Awara Model 2011 aka Life Begins with Retirement

Awara

Well-Known Member
Travel never ends. The return to headquarters is the beginning of another trip. This time to Bhimtal and then back to my friend's house in Paudhar

20 October 2020. Usual early 4 AM departure for Bhimtal. We were travelling in two vehicles. My grandson and I left early while son and family with small daughter were to follow.

IMG_8970.jpg



IMG_8990.jpg


Solar energy lighting up the wires?

IMG_8996.jpg


Lots of cut timber near Rampur


IMG_4550.jpg


Breakfast break before Bilaspur

IMG_4554.jpg


Covid checkpost at Uttarakhand border

IMG_9010.jpg


Just before the turn for Bhimtal


IMG_9015.jpg


White-capped Redstart at Bhimtal lake

IMG_4559.jpg


Pedal boating


IMG_4588.jpg


Dahlia flourishing in resort premises

IMG_4590.jpg


Comfortable room

IMG_4610.jpg


Rest of family joined later so here are bro & sis enjoying the swing

IMG_9160.jpg


Another round of pedal boating


IMG_9179.jpg


Drove next afternoon to visit St Joseph's College, Nainital

IMG_4690.jpg


A friend and family joined us the next day making the kids a threesome

IMG_4696.jpg


Boating in Naukuchiyatal

IMG_4712.jpg


Evening barbecue in resort

IMG_9283.jpg


Wall decoration in resort dining room


IMG_4716.jpg


Colourful spider waiting for prey
 

Attachments

Awara

Well-Known Member
IMG_9332.jpg


Drove to Jangaliagaon. View from there

IMG_9374.jpg


Drove to Sattal to do some birding. Greater Yellownape

IMG_9409.jpg


Black-lored Tit

IMG_9425.jpg


Chestnut-bellied nuthatch

IMG_9433.jpg


Black-throated Tit

IMG_9455.jpg


Bar-tailed Treecreeper

IMG_9495.jpg


Red-billed Blue Magpies

The rest of the family returned to Delhi from Bhimtal while I drove to Paudhar to satiate my gluttony for Himalayan views

IMG_4738.jpg


On the way

IMG_9536.jpg


This sign is for winter driving

IMG_4743.jpg


A well-appointed kitchen with gas, electric kettle, microwave. Since I was alone and didn't know how to cook, I stocked up with soups, ITC's Kitchens of India packets of different veg and non-veg ready to eat food, baked beans, muesli and cocoa apart from bread, tea and filter coffee powder. This also helped me to follow all Covid precautions and stay safe

IMG_9555.jpg


During the day I walked around in the sun as much as possible and saw some lovely sights and scenery. Red chillies drying in the sun

IMG_9585.jpg


I would wake up early to see the magical hues of sunrise day after day. You can never get enough of these views! Or of the melodious whistling of the Blue Whistlingthrush

IMG_4825.jpg


IMG_9719.jpg


IMG_9793.jpg


IMG_9899.jpg


And indulging in birding, of course. Long-tailed Minivet, female

IMG_0019.jpg


Himalayan Woodpecker

IMG_4899.jpg


IMG_0173.jpg


Glorious sunrises followed by stunning sunsets!

IMG_0284.jpg


Surrounding countryside

IMG_0287.jpg


Almora in the distance

IMG_0307.jpg


A game of cards in the sun

IMG_0380.jpg


White-browed Shrike-babbler almost within arms reach

IMG_0410.jpg


Black Bulbul gobbling up apple blossoms

IMG_0411.jpg


Did I just gobble up a flower?


IMG_0481.jpg


Nanda Devi and Nanda Devi East

IMG_0526.jpg


The clouds obscured the moon rising behind the mountains so had to be contented with this shot

IMG_0604.jpg


IMG_0623.jpg


Magical sunrise with the clouds on fire

IMG_0687.jpg


One of a pack of loud, noisy White-chinned Laughingthrushes

IMG_0768.jpg


There was an atta chakki (flour mill) nearby so women taking home the flour

All good things come to an end so it was time to drive back to Delhi starting just before daybreak

IMG_0829.jpg


Another magical sunrise

IMG_0841.jpg


A bend in the road

IMG_0847.jpg


Bad patches near Dhanachuli. Then an uneventful drive to Delhi before returning to Patna.

Did I say return to Patna? Well, as I mentioned, the end of one journey is the start of another so not Patna but back to the hills, this time to Himachal
 
Last edited:

Awara

Well-Known Member
After Naldehra in October 2020, New Year's near Nathua Khan in Kumaon, March '21 in Atali Ganga upstream of Rishikesh, Kolakham in Neora Valley in September '21 (apologies for not posting trip reports as I was overwhelmed in some other work), it was time to try out the recently inaugurated 340 km Purvanchal Expressway from near Ghazipur in East UP to Lucknow.

On 7.2.22 I started from Patna at 4.15 AM, reached the Purvanchal Expressway at 8.40 AM, Lucknow at 12.15 PM and was in Greater Noida at 6.45 PM, 14h30m 1006 km. The Patna-Arrah-Buxar highway is under construction with many terrible diversions. What made driving even more difficult was the near zero visibility due to thick fog and very poor or absent signage for the diversions. Had to retrace the road several times. It took 4.5 hours to cover the 155 km from Patna to the Purvanchal Expressway entrance. Fog still persisted but with a 6-lane expressway, and almost no traffic I was able to cruise comfortably at 100 kmph. However, the usual problem of vehicles coming in the wrong lane so had to be alert.

The wayside facilities of eating joints, toilets and fuel pumps are still to be created. It's 340 km long so I filled the tank at Bhawarkol a few km before the start of the Purvanchal Expressway. Fortunately, two brand new toilets had just been completed, the first at the building complex at the start and the second about 100 km before Lucknow. The food stalls are yet to start functioning on this side though they were operational on the other side, that is Lucknow-Ghazipur. The toll gates are also not operational so it was a free ride all the way to Lucknow. There was a 10-15 minute hold up due to VIP movement in Lucknow. In any case with no proper ring road, it always takes an hour to cross Lucknow. After Lucknow it's a smooth ride with seamless connectivity between the Lucknow-Agra Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway.

Happy driving folks! I'm headed next month to the Seven Sisters and avidly reading all the North-East travelogues.
 

Awara

Well-Known Member
HOHONEO

Though I had been to some places in the North East, it was one area that I had not driven in due to reports of frequent disturbances there. However, with the improved situation and after reading some travelogues of drives in that region, I decided that I must cover as much as possible. The trigger was an announcement in our birding group, Nature India (one of the best in my experience), of a birding trip to Manas National Park in Assam. I had also wanted to see the Rufous-necked Hornbill in Latpanchar in North Bengal. Plotting the route I found various possibilities. After consulting my regular travel companions, the following Hop On Hop Off North East Odyssey (HOHONEO) plan formulated itself through crowd sourcing from them:

Patna-Gogabil wetland (Katihar)-Bagdogra-Latpanchar-Buxa Tiger Reserve-Manas National Park-Guwahati-Kaziranga-Kohima-Imphal-Hollongopar Gibbon Sanctuary-Dibrugarh-Miao (Namdapha)-Roing-North Lakhimpur-Ziro-Itanagar-Guwahati-Umiam-Dawki-Cherrapunji-Shillong-Guwahati-Manas again-Bagdogra-Patna (37 days, ~5,000 km)

NE Extensive copy.png


Day 1, 10 March 2022

1 - 10.3.22 Patna-Gogabil copy.png


After the usual servicing and checkups, tank full, started from Patna at 4 AM towards Katihar via Mokama and Barauni. I had last driven on this road in February 2012 when several patches were in very bad condition so I was slightly apprehensive. However, this NH had been done up and, though single lane, the road surface was quite good almost throughout.

Crossing the Rajendra Pul, Mokama-Barauni
IMG_2924.jpg


Double lane initially turned into single lane with good surface
IMG_7226.jpg


Verdant green fields
_MG_7240.jpg


Crossing Kosi Mahasetu
_MG_7245.jpg


सोने की गुड़िया, चाँदी की डोड़
चल मेरी गाड़ी, गुवाहाटी की ओर
Yes, I too would be going there
_MG_7236.jpg


Chai in kulhad (environment-friendly earthen cup)
PHOTO-2022-03-10-10-16-09.jpg


After lunch at Katihar, I drove to Gogabil, a community-managed wetland. It's listed among the Important Bird Areas (IBA) of Asia. I knew that March was rather late for migratory birds but still went there to see the wetland. The connecting road was quite bad. The local community has a boat in which I took a short boat ride; not many birds but an enjoyable outing
tempImagerZlueh.png


Asian Openbill Storks
_MG_7247.jpg


Oriental Darter
_MG_7306.jpg


Ready to take off
_MG_7366.jpg


It was dark by the time I returned to Katihar so a quick dinner and early to bed.
 

Awara

Well-Known Member
Day 2, 11.5.22. Katihar-Bagdogra-Kurseong

A short drive to Bagdogra where 3 others were to fly in to join me
Katihar-Bagdogra.jpg


Katihar-Purnia road being made 4-laned so lots of construction (don't know why after repeated uploading it's turning upside down :))
tempImageTDmGL0.png


Got it right this time!
IMG_2989.jpeg


Stopped at BP COCO Ghoshpukur for car & self refuelling but was very disappointed! Lone lady pump attendant was filling large drums of diesel with no one else to help. Air filling point was out of order. For breakfast I wanted puri-sabji (luchi-tarkari in Bengali) but was given a modified bhatura with daal instead. When I inquired I was told that daal is what they give for sabji!
PHOTO-2022-03-11-08-52-10.jpg


Crossed lots of vehicles fully laden with potatoes waiting for their turn at the cold storage; didn't know that this region was growing so much potato
_MG_7458.jpg


_MG_7460.jpg


_MG_7460.jpg


Car wash at Bagdogra
tempImageM37Obe.png


My friend from Kerala flew in and wanted to revisit his old haunts so we went to Kurseong via the narrow, twisting Pankhabari road and had the incomparable chicken cutlets and momos with fragrant Darjeeling tea in the West Bengal Tourist Lodge. They were as good as ever!

_MG_7464.jpg


_MG_7468.jpg


_MG_7472.jpg


_MG_7484.jpg


_MG_7496.jpg


tempImageDrDnAD.png


Bought some tea from the Makaibari sales outlet on the Pankhabari road
tempImage99qGlE.png


_MG_7500.jpg


Returned to Bagdogra to hunt for spare battery for friend's Canon D77 and then called it a day
 
Last edited:

Awara

Well-Known Member
Days 3&4, 12-13.5.22, Latpanchar
Two more of our group flew in to Bagdogra. After quick refreshments (chicken cutlets at Marina's Motel), the four of us drove to Latpanchar, famous with birders for its Rufous-necked Hornbills

Day 3_4 - 12_13.3.22.jpg


Passing through the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary
_MG_7510.jpg


The road to Latpanchar branches off near Kalijhora with a steep climb through bad roads
_MG_7518.jpg


This part, a steep, dust-filled road looked especially daunting but the Innova made it without any problem
_MG_7523.jpg


Latpanchar has lovely houses adorned with beautiful, colourful flowers. Our homestay on left
_MG_7526.jpg


tempImage0US7oS.png


_MG_7557.jpg


IMG_7575.jpg


IMG_7573.jpg


The afternoon hide birding was disappointing.

Happy to see girls playing football
IMG_7569.jpg


We left early next morning in search of the Rufous-necked Hornbill and spotted the female
_MG_7709.jpg


Next a hike through the forests to see if we could spot any other birds or animals.
Malayan Giant Squirrel
_MG_7662.jpg


PHOTO-2022-03-13-10-37-36 2.jpg


A local lady on the roadside
_MG_7544.jpg


Our guide looking for the birds
_MG_7710.jpg


After a long day of birding when we had given up hope of spotting the male Rufous-necked Hornbill, we stopped for tea at a shack.

IMG_3102.jpg


Just then our guide, Sabir, got a call that the hornbills were moving up the valley. We put our half-drunk tea aside and rushed towards the road overlooking the valley. Sure enough, there it was!
_MG_7753.jpg


With a sense of fulfilment we returned to our homestay. After dark we went for owl-spotting and were lucky to see
Mountain Scops Owl
_MG_7882.jpg


Brown Hawk Owl
_MG_7959.jpg


and Collared Scops Owl
_MG_7982.jpg


before retiring for the night.

Another hide birding early next morning but nothing noteworthy

Red-billed Leothrix
_MG_8071.jpg


Chestnut-tailed Starling
_MG_8086.jpg


Our host's German Shepherd
tempImagel1s0mH.png


A curious onlooker
IMG_7566.jpg


Left for our next destination, Buxa Tiger Reserve, after breakfast.
Day 5_6 - 14-15.3.22.jpg


Saw this Orange-bellied Leafbird on the way
_MG_8210.jpg


Again the stretch of bad road
_MG_8222.jpg


The steep portion except we were headed downhill while a Mahindra coming up was stuck. Persuaded them to reverse and move out of our way
_MG_8220.jpg


Crossing the Coronation Bridge
_MG_8223.jpg


Smooth drive through tea gardens
_MG_8230.jpg


Stopped at Roy & Cousin, Malbazar, for refuelling. Also had a sumptuous tea at the adjoining Tea Moments
(Mod: how to straighten this pic?)
IMG_3110.jpg


Nearing Raidak Forest House, Buxa Tiger Reserve
_MG_8238.jpg


_MG_8240.jpg


The decrepit kitchen (gas stove not in pic) from which Caretaker-cum-Cook, Keshab, conjured up delicious meals! Great end to the day!
PHOTO-2022-03-14-18-03-21.jpg
 
Last edited:

Awara

Well-Known Member
Days 5-6, 14-15.3.22, Buxa Tiger Reserve

Early morning safari towards Nararthali Bil (lake)
tempImagefMstBa.png


Sunrise
tempImagefV7KaR.png


tempImagewuDiy1.png


tempImageMw6inA.png


Siberian Rubythroat, a rare winter visitor
_MG_8257.jpg


Saw many other birds including this Black-crested Bulbul
_MG_8333.jpg


Afternoon safari to Bhutan border, "Bhutan Ghat". Crossed tea gardens on the way. The yellow strips around the lower tree trunks are coated with some sticky chemical that attracts insects and protects the tea plants from pest attacks
_MG_8371.jpg


_MG_8373.jpg


Forests
_MG_8370.jpg


tempImage4UN4ov.png


The multi-hued Bhutan hills, called Kalapahar, rise steeply across the river. The many hues of the rocks indicate the likelihood of volcanic activity associated with collision zones like the Himalayas. It was mesmerising
tempImageIgELVo.png


tempImage27RLlK.png


tempImageF0NwCI.png


tempImage2uA5wi.png


tempImageOY4kSb.png


tempImagewRTIXS.png


Saw several Great Indian Hornbills flying across. In our guide, Forest Guard, Pramatha's words, "Bidesh chole gelo" (gone abroad).
_MG_8394.jpg


_MG_8404.jpg


tempImagewRTIXS.png


Our mobiles switched to Bhutan time
PHOTO-2022-03-15-18-45-28.jpg


While returning saw this Barking Deer
_MG_8427.jpg


Rydak Forest Rest House, completed in 1909, is the second oldest FRH in Bengal that has retained its original structure
tempImageVs3UUN.png


IMG_3178.jpeg


Keshab again magically produced a delicious dinner from his decrepit kitchen
tempImageZH5CnZ.png


tempImagept60KY.png


A satiated group slept very well indeed!
 
Last edited:

Awara

Well-Known Member
Days 7-10, 16-19.3.22, Manas National Park

We were to join our Nature India birding group for Manas National Park. Nature India's birding trips are exceptional in quality. Our morning's destination was the Smiling Tuskers Elephant Camp near the sanctuary gate.
Day 7 Raidak-Manas.jpg


We bade goodbye to our superlative cook, Keshab, and equally wonderful guide, Pramatha, and headed for NH. But first to cross those rickety bridges - the previous evening Pramatha had gleefully informed us that the bridges were indeed in need of repair
_MG_8448.jpg


Roadside fuel for sale
_MG_8458.jpg


Potato trucks and tractors lined up
_MG_8465.jpg


Various examples of Indian driving on National Highways - they can come on the wrong lane sheaded straight for you from any direction, all shapes and sizes too!
_MG_8468.jpg


_MG_8470.jpg


_MG_8477.jpg


Restaurants open only around 9 AM so a hungry lot stopped at the first available joint
PHOTO-2022-03-16-09-11-01.jpg


Fortunately, service was quick and toilets were clean.
PHOTO-2022-03-16-09-11-01 2.jpg


Met the resident gecko, too
_MG_8475.jpg


Crossed the IOC Bongaigaon Oil Refinery
_MG_8479.jpg


Drove along the Beki river for the last bit
IMG_8486.jpg


Reached Manas to join the rest of the group that had flown to Guwahati and driven from there. They reached just after us
_MG_8507.jpg


Checked into our tents, had lunch and went for the afternoon safari
 

Awara

Well-Known Member
Afternoon and morning safaris each day in the central zone except for one day in the eastern zone when we had lunch near the eastern zone gate and returned for the afternoon safari. Wonderful sightings thanks to our Nature India group leader, Mandar, and local guide, Bijoy. Good food, too!

Here are a few of the birds and animals and a sketch map of the Manas National Park:

Malayan Giant Squirrel
_MG_0051.jpg


Indian Wild Buffaloes
_MG_8576.jpg


Spotting
_MG_8602.jpg


Kalij Pheasant eating a Silk Cotton Tree seed
_MG_8785.jpg


Elephants galore
_MG_8844.jpg



_MG_9030.jpg


Long-tailed Broadbill building its nest on a hanging vine so that no predator can reach it
_MG_9094.jpg


Bengal Monitor Lizard
_MG_9129.jpg



_MG_9136.jpg


Gecko
_MG_9324.jpg


Great Hornbill
_MG_9371.jpg


Smooth-coated Otters in the Manas River separating India and Bhutan
_MG_9405.jpg


Capped Langur
_MG_9422.jpg



_MG_9505.jpg


_MG_9560.jpg



_MG_9561.jpg


Large-tailed Nightjar.While we were watching the Nightjar with both gypsies abreast and their headlamps on, a rhino strolled across the road! Wonder what would have happened if we had been driving and bumped into each other!!!
_MG_9570.jpg


Black-breasted Parrotbill
_MG_9735.jpg


At park entrance. We were in two gypsies
tempImagepTCnW9.png


tempImageZ0Gb3b.png


Forest watchtowers where we would stop for packed breakfast
tempImagegXQle3.png


India-Bhutan border so some of us crossed over without visas!
tempImagejKyKbb.png


Horns of different animals (can't get it to be upright)
tempImageZULGok.png


Forest patrol party
tempImageMDqm4z.png


Manas National Park has 3 entrances - East, Central & Western. We skipped the distant Western Zone
tempImageOkGnhm.png


Smiling Tuskers Elephant Camp. We were in the cottages on the left. There are tents on the right
tempImager94BOG.png


Wild Buffalo trying to gauge our intentions
IMG_8893.jpg


Waiting to enter
PHOTO-2022-03-16-20-12-49.jpg


Lunch break at Eastern Zone. We saw the Bengal Florican during the afternoon safari
PHOTO-2022-03-23-10-28-20 2.jpg


Breakfast at a Forest Checkpost. All the trash was carefully collected and taken back
PHOTO-2022-03-23-10-28-22 3.jpg


Breakfast stop
PHOTO-2022-03-23-10-28-24 3.jpg


Last day. Buying handlooms from local women who make them
PHOTO-2022-03-23-11-58-51 7.jpg


Final goodbyes and then drive to Guwahati
Day 9 Manas-Guwahati.jpg


Crossing the Brahmaputra into Guwahati
_MG_0243.jpg


Other family members joined there. We stayed at Baruah Bhavan, a heritage family homestay.
tempImageSI9W1G.png


PHOTO-2022-03-19-15-24-27 2.jpg


Sunset Cruise on the Brahmaputra
IMG_0245.jpg


tempImageLTgRDY.png


tempImage8MAKeo.png


PHOTO-2022-03-19-16-51-20 4.jpg


Dinner with wonderful local flavour at the nearby Michinga
tempImageKSDrN3.png
tempImage27ylGl.png


tempImagePg7PcC.png
 
Top