As we had done Maharastra road trip in 2016, there was no plan for another road trip in 2017. However, when we changed the car from Estilo to Duster, I just couldn't resist taking Duster for a road trip. When we went to Yelagiri hills and Sakleshpur in Duster, the long road trip was inevitable! So my wife and I started looking at the map and the one state which caught our attention was Gujarat. I started listing down the places and finally we decided to do a road trip to Gujarat during Christmas vacation! And it was a 14 days road trip!
With all the excitement and apprehension, we (Wife, Son, and Myself) started from namma Bengaluru. With 480 liter boot space, Duster was an ideal vehicle for 2 weeks journey. Our first destination was Satara - this was a pit stop. The first day drive to Satara gave enough confidence about the vehicle. It was an untiring drive on the National Highway 48.
Our second destination was Surat. Initially this place was also meant for a pit stop. However, considering Surat being the hub of the Textile industry, it also became the shopping place for my wife. After we crossed Pune, we took Mumbai-Pune Expressway. This drive was a memorable one, passing through ghats and tunnels. I was bit apprehensive about crossing Mumbai considering it's traffic conditions. Google Map helped me here. As I turned on Google Map, it elegantly showed the fastest route via Thane. Crossing Mumbai was pretty easy and I quickly headed towards Surat. As I touched again NH 48, there were trucks everywhere. Overtaking slow moving trucks were, sometimes painful. However, the drive was still pretty good.
As I took my Duster off NH to get into the Surat city, all the comfort drive came to a standstill. Shockingly, people were driving from all the directions. Be it a two-wheeler or auto or car or a bus, they just zip in wherever they find a space. When I stopped for a red signal, people behind me were shouting at me, and people beside me were sarcastically smiling at me. Yes, in their eyes, I was an Idiot to stop for a red signal. Nobody cared for traffic rules, and no one had even a slightest traffic sense! The next 7 kms drive to the hotel was nothing short of hell. Reaching the hotel without a scratch on the car was a miracle! This was not a story of only Surat, as I experienced in the next 12 days, this is the condition in all the cities I visited in Gujarat. The traffic police is just not efficient to control and penalize the offenders. It's just chaotic. Period!
After we reached the hotel, we took a brief rest and walked out for a dinner. For the first time, we tried Gujarati Thaali at "Purohit Gujarati Thaali" restaurant. It was a good experience tasting Gujarati dishes.
On 3rd day morning, with all the bad experience of driving in the city, we took an auto for shopping. Oh yeah, I didn't want to drive through crazy traffic. With the majority of the markets not opened even at 10 AM, we went to the wholesale shop and my wife just got herself immersed in the sea of clothes! The shopkeeper was surprised to hear that we drove from Bengaluru to see Gujarat! It was noon when we checked out from Surat and we started our journey to our next destination Vadodara.
Our plan was to visit Laxmi Vilas Palace at Vadodara. As it was Monday and all the palaces and museums are closed on every Monday, it was disappointing to miss this palace. We thought of visiting this palace during our return journey. After a quick refresh at the hotel, we walked to the nearby park Sayaji Baug. Son was busy in playing and we just relaxed in the park.
After we reached the hotel, I called up my friend Keshava who had stayed in Vadodara a decade back before moving to Australia. He suggested a restaurant "Hotel Radhika" for an authentic Gujarati thaali. When I googled, I was surprised to know that this restaurant was at a walking distance from our hotel. Wife was also excited to taste another authentic Gujarati thaali. The taste of thaali at Radhika was more than expected and it was better than what we had tasted at Surat. Well, I cannot describe each dish, but it was a satisfying dinner at Vadodara.
On 4th day, we drove to a place called Lothal. It is in this place, Archaeologists excavated Harappan sites which dates back to more than 5000 years! We can still see the brick walls of the town, the drains, and the well for portable water. In the museum we can see the artifacts collected from the site such as beads, seals, shells, ivory, copper, and bronze objects etc. It is such a wonderful feeling looking at these objects which were used by people thousands of years ago! A salute to the team who unearthed and preserved these invaluable artifacts.
Our second place for a day was Nishkalangeswar temple at Koliyak village. What is special about this temple is it is located at 1 km distance into the sea. When sea water recedes from morning to evening, people can visit this temple. The rest of the time, water level increases and the temple gets submerged. One has to walk 1 km through muddy surface to reach the Shiva linga. There is no roof or temple kind of a site. The Shiva Linga is installed on an open area. It was a good place to spend some time with evening breeze off the sea.
If you are visiting this place, the nearest place to stay is Bhavnagar. There are hotels at Bhavnagar and it is a 30 minutes drive from Koliyak village.
On 5th day, our plan was to drive to Somnath. It was a long drive passing through Junagadh district. We had not planned safari, so we went straight to Somnath and checked-in. We took an auto to the temple. The security at temple is very stringent. Except Cash and cards, nothing is allowed inside. One has to deposit all their belongings at the designated place. Men were asked to remove belts as well, so do ensure you are wearing a tight trouser or jeans which can hold without a belt!
The Somnath temple is one of the Jyotirlings in India. It is very beautiful with carvings and it looks even more beautiful at the backdrop of Arabian Sea. The queue system is very well organized, and we finished darshan in 30 mins. As we enter the temple, there is a separate queue for men and women. After the darshan, we spent some time at the backside of the temple looking at it's architecture. After coming out of the temple, we collected all the belongings, and walked towards the sea shore. One has to pass through numerous shops selling variety of things and eatables. The shore was clean but little crowded. There are horse and camel rides on the shore. After a quick camel ride, son was busy in playing in the water and we stayed there watching beautiful sunset. After it gets dark, policemen ask everyone to vacate the shore. With the satisfaction of Lord Shiva's darshan and some activities at beach, we retired for the day.
On 6th day, our destination was Dwarka. The drive from Somnath to Dwarka on NH 51 was interesting. In one stretch, the road comes close to a sea shore. The shore was very clean and not crowded. I pulled my car off the road and we spent some time taking pictures.
It was evening when we reached Dwarka. After taking rest for an hour, we headed towards Dwarkadish temple which was at a walk-able distance from the hotel. We have to pass through narrow streets of Dwarka with stores on both the sides. In the already crowded narrow streets, the two-wheelers only make it worse.
After passing through these streets for 10 mins, we get the glimpse of the temple.
Like Somnath, this temple is also heavily guarded. One has to deposit belongings before entering the temple. After passing through the security checks, men and women have to join the respective queues. It was crowded in the temple, and everyone were chanting the Krishna's name with bhakti and vigor. Whether the person is old or young, beautiful or ordinary, rich or poor, they were just desperately waiting to have a look at Dwarkadish! Wow! What a sight! The environment was highly energized and constant chanting of the people turned the premise divine.
As it was very crowded, we got around 10-20 seconds to see the Lord. Though I did not get satisfaction of seeing the Lord for more time, those 20 seconds were still divine experience! After coming out of the temple, as we again returned through narrow streets, we bought roasted peanuts in an old store. These roasted peanuts are very popular in these regions.
The 7th day was a relaxed day. We got up very late and we were in no hurry! After lunch, we hired an auto to take us to Rukshmani temple and Nageshwar Jyotirling temple. Rukshmani temple is around 2 kms from Dwarka temple and is dedicated to Goddess Rukmani. One special about this temple is they offer water as prasad. This temple's carvings are very beautiful.
We then headed towards Nageshwar Jyotirling temple which is 30-40 mins drive from Dwarka. As the name suggest, this is also one of the Jyotirling temples in India. This temple was not crowded, so the darshan was very quick. If you want to do pooja by yourself, you would need to buy the offerings as you pass through the queue.
It was a very relaxed day and I did not drive my car at all! This day also completes 50% of our journey, so we were geared up for the second leg of our journey.
As we had planned to drive to Rann of Kutch, the 8th day was just a drive from Dwarka to Gandhidham. I had planned to visit Dholavira, so I had booked a hotel at Gandhidham. As I was approaching Gandhidham, I could see the trucks carrying the Army people. Sighting the soldiers in their uniform brought so much of respect for them. If we are enjoying our road trips, it is because of them as they are protecting us and our families, and our nation. As I saw an Army soldier, I saluted him. He reciprocated! Personally I felt happy that I saluted a real hero.
As we checked-in the hotel at Gandhidham and inquired about white sand desert, the locals suggested to go to a place called Dhordo. It is this place which is famously also called the great white sand desert. It is also the place where Rann of Kutch festival happens every year. We dropped Dholavaria and decided to go to Dhordo.
As the plan was to start post noon, on 9th day, we had a relaxed morning. Post noon, we started our journey to one of the most exciting places in India - The White Sand Desert. After we cross Bhuj, the road becomes narrow but the road conditions are excellent.
As we were approaching towards the destination, we could see advertisements of Kutch festival. After nearly 3 hours drive, we reached the destination. It was very crowded and security was bit high. There were lots of cars and Tempo Travelers. We parked the car at a designated place and walked to the white sand desert.
This place is indeed amazing. It is difficult to describe in words. But just imagine how do you feel when you are walking on the salt and wherever you see it is all white white white!!! A unique place in India, you need to visit to believe!
We did a lot of photo shoots.
We also witnessed sunset and it was a beautiful sight! There were camel and horse rides, parasailing activities, and some cultural activities as well. We did not stay for any of these. If you want to spend good amount of time here, do stay at tents so that you can take part in all the activities.
The public toilet here was disappointing. It was not clean, and was stinking. So many tourists visit this place, and it is unfortunate that the government has not maintained basic necessities.
With the satisfaction of visiting Rann of Kutch, we returned to Gandhidham and had a good night sleep.
On 10th day, the plan was to reach Ahmedabad via a place called Rani ki Vav. All these days, we were using Google Maps for navigation. So it continued on this day as well. After a place called Radhanpur, Google Map asked us to take right from NH 27. As I followed as per her (Google Map) voice, it took me to a village road. I started doubting about the existence of the road. I decided to take any other route. However, an Innova car also came in the same route and they continued. After a while, Innova returned and the person who was driving said there is no road ahead. They were also going to Patan (where Rani ki Vav is situated). We inquired locals and took another route, but after going some distance, we were not confident about road ahead. We both came out of the car and were discussing. It seems they were also on road trip and they had come from Haryana. They were surprised to know that we had come all the way from Bengaluru. This is one of those rare instances where Google Map failed!
I came back to NH 27 and drove till a place called Thara. From Thara, I took SH 864 to head towards Patan.
Rani ki Vav is a step well and said to be constructed by the queen Udayamati in the last quarter of 11th century AD. She was in the Solanki dynasty of Patan. The vav is 64 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 27 meters wide. This well has a pillard multi-storeyed pavilion, a drawn well and a large tank for collecting surplus water. The architecture and carvings are magnificent and very beautiful. Each carving is carefully done and depicts Gods and Goddess, as well as poses of Apsaras, Nagakanyas, Yoginis etc.
There are no restaurants near Rani ki Vav. However, if you drive for 10 - 20 mins towards Ahmedabad, you will get a couple of restaurants.
After this magnificent structure, we headed towards Ahmedabad. It was around 8 in the evening when we entered Ahmedabad. My son is crazy about cars. So we had planned a visit to Auto World Vintage Car Museum in Ahmedabad. This museum has lots of vintage cars from different parts of the world and primarily from USA, UK, and Europe. There were cars which were more than 100 years old. My son was very excited to see these beautiful cars. Of course, I was also excited seeing these vintage cars.
We then reached the hotel to end the day!
On 11th day, we started at 10 AM and the first place to visit was Akshardham temple. On outer ring road (near Odhav circle), Ahmedabad police stopped me after seeing the vehicle bearing Karnataka registration. He asked for the documents and I promptly showed the DL, RC, and insurance. He asked me the emission certificate. I said this car is 4 months old, and hence emission certificate is not required for first 6 months. He sarcastically said in Karnataka it may not be required for 6 months, but you are in Gujarat, and in Gujarat it is required after 3 months. He said I would need to go to RTO to pay a fine of Rs. 2000. Even though we requested him that we are tourist and we are returning to Bangalore the next day, he finally agreed to let go with a less amount. Finally we paid Rs. 500 to him (no receipt) and he let us go. I didn't know if the rules were different in Gujarat, and this incident really disturbed us. We then headed towards Gandhinagar to visit Akshardham temple.
Akshardham temple is highly secured place. One has to deposit all electronic items including cameras. This is not as big as the one at Delhi. There is a camera person inside the temple premises who can take our picture and give it in a large size portrait. They charge Rs 100 for one photo. We also had lunch at canteen inside the premises, which was actually good and hygiene.
We then left and headed towards Sabarmati Ashram. Ashram is one of the residences of Mahatma Gandhi who lived here for about 12 years with his wife. Now it has a museum and some of the sites such as Vinoba Kutir, Upasana Mandir, and Magan Niwas. We can also see Charkha, and other things used by Mahatma. This place is very peaceful and the bank of River Sabarmati makes it more beautiful.
We had also planned a visit to our cousin's family who lives in Ahmedabad. They invited us for the dinner and after nearly 11 days, we had a typical South Indian home food! As suggested by cousin, we went to Sonalben Khakhrawala shop to get some Gujarati snacks.
After bidding bye to cousins family, we returned to the hotel.
On 12th day, we started our return journey. The plan was to make it 3 days return journey to cover only 500 kms in a day. So the first destination was Thane, and on the next day it was Belagavi, and then home. As we had missed the palace at Vadodara, we decided to visit the palace on this day.
The drive on Ahmedabad - Vadodara expressway was a joy in itself. As the traffic was not much, the Duster just zoomed in! We went to Laxmi Vilas Palace at Vadodara. This is a old palace and part of it is kept as museum. What I liked about this museum is there are no guides required. They give you a headset with a device. Once you start playing the recorded voice (both English and Hindi available), it explains about the sections of the palace. Each section is marked with Numbers. You can pause, or go to previous or next Number as you walk towards it. Just listen to the voice and observe the place to get the history and significance of the Palace.
When we were in the palace, I got a call from my Ahmedabad cousin and got to know about the disturbances around Thane and Pune areas. We were really worried about the return journey. We also spoke to home to get latest updates, and I also checked Twitter. We spent 2 hours in Palace premises only to decide our next course of action. After a lot of thinking, we decided to drive towards Maharastra. The backup plan was to stay at Vapi until the situation becomes normal. Before entering Maharastra, we checked with Thane hotel people. They confidently said there is no problem and we can come. By the time we reached Thane, it was 10.30PM and everything was normal.
We wanted to cross Pune as early as possible. On 13th day, we started from Thane at 5.30AM. There was not much of vehicular movement on Mumbai-Pune express. However, there were fogs all the way. In 2 hours, I crossed Pune and then we were bit relaxed.
As a South Indian, for me the day always starts with a filter coffee. In all these days, somehow I settled with tea (due to non-availability of filter coffee). Perhaps today was the first time in my history, I got up early morning and without a filter coffee (and tea), I drove for almost 3 hours! And without feeling drowsiness. It was the sense of taking the family out of danger which kept me awake without caffeine!
As we spotted Vithal Kamath, we stopped for the breakfast and tea. After we entered Karnataka, we were quite relaxed and we stopped at a hotel for a filter coffee! Still the filter coffee was not that strong but I settled for it now. When we reached Belagavi, it was post noon. We took a good rest at Belagavi and it was very much required for what we had gone through the previous day.
There you go! The 14th day a.k.a the last day of our trip! We are going home!!! Wherever you go, finally you want to go home and lie on your bed. With that excitement, we started from Belagavi and hit on NH 48. We always wanted to taste Benne Dose at Davanagere. We decided to do that today and for lunch we went to Davanagere and had delicious Benne dosa at Hotel Sagar. We continued our journey and reached home around 7.30PM.
We had successfully completed the Gujarat road trip covering 4807 kms! Phew!!!
Primarily the roads were good and the ride quality in Duster was clearly visible. Personally I felt the decision to go for Duster was right. Duster is made for highway road trips and you don't have to really worry about broken roads (In fact, while going to Lothal, we did come across a section of broken roads and Duster effortlessly took us as if roads were absolutely fine).
The road map of the trip Some quick facts:
Total distance driven: 4807.5 kms
Avg mileage: 18 kmpl (with AC ON for entire journey)
We passed through:
- 11 National Highways
- 17 Gujarat State Highways
- 2 Express ways
- 1 NICE road
- Tropic of Cancer