A Road-Trip to Rajasthan!!!
A road-trip to remember!!!
Woh zindagi hi kya jismein koi namumkin sapna na ho
- Annie, Khamoshi the Musical, 1996
- Annie, Khamoshi the Musical, 1996
One day I would like to own a BMW X6 and drive around the world. But then, the way my financials stand, I shall do well to hold on to the car I have. Or maybe, BMW X6 is that impossible dream for me.
So after contemplating for over 2 years, I finally decided to hit the road. And unlike the Jack of Hit the Road Jack fame, I was going to come back home.
While I would have loved to go all the way to sand dunes of Jaisalmer, it wasn’t going to be possible to cramp up a 2500km+ road trip in a week which had Diwali falling on Thursday. Hence, I decided to make the farthest destination from home as Udaipur.
We plan to start by 7 in the morning. We leave just before 10 in the morning. Soon we are at Mumbai – Pune Expressway. I go there every weekend with a friend and take a U-turn just before the toll booth. It has happened so many times that I am sure they would’ve recognized me by now. Finally, I oblige them, pay the toll and cross the toll booth. I see a surprised look on everyone’s faces there. Or so I hallucinate.
Every time I am on this road, I find it worse than the last time. But then, even in its worst form this road is better than the most. But the biggest problem with this road is, if you are entering from Pune, that it ends in Mumbai.
Mumbai. I hope you know what I mean.
But I cannot believe my luck. I just cruise through across the city, driving through the jungles and enter Gujarat. Little do I know what future holds for me.
Just before the Surat, on my left, I spot Hotel Decent. Remember Hotel Decent?
Damn, just after Surat, I spot it again. On my left.
Learning of the day – Hotel Decent is real.
Highlight of the day – The drive is average in patches. Good in patches. And is awesome every now and then.
I roam around in Ahmedabad. I learn few important lessons in life.
If you are driving in Ahmedabad and see an Auto Rickshaw ahead of you, you might well spot the driver jerking his leg out of his vehicle on the right side. This doesn’t mean there is a snake on his body and the driver is trying to shake it off. It simply means, he is signaling you he would turn right. Just to make it clear, if its left leg, it means he would turn leg. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a way to defy stereotypes.
If you see a man sitting on the back seat of a two wheeler with his legs on one side, it doesn’t mean he has some physical trouble. That’s how men normally sit on the backseat of a two wheeler in Ahmedabad. Women sit with their legs across. What does it mean? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a way to defy stereotypes.
I have seen many states in India – UP, MP, Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Sikkim, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Gujarat.
I have driven in many states in India – MP, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat.
No offence meant but I am yet to see worse driving sense than Gujarat. People don’t believe in using indicators or maybe they don’t know. People don’t use side mirrors anyways. Either they have it closed or have taken it off.
So if you are planning to drive to or in this state, be careful.
Learning of the day – Stereotypes can be defied. Yes, they can be.
Highlight of the day – Not much barring the turning signal techniques of Auto Rickshaw drivers.
I start for Udaipur from Ahmedabad. Roads are good. Temperatures are high. For a state which has a huge desert, one can spot lot of greenery.
Soon I enter the royal city. But I cannot access the roads to my hotel. Apparently roads to the hotel are too narrow for a car to enter. No, I am not kidding. The hotel is at the heart of the city but inaccessible by car. What does one do? One has to park his car approximately 1 kilometer from the hotel in a government parking space, take an auto rickshaw which is narrow enough to enter the city roads and reach the hotel.
On my way to the hotel I realize it wasn’t a joke. The roads are narrow. Narrowest roads I have ever seen.
Before reaching the hotel, I visit the vintage car museum. The age old Rolls Royce, the Mercedes, the Cadillac and all that which must have been owned by the kings staying in the city palace. I wonder how they got them through the narrow roads? Must have airlifted them.
Learning of the day – One can buy a Ferrari if he wants but without parking space, it could be as troublesome as a dead body is after murder.
Highlight of the day – Vintage car museum has some gorgeous cars. If you are a history buff, do not miss the light and sound show in the city palace. Even if you aren’t, still go for it. After all what is the point in vising the state of Rajasthan and not showing any interest in history. Also, do not miss the sunset from Monsoon Palace in Sajjangarh. Its serene.
I have run out of cash courtesy the number of places I had to pay for toll. An ATM is the first point I visit.
Tip: In case you are planning a road trip, carry enough cash.
On popular demand from the little ones in the family, we decide to visit the zoo in Sajjangarh. Damn, its Tuesday. The zoo is closed on Tuesday.
Problem with this younger generation is that it is too smart for their own good. They know the monster called google. Google shows them there are not one but three zoos in the city. Google can find all three of them. All I can find is the zoo which is closed.
Dear google, please update your maps. You have no idea what false hopes given by a map can do to a father who has 2 sons who are yet to hit the double digit age. On top of it, you don’t even call them zoos. You call them wild life sanctuaries.
I try placating them by promising some adventure. I have no idea why but the adventure I choose is to drive into the city and park my car in a parking space nearer to my hotel.
Damn. Damn. Damn. It is like driving between the wicketkeeper and first slip. One needs absolute precision to scrape through without any scratches.
Finally, I manage to park next to the city palace.
City palace is grand. They have preserved it well. Really well. This was the second time I was visiting it and I can safely say that of the very few historical monuments I have visited in India; this is one of the best maintained.
Staff is polite. Guides are professional.
And the place is full of history.
Next stop is Fateh Sagar lake but before that I need to drive safely through the first slip and the wicket keeper. I do that. Without a single scratch.
Chowpatty at Fateh Sagar lake is a heaven for street food lovers. Sun set is great. It’s not just the drive along the lake but also the walk around it fantastic. I need to stop here since with my limited vocabulary, I am running out of adjectives.
Next target is to look for the parking. Inside the city is out of question. I have forgotten the parking space where I had parked earlier. So after driving around in the same circle for over an hour, I manage to find that space and park.
Tip: It is always better to whatsapp the location of such points in an unknown city if you are driving around. It always helps in finding the place back. Or use some other way which my technically challenged mind isn’t aware off.
Learning of the day – When people in Rajasthan cross the road, they normally look straight. Even in case they manage to turn their neck, it isn’t in the direction from which vehicles are coming but in the direction in which vehicles are going. You find it strange? It's normal for them.
Highlight of the day – An awesome day. City Palace is a must visit. So is Fateh Sagar. I shall never forget the sunset at the lake. And the people. They are so polite you start to get a bit scared. Maybe it’s the regality which flows in the blood. You do get a sense of it for sure.
Time to head back to the basecamp – Ahmedabad. Road conditions haven’t changed in last two days. In fact, I have become more experienced in these two days. So I drive. How often in India you get good roads which are deserted.
Soon I am driving in the vicinity of speed which I wouldn’t like to mention but you can guess. It is a bliss.
On my left there are hills after around 100 meters of plain ground. On my right there is a divider full of small plants.
Thrill appears. I see a gentleman appearing out of those plants on my right. Within a split second, I realize that the gentleman isn’t alone. He has his camel behind him. Camel’s neck is tied with a rope and this gentleman is holding the other end of it. As expected, he isn’t seeing in the direction I am coming from but he is seeing in the direction I shall be going.
I honk. He doesn’t buzz. I honk again. He looks into my direction. I honk again.
Seeing at my speed, he runs across the road. He is still holding the rope.
Now, there is him, there is the camel and there is this rope which this gentleman is holding. And then, there is yours truly putting more pressure on the horn than the breaks.
He lets the rope go.
No it is just me and the camel. I stop honking knowing that it might piss off the camel. I just drive.
Amongst all of us - me, the gentleman and the camel, camel is calmest and composed. He doesn’t buzz. Maybe he is holding his ground. Maybe he is hoping I shall drive around by his decisiveness to not move. After all it is indecisiveness which causes lot of accidents.
I pray to god and drive. Just below the camel’s nose. We all survive. I look into the rear mirror. The gentleman comes back, picks up the rope, takes his camel and crosses the road looking at me, in the direction I am going. Some consistency, that is.
Learning of the day – If I was driving BMW X6, it would have hit the camel since it is a taller car. Maybe some dreams are better off as impossible dreams.
Highlight of the day - What else but the road incident? If Ruskin Bond was witnessing this, I am sure he would have written a beautiful story named – The Camel and the Gentleman.
I am back in base camp. It is Diwali. And yes, we do burst crackers. Take the environmentalist in you somewhere else.
Learning of the day – It is a holiday hence no learning.
Highlight of the day – Diwali.
We have plans to go to Polo Forest if we get ready by 6 in the morning. We get up around 9 in the morning. Hence we decide to dedicate this day to the taste buds. For foodies, Ahmedabad is a great place to be.
Learning of the day – I deliberately took a break from learning today.
Highlight of the day – Food.
Roads from Ahmedabad to Vadodara look better in daytime than they looked during the night. Roads from Vadodara to Valsad look better than they looked last time. No, they haven’t got better in a matter of few days. It’s just that I had set my expectations really low for them. And they managed to beat them this time.
Drive from Valsad to Mumbai is absolutely gorgeous. Yes, G for gorgeous.
I am right on schedule to reach back to Pune. In fact, I am ahead of my schedule. I keep letting my friends know the distance I am covering along with time taken to cover it.
Everyone keeps responding to me with the message Aur kitne #AccheDin chhahiye?
Life is good.
Suddenly it goes back. I reach Mumbai. Next 3 hours are spent in covering 2 kilometers.
Finally, after a stopover of one hour at a family member’s place, I manage to reach home. Second half of the journey was less than half of first half of the journey but both the halves took same amount of time. Mumbai does bring you to the ground. It has its own ways.
Learning of the day – Mumbai, like life, is a great leveler. Doesn’t matter you are driving a Ferrari or walking, it often makes you move at the same pace.
Highlight of the day – The drive between Valsad and Mumbai. Do not miss it.
Like all good things in life or Sir Jadeja’s overs, this trip also ended in the blink of an eye. But I am not complaining – 7 days, 2200+ KM, INR 2500+ toll fee, 3 states, 2 cities, over 10 GB of photographs and lots of great memories.
Looking for my next road trip now.