22nd August to 26th August 2016.
We left for Mumbai from Satara on 22nd August. Driving that stretch was a pleasure, given excellent roads including the Mumbai Pune expressway, and disciplined drivers. The plan then was to reach Mumbai, spend a couple of days there, then move to Indore and enter Rajasthan via Chittor. However, the rain that has been following us from Kerala had other plans. Due to heavy rains, travelling through Nashik was risky and we had to alter our route.
As we were (are) short on time and money we chose to go to Ahmedabad (motivated by free food and stay) and then move to Udaipur. We started on our new route after resting in IIT Bombay for a day. It was good to meet our friends after a gap of a couple of weeks.
Our new route. The distance is pretty much the sameDriving to Ahmedabad was easy, thanks to reasonably good road conditions. The NH 48 through Navsari and Surat was a little difficult to navigate, given the presence of a large number of heavy vehicles. Most of these did not follow any lane discipline, and occupied the high speed lanes while maintaining a below average speed. This does slow down cars considerably and often, drivers take unnecessary risks. It was not surprising that we saw the remains of three accidents along this stretch. It would be of great use if such roads had a special lane for heavy vehicles. The National Expressway 1 (NE1 , from Vadodara to Ahmedabad) which is part of the famous Golden Quadrilateral, is every driver’s dream. This 94 Km stretch is incredibly straight and the road conditions are as good as they get. An average of 100 Km/h can easily be maintained.
Entering Ahmedabad city was another interesting experience from a driver’s perspective. The city seems to believe in a philosophy of ‘free driving’. Any vehicle can move in pretty much any direction at any time. Traffic was jammed at every junction. Incredibly, the people seemed calm and patient about the whole affair. A great number of confident cows on the streets (including highways) made the whole ride more interesting.
Our hosts for Ahmedabad were Anju and Hari. Two gadget lovers, they are working on an interesting venture named Gadget Backpack at the moment. We also had the good fortune of reaching there the day before Hari’s birthday.We spent the next day exploring a couple of places in Ahmedabad.
An ancient city, we are sure it has many experiences to offer. Lake Kankaria is perfect for an evening stroll, and we were surprised to find a rather well maintained and thought out butterfly garden there. Sabarmati Ashram is a must visit given its historic importance, and old city is full of beautiful architecture.
Another interesting stop in Ahmedabad is the huge antique car exhibit in Vintage City, Dastan Estate. They have a remarkably large collection of Rolls Royces, and many other interesting vehicles. But to us, the best part of Ahmedabad was the food.
Amazing kachori, fafda and dhokla made navigating the traffic worthwhile. We concluded with a dinner at Mirchi Masala. If you happen to be there, do not miss their excellent jalebi.
Next day morning (i.e. 26th morning) we drove to Udaipur. Until this drive, we were accompanied by the green and dramatic Sahyadri Mountains and the thought of leaving them behind made us a little sad. Rajasthan is after all, a desert and we were expecting brown hills with scattered thorny shrubs. The drive to Rajasthan certainly proved us wrong. The Aravali hills were covered in green thanks to the monsoons.
The hills were carpeted with grass, and tiny brooks could be found everywhere. The Aravali themselves were a sight to behold, and reminded us of the chocolate hills of Philippines.
Over the next few days, we hope to bring you stories from Rajasthan. We have but one day to explore Udaipur, and we are already in love with this sophisticated and charming city with unbelievably narrow lanes and absolutely no parking space.