I have always loved road trips. The idea of driving a car, under the blue skies and through farfetched roads has always excited me. I had done several road trips in the past, but none as extensive as this one was suppose to be; cutting across a state! I was super excited and had spent considerable time researching on the places of interests, routes connecting them, convenient stopovers and pocket friendly stays. Our plan seemed little ambitious but, we were also versatile enough to accept the unexpected.
Nevertheless, we set off one August morning in the subdued light of late monsoon, in our i20 Spotz. There were three of us, driving north from Mumbai. The skies got clearer after we crossed Valsad, and by the time we passed Surat it was almost sunny outside. For Mumbaikars, who had been subjected to constant rain and over-casted skies for 3 months, the blue skies and cotton clouds came as a gleeful relief.
Though the roads were in good conditions, we had to drive zig-zag through convoys of trucks, most of which were being driven through the middle or the right lanes. The first place in our wish list was Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, where we reached by 3 p.m., after a lunch break at Bharuch, almost an hour behind schedule. The Laxmi Vilas Palace is huge and magnificent, but only a small portion is open for the visitors which took us almost 3 hours to complete. Thereafter, a little refreshment and we took the express way to Ahmadabad. The Vadodara-Ahmedabad Express-way is among the best roads of India, conducive to driving at speeds over hundred-twenty even at night.
We reached Ahmedabad in less than an hour and half, but it took us quite some time to find ‘Pakwan’ a restaurant famous for Guajarati meal. Dinner was never more awesome after a day’s drive and the friendly waiters made it even special. Rest of our time was spent searching a hotel, and when we did, the trip meter read 555.4 Kilometers and was well past ten.
The next day was special. We were to witness several heritage sites and drive down to Udaipur. We were ready by 9 am, but a check on my car revealed flat tyres. We drove to the nearest fuel station to fix the tyre. While, it was being attended to, we had our breakfast. By the time we could start again, we had already wasted two hours, and had to skip Dada Hari Ni Vav. We proceeded to Adalaj Vav near Ahmedabad.
Adalaj Vav is an octagonal shaped, five storied stepwell, with intricate carvings in Indo-Islamic style. At this moment the entry to the Step well is free and is in a fairly good state of preservation. We followed the Koba-Adalaj road to Kalol and then headed further north, to the town of Mehsana. Our next destination, the Modhera Sun Temple was located to the east of Mehsana, at a distance of 26 kilometers from it. Even, the state high ways of Gujarat, is amazingly well maintained and a distance of 87 kilometers from Adalaj Vav to the Sun Temple was covered in just over an hour and a half.
The Modhera Sun Temple is an outstanding example of the Solanki architecture. It has three distinct elements: the stepped Surya Kund (tank) in the front, followed by the Sabha Mandapa and then, the Gruha Mandapa (main temple). While we were at the Sun Temple, a light drizzle transformed the surrounding trees and grassland to glossy green and set the temple courtyard teeming with life. Inquisitive squirrels, chirps from parrots and ear-piercing mows of peacocks from some secluded corners added a dramatic effect to the setting, which we continued enjoying for some time.
The town of Patan, which has a lot of historic prominence, is situated at 33 kilometers north of Modhera. It’s was passed 3 p.m. when we reached there and broke for lunch at ‘Food Zone,’ near the railway station. A 4 kilometers drive, half an hour later through the narrow lanes, took us to our next destination – Rani Ki Vav. Befitting its name, the step well is considered to be the queen of all step wells in India, owning to its grand architecture and the pristine ornamental carvings. Most of the sculptures are elegant avatars of Vishnu or other Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There are also graceful female figures, depicting forms of love making. Unfortunately, this well had been buried for centuries and has suffered enormous damages.
By the time we started from Patan, it was already half passed five, and we were around 270 Kilometers from Udaipur. We headed north towards Palanpur and then further northwest towards Abu Road. A purple light, over the mountain ranges in the west presented an amazing landscape. After a while, the fragile light was completely erased and an eerie darkness descended. Soon, we were left driving through the rugged Aravallies, with nothing more visible than what was just revealed by our own
headlights. I had been driving for over three hours, without any break and our GPS device, still suggested another eighty kilometers to our destination. At around 8.30 p.m. we drove in a small dhaba and we stopped for refreshment. While the others got busy over cups of hot tea, I went on checking the tiers and cleaning the head lamps & windshield.
After a while, as we were about to start, we were informed that, there had been an armed loot few kilometers down the road, and it would be better if we wait for a bus to Bikaner and follow it. However, in the uncertainty of its arrival, we left. As we hit the road, we discovered that we were the only vehicle on road. It was a new moon night, and our views were neither intercepted by any faintest speck of light around, nor any friendly stars above. I drove as fast as I could. No one uttered a single word for the rest of the journey until, about half an hour later, only when did we make it to the safety of the municipal limits, than we heard the first phew of relief and saw smiles at each other’s faces.
The third day was spent visiting the City Palace, City Palace Museum and the Crystal Gallery at Fateh Singh Palace. The 4th day we started early from Udaipur and drove back to Mumbai via Himmatnagar covering 798 kilometers well within 15 hours. By the end of the amazing trip, we had covered 1765 kilometers and had spent more than thirty six hours on road within a span of four days.
– Arindam Paul