Thursday, June 10

The Maha-Guj-Raj

Driving from Nandan Farms of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra to Castle Bera near Pali in Rajasthan was an interesting journey of 5 days... not that a non-stop drive should take that long.. we planned it that way. 

We first drove 380kms to Prabha's sister's place in Pune to do some laundry and relax for 2 days... and the drive on the Amboli Ghats was a delight. Being a part of the Deccan plateau and the western ghats whole area was beautiful and apparently it receives the highest rainfall in the western ghats. 

We then drove to Nashik, relatively a short drive of 220kms, to visit the Mahindra Xylo plant - to see the place where our car was born. The road was being four laned in parts and so the drive took us almost 6 hours. The Ghat section just before Sangamner was very beautiful. 

The visit to the Mahindra Xylo factory was very enlightening and we learnt that some 600 (colour, specifications and export special) variants of the Xylo and Scorpio are manufactured on the same conveyor belt. One brown Xylo rolls out... and right behind it is a white Scorpio... the precision with which the people work here is amazing. 

 Also the engineers at Mahindra have modified the software that drives the imported robots making them more efficient and as a result every 4 and half minutes one of these amazing vehicles comes off the conveyor belt. 

We had the evening free so we took a trip to the Sula Vineyard. Got a look at the place were some of the best wines in india are made and got to taste a great wine made by their master winemaker Kerry Damskey called RaSa (named after Sula founder Rajeev Samant). Incidentally Rasa in sanskrit means juice or essence. 

 Sunset on the balcony with a beautiful view of the vineyards and the Gangapur lake in the distance made a great day even more romantic. 

The next day we were off to Ahmedabad. The 500km drive took about 9 hours, but the beautiful part was that the roads improved tremendously as soon as we crossed the border from Maharashtra... almost instantly. At Valsad we joined the Golden Quadrilateral and then the road got even better... but the real treat was still to come... 

It was too bloody hot to get out of the car and even think of eating lunch - so we decided to get some food from a dhaba parcelled and eat it in the car - hopefully under a tree if we could find one. The dhaba we found was just outside Surat and as I went in to order I noticed that it was run by some Muslims... and interestingly served pure vegetarian food. 

 I wonder if Chief Minister Narendra Modi had succeeded in converting Muslims to vegetarians or was it just business economics that had determined that the demand for non-veg food was not great in these areas. 

When we reached Vadodra (Baroda) my hands started to itch... could not wait to drive on National Express-way #1 - the best road in the country. 

 We have driven on this road a couple of times before and each time the experience had been really great - total adrenaline rush. On this 100km stretch an average speed of 120+ was easily achievable - average speed... not top speed! 

But when we entered Amdavad (Ahmedabad) we were in for a rude shock. The cops stopped us and insisted that to drive in Amdavad, or anywhere in Gujrat for that matter, we should have a 'patti' on our headlight and if we did not have that we should pay a fine of 200 bucks. We tried explaining to them that we were tourists and we would be out of the city the next morning... no luck. 

Finally we told him that we would get the great 'patti' (a anti-glare sticker on the right headlight) if he could point us to the closest sticker shop... and the enterprising cop Mr. H R Solanki pulled the 'patti' (sticker) out of a concealed pocket in this shirt and stuck it on our car... not before he collected 200 bucks for it. 

Consoling ourselves that the 'speed-money' 200 bucks was worth it, because we hoped that, for the next 24 hrs that we were going the spend in Gujarat, we were not going to waste time arguing with cops. 

Getting to Bera from Ahmedabad was a challenge in itself... normal everyday Gujratis would know that the best road to get here (from Ahmedabad) was the Mount Abu Road (via Mehsana-Sidhpur-Palanpur). 

But we South Indians like us did not have any idea... we took the GQ (Golden Quadrilateral - NH 8) route and half way (at Himatnagar) had to deviate to the Ambaji road (SH 9) - consequently we got to drive thru a nice bit of rural Gujarat and Rajasthan, via Idar, Ambaji and Abu Road where we hit the nicely 4-laned NH 14. 

Ambaji, as the name suggests is a 'holi place' and had all the ingredients of religious town... crowds of devotees, taxis and touts... but this also meant that we got some great food - a full fledged Gujrati Thali... theplas, kadi and kichdi included. 

With the sun overhear scorching away at a merry 48+ deg we were headed to our sixth Mahindra Homestays destination, Castle Bera.


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