Step into Medieval Gujarat
Every state in the Western and Southern parts of India has diversity in topography. From mountains to beaches. Nightlife to wildlife, Holy places to modern cities. Just you need to step out of your home to explore these hidden or untrodden places by regular travelers. When I started backpacking, focused on exploring India before stepping out of India. This as well as the next 2 parts are my attempt to explore the neighboring state – Gujarat on the bike. My travelogue will be mainly about the places we explored, the hospitality we enjoyed, the amazing people we met, and most importantly the experience we had of ‘Padhare Mare des – Vibrant Gujarat’.
Three bikes. Three riders. One passion – Riding.
One state. 3500 + km. Countless exotic places.
Gujarat, though its right next to Maharashtra, never featured in my travel plans. Maybe because I was surrounded by the Gujarati community and never felt out of it.
To attract A particular tourist, a destination must have some characteristics. wildlife sanctuaries. Historical monuments. Seashores. Worshipped places. That destination should have a vibrancy that is carried back in form of memories and share them with friends. It might inspire your friends to see this beautiful country and explore its various colorful angles.
Always, the prime objective of my travel plan is to see Vibrant India before I visit any foreign location. I have always seen people going gaga about foreign locations once they are back. That gives me a headache because everyone knows India has everything from beaches to mountains, from religious places to lively nightlife. It has a rich culture and heritage, a strong history but still why people look West or nowadays in South East Asia just because it’s neat and clean? Maybe because it is presented and marketed on a nice platter. I Admit India is not a very clean country but if you look beyond which an Indian fail to see and a Westerners easily get attracted to, India has much more to offer than the neat and cleanliness of the destination.
Every year, since I acquired my first two-wheelers whether its Avenger or Enfield aka Bullets, I have started traveling at least a state every year. Now that’s becoming a ritual and everyone in my friend circle knows. These pilgrimages were not to temples but too interesting places used to happen in public transport but nowadays the 2 wheeler is the most suitable (Am I bluffing on this point after going through an accident on a ride in Rajasthan and lot more breakdowns?) means of transport. also, I found two-wheelers gives you the freedom to stop or change the plan at the last moment. Though a 4-wheeler does the same with the travel on 2-wheeler, one can mix and connects with the local people well which we experienced a lot in our Gujarat ride.
The plan for the Gujarat ride started materializing a long time back. Earlier it was supposed to be an extension of my Rider Mania ride plan to Delhi. Normally I plan the long ride post I attend the RM. This year the RM was in Delhi and the nearest attractive state was Rajasthan which we had already done a couple of years back. Another one was MP but due to the dacoit problem in few pockets decided to drop it. Gujarat was looking promising.
On my earlier long ride, I rode with the Bullet club, but still, I couldn’t adjust myself very well on that ride. Being an adventurous guy who likes to explore many places than the only ride on the highways, decided to check with Hitu in whose company I am very much relaxed for riding and is a good riding partner. Our relations go way back. Almost more than 10/12 years. Since Lintas days. He started enjoying adventure sports when I introduced him to the mountains. We did hardcore cycling for long distances together. And also some amazing treks, so as skiing courses. He knew it was coming as the year before he couldn’t go for any long ride and heard of my not so exciting experience in the group ride. The other advantage of riding with him is that he is an ardent photographer who can capture the memories well as you can notice pics in this blog. Being a Gujarati himself, he was excited about the ride to his state.
When we were planning for this ride, we had taken all 4 corners of Gujarat taken into consideration to visit. We planned our ride in such a way that every day will bring us some different angles of Vibrant Gujarat. From ancient civilization to wildlife sanctuary, from historical monuments to religious places, from hill station to beaches. Unlike our last Rajasthan ride of Hitu and me, this time we desired to ride a complete circuit. While following Google map for roads reach all borders of the state. For every place we visited on our ride, we gathered information about that place from local residents who are settled in Mumbai and of course, Google Mata.
Roughly the dates were planned. The rough route details were chalked out. Here I must mention, we both of us ride on a rough or a tentative plan. If we found or hear about someplace which is not included in our plan but happened to be somewhere nearby, we can change our plans accordingly. In a big group, it is not that easy to change the plan at the last moment because of the diversity of the minds of the group riders. The plan we chalked out was to meet directly at Jaisalmer post my RM participation. Another reason was to start a ride from Jaiselmer was, we had done almost entire Rajasthan a couple of years back and had return because of my accident near Pokhran. So we thought, lets complete Rajasthan’s part which was left from the earlier ride, and enter Gujarat to complete a state as well. A couple of more people were also thrilled about the plan. The leaves were applied for many days. Roughly about 3 weeks. For a salaried or for that matter businessman, too its not easy to stay away from the work, but due to my reputation as a sincere and hard worker who rarely takes leave paved the way for sanction. But as we say in my profession, one should never even plan a dinner on a weekday as anything might get pops up. The advertising industry works in the tune of those most necessary services like water, electric supply, defense services which cannot be shut down for a single day (at least we from the industry and our client thinks). About 2 weeks before the start of the ride, the unavoidable disaster stuck. The campaign which was going to break got bombed and the release date got pushed and clashed with my leave dates. Being a senior on the brand couldn’t have left the team in a soup. With consultation with the boss, decided to change the ride plan dates and also to skip the RM.
Due to changes in the ride dates, the plan also went through a few alterations. Now I wasn’t going to ride to Delhi to attend RM, so why all the way going to Rajasthan to attempt only Jaisalmer. We decided to concentrate only on Gujarat. With that changed plan, a couple of other people dropped out as Jaisalmer was the main attraction. Frankly to me, too as I wanted to visit since I had come back midway on our Rajasthan ride due to my freak accident as mentioned before. So we were reduced to 3 people team. Still, I wonder how the third person still stuck with us. Vivek, I had hardly met this guy. Just spoken to him a couple of times over the phone or chatted on Gmail. He was from the Enfield club but for the ride, he wanted to try out his Ninja 650 CC bike. I was slightly skeptical about his coming with us as we both were more of a leisurely ride to explore more than zooming on highways. But I think, he had made up his mind of doing this ride even if I changed my dates. We decided to start the ride date from 18th Feb to 6th March 2012.
January month again proved to be disastrous for me. First the postponement of the annual leave and then the bigger one being the engine seizure of my Machismo 500. The rigorous follow-up with RE for the new Block Piston didn’t achieve positive results. I sincerely started contemplating riding on Standard 350. Even gave it to the mechanic for overhauling the engine and preparing it ready for the ride. Turn February, all the luck seems to change with the change of the season. One of the friends helped with the Piston Block which he had kept it as a spare. Immediately sent it to Nashik where my bullet was holed for the last 25/30 days. Got it fixed and rode all the way back home at 60 kmph as the engine was in running condition and has to complete 1000 km before a long ride. Every day for almost 2 whole weeks, I rode religiously to the office to complete those required kilometers.
Finally my 500 CC Machismo got ready to roll even if that 100 km are not done. REchristened my baby as ‘Brisinr’ – Fire in ancient language…
With all preparations and my completion of the office work, the final ride start date was coming very near.
Day 1 (18th February) – Mumbai to Saputara via Nashik – 230 km
We had decided to start the ride via Nashik to Saputara, the one and only hill station of Gujarat which almost at the border of Maharashtra. Vivek decided to start a little late due to work commitments. Actually, there are 2 ways to reach Saputara. One from NH 8 i.e. Mumbai – Ahmedabad highway or the other is from Nashik. According to our ride plan, the return route was from Ahmedabad, so to avoid the same route again we fixed on Nashik highway. This highway is recently done up till about 15kms before Nashik and it’s like a runway. One can cruise at the speed of 100/110 at ease which was 6 lanes with a divider wherein the oncoming vehicles will not bother while overtaking. But alas, I had to restrict my speed to 60kmph for the Running condition of the engine for 1000 km. It was so frustrating but I was happy that the 1K mark was coming very nearby.
As soon as we were approaching Nashik our frustration started building as the roads started getting narrower and narrower due to the flyover work in full swing and traffic in its peak stage.
Somehow managed to sneak past Nashik city and touched the SH 17 towards Vani, the traffic eased out and the concrete jungle gave way to the countryside of vineyards and fields of sugarcanes. The roads were straight and road conditions were good which was our misconception till the time we hit Gujarat roads which we found much better than Maharashtra roads.
At the time of half for the lunch, Vivek had given a couple of miscalls and I wondered about his plans getting dropped. But when I returned the call, was surprised to know he had already touched Nashik after leaving almost 3 hours after us and we were hardly 30/40 km ahead of us. This had happened due to my frustrating speed of 60kmph and his Ninja’s overpowering speed which I was going to experience in the next couple of weeks.
He joined us in half an hour as we decided to wait for him at the hotel itself. First time I saw his Ninja. A real mean workhorse and a head-turner, too which also we experienced throughout our ride. One thing I remembered about his bike was everyone was curious about his silencer. This bike’s silencer placement isn’t like other bikes but is hidden and not protrude out like other bikes. From Vani, we took the SH 23 which ends at Surat. The condition of the road was almost the same as SH 17.
In an hour, we were at Saputara. The red strawberries were for sale all along the road, but we thought of buying after reaching Saputara which was a mistake as it was nowhere available there. One more thing was starkly noticeable that once you cross Maharashtra border and enter Gujarat state, the roads scenario suddenly changes. State Highways come under the respective state’s governance and to be maintained by the respective governments. The feel of the change was fairly visible. The road conditions improved drastically.
The first image of Saputara was slightly disappointing. A soon as we reached the place, we felt it ended. It was like Circuit’s dialogue from ‘Munnabhai MBBS’. ‘Arey yeh kya Bhai. Yeh room toh chalu hote hi Khatam hui’. Gujarat has everything to offer as a tourist destination except a hill station. While promoting tourism, the Government decided to present as their hill station and it seems they succeeded in that. As the hill station got everything. From good roads to staying facilities and a ropeway, too. It’s a small town flourishing because of tourism development efforts. The number of hotels is increasing in number. The climate was awesome.
From hereon our entire ride we followed one rule. Find a staying arrangement that will have a secured parking facility as not only Vivek’s Ninja but our vehicles were also an important part of our ride. If something could have happened to any one of them would have crumbled our plan. After a few inquiries, we found a hotel which was worth staying and of course secured parking. Though it wasn’t great, we just had to spend a night. A warm and clean bed and a cleaner toilet were our other basic requirements.
Though we had little time in our hand of evening, so the only option was to visit Sunset point which also happened to be the highest point of Saputara. Also, Sunset point is connected to another hill by the ropeway. So we thought, if there is any time is left we will take a round of ropeway to another side and come back. The walk to the Sunset Point was quite a steep climb. It had tar road but was useless due to the steep incline. A new driver would have faltered, so the vehicles had to stop at the base and to accept no way other than climbing on the foot. I was glad about being a mountaineer. But older uncles and aunties were pushing their luck and succeeding it. The view from the top was really good. Today was the first day or a rather first evening, clicked my first sunset from mobile. Uploaded my first pic of the ride on the FB for my friends to take them through my journey. The food at Saputara was typical of a hill station i.e. Bhelpuri, Panipuri, Pav bhaji, and so on. Left Mumbai but couldn’t leave the city’s influence on nearby areas.
Those who wish to visit this place from Mumbai if not driving or riding by the road, the Waghai railway station at Billimora is the nearest railhead from Saputara (approximately 50 km away). This option is available to reach this railway station from Mumbai and Ahmedabad along with other parts of Gujarat. A taxi or bus can take you to the main city from the station which is the most economical mode of transport.
Day 2 (19th February) – Saputara to Pavagadh – 325 km
According to our chalked plan, we were supposed to be at Pavagadh in the night for a complete day’s halt. Pavagad was supposed to be one more place where Gujarat had something to offer at the high places. It was supposed to be a quite touristy place about which we heard a lot.
The journey from Pavagadh started by crossing a sanctuary and a fantastic hilly terrain. Trees in the forest were showing signs of Spring, a transition from Winter to Summer, and proving the right season to travel in this part of India.
On one of the curves of the ghat section, I had my first and only fall of the ride which was also quite a freak one. For both of our photographers, I was the only object of photography and they asked me to ride towards them for clicking me. Hitu had clicked lots of fantastic photos of me, obviously as an object on our earlier Karnataka ride. So I rode a couple of hundred meters and tried turning but from the wrong side and I was on the ground. I hate turns on the left. The road was narrow which I realized after kissed it. Lifting an Enfield loaded with luggage was quite a task but by that time both photographers were there to help me. No injuries as I fell when I was about to turn and the speed was hardly at 5 kmph and leg wasn’t stuck.
After a few shots, we descended on the plains and very soon touched Mumbai – Delhi highway i.e. NH 8, a lifeline of India. Crossing few industrial towns which portrayed the booming industrious, Gujarat, we bypassed Vadodara moved towards Pavagad.
Pavagadh is the gateway to Panchmahal. Pavagadh is the gateway to Panchmahal which is majorly dominated by Bhils, a tribe. With the government’s extensive support and concessions, new industries are established in this area. Halol and Kalol are the major industrial hubs that came up near Pavagadh.
As we approached Pavagadh, one could easily spot the hill and the temple atop. And as we entered, the walls which were prominently erected around the city to protect could be seen. Those were impressive and intact in many places. Earlier we had planned to stay at the GTDC hotel which is at the base of the ropeway. But calling the hotel went in vain. However, the government will try to push tourism but the ground level staff’s lethargy halts the progress. None answered the call and we started searching for the hotel. We entered the fort wall after a local hotel owner invited us to check his hotel for a stay. We were rather excited when he told us about the location of the hotel is in the fort wall. On a lighter note, we were going to stay in the fort hotel which is everyone’s dream in Rajasthan because of their location and royalty. But this location proved to be a dampener as we could see the filthiness inside the walls of the forts. Though the walls were intact but inside was very shabby. The lodge which the hotel owner showed us failed on one of our basic parameter i.e. safe and secured parking place. We were tired after about 330 km ride. But had to search for a hotel nearby. The lodge owner was helpful. Though he was losing business but directed us to a decent hotel and our search ended at one good lodge with boundary walls, ample amount of parking, clean rooms, passing on all our parameters. One can call this an Oasis in Pavagad. We decided to rest our bodies and souls but cut short our stay by one night as we spoke to the owner of the hotel and found not many exciting places around to explore except the temple and few spots in the town. Besides the hotel, there was one more surprise in store for us. A Maharashtrian guy settled in Gujarat building a hotel. Quite an unusual sight. The hotel was owned by a Maharashtrian who is originally from Borivali, a suburb of Mumbai. According to him, his frequent visits to Pavagadh to meet his friend turned to a liking of this place so much that he decided to settle down and built a hotel. He was quite a helpful chap. A long chat with him gave some insight into Pavagadh which was quite a help for our next day’s sightseeing.
If you wish to visit Pavagadh, you can reach Vadodara by train and then board onto the train to reach Champaner. From Champaner you need to hire a vehicle and reach Pavagadh. There is no major bus to reach Pavagadh. A better option is to reach Vadodara or Champaner and then hire a cab or drive your personal vehicle to reach Pavagadh.
Day 3 (20th February) –Pavagadh sightseeing and to Ahmedabad – 152 km
Today’s day was placed as a leisure day for sightseeing in the first half and a 3/4 hours ride to Ahmedabad. As per the information provided by the owner of the hotel, there are 4/5 places to explore, and its best we do not take our vehicles but to travel by public transport. We decided to follow the advice and moved on.
Pavagadh, of Panchmahal district known for Maa Mahakalika Temple, followed by both faiths, Hindu and Muslim. Temple is built on a cliff surrounded by dense forest,. Is one of the 51 Shakti peeths has a legend. When Lord Shiva and his wife Goddess Sati were ignored by her father King Daksha, Sati who was the incarnation of Adi Parashakti left her mortals remains as per her condition set before agreeing to take birth at King Daksh’s house. When Lord Shiva heard the news, with his Tandav dance, he created havoc on earth. Another greater lord, Vishnu cut Goddess Sati’s part in 51 pieces. All 51 parts were scattered all over the place so that devotees can pray at those various places. Her right toe was said to fell at this place and this temple was built. I am an agnostic and do not believe any temple, but here couldn’t resist seeing the peculiar temple were ground floor houses, Goddess Kali’s idol, and upper portion houses Mazar of a peer which is sacred to the Muslim faith. According to me, this is a perfect solution for Unity in Diversity. Mahakali in her darker form connected to her devotees within the intimate bond. Even though she is depicted in ferocious form, do not scare her devotees. This form of Goddess Durga originates and worshipped in the Eastern part of India.
Champaner region, the location of this temple has a history that not many know. We met a local and according to him, he gave us information which is supported by some archeologists. Soe tools of the early stone age were discovered and the with yellow shade with a red tinge like a flower Champak which dates back to the stone age proves this area’s diversified history. The region’s name Champaner is being derived from these rocks. An 8th Century town and this hill fort set up by the Chauda dynasty are being protected by the Archeological Society of India (ASI). When we reached at Pavagadh, we understood the importance of this town and fort in nearby regions. We could see school picnics from nearby regions and pilgrims not only from the Gujarat state but from all over India.
From the city of Vadodara, at a distance of 55 km. the old town of Pavagadh is located.
This ancient pilgrimage has also gone through modern amenities. A passenger ropeway is built to reach the temple for devotees who do not want to take efforts of climbing steps for more than one hour.
Pawagadh sightseeing was done as per plan and well in time. Our that night’s halt was at Ahmedabad. Though we tried to avoid big cities and had decided to take a by-pass road to avoid city traffic, Ahmedabad was no exception to it. We decided to cover a couple of hidden points in or nearby city. At many places throughout our complete ride, one of Inddiethumpers’ old members, Pallav Dave advised, guided, and supported with his well-knit network of friends. He was based in Ahmedabad, so meeting him was our pleasure. In my just 2 years of joining the club, InddieThumpers, I had realized the bonds between 2 riders and especially when they are Enfield riders, was thick. Maybe, Fevicol company famous for its adhesive product was inspired by this bonding and crafted a tagline – ‘Fevicol ka Mazboot Jod hai, to totega Nahi’. Though Pallav couldn’t meet us when we reached Ahmedabad because we didn’t have a plan to enter the city and stayed at one of the outskirts’ hotels, he very well guided us for a ‘Sasta. Sunder. Tikao.’ Hotel. Today, we just covered 150+ km, but sightseeing in Pavagadh, so our body was fresh. Riding on a smooth highway has this benefit as well. Vibrations on bad road shake a rider so much that even a ride of 100 km, tires a rider.
Day 4 (21st February): Sightseeing near Ahmedabad – Adalaj – Modhera – Randhanpur – 178 kms
I had visited Ahmedabad a couple of times before, but by train or flight, so knew a bit about the city, but never crossed the boundaries. Yesterday night when we reached couldn’t gauge city traffic out of its boundary. This city is just like any other city of India is spread beyond its boundaries. When we checked out of the hotel, reality hit us. Though it was early morning, still traffic can be felt on the roads. Last 3 days, we were riding only on highways and smaller places, so almost had forgotten to ride on busy roads. Actually, this shouldn’t be the case at least in our case who ride on city roads of one of the busiest cities of the world i.e. Mumbai. Unlike Mumbai traffic which is spread beyond Thane or New Mumbai, this traffic weaned off after a few km even if we were on Ahmedabad – Gandhinagar highway. We cruised to Adalaj, a place known to local people, but slightly ignored amongst outside tourists because just for one particular place, tourist will not waste their time traveling 20 km. As mentioned earlier, bikers’ bonds are always thick, pallav all the way traveled from Ahmedabad to meet us. I hadn’t met Pallav many times, but over the phone or social media plays a strong role in bonding people even if they are 1000 miles away. He proved to be ours, especially mine, an angel. This will come in subsequent travel posts of this ride.
Our heritage is waiting for your appreciation PC: Hitendra Patel and Vivek mallya
Tucked at a roadside of the highway, Adalaj’s stepwell or known as ‘Rani no Vav’ is a perfect combination of keeping alive dear one’s memories alive and social service. All over India, kings and Sultans have built temples, religious places to worship in memory of their spouses. They have spent enormous wealth to built those structures, but this kind of structure which a commoner uses to quench thrust keeps that person’s memories alive in their heart. This well is not just a common well. Its architecture and creativity represent the artisans present during those days, so Queen Rudabai also achieved one more objective by building this well. Keeping alive local artisan’s art and showcasing it to the world and generations to come. She sponsored artisans to built this wall to keep her husband’s, Rana Veer Singh’s memories alive who laid his life in war to protect his kingdom.
Talking about the Indian architecture and craftsmanship, India during those days was at its glorious height before Mughals and later British rule. When we compare with today’s giant machines to create structures, we should feel more pride because all these pieces were created with limited tools and resources. Each piece of architecture took years to create. The Rudabai Stepwell is one classic example of our glorious past of architectural and engineering prowess combined to benefit mankind.
In today’s world of availability of basic needs at our fingertips, this kind of example is exemplary because of the region’s desert-like conditions with the scarcity of water and citizens had to walk several miles for one potful of water. She could have easily built structures like the Taj Mahal but preferred to stay close to mass’ hearts rather than keeping it close only to her generation’s hearts.
As you can see in pics and available information, the well has multiple floors so that water shouldn’t get vaporized under the hot sun, and even if the water level goes deep during summertime, it can be easily reached by walking down on steps.
By looking at the scientific approach to solve common problems, surely one feels pride in our ancestor’s thinking and logical powers.
After leaving Adalaj, another marvel waits for us at our next stop at about 80 km. Modhera’s Sun temple. On the 4th day itself, the ride was proving to be most fruitful and proved our plan to ride in this state was perfect till the road ends.
While ruling their kingdoms, the kings of India had several artists to create sculptures, painters, musicians, dancers at their court. They sponsored many such creations. Sun Temple is an example of that.
Though Sun is the energy source of earth and one of the important deities as per Hindu worshipped gods, but India has only 2 temples of the Sun. One is in Konark, Odisha and another is in Modhera, Gujarat. Built by King Bhim from the Suryavanshi dynasty’s Solanki clan. You can get transformed in the past when the worshipping of so many deities was in its peak. So many temples were built all across India. Gazani and Khilji first and then East India Company tried to damage and loot these temples. Whatever is left are still masterpieces of glorious past.
When we reached the temple the site when the sun was almost overhead. The shining water in Suryakund (water tank) surrounded by smaller temples alike sculptures mesmerized us. In the main temple, smaller carvings were plentiful. We couldn’t spend much time to hire a guide and get everything explained and another thing, who would have remembered as we were going to visit many like this all overstate. In Gujarat, one thing is prominently noticed that Archaeological department and state government’s huge efforts to preserve our ancestral wealth, so that it’s passed to future generations. The same efforts are seen in Karnataka as well. In that state, Hampi, Badami, and a lot of many temples are preserved well.
We loved this place so much and could have taken a night’s halt. In our earlier tours, I and Hitu followed the same pattern. Whenever we found any place interesting, we stayed back for one more day. We had always made an outer and rough plan for the whole tour and made changes according to the situation and if any interesting place, we overlooked while planning.
This time, we avoided the urge of a halt as it was too early on a 15 days tour to lose a day, so we decided to carry on till our next planned stop. Randhanpur which was 100 km away. We could have pushed further, but on google maps or as per available information, didn’t find any place on the way beyond Radhanpur.
Even though we had kept watch on signboards on the way, so that we shouldn’t miss the diversions, we almost missed one board. Hitu signaled to halt at a point that didn’t have anything but a blue board. When we reached near the board and realized the importance. It said Tropic of Cancer. Though this doesn’t signify much, this is an imaginary line that passes through India and Gujarat is amongst these three states. According to Viki, this is a line that forms the boundary between the Torrid and North Temperate zones. After reaching Randhanpur and checking for lodges, our decision was proved wrong. Randhanpur was a central place just because it’s on a junction of the highway to Bhuj, the entry point of Rann of Kutch which was our target for the next day. We parked ourselves in one Hotel Dischant… Yes, the spelling is right.
In India, when we build highways, we should also build support infrastructure also like motels or small lodges where one can stay only for a night with basic facilities, roadside parking places for heavy vehicles with small dhabas to satisfy long-distance driver’s hunger, toilet facilities. If you wish to visit Adalaj on your own, you can opt for any of the given mode of transport – air, road, and rail. Ahmedabad is well connected to all parts of India. From Ahmedabad, Adalaj is just 18 km, you can either book a local taxi or take a bus. You can stay in Ahmedabad which hosts budget to luxury hotels and covers Adalaj, Modhera, and Ahmedabad city in a couple of days. With a 3 days plan, you can cover Ahmedabad city, Adalaj, and Modhera to witness the heritage, our ancestors have left for us.
This was just the start of our long trip to get submerged in colorful ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.
Come and experience Gujarat’s diversity through our perspective and view.