A Solo Bike Trip In The Lands Of Gujarat
January 1, 1970
by Pradeep Chandru
Planned solo rides are fun:
Have a bike? What else you waiting for..? Someone join you?? Yeah.. trips are good with friends, but wasting your time longing for their approval is a sin I would say.. Get solo and get going.. Provided the passion persists and of course one should know how to ride a bike 😉 (It may or may not be a Monster Bike)
“Gujarat is not much of a place to visit”. This is the statement I hear even from a number of Gujarati mouths. Adding fuel to the burning fire, I was not sure whether my broken Hindi would be acknowledged and responded back. But the real worry came when I realized that Gujjus rarely talk Hindi 😛
Passion for the drive:
It’s true that bike rides involve huge amount of toil. Unless you enjoy the ride and your passion for bikes is at an elevated spot, you are going to face frustration in solo rides, that too long ones. Plan your ride prior, where to rest, how to rest, etc. I have to cover 1720 km in 5 days, which means that I need to cover at approx. 340 km per day. Considering my bike’s condition and my ‘yet to come’ fatigue times, I planned mandatory stops every 50 km. So even when I was fit to ride the 51st kilometer, I still had a break so that I could make it in the long run. Also rather than renting bikes, I prefer to ride my own bike as I knew it well.
Rani ki Vav – An Architectural Well:
My first spot was Rani ki Vav. It was a huge step well under the ground which was excavated in the late 19th century. One could say the queen who built the step well to be lady Shah Jahan. The reason is quite obvious. She has built this structure in the remembrance of her husband. The main catchment area filled with water is restricted of public viewing. It was a twilight evening and what else you want when the nature too supports your mood. Yes.. sunset with a mild drizzle in the nearby grassland which was devoid of human interaction.
A 70 kms drive from there took me to Radhanpur, a ‘so called’ town on my planned path. The path was not an NH road. It passed through an umpteen number of villages. I enquired the route to many people that for an instance I forgot even my name and the only word in my mind and on my lips was ‘Radhanpur’ 😛 Reaching there, few feet inside the banks of highway, I was successful in spotting neat and clean rooms for just Rs.120. Yes government guest house it was. Except for the Gujarati housekeeping friend there, who kept on bugging me for my id proofs thing were quite enjoyable there.
Mandvi beach – The blissful serenity of beaches:
My next day ride was in the highlands of Gujarat, with hills bordering the highway and I was able to feel the serenity during the early morning drive. Roads were amazing and with rare jerks I never realized that I was riding a bike, but floating with an invariable speed. After a ride of 180 km, I reached Kandla. Once I reached the port town of Kandla, I had security issues with entering the port. As it was Saturday the officials were on their weekend offs. But there was a colonel on security in charge that day and my IIM tag showed its importance to me. Though I was not given permission to enter the port I was given permission to climb the top floor of the security building and have a view of the port operations from there. With a part of me contented on behalf of the port visit, I continued my journey to Mandvi, which was 110 kms away. It houses one among the worthy beaches in India.
I was able to get a glimpse of the boat building industry which was in the shores of Mandvi. I ensured that I reached Mandvi before sunset, so that I was able enjoy the sunset from the sparsely crowded beach. According to the locals’ advice I had my dinner in an authentic Gujarati restaurant, which subsequently made my taste buds dance to its tunes. The next morning sunset at 6 am made my day. The slope of the banks gradually plummeted into the shore waves. After the water retrieves back, the sun rays make the water drenched shore to glitter. The surrounding was serene and the breeze was clean. Amidst the camels and birds, I was hoping for the sunrise to last long.
Aina Mahal – Palaces are never too old to avoid them:
Commencing my journey towards the north, I felt the fatigue and tiredness for the first time in the trip. The temperature was a bit high in the Bhuj region, which was the epicenter of the 2001 earthquake. After travelling a hectic 60 kms stretch I reached Aina Mahal, which was an 18th century palace which houses the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ and other utensils of sophistication and weapons of war used by the then ruling dynasty in the area of Bhuj. The palace was a place worth a visit for its artistic values. With a brief and a friendly conversation with an old textile trader, I was able to make my plans for my onward journey that evening to the White desert.
White Rann desert – Just salt till the horizons:
The 84 km stretch was fun to travel as the roads were good and the weather was kind enough to show some mercy on me. I rode across the spot where the ‘Tropic of Cancer’ passes through. On reaching the destination, I was fortunate to check out the ‘Camel stunt show’ performed by the Border Security Force. The White Rann or White desert which the locals call as ‘Safed Rann’ in Hindi was a delight to watch. After walking for a few yards, I was surrounded by a sea of white salt. The horizons were formed by the merge of the reddish sky and the salt surrounding me. After that when I started to search rooms for that night’s stay, I came to know that cost was manifold times higher than what my actual budget was. I had no option but to return back to Bhuj that night. The 84 km return ride to Bhuj was one sort of a horror experience wherein I came across at most 2 or 3 vehicles during the whole ride and the time was already 10 pm. There were instances wherein I need to wait at crossroads for other vehicles to come, so that I could confirm my route and then move on. This journey through the jungle was ‘the moment of the trip’ I would consider. I reached Bhuj by 12 pm and halted there to pacify my hunger filed stomach, my fatigue body and horrified soul.
Dholavira – An island amidst the salt:
My next destination was Dholavira, which was an island close to the Pakistan border. This is a lake island, wherein during the winters the water fills the lake and during the summers, the water gets evaporated and dried up leaving behind the white salt sediments around the island. On my way I stopped at few villages for my breaks. I got to know about the 2001 earthquake in that region, how devastating it was and what were its effects on people’s life today. On reaching Dholavira after a 190 km (approx.) ride, I visited the Harrapan excavation site, which was brought to limelight just 7 years before. It was twenty minutes past 6 pm and I did not have any hotels to rest for the night. While inquiring with some villages, I came across a driver who was willing to provide me shelter in his house for that night. Stuffed my tummy with home cooked food for dinner that night and slept under the blanket of stars which made the completeness for my backpacking solo trip. The next morning, I traveled some 20 km to the interiors of the island where I had chance to visit the plant fossil park which houses a fossil tree, aging at least 176 million years. Archaeological Department of India claims the fossil to be of Jurassic era. Then paid a visit and had a brief chat with the BSF personnel of last Border Security camp in Dholavira, after which the Pakistani area starts.
There ended my bucket list for this solo trip and I started that morning from Pakistan border to reach my place in Udaipur the same day night after traveling 500 km (approx.). 1720 km solo ride over a span of 5 days made me something to be proud and would always cherish this ride as a feat that I’ve done.