Solo Driver … Pune to Gurgaon

As many of you know, Krishnan had a health scare when we were in Pune in March. Initially the doctors advised him against driving, so we started looking at backup plans to drive the car back to Gurgaon. Subbu and Kabir offered to come over to Pune and drive the car back with me while Krishnan and Amma took a flight. But in the first followup visit, the doctor was fine with Krishnan doing a road trip as long as my driving didn’t stress him out :).

So we executed our original plan of driving from Pune to Gurgaon with a stopover at Aurangabad and breaking up the driving distance into three stretches after that with overnight halts at Ratlam and Jaipur before reaching Gurgaon.

Pune to Aurangabad – April 4, 2019

The drive from Pune to Aurangabad was relatively easy. The roads are good and the traffic is mostly well behaved. We had packed our food from Pune but stopped for breakfast just outside Ahmed Nagar. I enjoyed a well made plate of Sabudana Khichadi while Mom asked for idli-sambar … which wasn’t quite as nice. Krishnan and I also got ourselves two glasses of Solkadi which was not good either. We then stopped a few kilometres outside Ahmed Nagar to have some sugarcane juice as we saw a bull being used to make the sugarcane juice. This was an intelligent bull … the owner was out somewhere and the minute it saw us parking the car and walking towards the juice shop, it started to move a little and used the bell around its neck to call the owner. So cool.

I made a short video of how the sugarcane is juiced. Its like the old fashioned oil press or water being lifted out of a well using a bull.

The bull being used to extract sugarcane juice by walking around the press

We reached Aurangabad by the afternoon and the heat was so bad that we just stayed inside our hotel room. Ventured out a bit during the evening but mostly stayed indoors. The breakfast at Vivanta by Taj, Aurangabad was fantastic and we really enjoyed our stay with them. We celebrated my 50th birthday on April 6th, by visiting the Ellora caves, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Aurangabad to Ratlam – April 7, 2019

We left from Aurangabad on the 7th morning at 8.05 am for Ratlam. The team at Taj was wonderful and they insisted on packing a picnic lunch for us. We had to refuel, and check the tyre pressure so we stopped at a fuel pump that was near the Taj. Since it was really early, there was no one to check the tyre pressure, but one of the boys working at the fuel station agreed to switch on the machine and fill the air in our car tyres. Interestingly, a man in a scooter rushed across, cut me off and demanded that the boy fill air in his scooter tyre. The fuel pump attendant argued in vain, and finally gave in to fill air in his scooter tyres. Sadly for all that effort that man didn’t even tip the attendant !! Some people are just mean I guess. We got the tyre pressure checked and were on our way.

I didn’t want to get unnecessarily worked up while driving so I wore the Osho Mala while driving. With Osho’s powerful eyes looking out of his picture in the locket, one feels a little stupid while getting angry, or irritated. It did work and the entire distance of 492 kms was quite relaxed.

From Aurangabad to Ratlam we have to cross the Ellora caves and then go further on towards Dhule. We had a small ghat section and we took pictures of what looked like a waterbody when we were on the highest point of the ghat section. Once we came down the hill we realised it was a solar farm. India is certainly making a huge effort to harness solar power.

Again we saw this push towards harnessing solar power at a fuel pump that we stopped at, just outside Sendhwa, M.P. Besides cool water from a RO water station, a clean toilet, there are solar panels lining the rooftop.

The roads in Maharashtra are mostly two lane, so till Dhule the going was a little slow, once we crossed into Madhya Pradesh it became 4 lane roads and the entire distance from Dhule till Ratlam was on excellent roads.

We witnessed an interesting scene which is typically Indian at a railway crossing in Dhule … Two-wheelers coming and going under the railway line through a narrow opening. Many city folk today may find it difficult to walk through this opening and the villagers happily ride their motorcycles or cycles through it.

The train going over the bridge … see the small openings below, like tunnels
This man on the bike just came out of the tunnel and another one is going through now 🙂

Anyway, we enjoyed the amazing roads of M.P after Dhule and reached Ratlam around 4.30 in the evening.

The Mumbai – Agra highway. What a pleasure to drive on !

At Ratlam we stayed at Hotel Lavanya Palace. I have already written about the awesome food here. So anyone stopping by please ensure you eat at this place.

Ratlam to Jaipur – April 8, 2019

We were well rested so woke up very early and were on our way by 5.45 am from Hotel Lavanya Palace, Ratlam. Since we hadn’t packed any food with us, we had to stop at a roadside dhaba for breakfast. We stopped at this place called Hotel Ambica, near Barada, Rajasthan.

The food was average but since it had been cooked fresh it was ok. The rotis were especially good but the dal was not great. Surprisingly, the air conditioner worked well and the tea was good, so overall it wasn’t a bad breakfast. Krishnan wanted to use the bathroom and in the process, we got to experience a truckers hotel room for the first time. This hotel seems to be a pit stop for the truckers on the Mumbai – Agra route and it has several rooms for the truck drivers to sleep in. Since the common toilet was not open, the hotel staff opened one of the rooms and let Krishnan use the bathroom. It was surprisingly clean, just gaudy colours on the walls and the toilet was really clean.

We re-fuelled at Neemuch. I was remembering one of the Industrial Engineers at Hewitt was from Neemuch. Such unexpected pleasant memories come up as you travel and its one of the pleasures of travelling ! Then we crossed the historic city of Chittorgarh before reaching Jaipur and our favourite hotel Om Niwas in time for a great lunch. Om Niwas is like a second home. We know most of the people working there and the rooms are spacious, food is good and overall its a great experience.

The air-conditioners were a bit problematic this time, but it seemed like a temporary situation.

Jaipur to Gurgaon – April 9, 2019

We left Om Niwas at 11.50 am after a leisurely breakfast. We stopped for lunch at Bikanerwala and reached home after navigating the terrible roads after the Kherki Daula toll. We were shocked to see the condition of the highway … there were large craters and nothing had been done to fix them. The road leading away from Gurgaon seemed to be in better condition.

We got Ashish to come over and clean up the house in the evening and we were all set by 5 pm with Tata Sky reactivated and WiFi on at full speed.

For the first time I drove the entire distance of 1500kms all by myself and it wasn’t difficult. Since Krishnan had ensured that this trip was broken up in such a way that I didn’t drive beyond 500 kms in a single day. I don’t ever wish to drive solo again though… Its a lot more fun when Krishnan and I take turns at the wheel because then I get to criticise his driving and vice versa. :):)

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