead to ensure that you are really self-sufficient. Formerly known as Bombay, this city is the most densely populated in India and the fourth most populous in the world, with a total number of inhabitants approaching 21 million. In the West, we are most familiar with Mumbai as the setting for the 2008 British movie, Slumdog Millionaire; the number of slum-dwellers here is estimated to be nine million (more than twice the entire population of New Zealand)! However Mumbai has a great deal more to offer. The impressive Gateway of India is immediately opposite the hotel, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji train terminus with its red facade, brass grills and the large entrance clock can rightly claim to be the most perfect example of Victorian railway architecture. Otherwise, stroll down Chowpatty Beach or lie on the sand and relax, perhaps take a dunk in the Arabian Sea?
Day 1: Friday 12 September. Mumbai - Vadodara (426km - 8:00hours)
Crews make an early start with a photo shoot and flag-waving ceremony to begin a reasonably long day getting us clear of the endless sprawl that is Mumbai. We pass into the state of Gujarat after 175km with one or two excursions finding quieter secondary roads. Mahatma Gandhi, who spearheaded the independence movement against colonial rule, was a Gujarati. Another Gujarati of some repute is the pioneer industrialist Jamsetji Tata who founded the famous Tata Group and whose trucks and buses seem to move everything across this country. The state also played an important role in the economic history of India and today is one of its most industrialized. However, Gujarat is a 'dry state' - although a greater value of liquor is sold daily than milk! Fear not, Westerners are partially exempt from the prohibition although the fearsome Matriarch in control of permits may turn you teetotal!
Day 2: Saturday 13 September. Vadodara - Udaipur (350km - 7:10hours)
Heading north we trickle through interesting towns and villages to find Dungapur where the Maharajas car collection makes an interesting lunch halt beside the lake. He has a novel bar constructed in the museum involving a vehicle hoist to elevate you above the collection while sipping cocktails! From here we track north crossing into Rajasthan where we bask in the hospitality, palaces, shimmering hills and deserts that only Rajasthan can proffer; even this brief foray will leave you wanting more. We rest for the night in the most beautiful of all palaces; built in 1743 on natural foundations in the middle of Lake Pichola for Maharana Jagat Singh II. Indeed, the 'Royal Butlers' still working in the hotel are said to be descendants of the original palace retainers. As a hotel it has hosted kings and queens, featured in movies including James Bond, and been the venue for movie-star weddings.
Day 3: Sunday 14 September. Udaipur - Jodhpur (258km - 5:55hours)
Now we head north and west into the real deserts of Rajasthan, past crumbling forts and temples that give an historical feel and beauty to the landscape. Kumbhalgarh is one such fort standing on a hilltop 3,500ft (1060m) above sea level with walls that extend 36km around the perimeter and frontal fortifications more than fifteen feet thick! From the palace top, it is possible to look tens of miles across the Aravali Ranges to the dunes of the Thar Desert in the far distance. We then cross the mountains of the Aravali Ranges on twisty scenic roads before descending to plains with a desert backdrop that is so typical here. There are various route options across this vast countryside should you wish to travel on secondary roads.
Jodhpur gives its name to the familiar riding breeches that were popularised in England at the turn of the 20th century. We move to another sybaritic palace today to stay in the unsurpassed luxury of Umaid Bhawan Palace.
Day 4: Monday 15 September. Jodhpur - Jaisalmer (304km - 5:45hours)
Today's route firstly visits the fascinating ancient town of Osiyan. It is an oasis on the edges of the Thar Desert and for some it is known as the Khajuraho of Rajasthan. This route via Osiyan has less traffic and interesting desert countryside; the roads are less good, but good enough. From there, the route heads west on secondary roads occasionally using the larger national highway. Jaisalmer is an oasis of a town located on the westernmost frontier of India close to the border with Pakistan, the city is known for its proximity to the Thar Desert and a camel safari into the desert will prove an unforgettable experience for those who choose (I certainly remembered my tender behind during the following days). Jaisalmer Fort dominates the city itself and, unlike most in India, is a living fort; there are shops, hotels and extremely old havelis (grand private houses) inside its huge walls.
Day 5: Tuesday 16 September. Jaisalmer - Rest (1)
For our first rest day, we have the deserts and the fort to explore in more detail. Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest forts in the world; it was built in 1156 AD by the Rajput king Rao Jaisal from where it derives its name. The town and fort stand on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, which contains the Raj Mahal (palace) and several ornate temples, many of which are finely sculptured. It lies between the Thar and Rajasthan deserts and is almost entirely a sandy waste. The general aspect of the area is that of an interminable sea of sand hills, of all shapes and sizes, some rising to a height of 150ft (46m). Water is pretty scarce and generally brackish; however, the climate is dry and healthy. We have a planned excursion taking your own vehicle into the dunes for an evening meal under the stars.
Day 6: Wednesday 17 September. Jaisalmer - Bikaner (334km - 5:20hours)
Our chosen route today pushes northwest into the mighty Thar Desert parallel to the Indira Gandhi Canal, a massive project, the main artery of which stretches 650km with a further 9,000km of distribution networks. This inspiring project to turn the desert into productive land now faces dangers from waterlogging and salination from unfettered over use!
Today is an 'outback' day with little in the way of towns or cities, just villages and desert scenery, a pack lunch might be a good idea? It is a relatively short day via the main road if you wish to spend time enjoying the next desert town on route, Bikaner. Getting around this town is best done using Trishaws or Tongas (horse carts) due to the fact that streets are narrow (allegedly, this is so they are not clogged with sand from the frequent sandstorms). There are more ruins and forts to view including Junagarh Fort, one of the only forts in India never to be defeated.
Day 7: Thursday 18 September. Bikaner - Shekhawati (203km - 5:20hours)
We continue eastward today forging across the deserts but aiming for the Shekhawati region whose inhabitants are considered fiercely brave and hard working. The region provides the highest number of recruits to the Indian Army; they are likened to the Ghurkhas of the British Army for their tenacity and strength. Visit the temple famous for the rats which infest every corner; however you will need to hold your nose while stepping over these fetid vermin. Our favoured route passes through townships littered with old havelis (private mansions); Mandawa was originally a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle East. The ruling Maharana built a fort in 1755 to protect this outpost. A township grew around the fort and soon attracted a large community of traders whose wealth eventually built the more intricate and impressive buildings we see today. We overnight in a beautifully restored mansion enjoying luxuries in a quiet and rural place.
Day 8: Friday 19 September. Shekhawati - Amritsar (530km - 11:10hours)
A long driving day - I hope most will have become accustomed to the peculiarities of Indian road rules by now. We fiddle through secondary roads to begin with, before finding larger roads heading north into the state of Haryana and Punjab. The name of the region is Persian in origin and means 'the land of five rivers', referring to the major waterways of the district. All are tributaries of the mighty Indus River, which we shall meet far to the north of here; the region is commonly referred to as the 'breadbasket of India' for the quantities of food it produces. We arrive in the last major city of the north, Amritsar (pop. 1.2 million), for our second rest day, giving us time to explore its many sites and attractions. Our accommodation in this city will be at the Hyatt.
Day 9: Saturday 20 September. Amritsar - Rest (2)
Amritsar is probably best known for being home to the Harmandir Sahib-referred to as the Golden Temple in western media; it is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh religion. This important Sikh shrine attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahal with more than 100,000 visitors on weekdays alone and really is something special even for those more familiar with Western/European religions. The upper levels of the temple are coated with gold-leaf, although the bulk of the building is made from marble, which accentuates the contrast to incredible effect.
The city is also known for the tragic incident of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 under British Rule when the army opened fire on a banned meeting of 15,000-20,000 people including women and children, resulting in several hundred deaths; there is a memorial garden commemorating the episode.
Wagah, just 30km from Amritsar, is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India and holds an elaborate border-closing ceremony each day at sunset with plenty of contempt mixed with pomp and circumstance that involves many tall soldiers in massive turbans goose-stepping about and slamming gates all to the delight of crowds of locals and tourists, the day we visited on the survey was a weekend which meant the crowds were teeming; certainly, a performance not to be missed.
Day 10: Sunday 21 September. Amritsar - Jammu (211km - 4:15hours)
A very simple, short day sees us continuing north to cross the Ravi River and then turn westward to skirt the Pakistan border. The scenery just gets greener and more beautiful as we pass further north, which seems a paradox when you consider the political and military instability of the past in this area. The small local towns are powered by electricity only through the day and it's not unusual for everything to stop at 6pm, when the hotel will start a small portable generator. Jammu has many bazaars and fine eateries, it is also known as the 'City Of Temples' with plenty to explore on foot or by rickshaw. The climate is still comfortably warm at this time of year with an average daytime temperature of 26 centigrade.
Day 11: Monday 22 September. Jammu - Srinagar (282km - 7:45hours)
The road from Jammu to Srinagar is famously busy and no indicator of the wide open emptiness to follow, although the scenery is described as outstanding and a marvel of nature. The road authorities are currently building tunnels to improve the route; nevertheless, it is unlikely to be completed before we travel. The Jawahar Tunnel and the twisty, gradual climb takes us to 5,200ft (1600m) and sees us entering a more military controlled region. From here we begin a more accelerated climb into the Himalayas passing many lookouts where the scenery gets larger and more inspiring, with golden fields beside the road awaiting harvest at this time of year.
Day 12: Tuesday 23 September. Srinagar - Kargil (203km - 5:20hours)
Another day's steady climb leads us east crossing Zoji La at 11,575ft (3528m) to drop into the stunning Drass Valley, a name meaning 'Hell' in the local Balti language. This pass is frequently named as the entrance to the Ladakh region and is a more moderate way to acclimatise whilst ascending to Leh. We have purposely kept these next days shorter to allow your body to become accustomed to the rarefied air. Zoji La is a narrow road with huge drops (not for the faint-hearted); it has a remarkable position, bordered by the Kashmir basin on one side and the Drass basin on the other, but overlooking snow-covered summits and dense strips of jungle in the same view! Descending into the river valley, we move between towering peaks close to 21,000ft dwarfing us as we snake along beside the Drass River. We overnight in Kargil at 8,750ft (2650m); famous during the 1999 Drass War when over a period of three months the Indian Army drove back Pakistani insurgents. These days the road from Srinagar to Leh has a heavy military presence with several camps training for high-altitude warfare; nevertheless, it is considered to be relatively safe, with the security forces there to help you out.
Day 13: Wednesday 24 September. Kargil - Leh (220km - 4:50hours)
Leaving Kargil reasonably early, just 40km down the road is a sleepy town which many would pass through without knowing it contains a 30ft (9m) statue of Budhha, hewn out of solid rock in the 7th or 8th century; one is not allowed to take photographs of the statue, but it's a must-see on the way through. Shortly, we climb Namika La 12,610ft (3880m), a high and windy yet scenic pass, and a further 40km brings us to the highest crossing on this road, Fotu La at 13,479ft (4148m). The scenery is truly outstanding with clear air and pristine views not typically associated with India. Lamayuru is famous for having one of the oldest Gompa's (monastery) relating to Buddhism; take a moment to visit.
From Fotu La it's a long decent, which after Lamayuru, starts to descend once more - and what a drop!! You will descend over a 1000m in 6-7km of drive, directly into the majestic Indus valley. There are two roads dropping to the valley floor, the Jalibi Bends (formally Hangro Loops) or the lower road going through the same amount of drop but in a more civilized manner. On this particular road you will stumble on an astonishing rock and earth formation known locally as "Moonland" where erosion has cut other-worldly formations into the landscape. The Hangro Loops however, are a series of 18 hairpins strewn down the mountainside with precipitous drops and steep gorges; take your pick!
Day 14: Thursday 25 September. Leh - Rest (3)
'Our passes are so high, terrain so harsh, that only the fiercest of enemies and best of friends would want to visit us' - a Ladakhi saying.
Leh sits at 11,562ft (3524m). We have chosen Leh as our third rest day because there is so much to see and do in the area. What's more, it would seem pointless to come to the centre of this iconic region without pause. This will be a very important staging post to avoid AMS (acute mountain sickness) which can be an issue for some and for which we must make allowances. In the town itself, there is a multitude of monasteries and temples to visit, or maybe you'd like to relax for your first high-altitude massage and spa while you acclimatise for the final push over some of the world's highest roads. The markets of Leh are laden with Tibetan goods and the souvenir shops have some wonderful things on offer. However, you should be aware that some of the less scrupulous vendors' truck souvenirs in from China and Nepal, providing little benefit to local people.
We also have a superb option for the RATBAGS (Rough And Tumble Boys And GirlS) on this rest day. What about driving over one of the highest motorable passes in the World? Khardung La is not, as is often quoted, any longer the world's highest driveable road but at over 17,500ft it comes a close second!
Day 15: Friday 26 September. Leh - Jispa (330km - 8:35hours)
Today is the really BIG day of the event with three passes over 16,000ft (5000m) as we finally head south once more. Nothing can be more exciting and adventurous than the next stage of this overland trip, leaving Leh to climb some of the highest passes in all of India before descending once more to the relative comfort of Jispa. The tough will enjoy it and would not miss it for the world. The not-so-tough, after this experience, will be ready for their next high adventure! We shall overnight at Jispa (10,500ft); our favoured location, being at a more comfortable altitude and with some reasonable accommodation. Survey results found amenities elsewhere very limited and basic only providing flapping canvas shelter with simple Dhabas' (parachute cafés) offering sustenance. It is said bouts of ecstasy and depression engulf one on this road. The poet, the artist and the photographer certainly, but also the philosopher surfaces as one identifies with colours, landscapes and the moods of life in the ever-changing hues and vistas that Mother Nature has to offer.
Day 16: Saturday 27 September. Jispa - Tabo (251km - 8:25hours)
We are very pleased to be taking the group through the breathtaking and remote Spiti Valley. We cross our final 16,000ft (5000m) pass and descend into the Lahaul Valley in the shadow of Mount Mulkila (21,180ft). The Spiti Valley is tucked away from civilisation in a lesser-known world, almost surreal; it is a high-altitude desert valley surrounded by the rugged Himalayas. Spiti means 'middle land' as it is locked between India and Tibet; for the travel junkie inside all of us, a visit to this part of the world is a must. The untamed landscapes, quaint hamlets, and high desert scenery are far more realistic than any commercialised Everest adventure. The Spiti region has only been open to tourists since 1992 and is often proclaimed by those who have seen it to be a world within a world. We overnight in the tiny hamlet of Tabo (10,760ft), at a new, clean and snug hotel; although this is another location where staff may need to be billeted under canvas.
Day 17: Sunday 28 September. Tabo - Shimla (354km - 10:35hours)
Today is a long day by anyone's standards; however, we have the picturesque township of Shimla as our goal. Leaving at first light, we pass Mount Shilla towering many thousands of feet above us at almost 23,000ft as we drop down from our Himalayan experience. The road follows the Spiti River clinging to the side of an impressive sheer ravine with roaring water many feet below us. Joining the sealed but often chaotic Hindustan-Tibet Road we follow the beautiful Sutlej River, sometimes known as the Red River; its source lies at 18,500ft in the Tibetan Plateau and is the easternmost tributary of the mighty Indus River. Shimla is where snow-capped Himalayan peaks meet green pastures meet Victorian-era architecture, labyrinthine bazaars and lengthy pedestrian shopping malls. In addition, Shimla was a retreat destination for Mahatma Gandhi who frequented a Georgian mansion in the suburbs from the mid-1930s. The town is bursting with all forms of accommodation, however our lodgings, a little outside town, are best remembered as the former residence of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum; The Wildflower Hall is an exquisite place to relax and recuperate after the previous days' adventures.
For those wishing to bypass the Spiti Valley a direct route can be made to Shimla via Rohtang La (12,950ft), overnighting in Manali (6,726ft) and rejoining the main group in Shimla. (This option shortens the exposure to AMS (acute mountain sickness) by two days.)
Day 18: Monday 29 September. Shimla - Rest/Buffer (4)
Our fourth rest day will, I'm sure, be a welcome break after the high passes and thin air of the preceding six days. Shimla has so much to offer while we find time to relax and recuperate. With a mild 15-18 centigrade at this time of year, the woollens can be put away, the spa/massage treatments rediscovered and the five-star service once more resumed. The fine architecture, quality hotels and a community geared for the tourist with plenty to see and do make this an ideal sojourn.
Day 19: Tuesday 30 September. Shimla - Rest/Buffer (5)
Results from the survey proved we need to keep this additional Rest/Buffer day for fear of road closures and unforeseen issues traversing the Ladakh/Zanskar and Lahaul/Spiti Ranges. Any concerns relating to vehicles can also be addressed before continuing south. For those still chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel there are plenty of roads to explore in the vicinity.
Day 20: Wednesday 1 October. Shimla - Rishikesh (288km - 8:15hours)
Tearing ourselves away, we trickle through twisty mountain roads with little traffic aiming for 'the world capital of yoga', Rishikesh, and another epicurean establishment. Upon leaving Himachel Pradesh, we descend to a more archetypal Indian landscape where the roads become busier, the camels and donkeys don't know left from right, and the sound of car horns blaring reminds us this could only be the sub-continent! Dehradun is located in the foothills of the Himalayas nestled between two of India's mightiest rivers - the Ganges to the east and the Yamuna to the west. The city is famous for its picturesque landscapes and pleasant climate. Continuing to Rishikesh, we pass an ashram (spiritual retreat) made famous by the Beatles who took to meditation and spiritual learning here in 1968; the abandoned site with the jungle reclaiming many of the buildings is quite atmospheric. We shall be staying at another extremely peaceful hideaway with world-renowned luxury and hedonistic spa treatments.
Day 21: Thursday 2 October. Rishikesh - Corbett NP (258km - 8:20hours)
This region of Hill Stations became famous as a summer retreat for the British Raj away from the oppressive heat of the plains. Today our route continues through the remote hills with wonderful views and inspiring panoramas; meandering through open hilly countryside, we share the new tarmac road with little other traffic. The wildlife and scenery you can experience on this road makes for an interesting and colourful day's drive; indeed, Lally spotted a Leopard very close to the 'Ute' on this section. Corbett National Park is where we overnight in a rustic and simple lodge allowing us to get close to nature.
Day 22: Friday 3 October. Corbett NP - Agra (356km - 9:00hours)
No more mountains, hills or valleys of the preceding days, now we begin to cross the vast lowlands of India. Keeping away from the major arteries, we move across the Gangetic Plain featuring highly fertile alluvial soils and flat topography broken by numerous lakes and rivers; it's almost completely level with a fall of less than two metres per kilometre. We cross the countries greatest river, the Ganges, the longest river of India and the second greatest river in the world by water discharge. The Ganges basin is the most heavily populated river basin in the world with over 400 million people, also making it the most polluted; the facts are truly scary when you learn more… Not recommended for a dip! We approach Agra from the north and stay very close to one of the India's major highlights, the Taj Mahal.
Day 23: Saturday 4 October. Agra - Rest (6)
Here we are, finally, at the most enduring mausoleum to love anywhere in the world; the Taj Mahal. It doesn't matter how many photographs you've seen, how many books you've read, how many times you've visited, this is one of the most spellbinding pieces of architecture ever to exist. Constructed over a period of twenty years by Shah Jehan for his beloved wife, it was completed in 1653. Our sixth rest day allows you to explore this epitaph to Queen Mumtaz Mahal, who died following the birth of their 14th child; phew! Other interesting sites to visit include Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-Daulah and Akbar's Tomb.
Day 24: Sunday 5 October. Agra - Jaipur (249km - 4:40hours)
There is a multitude of places to visit today including forts, palaces and national parks. Akbar's tomb is just off route, you will find the huge building unostentatious yet overpowering as the final resting place of this single soul. Leaving Agra on good roads, we pause at Fatehpur Sikri just 40km distant to discover a series of royal palaces, a harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings built by the Mughal emperor Akbar. He named the city, Fatehabad, meaning 'victory' in Persian; it was later called Fatehpur Sikri and has one of the best-preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India. From here the road to Jaipur is a six-lane toll road in good condition. Jaipur is a medieval city with many forts (the Amber Fort is amongst the most impressive in Rajasthan), palaces and museums. It is said that in 1876 Jaipur was coloured in terracotta pink to welcome Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, and thus the title 'Pink City' was born.
Day 25: Monday 6 October. Jaipur - Ranthambore NP (171km - 3:20hours)
We leave the 'Pink City' in a southerly direction passing more ruined temples and the bones of once-fine palaces. It is a short run to Ranthambore National Park where we get a final chance to spot that illusive tiger we've heard so much about. When you see a photograph of a tiger in India, it was most likely taken at Ranthambore. One of India's largest national parks and once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the park gained celebrity status during the 1960s when Queen Elizabeth II visited and Prince Philip shot a tiger here. The park has just opened for the season and apart from tigers, the park is home to leopards, jungle cats, sloth bears, hyenas, Indian foxes, jackals and crocodiles. Perhaps take a trip into the park riding an elephant?
Day 26: Tuesday 7 October. Ranthambore NP - Chittorgarh (290km - 4:45hours)
An early safari is an option if you missed-out yesterday; it's then a nice drive along forested ridges on secondary roads with views down to the lakes of northern Madhya Pradesh before we descend to join an ultra-modern four-lane highway to Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh is the epitome of Rajput pride, romance and spirit. It reverberates with the history of heroism and sacrifice, echoing with the tales sung by the poets of Rajasthan. The main reason for visiting Chittorgarh is its massive hilltop fort (allegedly the largest in Asia 'though other forts make the same claim) which is a depiction of Rajput culture and values. The fort, built in the 7th century, covers a 550-acre site positioned on a hill that rises steeply from the plains below. Fiercely independent, the Fort of Chittor was under siege three times, each time the inhabitants fought bravely and thrice jauhar (suicide) was committed by the ladies and children to avoid the disgrace of capture. We stay in fine comfort at another palace in a rural setting where you can enjoy some wonderful food and experience the simpler way of life.
Day 27: Wednesday 8 October. Chittorgarh - Rest (7)
This gem really is a big fort by anybody's standards! With over 13km of ramparts and outer walls, the scale is truly huge. Built in lavish terms, the fort sprawls majestically over a hill and has four palaces inside its walls. It also has a most interesting history, having been under siege and sacked on numerous occasions over the last fourteen centuries. Spend the day discovering the town and fort alone or take an excursion in a rickshaw or 'tuk-tuk' with a local guide to immerse yourself in its wonders.
We shall be staying at a converted castle away from the madding crowd so you can enjoy some peace but remain within striking distance of the impressive fort.
Day 28: Thursday 9 October. Chittorgarh - Maheshwar (375km - 6:45hours)
We leave our peaceful haven travelling through provincial countryside heading for another harbour of Indian comfort. The landscape is mostly flat agriculturally farmed land with low surrounding hills; you will pass patches of ground most beautifully managed and manicured to produce food for the local markets. Amongst the hills we pass Mandu; the earliest reference tells us it was a fortified city as far back as the 6th century BC, but Mandu's golden age was the 15th century. Of course, like any good narrative, it also holds a tale of unconsummated love where a beautiful Rajput princess falls for a prince, but is 'bequeathed' to another. Obviously, the only course of action for the poor girl is to poison herself! C'est la vie. Mandu has many fine ruins and dilapidated buildings to explore. Indeed, Hoshang Shah's tomb was apparently the inspiration for the Taj Mahal; he lies inside the mausoleum along with tombs believed to be those of his wife, three sons and a daughter.
Day 29: Friday 10 October. Maheshwar - Aurangabad (344km - 6:25hours)
From Maheshwar we cross the Narmada River to continue south enjoying the fertile countryside and cross the Satpura Hills where we enter Maharashtra. Coal has long been part of the economy here but more recently cultivation of Jatropha plants to extract oil for biofuel has changed things substantially. The Ellora Caves just outside Aurangabad make a worthwhile stop with some very impressive artwork cut into the caves and guides available to give the story behind this fifth century architecture. Tonight you will enjoy more exquisite comfort at one of Aurangabad's premier establishments.
Day 30: Saturday 11 October. Aurangabad - Mumbai (388km - 6:45hours)
The final day of the tour is no time for the late riser with a full day's drive ahead crossing the spectacular Western Ghats to the Malshej Pass; the views down into the valleys are magnificent, the waterfalls too. Harishchandragad is a hill station with evidence of Microlithic man, that is to say man has been here for at least 5,000 years. We descend for a run into the city using the major Expressway; furthermore, on entering the city, we find a brand new elevated motorway taking us within five kilometres of the final flag. Then it's time to put on your 'glad rags' before reminiscing on our adventure and departing to distant shores.
In conclusion: Expect an amazing experience. You must bring a positive attitude, an attitude of going forward because hiccups can and will happen along the way; this is India. So if you thrive on both adventure and challenge, and want to enjoy the most remote and beautiful places in the world, then start planning!