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Road Trip – Part 1 May 6, 2006

Posted by espritnoir in Humour, Random Thoughts....

Warning : This one is long, and winding, and may not have any point…but read on.

A big hello to all of my regular readers, yes all three of you!;) Had a hectic last week, and the previous weekend was even more so. A cousin of mine was getting engaged to her boyfriend in a remote little hamlet in Gujarat last Sunday. And that gave me and my extended family a reason to go out on a road trip that well, though not quite what they make movies out of, was fairly memorable.

Totally NOT according to the original plan and seating arrangements, made 4 weeks ago, or the altered plan made a fortnight ago, or even the “finally final” plan made the night before we left, Saturday morning saw 2 SUVs loaded with enough bags to last out a month long seige of Mars, filled with clothing, gifts, snacks, water bottles, cell phone chargers, cameras, and other assorted paraphernalia, not to mention 14 people, head out into Baroda, our first halt en route to our final destination.

We started off quite early, and were soon cruising across the national highway connecting the two states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. This was the first time I was driving on NH8 (Bombay – Ahmedabad highway), and I must say I was impressed. Not only is the road in near excellent condition for most of the journey, but also the surrounding countryside, although not picturesque, is quite scenic, in a desolate, isolated kind of manner. If you are a good driver, you would do well to notice the vast landscape that whizzes past you as you cut the miles ahead of you. Small thatched-roof huts, stray cattle, small hotels advertising cheap and tasty food, rush by you only to disappear from sight, and be replaced in seconds by other huts, cattle and hotels. Probably the best part of driving down a highway at 120 kms an hour, is the fact that if you want to see something, observe something, you have to do it instantaneously. You can’t think twice, take your time about it, or go back to it. A milestone once gone, is gone forever. Kinda like life, only a lot slower and lot less uncertain. At least behind the wheel of a car, you usually know where you’re headed. Where most of us are headed with our lives, well, that’s as good as anybody’ guess.

Moving on, if you enjoy driving as much as I do, I would strongly recommend a road trip down this route. Do a quick weekend getaway to Daman, where, I have heard, you can sink into a cozy hammock put up between 2 palm trees on the beach, and sip on a cool beer or two, all afternoon. The road to Daman, and beyond is even, and has just the right amount of curves to stop it from getting too monotonous, and on a good day is peppered with just enough traffic to keep you alert without taking away the simple pleasures of driving.

There are a few such routes from Bombay that are worth driving down, especially if you have a good SUV (I drive in the family Mahindra Scorpio, and I love it), a good music system and good company of friends who know how to enjoy the simple joys. For a really memorable short journey, the Bombay – Pune Expressway is an excellent drive. Get some friends along – not too many though, maybe just one or two – and head out towards Pune at 5:30 am in the morning. Once you cross the McDonalds at Kalamboli, you get on to the Expressway, and from there on it’s one of the best short-to-mid distance drives around Bombay. But to really enjoy a good Sunday morning drive, don’t drive all the way to Pune. Drive at a fair pace, and enjoy the great landscape the surrounds you. If you are not too rushed, you should drive into Lonavala (about 90-100 kms from Bombay) by 7:30 in the morning, just in time for breakfast. Head for one of the hotels, for breakfast (I like the Vallerina, just below the main bridge that runs through the small town, “the hotel with the Valley attached”, as their brochure states) Once you’ve had a relaxed breakfast of fluffy omlettes and hot buttered toast, head out onto the road towards Amby Valley. That’s a fairly winding road up the mountain side, and you pass Bhushi Dam on the way, where you can spend some time. Drive on beyond Bhushi, and after about 20 minutes of winding uphill, you’ll reach a Lions Point (I think that’s what they call it). Its an absolutely flat table land extension that juts out of the mountainside, where you can park your car, and just look at the small town that you left behind. Its especially pretty in the winters, when the early morning fog hangs so low and so thick that you can actually feel the early morning mist if you put your hand out of the window, and try to grab on to a small piece of the clouds. In winters especially its quite chilly up there, and to lie back in the car, listen to some good music, and forget your worries for an hour or two as you stare into the vast gray morning sky ahead of you, is something I guess the closest you can get to heaven. If you havn’t done it before, you should.

Similarly, there are some other really good drives, for longer distances. Bombay – Ahmedabad is one of them. So is Bombay – Hyderabad, down south. Its about a 16 hour journey, and the road again is quite good. And so is Bombay – Bangalore, or so I’ve heard. I haven’t driven down that road before, and plan to do that trip soon. Also, Bombay – Goa. But that’s an altogether different story. I’ve romanticized about driving on the Bombay – Goa stretch for so long, that I would require a couple of posts just for that:)

Anyways, on the subject of road trips, one word of advice for those planning to take drive out into the country, especially one involving a lot of children and tons of luggage. Decide the seating prior to departure, and rotate the people on a regular basis. The last thing you want to hear when you are driving down the road at 120 kms/hr, is somebody whining about how he isn’t getting enough air in the back. And to be perfectly fair to the kid, its no fun sitting in the back of a car for hours with all the luggage dumped round him. So, take some trouble before hand to make a proper seating arrangement, with the rotations evenly spread out. Its worth the trouble in the end. It saves you the pain of having to stop at every half an hour, and listen to somebody complain how bad it is in the back.

So, the drive was good, and we managed to make it across the harsh and hot Gujarat landscape to reach Baroda by 3pm in the afternoon. Since we had been traveling with the AC on for almost the whole journey, we weren’t quite ready for the heat that greeted us the moment we got out of the car to enter my aunt’s – our hostess in Baroda – house. The heat hit us in the face – and everywhere else – like a brick wall, made with burning hot bricks. Less than ten minutes out of the car, all of us were dragging our asses on the ground, as even moving from one room to the other was too much effort for the body and mind. The rooms were a furnace, and even though we were sitting under the ceiling fans, it felt as if something was slowly sucking the life out of us. People in Bombay who complain about the humid weather here, should be made to spend one afternoon in Baroda, during the summers. The next day they’ll be singing praises about the weather in Bombay. Well, since we really didn’t have too much of an option there, we tried to bear it as best we could, and fell out flat on the beds. Luckily only a part of the whole group – all the ladies, including the engagement belle, and her father – was going on ahead to the town where the engagement was going to be held, it gave us guys the chance to catch some shut eye, while the others made their way ahead in one of the SUVs.

(And that’s part one. Will continue this ramble in my next post…)



1. silverine - May 6, 2006

Nice travelogue. We too go on frequent family trips, but we avoid hot places. We had been to Goa via Mangalore, lovely scenic drive.Hope you guys made it back without getting roasted alive :)–>

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