Travelogue: Exploring wild Gujarat in the Hyundai Elantra
This month we treated our wild streak with a trip to the beautiful Blackbuck National Park, a wildlife sanctuary near the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat. And since we love driving, we decided to make this a proper driving holiday and drove all of the 700 kilometres from Pune. Other ways to reach the park is via regular flights from Mumbai to Bhavnagar, the nearest town. Bhavnagar is also well connected by rail and lies 55 kilometres away from the park.
Simple food but excellently prepared. And joy of all joys some delicious meat on the menu as well!
Our ride for the journey was the beautiful Hyundai Elantra which, in my books, is one of the best iterations of Hyundai's Fluidic design language. The 6-speed diesel feels like it was built to feast on highway miles and this made the going smooth on the wide open stretches of the NH8. Another feature of the Elantra that I really love is the cooling for the seats that really helps on a long road trip when the going gets hot. Our route took us up till the town of Karjan, where we turned left off the national highway for SH160 that we followed all the way to the national park. The state highway was much narrower but the verdant scenery and winding nature of the road made for an enjoyable drive.
A slice of luxury in the wilderness, thanks to the gorgeous accommodations at The Blackbuck Lodge
The next two days would be spent at the fabulous Blackbuck Lodge that lies just on the border of the national park. The accommodations are beautiful individual bush lodges with all the amenities you would expect from a five star property. They even have an outdoor shower area for that late night shower under the stars. And when I said that it borders the national park, don't be surprised to see some wildlife right outside your room window. When we headed to our room and the bellhop was showing us the sit-out area outside, the three of us got quite a start when we stepped out to see a majestic blackbuck stag, grazing on the fresh grass, not more than ten feet away. The next day we found that this was the perfect place to spend some quiet time, especially in the evening when there is the chance of watching blackbuck herds come to graze the grasslands surrounding the lodge. It may be on the edge of the national park but tell that to the animals for whom it's just an extension of their backyard. The whole property surrounds a small natural lake that also attracts a number of migratory birds giving the impression that you are living with the wildlife.
Even amateurs like us can come back from the national park with some excellent pictures of wildlife.
The national park is also a great place for a safari and while there isn't the allure of the big cats or other large predators, there is an abundance of wildlife at the park. It won't disappoint the photographer either, with excellent photo opportunities around every corner. Even us amateurs managed to come back with some impressive pictures of the blackbuck, blue bull and the many bird species that flock to the numerous water sources inside the national park.
The resident crane at the Blackbuck Lodge. This guy didn't move from that perch the whole time we were at the lodge
The cool futuristic lines of the Hyundai Elantra made it stand out like an apex predator in this setting
While you should dedicate all your time to relaxing and enjoying the natural surroundings, there are a number of other things you can do around the Blackbuck Lodge. 60 kilometres to the north-east of the lodge, there are the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilisation in Lothal. Here one can see the ruins and there is also a museum that houses artefacts and remains recovered during the excavation process. To the south-west of he lodge lies the city of Bhavnagar, surrounded by a number of ancient temples and further down the coast lies the ship breaking city of Alang which is also a place worth visiting at least once. We, on the other hand, put our feet up after a long day of shooting wildlife photographs, and watched the sun go down on our little vacation.
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