The book of Ellie – A couple’s tour to Gujarat

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by animeher, Apr 11, 2016.

  1. animeher

    animeher Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    Chapter 1: The Plan


    Every tour starts in a unique way. Some require a careful planning and a thorough study of routes. While some tours present themselves to you, and all you need to do is to act your part.


    Our Gujarat tour started in similar way one Sunday night, when I and Nandinee were sprawled across the hall, my eyes heavy from a nice supper and mind half processing what the idiot box was blaring in front of us. But whatever images it was showing were definitely interesting, and I woke up from my slumber to concentrate. It was a travel channel showing various tourist spots of Gujarat. Even in my half- awake state, I had to agree it seemed wonderful. The destination had presented itself, and we responded positively to its invitation.

    It was the month of November, and luckily we were in season to visit the place. Unlike Ladakh which requires months and months of preparation, most other tours require much simpler – yet no less involved – preparation.

    The mode of travel was no brainer – Vesta (Suzuki GS150R). She had been my faithful ride for many tours now, and it was natural that we would take her across to the plains of Gujarat. Slowly the plans were made, railway tickets were reserved, Vesta’s parceling through train was in place. For 8 days that included two Sundays, it was a perfectly set plan.

    But like all good plans, this too had to be led astray. At a very short notice, Elizabeth entered our lives and changed the whole damn plan that we had planned so meticulously over many a week.

    Elizabeth

    Just one week prior to our tour, we welcomed a wonderful addition to our lives – A green Ninja 300.

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    As per the tradition, she too was christened. We considered many names, but the name that finally stuck with us was – Elizabeth, or Ellie in short. In a Marathi movie ‘Elizabeth Ekadashi’, where it is a bicycle’s name, a little boy tries to explain his sister what the name Elizabeth means. After trying different meanings, he finally concludes ‘Elizabeth means long lasting’. This seemed a reasonable expectation looking at the quality the Ninja 300 offers.

    Now Vesta and Ellie are completely different breeds. Vesta glides over roads, has a nice upright riding position, provides a lot of place to place ourselves and luggage on top of her. After many rides, I had come to know her in extreme details, as to how much slope she could manage, which overtaking maneuvers could she safely undertake and which ones she would simply had to wait out. We could ride at our own pace, without disturbing the world around us, and not getting disturbed in return.

    But Ellie is a completely different animal. First of all, she is a rock star. Vesta blends into her surrounding; Ellie stands on top of a table and grabs eyeballs. And she is not just a show horse either. She has enough power to match the looks. The riding position is bit forward, though not as dedicated as other sports bikes. The seats are cushioned only so that one wouldn’t complain of the manufacturer not using any foam at all. The pillion has to sit close to the rider, and luggage space is a luxury.

    But Ellie has a mind of her own. What she embodies is not looks or power, but freedom. Now I could choose whether I want to calmly ride or hurry up. I could now get out of traffic at my own wish. The sudden increase in power and riding precision was certainly a great upgrade.

    Once I got Ellie, it was a natural progression that she would take us to Gujarat. But I couldn’t send her via train, with so many ornaments prone to damage. So a wild plan was fixed. ‘Let’s ride all the way and back!’

    Luggage on Ellie

    Mounting luggage on Ellie deserves a special mention. Since the bike had to take me, Nandinee and our clothes for 8 days, we wanted a good luggage capacity. A magnetic tank bag was an obvious choice, but it was not enough. We had to have a saddlebag – two bags joined together, placed on pillion’s seat so that the pillion can sit on top of it (like a horse’s saddle). But Ellie’s curves and upswept exhaust made sure that none of the readymade solutions work out of the box.

    It required a couple of nights thinking and studying of many luggage options on Ninja 300, when finally we came up with a simple solution, to put a spacer to push the saddle bags away.

    This simple mod made the whole trip possible. Without this mod, I would be constantly having tension whether the saddle bags would touch the exhaust, and if they did, then that would be a whole different chapter.

    We rode a number of small tours here and there to get used to Ellie, and got her first service done.
     
  2. animeher

    animeher Active Member

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    Chapter 2: The long journey
    Day 1

    Pune Ahmedabad is a 700 km journey. The longest that we had travelled on a motorcycle was 520kms in Rajasthan 4 years ago. So covering 700kms was surely a challenge. It was amazing and mildly terrifying that our first long ride would be of 700 kilometers! But what better way to face this constraint than by riding a Ninja?! We decided to start this trip with a bang, and travel the whole distance in one day.

    A powerful bike with unique character, travelling such a long distance with two adults and their luggage – the combination of these thoughts took care of my sleep, and it almost felt as if it was just a minute before I slept before the enemy of human kind – the alarm clock – buzzed me up.

    We woke at an unbelievable hour of 4.30am. Last moment packing stretched itself, and finally we rolled on at 6.30pm. A customary photo-shoot at the time:

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    I kept my pace from the first kilometer, keeping my sights on the target at the end of the day: Ahmedabad.

    The Pune Mumbai highway, where I did my first long trip 12 years ago, welcomed us with open arms. There was a stinging chill in the air, and Ellie cut through the thick sleepy air like a knife. Soon the Sun was smiling in my rear view mirror, as Ellie at up kilometers for breakfast.

    Familiar names came and gone, crossing Karla, Lonavala, Khopoli, Ellie rode hard. For avoiding any possible discomfort, we religiously took hourly halts, irrespective of distance crossed. The distance covered every hour was surprising as well as encouraging, and we would ride on with renewed energy every time.

    It was 10.30 am when I started on the Gujarat highway from Fountain hotel, Bhayendar. This highway is almost a straight road, where you need to hold on to the accelerator while keeping keen eye on the possible (but sparse) traffic.

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    Soon, it was just a test of patience where you play all sorts of mind tricks: whether the next mile marker comes sooner than the previous one; how many white cars do I cross before I see a red car; how many trees on each side of the road. So on and so forth.

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    Ellie was of course in her elements and was enjoying the ride fully. An open road with normal traffic is a dream ride for any motorcycle, and more so for such sporty bikes. She broke the barriers of speed that I had unintentionally intended, and would ride at higher at higher speed than before as the miles went by.

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    We took our lunch at Papillon, Vapi at a hotel near the flyover. I noticed something peculiar: the waiting staff was consisted solely of senior citizens. I saw one wearing hearing aids! I felt good that they were empowering the senior citizens who unfortunately had to work in the evenings of their lives.

    As per the speed of Ellie and the superb quality of roads, our hope of reaching Ahmedabad before sundown went on becoming stronger and stronger. It was 4.30pm when we were proven wrong in hoping this feat.

    We were stuck in a huge line of cars and trucks, and there was no way out to be seen. This was the infamous Ankaleshwar-Bharuch traffic jam, and it made sure it left a good dent on our planning for that day.

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    Luckily a villager took mercy and led us through interior roads that connected to the main highway a distance ahead. But the traffic jam was still not over. After half a grueling hour of stop and crawl traffic, we finally were free at 5.30 pm, now sure that it would be a good part of evening that we would still had to ride ahead.

    We contemplated whether to stay at some place, but since the highway looked inviting and sufficiently populated, we decided to push the limits and head for Ahmedabad.

    Soon the sun bid adieu and we had to adjust to one weakness of Ellie, near sightedness. The headlights of Ninja 300 were bright to onlookers, but somehow the road didn’t pay any heed to the two sexy eyes of Ellie, and didn’t get lit up.

    Adding salt to the wounds, two wheelers are not allowed on the beautiful expressway between Vadodara and Gujarat. I was envious that the cars whom I showed Ellie’s tail lamp all the way from Mumbai to Vadodara would now happily cruise along the smooth tarmac, and I would have to make my way half blindly on the unlit under-construction Vadodara-Ahmedabad road.

    The road constituted of many diversions and many more speed-breakers. For some reason, Gujarat road making authority has a great command on building roads, but somehow the concept of a speed breaker is lost upon them. Here, it is simply a round protrusion like half a pipe laid on the road, and any two digit speeds on them made sure the vehicle’s bottom would meet the said speed-breaker with a heart breaking ‘thud’ sound.

    When we reached Ahmedabad, we were ready to throw in the towel and just lie down on some soft surface, but our patience still had not passed their test that fate had designed. The maze of the roads made sure we bounced around like a ping pong ball, and it was almost 10.30pm when we finally checked in the hotel. Luckily, it was a very nicely decorated room with soft mattress that welcomed us and promised that we would not out of it till our energies recover.

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    A 700kms two up ride on a Ninja in one day! Who would’ve thunk!
     
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  3. rpmboy

    rpmboy Nothing to Prove

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    Though , I am happy single as of now but I soon also be in a pretty situation like of yours (I call it "MARRIED") , so taking a visual and mental training from ur log .
    And , yes I love the beast (Ninja 300) too but have a tough mind-fight between RE Himalayan & Ninja 300 .
    Neva mind.... keep it coming !!

    if you dont mind : please share pic of spacer you mentioned earlier . ( between saddle bag and silencer)
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2016
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  4. foadbear

    foadbear Pirates Skulls and Bones

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    Ellie's a beauty :) sweet ride you have there.

    It is actually daunting to cover 700kms in a day and the fact that you are did it, wow :) with a pillion makes it so much exciting when she is the better part of your life.

    Best of luck for the rest of journey.

    One thing I would like to mention, I used to drink whey protein shakes when I used to go to sleep at night and when I woke up in the morning on bike rides. They do help lots in recovering from the exhaustion along with a good night's sleep.
     
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  5. animeher

    animeher Active Member

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    Chapter 3: Little Rann and small minds
    Day 2

    It would be a stretch to call it a morning when we finally woke up from our slumber. It was our first day ever in Gujarat and though it started late, we welcomed it with a smile. Still hung over by the long ride last night, we took our time to get ready, got Ellie washed up and were ready to go at noon. The washing charges were very low, only Rs. 30. This was my first glimpse of overall affordability in this region. Later too, at many points, I was amused by overall affordability in the state Gujarat.

    Today’s destination was Little Rann of Kutchh.

    Rann of Kutchh is famous for its well-known photos of far stretched white salt pans, and hardly any tree visible in sight. But there are two Ranns. One is the Great Rann of Kutchh, the part that is famous for ‘white Rann’. It lies at the western end of Gujarat, and shares its territory with Pakistan.

    The other is Little Rann of Kutchh, which falls at about middle top area of Gujarat. It is an area about 5000 sq kilometers (about as big as the city of Mumbai) of barren land. It is famous for mainly bird spotting, as it has ‘Nawa Talao’ lake that is visited by millions of migratory birds every year. It was this part, the Little Rann of Kutchh, that we were headed today.

    The road to Little Rann goes through a village called Sanand – famous for Tata Nano factory. We had to cross Ahmedabad first. I noticed that for every intersection of roads, the authorities had preferred to put up speed breakers, rather than signals. And they had made sure that speed breakers didn’t feel alone. Every time, you would get 3 combined ones that would make sure you are thoroughly shaken (not stirred :D) at the end of it. Perhaps this was their way to make sure there were no dozing drivers on road.

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    Also, I noticed a trend: using a two wheeler for only two people was perhaps perceived as a crime. About 80-90% of the two wheelers that I saw were carrying at least 3 persons. There was no ‘upper limit’ to this number, as I once saw a family of 5 happily riding on a two wheeler, perhaps musing why they didn’t carry grandma and grandpa as well.

    When I finally left Ahmedabad, and joined the Sanand road, I let Ellie off the hook and let her chat with the wind. She too made full use of this chance, and soon we were sprinting on the excellent Sanand road.

    On my previous bikes, I would ride on the left or middle lanes and would let other high speed vehicles pass me on the right. At times, I had to change the lanes hurriedly to make way for a vehicle approaching at high speed from behind. On Ellie, this role was reversed. Vehicles in the fast lane would spot me approaching from a long distance – thanks to the all-day ON headlamp - and would change lanes to let me pass, without me indicating anything. It was a great feeling to make way without any fuss.

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    This all day ON headlamp made sure we were spotted all the time. But public at large hated this idea, it seemed. Everyone on the road would show me the headlight was by various techniques. Some would shine an imaginary mirror on my face. Some would shout ‘Light light!’. The best bit was when I saw a bike approaching me from the other side. As usual 3 persons were sitting on it. They spotted my light, and all 3 of then raised their right hands and started shining those imaginary mirrors at me. It was a scene straight out of Kuchipudi dance, when the dancers would stand behind one another and would raise hands to depict a multi-handed Goddess!

    While the road was excellent, the hotels were not frequent. We took our lunch in a hotel that was perhaps the only acceptable hotel on that whole road. After this non-descript lunch, we moved on to find our way to Zinzuwada – the entry point to Little Rann of Kutchh.

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    It required some asking around to search for the place. I observed that people around here were very talkative. I would ask them a one word question: ‘Zinzuwada?’ and they would launch into a long monologue, most of which was wasted on me because of the disconnect of language. I know about 20-30% of Gujarati language, so I would strain my ears to catch some direction indicating words, and then would ride off after thanking them.

    We arrived at Bhavna Farms Resort at Patadi village at around 4.00pm. The farm offers simple rooms and morning & evening Safaris.

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    After consulting with the owner of the hotel, we planned to head for ‘Kharagota’, a small village nearby, to witness the sunset and spend a quiet evening near the barrenness of Rann. I was in no mood to subject Ellie to rough roads; hence we decided to stop whenever the tar roads ended.

    Kharagota is about 5kms from the hotel. It has its own railway station for transporting goods. There were a lot of gunny bags containing salt, perhaps waiting for the next train to proceed further. The road passes through sleepy villages.

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    After clicking photos of the salt pans, we had hardly moved ahead a few meters when I heard Nandinee screaming in pain. I halted immediately and parked Ellie. It turned out that someone was flying a kite, and Nandinee’s helmet visor was not covered for that moment, because she was clicking photos a few minutes ago. The kite’s sharp thread had entered into the small visor opening in the helmet, and had made a cut above the nose, right between her eyes. I shuddered to think what would have happened if the thread would divert its way even an inch on either side. I knew Gujarat celebrated the festival of Sankranti and kite flying, and we were extremely cautious not to keep our heads or neck exposed while riding. But the thread had caught us unawares, at the moment when we let our guards down. I started to move back to hotel, but Nandinee urged me to move ahead as she didn’t feel it was a pressing matter.

    I should not have paid heed to her. I could have avoided the events that followed.

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    We rode ahead – now with great caution. We passed some villages, and now the road was slowly deteriorating, heading straight into a barren land. We halted at a point that looked good for photography, and got down from our bike, looking around for angles and lights for clicking photos.

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    While we were chatting, a motorcycle passed us, took a U turn, and halted a few meters behind my bike. Soon he was joined by about 5-7 other bikes, parked at a few meters around us. It was a scene straight out of any movie, where we were being circled by about 20 people, all in the age group of 20-30. I eyed each and every one of them. Many of them seemed unsure of any further action, looking at us and Ellie with confused stare.

    I asked Nandinee to get on the bike, to get the hell out of there before one of them figures that things could easily be turned against us. When I put my leg on Ellie, one of them sheepishly said ‘No, no. Don’t bother. We are leaving. We had just come here to see whether it was a runaway couple.’

    ‘What? We are married.’ I blurted out.

    ‘Oh. Good’. He responded.

    Slowly the pack moved away, leaving us alone.

    I was speechless. Who was he to check my marital status? I was standing on public roads, and hence I assumed I was protected by law. But this was a jungle and we were to follow the law of the wolves. If the leader of the pack would have decided he didn’t like the calm, the events would be a lot different than they were.

    Soon the younger generation arrived, by bicycles. I could see them following the same footprints that their seniors showed, to be a self- prophesied protector of ‘values’. So I did the best thing to do in such circumstances, and made friends with them.

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    I hope these young people are raised up to be open minded, and protective of women, and not of the ill-conceived ‘culture’.

    It got mighty cold in the night. We hurriedly ate our dinner, a mix of Gujarati and Rajasthani food, and entered under a layer of thick rajai.

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    My mind kept on wondering into the silence of the night, that what would happen if one of those culture protecting wolves would have decided that he didn’t like my face? Or maybe turned his attention to my pillion? Those were some mighty uncomfortable thoughts, and I decided that I would no more venture into such ‘hidden allies’ just to peek at a view. Nothing is worth compromising safety of my loved ones. The adventures would have to wait till I am alone, or with friends.

    But that was over now. It was the past. The night beckoned me for embracing her, for tomorrow morning we would be heading out to a Safari in the Rann.
     
  6. foadbear

    foadbear Pirates Skulls and Bones

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    What to say now, its good that you came out without any incident.

    I am also shocked to read it. Even if it is a runaway couple, who are they to intervene .


    And furthermore, when does a runaway couple runs away in full riding gear?


    Hope the cut on nose has healed by now and you guys are ready for the next adventure.

    No one is prepared for these scenarios where 5-7 bikes come at once and as you mentioned there were 3 people on each bike on road. I can just imagine what you must be going through at that moment.

    Be safe and we need you to post more travelogues.
     
  7. NeerajVayu

    NeerajVayu Well-Known Member

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    Awesome ride with awesome Ninja
     
  8. ravi200223

    ravi200223 Well-Known Member

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    nice picture
    nice writing
     
  9. animeher

    animeher Active Member

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    Chapter 4 - Of migratory birds and migratory bikers.
    Day 3

    It was a day of early wakeup, and I woke up with surprising happiness. It is not every day that you look forward to venture into a dryland to gaze at animals and birds! The Little Rann was calling from far, and we heeded its call. Very early into the morning, we were waiting eagerly near our jeep to start the journey.

    The safaris are done in an open jeep. It was absolutely chilling that early in the morning, and even the Sun was taking his time to rise up, perhaps snoozing his alarm clock again and again.

    I sat on the front seat next to the driver, tucking in my head, hands and legs as close to my body as possible. Nandinee taunted: ‘Look who is here! A turtle in the Rann of Kutchh!’. I didn’t have anything to retort back, but I made a note in my mind to take a few speed-breakers at good speed when we would ride out in the afternoon.

    We took a permit from the hardly awake Bachana Forest Department official who was issuing permits from his bed, still wearing the night suit. Being shivering myself in a layer of thick clothes, I admired his dedication and took the permit from him. We entered the Rann from ‘Dasada’. The rough roads that lead into Rann seemed best suited for such jeeps and SUVs only. Normal cars and bikes will find this entrance quite tough to navigate. After crossing a patchy road, soon the road ahead started getting a lot of forks and bisections, and the road ahead started seeming lesser trodden that the one behind. Finally, we had entered the Rann. It was much more than what we saw on TV a few months ago. A vast endless expanse of barren lands spreading miles and miles beyond vision, the Rann’s first sight is an unforgettable experience.

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    Rann is a dry land mostly consisting of salty soil, because of which anything worth growing hardly grows there. The lands get completely sunk in rainwater, and as they begin to dry out by the Sun’s heat, the trees and grass try to find their way out of the ground again. The rains churn the soil, which attracts the salt manufacturers to this area. And the lakes that form inside this vast barren land attracts the winged guests from far away countries.

    When we entered the Rann just the Sun was finally rising. Slowly the world around us increased in brightness as an old CRT monitor, and at one point, suddenly everything turned to gold! It was a magical sight to see golden light illuminating the Rann and our faces with its golden gaze. It lasted for a brief time, but it left a long lasting impression. I am not a morning person, but that golden aura of the rising sun pushed me hard to become one, just to witness it every morning.

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    The Little Rann is famous for unique animal – an Asian wild ass, called Khur in local language.

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    This animal is a strong creature. It can stand the blithering heat in the Rann (upto 48 degrees!) without any shade. Living as much as 25 years, it is agile as well at a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour. But it hasn’t been domesticated. It roams in the open wild, grazing and looking around shyly at coy tourists. At the first sign of anyone approaching, they show their name-equivalent part of their body and run deeper in the interiors of the Rann.

    They have some interesting neighbours, such as neel gay that is blue bull (shouldn’t it be named blue cow or neel bail?!).

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    But the most interesting sight in Rann has to be the birds. There are so many of them!

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    There are around 5 million birds in Rann. 50 Lakh birds!!

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    Thanks to the lakes formed inside Rann, these visitors– primarily flamingos - travel without visa from far away countries and make their yearly pilgrimage without fail.

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    The driver took the jeep to a salt making quarry, and explained how the salts were made. I have grown up near a salt pan site, spending many early mornings of my childhood playing on such salt pans. The explanation of harvesting salt from the lands, and crossing the shallow salt beds prepared to dry out the water and yield salt brought back some fond memories of a carefree childhood.

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    The hotel had packed our breakfast for an open air dining in the Rann. The waste plates were brought with us back to the hotel. We halted many times, to spot a different variety of birds. The driver was unfortunately not a guide, and only seemed qualified to classify the amazing creatures around us into two categories – ‘animal’ and ‘bird’. If a bird would have four legs, I am sure the ‘guide’ would go into hibernation due to processing overload. I hope someone reading this would be able to identify the birds and tell me their names.

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    From a distance, this mountain looked just like the one on Kargil – Leh route!

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    It was a wonderful trip in the Rann, and seeing the animals and birds in their natural habitat from a distance was an amazing experience.

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    It marked a wonderful start of the trip, and we were excited about the future wonders that Gujarat had in store for us.

    We were back at the hotel at about 10.30am. At the hotel, there were two friendly Dalmatian dogs with a fresh litter. I gained trust of the mom and dad first, and then played with the soft & warm puppies. It was a cuteness overload to be surrounded by Dalmatian puppies.

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    After a heavy lunch, we left the hotel to move towards our destination of the night: Bhuj.
     
  10. animeher

    animeher Active Member

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    Chapter 5 - Flight towards Bhuj.

    The roads towards Bhuj were in absolutely wonderful condition.

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    Barring a few sneaky speed breakers, there was hardly any obstacle –living or otherwise – on the road. Ellie spread her wings and carried us swiftly, crossing one toll booth after another. Whenever we halted to take hourly stretches, people would gather around smiling, picking up a small conversation. They would be amazed by our story, and we would get best wishes for journey ahead before we parted ways.

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    We didn’t know there existed another Malvan village outside of Konkan!

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    It was a superfast and yet relaxed journey, and perhaps it was the lull of the road that made me take a wrong way when we come to the bisection in the road.

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    For Bhuj, there are two roads from Little Rann. One is from the village Bachau. This is the correct road for someone who doesn’t want to go into towns, and wants to reach directly to Bhuj. Other goes through Gandhidham and Anjar, which is mainly suited to the people who have some business in those towns.

    In the euphoria of such speedy travel, we took the path to our left, rather than taking to the right. Soon we started spotting big trucks and tankers. We started looking around for any road signs, when we read ‘Kandla Port’.

    My brain started processing this unexpected information, visualizing the Gujarat map in my mind. Kandla port definitely didn’t fall on the way to Bhuj. Bhuj was in the west, Kandla was in south. Seeing the direction of Kandla port on the road we were following could only mean….

    ‘We are lost.’ My non-amused pillion cleared my unvoiced doubts.

    We started asking around, and realized that we have taken the Gandhinagar route. Since we had already covered a good distance since the bisection for Bachau, it didn’t make any sense to turn back. We decided to wing it and continue on the present route.

    This route goes from interior of cities, and the ride speed gets substantially affected. After negotiating local traffic, incoming vehicles from all the way and train crossings - finally when we touched the highway that would lead us to Bhuj in next 40 kms.

    Heaving a sigh of relief, I let Ellie loose and she hurried ahead to get us to Bhuj before Sundown.

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    At 7 kilometers before Bhuj, a small village named ‘Bhujodi’ has made its mark on tourists’ maps. A village of artisans and weavers, it has gained a fame for authentic local art and craft sold directly by the creators. We entered the gates of Bhujodi at 7.00pm.

    There are many shops on both the sides of the road, displaying home grown (as well as outsourced, I suspect) crafts. It makes an interesting side-visit.

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    After some shopping – window and actual – we headed to Bhuj and found our hotel. The room was an absolute delight, and we were glad to have selected this hotel for our tonight’s stay.

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    All I wanted to do is sleep!

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    But Bhuj was calling from the ouside, so got up and walked out to see the town.

    We went out on walk to see the local bazaar and temples. It was a relaxing walk. Nandinee noticed many Gujarati women roaming around in traditional attire. This was not an orchestrated event with models walking in the traditional clothes and antique jewellery. This was the real deal.

    Back in Pune, one of the favourite evening snack is ‘Kachhi Dabeli’. Since we were in Kutchh, I was keen to taste what the real Kutchhi Dabeli would taste like. Seemed the Pune version is only ‘vaguely based’ on the idea of the rael Dabeli, and the Kutchhi one was quite different in a good way.

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    The restaurant at our hotel had a unique theme – airline seating. The diners were seated on tables resembling airline seats. It was a different experience, and the food was good – thankfully they had not followed airline standards here!

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