Itinerary - opinions??

Old Nov 25th, 2008, 03:48 PM
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Itinerary - opinions??

Feb 2009 trip.
1st trip to India
Well travelled (outside Asia) couple mid-thirties.
Priorities - wildlife (hence 2 reserves)

Sat 31/1 Arr Mumbai Airport 3pm.
Take 20.35 train (2101) to Gondia.
Sun 1/2 Arr Gondia station 11.38. Transfer to Kanha Jungle Lodge
Mon 2/2 & Tues 3/3 Kanha
Wed 4/2 Take 23.55 Train (5645) from Jabalpur to Varanasi.
Thurs 5/2 Arr Varanasi 08.55
Fri 6/2 Varanasi
Sat 7/2 Take 22.20 train (2401) to Agra.
Sun 8/2 Arr Agra 08.53
Mon 9/2 Drive to Jaipur
Tues 10/2 Jaipur
Wed 11/2 Drive to Ranthambore
Thurs 12/2 Ranthambore (either take late train 23.08 (2471) to Delhi (arr 04.30), or stay and get train next day (12.40 - 18.35 2903))
Fri 13/2 Dep Delhi Airport 21.30

Should we cut Varanasi in favour of time in Delhi? (we could fly from Raipur on 4/2)

Any suggestions for hotels in Varanasi/Agra/Jaipur/Ranthambore?
We're not rich by any means but would like somewhere clean!!

Are Sleeper trains any good?

All and any advice taken in good spirit.

Thanks,

Mark
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Old Nov 25th, 2008, 04:06 PM
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I can adress your question about sleeper trains the quickest. I took it once. There are four berths to a room so you will be with two other people - who may or may not be to your liking, may or may not be noisy, snory, etc.

Personally it was too close for my comfort trying to sleep with strangers so close by.

I would discourage you from taking the sleeper cars for the above reasons AND the fact that you probably won't get any good sleep and will arrive at your next destination tired.

You didn't ask this, but I would not travel less than first class on Indian trains.

Fly when you can! Kingfisher is well liked for an airline. Don't use Indian Airlines.

Long train rides (more than 5 hours IMO) and car trips (more than 3 - 4 hours) can be very tiring. Indian roads can jostle bones you didn't know you had - even in your 30s!
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Old Nov 25th, 2008, 06:07 PM
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looks like way too much moving around to me in a country that moves very slowly....also i think you will need more sleep than you will get on the trains...
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Old Nov 25th, 2008, 07:20 PM
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Here are some random thoughts:

1. I think trains in India are quite interesting, as are train stations, and every traveler should experience at least one. For sleepers, something I have done in Europe is to reserve the entire sleeping compartment (i.e. with a 4-person sleeper and only 2 people, buy 4 tickets and have the whole compartment to yourselves). This would give you room to spread out, etc. I don’t know if this is possible in India, but is worth asking for sure. Train fares are even cheaper in India, although you are traveling at a popular time of year so things can get booked up, so if you want to do this, I would arrange for the bookings ASAP.

2. Having said the above, I am fairly positive that I personally would not want to get on a night train after having just presumably flown something like 10-15 hours overnight to reach India (and possibly via a connection). You will also have to sit around Mumbai somewhere for 5-6 hours before boarding the train, unwashed, with baggage and jet lag (were you planning on getting a hotel room, taking a shower?), and then boarding a night train for yet another night of interrupted sleep – - I am exhausted just thinking about it. And then you have 14 hours on the train (assuming no delays), and then 3 hours on Indian roads to get to the camp. (I just looked up the camp, looks interesting, but isolated for sure.) And you have never been in India ever before, and possibly never been to Asia. So that’s like 40 hours of travel, for which about half of which you will be jet-lagged and in India for the first time. IMO this may be a little bit of a recipe for disaster. You may want to give yourself a day in Mumbai to simply rest up and prepare for the train journey, buy snacks, take a shower, stretch your calve muscles. You may also want to look into DAY train options the next day to Gondia. For example, there is an 11 am departure from Mumbai Lokmanya which arrives at Gondia at 7 pm (you do then of course have 3 hours on roads to the camp in the dark, but you will at least have had some sleep the night before, and you of course are not driving…I am not a huge fan of Indian roads in the dark, but if this is not a major highway, should be OK; hard to say.)

Another option would be to go to Varanasi first from Mumbai by air (after an overnight in Mumbai). Then from Varanasi train to Jalabpur on the night train and then drive to the camp. This would give you several days to rest and recover from the flight before tackling a night train as your first Indian experience. Varanasi would be an interesting and good introduction to India; while it can be overwhelming in terms of the spiritual and sensory experience, it is a small town and easier to negotiate on foot (other than Sarnath which you need to take a car to but is only a partial day trip and is quite close). From the camp at Kahna, you can take a train from Gondia to Agra (takes about 10 hours, night train options are available.)

You might even want to look into flying to Nagpur from Mumbai the day after you arrive, and then taking a bus or driving from Nagpur to the camp. There is a morning flight on Jet Airways which would put you into Nagpur at about 8:30 am. The drive from there seems to be 7 hours, which is one drawback I can see, but at least you would be rested. Using that option, if my calculations are correct, you will only arrive about 1-2 hours later than if you had struggled onto the night train the night before….

See http://www.flykingfisher.com/ and http://www.jetairways.com for schedules, as mentioned above, if possible, try to avoid Indian Airlines.

You could of course completely redo things and do this: fly from Mumbai to Jaipur the day you arrive (there are two Jet Airways flights at 6 and 6:30 pm which you could easily make). Then do Jaipur, drive to Ranthambore, train Agra (3-4 hours express day train, much easier than the horrid drive), train to Gondia (night train). Then train to Delhi (Jabalpur may be faster than Gondia). I have not looked at all the train schedules, but this may work as well and would avoid the horrid first day and one night train.

3. Ranthambore is quite lovely, I would try to spend as much time there as you can, as there are only 2 game drives a day, one at sunrise and one starting at about 2 pm. They are 3 hours each. So you need to stay for as many days as you can in order to see as much as you can.

4. I personally find Varanasi very interesting, as I do Delhi. You only have a very short time in either place, and if you can use Varanasi as a spring board to get to the camp in Gondia, that may be a better use of time in any event. With really only 1.5 days for either, you may be better off just going to Varanasi which is more compact and you can perhaps get more a feeling for the place in a short time. It is also really sacred to Hindus and Buddhist (i.e. Sarnath) so that is why it is so interesting.

5. Finally, my editorial comment would be this: you have less than 2 weeks and are going to 5 places, not including a possible day in Delhi before your flight. You have 3 night trains and some good drives as well, including a whopper of a first 24 hours. This is rather exhausting in any country, let alone India, which I love, but which is not like traveling in Europe or the US. (There is no dining car or snack car on trains for example, although on some night trains you can order meals for the compartment, but the food is quite variable, IMO you need to bring your own; breakfast is OK. On some trains there will be vendors selling snacks, or you can buy at station halts; but generally be prepared with your own food just in case.) My general rule of thumb for travel anywhere is 3 places in 2 weeks or 4 at most if the 4th is very close. I don’t think that applies to your itin. I hate to say it, but with your short time and your quite crazed schedule, you may want to consider skipping Agra; OR consider skipping Gondia and going to Bharatapur bird park near to Agra (on the way to Jaipur actually), and/or going to the Chambal river valley area about 3 hours from Agra. You could also skip Jaipur and train in and out of Ranthambore. You are trying to cover a large distance in a short period of time, and Gondia is quite remote, so you may be better off either cutting out something like Agra or Jaipur or cutting out Gondia and going to bird parks or national parks nearer to Jaipur and Agra. Everyone wants to see the Taj, but it is not always then possible to fit everything else in when you only have 2 weeks and you have quite a distance to cover. While I think the Taj Mahal is quite breathtaking, there are many glorious sights in India. If you think you may never return and have your heart set on the Taj Mahal, then IMO something else may have to give on this itin. If you can fly into Delhi rather than Mumbai, that may help things for a start.

6. A very useful website for hotels in India is http://sawdays.co.uk/, click on the book for India. You can also buy the book, Special Places to Stay India, but the website will give you a very long list of hotels to start with. A lot of these hotels are in the budget range, and all seem interesting and several, like the Imperial in Delhi, are outstanding (but it ‘s not a budget hotel by any means). In Ranthambore in the more budget range, I like the Sawai Madophur for its history and charm.

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Old Nov 28th, 2008, 11:38 AM
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Thanks guys. Plans on hold, as you might imagine. Hope the situation hasn't touched anyone here.
Hope still to be able to travel but comments noted, particularly yours cicerone. You're pretty damn thorough!! Many, many thanks.
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Old Nov 28th, 2008, 12:49 PM
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Well, somehow I missed this post before. I don't need to add anuything to jaya and cicerone - they speak the truth.

But I was just wondering if I could get hold of some of the drugs you were on when you made up your schedule. lol.

I want to read the trip report of this little adventure.
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Old Nov 28th, 2008, 02:10 PM
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What, no ganja growing along the roads of Melbourne like in Assam? You need some of those catnip filled toys for Christmas to tide you over between trips - LOL.
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 09:24 AM
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trust an aussie to not mince his words. point taken though, chaps. clearly the assumption that one can actually sleep well on a night train was pretty wide of the mark. having said that, as mentioned circumstances have overtaken holiday planning right now....
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Old Jan 25th, 2009, 01:36 PM
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Well, just in case you kind chaps that gave advice are interested, the trip is back on and we fly on Friday!!
Flying a day earlier and to Delhi rather than Mumbai. Direct flight too.
Flying the next morning to Jabalpur (for Kanha)as train journey was a tad ambitious.
That said, still have three overnight 2AC trips in itenierary.
Maybe we are crazy but there we are.
Itinerary is now:
Kanha 3 nights
1 night on train
Varanasi 2 nights
1 night on train
Agra 1 night
Then car & driver:
Jaipur 2 nights
Ranthambore 2 nights
1 night on train
Fly home

We're missing all but an afternoon in Delhi but sacrafices had to be made!

Will try and break the habit of a lifetime, if only for our Aussie friend!

Thanks again guys.

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Old Jan 25th, 2009, 01:39 PM
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will try and break habit of a lifetime AND WRITE TRIP REPORT....

sorry, crap typing, and dodgy spelling to boot!
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Old Jan 25th, 2009, 01:46 PM
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Hey - someone else riding trains in India - in 2AC, to boot! I'm definitely looking forward to the trip report. So long as you don't do back-to-back night trains (and I see you're not), you should be fine.

Take cable locks so you can lock your luggage to the straps under the bottom berths. Also, I like to take a silk sleep sack (see www.dreamsack.com/store/home.php?cat=2) for night trains. Have you read seat61.com for info on riding trains in India? Have fun!
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Old Jan 25th, 2009, 08:13 PM
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Ahhh, I see the drugs kicked back in! Lol. Yes, you are crazy - but, as you say, there you are. I'll be super-interested in how you get on.

When you're rockin' and rollin' there in 2AC just remember the immortal words...

'We told you so....'

lol lol lol. Have a great trip, my friends, may the tigers of Kanha growl round your tent at night. Report back. Every grisly detail. What an adventure!

I'll be there in a month. I'll look for your blood on the tracks.
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