Tripping through Gujarat & Rajasthan: First stop Vadodara

Posted: May 20, 2010 in Swift LXI, Travelogues
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Our Swift LXI which has taken us around the country the past three years, without a single niggle or even a puncture!

It’s been one helluva ‘driveathon’ these last three years! It’s been amazing in terms of places visited, driving on the highways, and still so much to see of this fabulous country. And I think the state of the roads, generally, have improved so much, and that driving is now a much more pleasurable experience. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to afford it anymore, so this was special.

Originally, we had planned on driving to Leh, but were dissuaded by some friends who said that our Swift could get stuck in the snow on the highway due to its low ground clearance. And then I was also told it would take us a month, which I thought was a bit much. So from the peaks we were down the plains and decided to drive around Rajasthan and Gujarat, visit Mt. Abu and Ranthambhore specifically. In the end, we did a lot more.

The good thing about going by car is that every town you stop along the way becomes a tourist attraction and you change the route at a whim – which is what we did! So we visited Udaipur, Ajmer, Vadodara, Chittorgarh along with Sawai Madhopur and Mt. Abu. And then on a whim, while returning via Gujarat we drove off to Junagadh and the Gir Lion Sanctuary at Sasan!

It was scorching and I have the sunburn to prove it! But I guess once we realised we had to do it, we did. Three days in Ranthambhore, searching for tigers, two days in Gir enjoying the sight of lion clubs wrestling each other, getting conned in Pushkar, revelling in the history of Chittorgarh and Haldi Ghati, which was the only bright spot of our stopover at Udaipur.
The day before we set off the sky was overcast and there were rains. I prayed for such weather the next day, because I love driving in the rains. But no such luck. We left Pune on Sunday, May 2, at 6.10 am (54600), on the first leg of our holiday, to Vadodara.

HV Kumar, motor enthusiast, avid traveller and today, probably, the last word on roads and routes around the country, had told me to leave early because we would find it easier to get out of Mumbai in the morning. We reached the expressway in 25 minutes from our home in Wanowrie and left the Expressway by We were driving a little slowly because we were following Kumar’s route plan that he had sent us.

By 9.30 am we had reached the Toll Post on the Eastern Express Highway and out of Thane (54803- 203 kms). Our first halt was at Kamat’s, which was about 23 kms from the Toll Post (10.15 am), for a quick breakfast. In case any of you Richie Richs think Kamat is a tad downmarket for your tastes, there is a Silver Mines Food Court a few kms up the road on the left. I can’t say much about the food because we didn’t stop there.

So, we were off again and since this was National Highway 8, there was nothing much to do except keep the foot on the accelerator and watch out for the occasional dog or cow popping out from behind the bushes on the divider and the Toll Tax gates! Incidentally Maharashtra has the highest toll taxes.

We reached the Gujarat check post at 11.10 am (54896) and as we were passing through Vapi guess what greeted our eyes – a McDonald’s outlet in the Empress Mall! The road was good and so were the accidents we saw in large numbers. There was a Wagon R that was precariously perched atop the divider and another that didn’t have a front, because it was sitting where the backseat ought to have been. You can guess where the backseat was.

We went off NH 8 (55155) before we reached Vadodara city and drove into town through the outskirts. It was a slightly circular route and 10 kms later we were at Hotel President in the heart of town at Kala Ghoda, where, thanks to Ananya Mehta, a colleague at SIMC, we got a room at a good discount!

So it was 585 kms covered in roughly 9 hours from Pune to Vadodara. Since it was just a night halt we didn’t do much except rest till evening and take a stroll in the vicinity.

Next: Driving to Chittorgarh – II


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