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Old 26th January 2016, 08:18   #1
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Default Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

First they Ignore you,
"Yeah, right", "That is just wishful thinking"

Then they Laugh at you,
"You are crazy", "You need to have your head examined"

Then they Fight you,
"Why do you want to do this?", "Why can't you catch a flight and go?", "Why don't you take someone along with you?"

Then you Win.

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In the beginning…
I have been on Team-BHP for some time and read with fascination the wonderful trips done by people across the length and breadth of the country and even across continents. Always used to wonder what it would be like to spend days and days on the road without a care and watching the world flit by your window as you drive on.

The straw that broke the camel’s back…
There is thread that was started recently polling the total distance driven. While I was posting on that thread I realised that so far, before this trip of mine, I had ridden/driven for approx. 2.33 lakh kms. And NOT ONCE had I driven a distance more that 350kms, that being my drive to Chennai. For someone who professes his love for driving by stating that “I can drive anywhere, anytime”, this was just shameful. Something had to be done about this.

Well, that has been what this trip has been all about.

There were places of interest and beauty all along the way. You have the fort at Chitradurga, the "benne dose" of Davangere, the river and forest at Dandeli near Hubli, the lovely hills of Mahabaleshwar, the lovely Lavasa valley, Lonavala and Khandala, the warm beaches of Daman, the birthplace of the milk revolution at Anand, the beautiful temple of Akshardham near Ahmedabad and who can deny the beauty of Udaipur and its surroundings.

But, I gave all these a miss.

For me this trip was all about the drive. 3442 kms down memory lane, back to the place where I grew up, back to the place where I studied. This trip was all about the colony at Abu Road and St. Mary's School at Mount Abu. And this trip was all about doing it SOLO.

This trip has been in the making for a long time and the desire just got stronger and stronger the more I read about people going on long driving trips across the states, countries and even continents. What pushed me over the edge was the realisation that over the past 16 years I have either ridden or driven over 2.33 lakh kms and not once had I driven more than 350kms. What a shame for someone who professes that he can drive anywhere, anytime! Hell, my longest drive has been to Chennai! That's like going to the neighbourhood grocery store on a long drive scale...

The extensive research started in August with me trying to figure out how long it will take and what route to take. Various articles were read up on how to prepare for such a long drive and that too a SOLO drive. How will I navigate? How do I arrange for accommodations enroute? How do I manage in case of emergencies? How do I fuel my other interest of photography with just me driving? Do I compromise on driving to manage all these other things?

September and October passed by with me trying to get a grasp on the answers for all these questions. The heavy rains in Chennai in November and December pushed all these plans on the back burner as things got hectic on office.

Around mid-December was when I actively started working on putting the trip in place which was to start on 19th December. Hotel at Mount Abu was booked a week before I started. Accommodations enroute were taken by the HiVay King Club.

Now, to work around the dilemma on capturing the trip I had ordered the SJCAM video camera from China and kept waiting and waiting for it to arrive. Will I get it on-time? Will I have time to get comfortable with it before the trip? Well, the camera did arrive but just the day before I was to leave. No time for me to understand the workings this led me unable to record my entire on-going journey to Abu. More on this later.

Day 1 - 19th December 2015

D-Day arrived and I was still in office attending a series of calls wondering if I will be able to leave on time. Thankfully the calls get over just 15 minutes beyond schedule I am still able to reach home by 2.30pm. So the journey began at 3.30pm. The first leg will be a run to Hubli where I would stay for the night. A good enough distance to gauge my ability to handle the long drive that was yet to come.

Getting out of Bangalore was chaotic as expected. Once out of the city limits, I began to relax and drive at a decent pace. Being on the highway just felt so natural to me. All thoughts, all worries, all questions were set aside. It was just me and the road. The towns came and went as I crossed Tumkur, Hiriyur, Chitradurga, Davangere and Haveri one after the other.

Sunset between Chitradurga and Hubli
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My biggest worry for the trip was fuel. My car, the Verna 4S Petrol AT, averages just 8.5kmpl in the city. From the day I bought it, it has been feeding on petrol only from Shell. I do not know how it will react to fuel from other stations and what the quality of the fuel will be on the highway.

The fuel level had come down to just 2 bars on the gauge and I was still distance away from Hubli. Not sure if I will be able to reach Hubli, decided to chance on the first available pump. Filled up the tank and was on my way again, with a sigh of relief.

Reached Hubli shortly thereafter and checked into the hotel for the night. While checking in I heard loud music being played from next door.

Me "Some party happening next door?"
Hotel Guy "No. The St. Mary's School next door is celebrating their 125th anniversary"
Me "Oh what a coincidence. Am on my way to Rajasthan to see my old school named St. Mary's"


Had a good dinner and caught my beauty sleep for the night.

Day 1 ended with me driving for 6 hours and 400 odd kms.

Day 2 - 20th December 2015

Got up by 4.30am, turned on the shower and was greeted by a blast of icy cold water. Brrrrrrr. "Damn, why is there no hot water available?", I cursed to myself. Somehow managed to tolerate the cold shower and get out. When I asked about the hot water while checking out I get a sheepish reply "Sorry sir, but we switch on the geysers only at 5.00am".

This day was going to be a long drive. The plan was for me to drive to Surat and take a break there.

As I started out I realised the drive this morning was to be different. I had expected the weather to be cold (it was about 11 degrees C) but what I hadn't expected was the fog. Man, I tell you it was exciting and scary both at the same time!! There were sections where visibility was reduced to just 50 feet. So, how do you keep your pace up under these conditions? The smart thing to do is reduce your speed and drive safe. And this is just what I did. There is no point in taking unnecessary risks. So what if I was behind schedule. I don't care. I was enjoying this drive.

Sunrise just before Belgaum
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There were other sections where the fog was not on the road but just hung above it. It felt like driving below a soft, white, woolly blanket! The fog was so thick that the sun could make an appearance only by about 7.30am. Stopped for breakfast as I neared Nipani. Resumed back on the beautiful roads. As I crossed the border into Maharashtra, the towns started coming alive. In stark contrast to the roads in Karnataka, which were smooth and uncrowded so far, the roads in Maharashtra were much more crowded (both vehicular and human) and the surface was decidedly poorer. The average speeds dropped significantly and I was worried of making it to Surat on time.

What compensated for the bad roads were the views of the farmlands on either sides of the road. To me greenery is always pleasing and relaxing and I let the green farmlands relax me away. The landscape gets more rocky and dusty as Pune nears. The heat starts to kick. I reach Pune and it takes me more than an hour to bypass the city and reach the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

I had heard a lot of this particular expressway and this was to be my first drive on it. Oh boy, what a blast it was!! 6 lanes of pure driving pleasure!! Before I knew it I was nearing the top speeds my car was capable of. And before I realised it, I had reached Mumbai!

Traversing any big city brings with it the usual headache of traffic jams and can play havoc on your average speeds and fuel consumption. I had re-fuelled in Pune and was good fuel-wise in Mumbai, was just worried about the time it would take to get back on the highway. Fortunately it was a Sunday and traffic was less. I took the Ghodbunder Road to bypass the worst of traffic.

My last cup of good coffee had been on Saturday morning, at home. Through the entire journey all that I got when ordering coffee was a diluted mix of Nescafe, which I hate. No matter how much powder you put in to make the coffee strong one just doesn't get the same taste as that of filter coffee. So just outside Mumbai saw a place which had a Cafe Coffee Day board. I thought to myself "At last I can have me first decent cup of coffee in 2 days". I enter the place and am greeted by a general cacophony and I see large crowds and a long queue for something. "This cannot be good", I say to myself. I walk through the place in search of the CCD outlet and all that I see are people having fun driving bumper cars and a long queue of people trying to get in on that. This is your typical Sunday family crowd having some fun.

I keep walking through the place and don't find the CCD outlet. So I backtrack back to the entrance and ask the security guard "Where is Coffee Day?" He points to a stall at the corner of the property and says "There it is." One look at the place and I knew that the coffee was bound to be disappointing here as well. So with a heavy heart I say "Chuck it" and go back to the car.

Getting back on the highway turned out to be only slightly better than the city traffic. The slow movement of vehicles and people ensured that my average speeds were low. And thus continued my worry of reaching Surat on time. Slowly and steadily I started gain ground as the pace picked up. Once I crossed the border into Gujarat I was back to my usual cruising speed thanks to wider roads and lesser traffic. I was scheduled to reach Surat and called HV Kumar to check on possibilities of stay in Surat. He recommended that I drive further to Ankleshwar and halt for the night there. A quick check on Google Maps showed that it was just an hour away. So I thought "Why not?" and drove further up to Ankleshwar.

This day I had traversed through 3 states and the scenery changed dramatically from state to state. Karnataka was all about wide open uncultivated spaces with farms popping up here and there. Maharashtra had a mix of beautiful farmscapes right up to Karad/Satara and after which began the border of the Western Ghats. Gujarat brought in landscapes dominated by manufacturing units on both sides of the road.

So day 2 ended with me driving 15 hours and 889 kms.
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Old 26th January 2016, 08:43   #2
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Default Back to School – A 3400+ kms SOLO Roadtrip Bangalore to Mt. Abu

Day 3 - 21st December 2015

This was an exciting day for me as I would reach my destinations today. Places of which I had fond memories of. Places which I had last seen 22 years back. This was a pure nostalgia trip for me.

The drive today was actually less than 400kms which meant that I need not be up and running by 5.00am. However the excitement of reaching the destinations ensured that I was ready to check-out by 5.30am. I come down to the reception ready to complete the formalities, but the computer in the lodge had other ideas. After showing the total bill amount it refused to move any further. The guy at the reception was no techie and he kept banging desperately at the mouse button, willing the computer to come back to life and me throwing dagger looks at him to hurry it up. The more I walked around, the more he banged on the mouse button. After saner thoughts prevailed, he did what he should have done a long time back. He restarted the computer. I could bear it no more so I went behind the reception area to see what the hold-up was and seeing this the poor guy got nervous again. The mouse button banging started again. I could see that the computer was an older model and needed some time to boot up. Finally the computer came to life, spit out a print of my bill which I paid without any further delay and was out the door like a bat out of hell.

Came up to the Golden Bridge across Narmada. This crossing brought back memories of my train journeys between Ahmedabad and Bangalore of 20+ years back of watching the river and remembering the sounds the train made as it crossed the bridge.

The width of the bridge meant that you had to tuck in the side mirrors or risk losing them in the crossing.

The Golden Bridge across the Narmada


With the crossing done the beautiful roads of Gujarat beckoned me once again and I was back to my merry driving ways. The roads here are so inviting that one just feels like driving on them without a break.

Town after town came up and was quickly passed by. Google maps on my phone kept trying to route me through each and every town that came up, but I completely ignored the instructions of the lady and kept driving on guided by the boards on the highway. No way was I getting into any of the towns.

The highway from Vadodara to Ahmedabad was an excellent stretch of tarmac from as far back as I could remember. What they have done is just improve on it. This was the third section in my drive that my car could stretch to its true potential. The highway has been designed in such a way that even if there is traffic you do not feel it is crowded. You can drive at your own pace, whatever it may be.

Somewhere along the way I stopped at a non-decrepit hotel and had breakfast. Was surprised to find idli available for breakfast in Gujarat. Well, the idli and sambhar tasted nice. But the chutney left a lot to be desired. And the tea served was equally bad. It was tasteless, milky and very sweet. Sigh. My run of having bad tea/coffee on this drive continues. “When will I have a good cup”, I wonder.

By mid-morning I reach the Sardar Patel ring road of Ahmedabad. My timing is bad as traffic is real bad at this time of the day. I take close to an hour and a half to get clear of the city. Now, I am getting closer and closer to my destinations, just under 200 kms left and I still haven’t figured out why my dash cam isn’t working.

When I got the dash cam I tested it with a spare memory card that I had and it was working just fine. So just before the trip started on Saturday I went out and bought two 64GB memory cards so that I will not run out of space while recording. But the damn thing is just not recording. And I don’t know why.

Just as I cross Mehsana, it dawns on my as to why the camera was not working. The maximum capacity card that can be used with the SJ4000 camera is 32GB and here I was, stuck with not one but two 64GB memory cards. What a waste! Now I was still not sure whether my hypothesis was right or wrong. The only way to test it is with a 32GB card.

Stopped at a couple of shops on the highway but they did not have any memory cards. My only hope was a large town. Fortunately, Palanpur was fast approaching and I decided to get in to the city to resolve this issue. I reach Palanpur get into the city and fortunately within a short distance I see a Reliance Digital Xpress shop. With bated breath I step into the shop and buy two 32GB cards, still not sure if this is going to solve the issue.

I hurry back to the car, break-out one memory card, put it into the camera and fire it up.

Voila!!! It works!!! I can finally record the journey. Better late than never!


Things start falling into place as I near Abu Road. The roads widen and the traffic gets sparser. I stop about 20 kms before Abu Road for lunch at one of the many road-side eateries. Nothing fancy. Looks clean from the road and is clean inside as well.

I finish lunch and push onward. It is getting more and more exciting as I near Abu Road.

Will it still be the same? Will it have changed much? Will I recognise the sights and smells of the place? These questions run through my mind as I take the service road off from the highway to enter the town.

Abu Road town


Abu Road town has not changed much over the years. The same old narrow roads. The same jumble of shops hawking their wares. The same crowd around the railway station. The same shops making rabdi. The same jeep-stand calling for people to take to Mount Abu. Nothing much seems to have changed.

I seem to have entered a time warp. The place still looks, sounds and smells the same as what it was all those years back. Oh sure, a few shop boards have changed here and there. But the essence of the place is still the same. The place is still organised chaos, what every small town in interior India is all about.

Abu Road is just 10 kms across the border from Gujarat with Mount Abu a further 28 kms from Abu Road. This makes Abu Road a transit point for all the people travelling from Gujarat to the hill station.

With Gujarat being a dry state a lot of people travel across the border with just one thing on their mind. And the shop-keepers in Abu Road have understood this perfectly well. When driving from Abu Road to Mount Abu there are 3 “villages” on the way before the climb begins. We have Manpur, Akrabhatta and Taleti.

20 years back this entire road was flanked by farms and wild brush with a couple of factories in between. Now at Manpur and Akrabhatta you will find a wine shop every few meters. The views of the farms on either sides of the roads have been replaced by buildings housing lodges and these shops. What a waste!

Taleti village is my first destination. It is home to the Brahma Kumaris and also to a factory called Modern Insulators. This is the factory that my father worked at and it is in this factory’s colony that I grew up.

As I stop at the colony gate I get my first view of the house I grew up in. Oh boy, what a transformation! This colony that was barren and brown all those years back is now green and flourishing! Manicured lawns and gooseberry orchards greet me in all their glory. Can’t wait to see the rest of the place.

I chat with a very familiar looking security guard and partially recognise him. He guides me to the main factory gate from which I am to enter. At the main gate I speak to the security supervisor and explain to him that our family used to live here a long time back and I have driven down from Bangalore to have a look-see at the place.

He just stares at me with eyes wide open. “What a kook”, the guy must have been wondering. Slowly it sinks in him that I am being earnest and would really like a look at the place. He calls in another guard to accompany me and show me around the place.

This guy polite and soft-spoken and starts our tour with the factory. All during the tour I keep dropping hints that I am really not interested in seeing the factory and only want to see the colony. He finally gets the message and we head towards the colony. As I drive through the place I see more and more well-kept lawns around the houses, beautifully manicured common areas and orchards of gooseberry (amla) and chikoo. The guy who has taken over as estate manager has done a really good job. I stop to have a look at the playground and temple there. Slowly walking around and taking in the sights of the place. The roads that were wide earlier seem to have shrunk now. “Have the roads really shrunk?” I wonder but realise that the roads have not shrunk, I have grown up.

I recollect the games we kids used to play at the playground, the hours we spent on Diwali nights bursting crackers and colour ourselves silly on Holi without a care in the world. Sigh!

The Playground
Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-3.-colony-ground-1.jpg

The Temple in the Colony
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Our first House
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Our second House
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After driving for 2 straight days it felt great to slow down and stroll down memory lane. Would have loved to meet someone from the past who was still there but everyone I knew had moved on and there was nobody there.

So, after spending about an hour there I started off for my second and final destination, Mount Abu and my school St. Mary’s School.

The 21 kms drive up the mountain was pleasant and 45 minutes later there I was.

The Climb to Mt. Abu


Finally.

Arrived at Mount Abu.

It felt as though I had climbed Mount Everest! Such was the satisfaction after having driven all the way from Bangalore. The weather was nice and cool in the evening sun as is typical in December in this part of the country.

Checked into Hotel Hillock which is a nice property. The room was very spacious and I was lucky to get the corner room which had a corner part of the balcony that had a great view. Order some coffee and was again disappointed on getting Nescafe coffee. Well, what can you do.

The Hotel Room and Views
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As I had expected, Mount Abu was not crowded even though Christmas was just a couple of days away. After relaxing for a bit decided to catch the sights around Nakki Lake. Drove down, parked my car and walked down to the lake. The only change that I noticed was all the Konica branded shops that used to sell camera rolls earlier were all gone. In the 2 days that I was there I saw only one shop that had even stocked camera film rolls. Anyways, bought a choco-chip softy at one of the outlets and was soon lost in the joy of having a softy in cold weather. All around me people were huddling into their jackets and sweaters as evening got cooler and cooler and here I was roaming around wearing a t-shirt and enjoying a big softy. What a sight I was!

Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-21.-nakki-lake.jpg

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I know the below picture is out of focus, but you try eating a softy in one hand and a DSLR in the other while shivering in 7 degrees C weather.
Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-24.-softy.jpg

Walking around I chanced upon a Cafe Coffee Day outlet and instantly dove in to have a cup of coffee.

Aaah. My first cup of good coffee in 2 days. What a pleasure!
Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-25.-coffee.jpg

Retired early as the next day was the day what this drive was all about.
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Old 26th January 2016, 09:09   #3
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Default Back to School – A 3400+ kms SOLO Roadtrip Bangalore to Mt. Abu

Day 4 – 22nd December 2015

This day is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere.

This day is the winter solstice.

And also this is the day I go Back to School, after 22 years. Boy oh boy!

It is a short drive from the hotel to the school and I drive slowly wanting to take in all of it. As I come around the second last corner I see the dam come to view. Yes, you read it right. A dam. As far as I know ours is the only school which is located right next to a dam. Only a road’s width separates the water body from the buildings. It is that close. The small bridge appears to be in same state of repair as it was 22 years back. Nothing seems to have changed.

Then I drive round the last corner. Wait a minute. Where did the wall come from? Where did the gate come from? The school authorities had finally decided to put a compound around the school and gate it. Well, this is new. As I drive further on the road towards where the main ground is I see another gate and a parking lot near that gate. This is now the main gate through which all entry and exit to the school is made possible.

The school is normally closed between December and March for winter vacations and sure enough as I walk in I notice not one soul anywhere apart from the security guard. After roaming around a bit I finally bump into to Br. Noel, one of the teachers who has been here since 1989/90. We chat for a bit and then I take permission and wander off. I walk through the 5 football fields that are part of the school. I walk past the 4 basketball courts. I see that one of the smaller football fields has been converted to a swimming pool. I walk through the old building and the new building. I walk past the kitchen and bakery remembering the smell of freshly baked bread when we used to come to school every morning. Oh, how I have missed these.

I click a few photos of the place, meet up with Br. Noel again and say good-bye.

What you see as the ground is actually 2 football fields
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Many a lunches were had under the shade of the fig tree, which continues to stand tall
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During my final year had the privilege of being the bell ringer. What is a proper bell now used to be a piece of railway track once upon a time.
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The school kitchen building
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Now, how many schools do you know of which has a DAM next to it.
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The Principal's Office
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Br. Noel and me
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With the rest of the day at my disposal I wonder what to do. The 2 items on my list, visit the colony and visit the school, are done and dusted with. So, I decide to just drive around the place. I head towards Guru Shikar, the highest peak in the Aravalli range. As I near the temple at Guru Shikar I see cars have been parked haphazardly on the narrow road making the going very slow. As I snake my way through this mess, I suddenly hear somebody banging on my car.

“Oh damn! Did I scrape a car or hit somebody?” I wonder. I see a kid coming running up the passenger’s side banging on the window. I stop and lower the window.
Me “Kya hua?” (What happened?)
Him “Saab, gaadi wash karu?” (Sir, should I wash your car?)
Partly amused, partly relieved and partly angry I mutter “No”
He says “Acche se wash kar doonga saab. Dekho kaise yeh gaadi chamak rahi hai” (I’ll wash it properly. See how this car is shining) pointing to the car parked next
I just smile to myself and drive along

I reach the entrance to the peak and I am stopped at the gate as the observatory is now a no-go area for visitors. Disappointed I turn around and head back to town.

When we first moved to Rajasthan I was not able to get admission at St. Mary’s as the batch was full. So far a year and half I studied at another school call St. Michael’s School. This was a very small school and not as well known. This school is located (or rather was located) in the same estate as the Jaipur Heritage Hotel. When I was studying there the hotel was just another abandoned building.

As I enter the gate of the hotel I see that the hotel building has been spruced up to look nice and fancy. But, the couple of buildings housing the school are now abandoned and in a dilapidated state. Am a bit sad to see them in such a state.

St. Michael's School
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With the sights seen, I decide to head back to the hotel and relax. The next day will be an early start as I head back to Bangalore.

Day 5 – 23rd December 2015

I check out at 6.00am and look forward to the looong drive today.

The drive to Ahmedabad is quick and uneventful. I search for hotels around the ring road to have breakfast but don’t find any. The ones I stop at are just opening shop for the day and are not ready to serve customers just yet. This is something that is in stark contrast to South India where a lot of eateries are open to cater to the breakfast crowd. But along the highways in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan you do not find such eateries. The only hopes are the food plazas along the way. I drive past Ahmedabad without finding any joints for breakfast. Soon I am on the super express-way to Vadodara.

The memory of driving on that road on my way up makes me forget about my hunger pangs and I am back cruising on the highway. Oh man, what a stretch of highway that is!!!

At the end of this stretch I spot a food plaza and pull into it to grab some grub. It is 11.30am by now and I can no longer ignore the calls of my stomach. Whenever I travel anywhere I try to check out the local flavours. What is surprising is that in these food plazas I do not see any of the local delicacies on the menu. Instead what I see are idlis, dosas and sandwiches.

The only way to taste the local flavour was to get into the cities and towns and go in search of the small eateries offering them. But when on a time budget all such deviations are forgotten and the drive ahead takes precedence.

My original plan was to stop at Vapi for the night and then head towards Hubli the next day. But as I started the day early I am at Vapi by 3.00pm, well ahead of schedule. My late breakfast left me not hungry at lunch time so I did not stop anywhere. However, I realised that once I cross Vapi my chances of finding a good hotel till Mumbai were remote. So I stop at Vapi and have a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the Fortune Park Galaxy.

After a disappointing lunch I am back on the highway and my mood is soon set right. No matter what kind of mood I am in, once I start driving all worries are soon forgotten. As I near the Maharashtra border the traffic starts to thicken and the roads get narrower. I arrive at the turn to Ghodbunder Road by about 6pm and by the time I check into the hotel for the night near the Pune expressway. It is 8.30pm.

Day 6 – 24th December 2015

Today is going to be a relatively easy day as my planned drive is only till Hubli. I check out at 6.00am, get in to my car and see that the fuel is at 1 bar. Hmmm. I need to refuel. I remember the hotel guy saying that there is a petrol pump nearby before the expressway. So I drive around for a bit and end up getting onto the main expressway. Damn. I must have taken the wrong lane somewhere. I cannot be on the expressway for long or for sure I will run out of fuel. My distance to empty reads 50kms and the entire expressway is 100+kms. I don’t know if there are any fuel pumps on the way. I have to get off the highway and find a petrol pump. Damn. Damn, Damn.

I see boards showing exit signs to Khopoli and I hurriedly get there and check with the attendant. He says, yes there is one just about 2 kms from there and is open 24x7. With a sigh of relief I get drive off, refuel and am back on the highway in no time.

Now on the way up the road was an absolute pleasure to drive with hardly any traffic and whatever traffic was there moving sensibly. But this time it is the absolute opposite. It looks like everybody and their uncle have driven out of Mumbai towards Pune. The beautiful three lanes leading to Pune are chock-a-block with vehicles. As we near the climb the traffic gets worse. The roads get narrower and the longer and wider vehicles are using all the lanes to turn around the sharp bends. I could have got down and walked faster. In the end the drive to Pune took double the time it did the first time around.

What I didn’t realise was this was just the precursor to things to come.

I entered the Pune by-pass just as peak hour was starting. And as expected the traffic was worse than it was on the highway. Google maps kept shouting that there was a faster option available. But I stuck to my instincts and did not deviate from my chosen route. I brave through the Pune office traffic and finally reach the other side. The traffic thins out but just a little bit. There was a lot of work going on the highways, which meant lot of diversions, which further meant lot of bottle-necks. My average speeds dropped from the mid-80s to the mid-50s, which is a huge drop.

There is a side story to this journey of mine. I had been talking about this trip and discussing various options with colleagues at work. So this friend of mine, who had picked up a Creta recently, decides that he also wants to do a similar trip and plans a drive to Mumbai and back. Hearing this, another colleague of mine jumps in and decides to tag along to Mumbai. The only difference between the two trips is that I started mine on 19th December and they started theirs on 23rd December as they were not able to get leave. They halted at Hubli for the night on 23rd which meant that we would cross each other somewhere between Hubli and Mumbai on the 24th. So with a little bit of co-ordination we decide to catch up with each other for lunch at McD Kolhapur. And so we bump into each at McD Kolhapur finish lunch and be on our ways, me to Hubli and they to Mumbai.

The Travellers Meet at McD Kolhapur
Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-41.-kolhapur-mcd.jpg

As I near Hubli I see that the sun is setting it makes for a beautiful sight. Let me tell you, driving alone, spotting the sunset and picking the perfect spot to capture it is a very difficult task. And you have to be quick on your feet. Even as you are taking the shots the sun sets very rapidly and the perfect view is gone.

I enter Hubli on the 24th evening which happens to be both Christmas Eve and Id, so the celebrations and festivities were over-flowing onto the streets choking them up further. I somehow muddle through all this and make my final pit-stop of the trip. The next day is all about the final stretch home.

Day 7 – Christmas – 25th December 2015

The final day of the trip. The last sector of my adventure. Just couldn’t believe that I had driven 3000+ kms SOLO. Wow! Another 400+kms to go.

I take it easy on this day. Wake up late, have a leisurely breakfast and check-out of the hotel. Since this was a holiday the traffic in Hubli was very sparse. So I picked up the pace planning to be home for lunch.

The good roads beckoned me to ride hard. Up until this point I had driven 3200+kms without any incidents. It was good safe driving all through, watching for and anticipating tricky solutions and avoiding them by some sensible driving. All through the journey I maintained a good pace but was never in a hurry. And I believe this mind-set has helped me through the entire trip.

But, fate has a way of giving a wakeup call every now and then. Mine came 40kms before Tumkur. As I was cruising along, up ahead in the distance (about 1km) away I see a cloud of thick dust rising from the left side of the road. This was truck that emerged from a road on the left and joined the highway. I had a clear line of sight to him. I was in the middle lane. The truck slowly moves along the left lane just like any other vehicle on the road. As I get closer and closer I see that he is still maintaining his lane and driving very slowly. In my entire journey I have had incidents of cars, trucks, tractors, two-wheelers and other vehicles change lanes for no reason and without any kind of indication. So, just to be cautious I move on to the right lane so that there is a lane between the 2 of us. When I am about 50 meters away from him this guy he decides that he wants to be on the other side of the highway!!! And without any indication he cuts across from the left lane and points his truck towards the gap in the median. Holy shit!!!

Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-43.-truck-image-1.jpg

Now with the kind of speed I was in I wouldn’t have stopped in time. If I turned left I would have hit him as he was perpendicular to the highway occupying the left, centre and half of the right lane. My only option was to turn into the gap in the median myself and onto the OTHER side of the highway hoping there was no other vehicle on the other side. And this is just what I did and I was fortunate that the opposite was empty. I stop on the other side facing the direction opposite to the one I was travelling in, exchange a few choice words with the driver and turn back. This entire incident is over so fast that my dash-cam which has been recording the entire incident is able to capture just one frame.

The Incident


So with that dose of reality I sober down the rest of the way and sooner than I realise I have reached home.

Epilogue : Monday 28th December 2015

I park my car at my usual spot at the Public Utility building, lock up and start walking towards office. It hits me then, what a trip it was and in stark contrast to what I am heading towards. The thrill of the drive, the sense of being disconnected, the beauty of the landscapes and the sense of freedom. It all comes flooding back with each step I take. The nostalgia of seeing the places I grew up in, the school I studied at. Sigh. I had realised a long time back that I am happiest when I am driving, no matter where to. And this long journey, spread over 7 days, gave me the best feeling. Ever.

That ladies and gentlemen, has been my journey back to school driven SOLO over a distance of 3442kms.
Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu-43.-final-distance.jpg
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Old 26th January 2016, 19:14   #4
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Default re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!

Brilliantly narrated!

Well.. some emotions are better expressed than suppressed. Especially when going back to the place, which started it all.

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Old 26th January 2016, 20:02   #5
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Default re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Excellent Narration, took me down the memory lane as well. glad it ended well, it could have been a horrible situation to be in.
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Old 27th January 2016, 10:43   #6
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Boss, you should really thank your stars. On roads which have such stupid dividers, always always drive around 100, nothing more. And the moment you see some divider coming close drop down a lot. I regularly drive to Nasik from Mumbai and this route has a concentration of idiot population. Man i was freezed when i saw that clip. Wish you a safe drive always.
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Old 27th January 2016, 12:20   #7
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Very beautifully narrated. Saw the video from your dash cam and I feel you are indeed lucky to have escaped a mishap there. There are idiotic and senseless drivers in abundance on our roads. I am sure that incident must have left you terribly shaken. Happy and safe driving.
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Old 27th January 2016, 16:17   #8
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Its really nice reading you road trip

Watched your video. It was a narrow escape. Wish you a happy & safe driving always
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Old 27th January 2016, 18:44   #9
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Default Re: Back to School – A 3400+ kms SOLO Roadtrip Bangalore to Mt. Abu

What!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeantownThinker View Post

exchange a few choice words with the driver and turn back.
Does the truck driver, even today, know what he did that day? We would have been short by one man on earth on the shortest day in the hemisphere. Did you just mutter something with the windows closed? Not that I want you to harm him, but at least, he should know what happened.

It could have been worse. Good to know you are safe.

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Old 28th January 2016, 08:53   #10
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post
Well.. some emotions are better expressed than suppressed.
Thanks. That was the motivation behind this drive and the travelogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dass View Post
Excellent Narration, took me down the memory lane as well.
Glad to have rekindled your memories

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarMaster View Post
Very beautifully narrated.
Thanks buddy.


With regard to the incident, it was one of those instances where it was all over before I even realised what had just happened. I guess it was just my instincts that saved the day.
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Old 28th January 2016, 23:08   #11
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeantownThinker View Post
[b]

Well, that has been what this trip has been all about....this trip was all about the drive. 3442 kms down memory lane, back to the place where I grew up, back to the place where I studied. This trip was all about the colony at Abu Road and St. Mary's School at Mount Abu. And this trip was all about doing it SOLO.
This, in essence, summed up the meaning, the purpose the raison d'être of the trip.

a) To drive long
b) To drive SOLO
c) To go back to the roots
d) To relive the memories
e) To feel the same air
f) To sit under the same tree
g) To see the same colony where you grew up

I know the feeling. For the first time I took my car from Bangalore and reached my native village in Haryana - a short drive of about 2500 kms. Just that while doing so I did an additional 7000 kms on other detours.

So unique a feeling. Very beautifully narrated, made all of us relieve the value of education, school and life in small hill town.

Congrats on the drive.

Cheers

Rajain

Last edited by Rajain : 28th January 2016 at 23:10.
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Old 29th January 2016, 12:02   #12
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Thanks for sharing the wonderful travelogue.
The incident -
Either it's the dashcam or you were really doing great speeds for Indian roads.
Of course, truck driver should have looked but you were really lucky to get away from it.
Moreover, there was another grey color car (looks like i20, at 27th second) which crossed in the opposite direction, between you and the truck. If you were a second late, you would have hit the grey car.
As other bhpians have said, there is hardly a road in India where you can drive 100+ without the risk of such incidents.

Thanks for sharing the incident, a good lesson for all of us.
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Old 30th January 2016, 10:36   #13
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Great narration and I loved the old wing of your school building

Also, that close call on the highway gave me the chills. Unfortunately, near death experiences are a part of every long highway journey in our country

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 30th January 2016, 16:20   #14
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Avijith,

Very well written travelogue! Thanks a tonne for sharing this part of your life story. The longest trip I have done (with company) is ~1200 KMs, that is Madras to Munnar and back. I have done only 2 solo trips, both while coming back to Madras from Bangalore (~350 KM each). It is indeed very encouraging to read that you did a week long solo trip of ~3500 KM. Needless to say, this is definitely inspiring for me, and many others who are contemplating longer highway trips. Congratulations on this achievement. Visiting one's home or school is a very emotional and spiritual experience in my opinion. Thank God you made it back safe. I can only relate completely when you talk about driving purely for the pleasure of driving, against all odds, while the destination and everything else you get to experience, are simply valuable bonuses

Keep driving, and keep writing. Cheers.

Peace.

Regards,
Abhishek.

Last edited by satanic_dude : 30th January 2016 at 16:21.
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Old 30th January 2016, 16:36   #15
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Default Re: Back to School: A 3400+ kms Solo Roadtrip from Bangalore to Mount Abu

Quote:
Originally Posted by satanic_dude View Post
Avijith,

I can only relate completely when you talk about driving purely for the pleasure of driving, against all odds, while the destination and everything else you get to experience, are simply valuable bonuses
Abhishek,

You hit the nail right on the head. Driving was, is and will continue to be my passion. In fact, during this drive there were times that I let go of stopping for coffee or food or even photographs just because I was loving the drive itself. And these 3 are also things that I enjoy.
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