Day 5 saw us heading south from Udaipur into the state of Gujarat. We had been warned of certain militarized zones to avoid, marking them with a large ‘X’ on the map, attempting to chart a route of safe passage that also didn’t involve driving through the capital city of Ahmedabad.
Google maps, however, had other ideas, and we realised that if we wanted to actually make it to South India at some point in the next nine days, we couldn’t dilly dally on roads heading east or west. We had to go South, baby, towards the sunshine!
“We’ll just skirt around Ahmedabad,” we assured ourselves. A city of a mere five million or so, surely, if we just stuck to the outskirts we’d be right… wouldn’t we?
Things started getting a little crazy as we got closer to the metropolis, and Kim’s time behind the ‘handles’ was up (we rotate drivers every hour and give Sunny, and us, a break for ten minutes or so). It was then my turn at the helm, and before long, the ‘outskirts’ of Ahmedabad looked rather like the ‘inskirts’, and though that is definitely not a real word, I’m sure you’ll understand after this:
(About 29 seconds in, I stall…)
Then just when we thought the worst was over, Sunny pulled the plug and stopped in the middle of a tangled mess of traffic. Though it was a rather stressful moment, it was also quite funny to draw such a crowd in the middle of the road:
These guys gave us a push start afterwards which had us giggling all the way to the entrance of the expressway where we were stopped and told to turn around, as auto-rickshaws were forbidden.
So although driving through Ahemedabad wasn’t the brightest idea we’d had, it did lead to a funny experience, and at the very least I can put “Driving an auto-rickshaw through peak-hour Indian city traffic” on my list of list of new skills.
We made it to a small town called Nadiad for the evening, pulled over the rickshaw as the sun was setting, and asked the nearest person where the closest hotel was. Of course, he spoke perfect English, jumped on the back of his friend’s motorbike and said “follow me”, leading us through the maze of streets buzzing with early evening traffic.
We pulled up at a basic hotel with cheap rooms and a place to park Sunny for the night. We had our photos taken with the kind strangers (which we were totally used to by then, we are going to be all over Indian Facebook after this journey!), and bid them goodbye.
Day 6 was, well, a day that could only be described as hard core. We hit the road at 6 am, and spent over 12 hrs on the grueling highways of Gujarat, clogged with trucks and dust.
As Kim said, there was “just no reward!” for most of the day, except for the fact that Sunny ran well and got us to the town of Daman at nightfall, situated on Gujarat’s southern coast. We were hoping for ‘beach resort’ but we found ‘seedy little town’ instead. We checked into the first decent hotel we could find which happened to be quite plush (by Indian standards), so we happily paid over the odds for hot showers and comfy beds with almost-clean sheets.
We dined at the fancy on-site restaurant, where over-zealous waiters annoyed us with their impeccable service; insisting on silver serving our Aloo Jeera, when all we really wanted to do was shove it down our gobs, chug cold drinks, and belch like the hard-core truckers we then believed ourselves to be.
Gujarat – You gave us quite a hard time; and though we didn’t buy any souvenirs, we’ll always remember you as the place we acquired our trucker street cred.