Our 25th wedding anniversary was due on 1st August 2018. For last few months, there was talk in the family how to celebrate the day. My daughters, now grown up, had divergent views. I had a different plan and Bhavani, my wife was totally nonchalant. She is busy in her office as well as in managing her home. She didn’t have time to plan nor the energy. She had left the matter on me and on her daughters. When I put forth the plan before my daughters, Tanu, the younger one, immediately exclaimed in disbelief. ‘You are planning a pilgrimage on your 25th marriage anniversary? That is ridiculous! Go to a hill station or abroad, instead.’ That was her refrain. I tried to reason with her. ‘Our anniversary falls during the rainy season and there is no point in going to hill stations in that season.’ She chuckled, frowned and was still in disagreement. Ishani, the elder one, is mature beyond her age. She saw the point and agreed. This would a mix of both, an outing for a week and sort of pilgrimage as well.
I had made the plan keeping in view the season. In the rainy season, I visit Shirdi, almost every year. The month of Shravan, as per the Hindu calendar, is very auspicious and a month especially devoted to Lord Shiva, one of the Trinity Gods. I had wished to pay a visit to Sri Omkareshwar in MP, with which I would complete visiting all 12 Jyotirlingas – the abodes of Lord Shiva in the country. That will leave only one Jyotirlinga to visit for my wife and that is Bhimashankar near Pune. Bhavani wanted to be at Shirdi on the day of our wedding anniversary i.e. on 1st August. Accordingly, we decided to visit all these places in a span of one week. The most dominant wish of mine was to make a road trip to all these places. The total distance was about 3500 km. Bhavani was a bit scared that I would be driving all the way and we two would be only there. She has been with me on all my long drives where I drove alone. Still, she was anxious about the tiresome road trip. I was enthusiastic from the time I was planning and hence comforted her that nothing to worry. We would make the plan in such a way that there would be no long distance drives, no night driving and above all no rash driving. We are not to compete with anyone. The roads would be covered in leisure and on our terms. She agreed.
The final plan was charted as under:
|Date of Journey||From||To||Distance (approx.)|
|28.07.2018||Noida||Chittorgarh||600 km||Night halt|
|30.07.2018||Indore||Omkareshwar||150 km||To and fro|
|01.08.2018||Shirdi||Pune||235 km||Via Shani Signapur|
|02.08.2018||Pune||Bhimashankar||230 km||To and fro|
|03.08.2018||Pune||Indore||600 km||Night halt|
Except for the last run, all others were perceived to be day trips and less tiring. The last run, from Indore to Noida, without any halt for the night en-route, was planned since we would come back home, even late night arrival was not an issue and we would reach back Saturday night so that complete rest can be taken on Sunday. Seemed to be a perfect plan and we decided to stick onto it. Eventually, it turned out to be the perfect plan when we completed the road trip and safely returned to our den at Noida.
Once the dates were fixed, the next point on the agenda was to book the hotels where we would stay. We had to stay at Chittorgarh for one night, at Indore for two nights while going and one night while returning, at Shirdi for one night and finally at Pune for two nights. This was a relatively easy part. With the help of an App of a popular travel portal, we managed to book our places of stay at very reasonable prices. For Chittorgarh, we booked in Hotel Padmini, for Indore it was The Country Inn by Radisson (for the onward journey) and The Grand Bhagwati (for the return journey), for Shirdi we booked in Hotel Golden View and for Pune it was The Orchid. All these were 3 to 5-star hotels, seemed to be nice as far as can be checked on the internet and rest we left to our destiny. All set and we waited for the saga to unfold, me especially, as a long-awaited road trip was to begin.
Noida to Chittorgarh – 600 km approx. We left our home at Sector 78, Noida by 6.30 am. It was cloudy in the morning. The tank was half full. I got it filled at a petrol bunk on Rao Tula Road and hit the road. The traffic was not much in the morning though, due to the widening of the RTR flyover, there was some congestion. We passed through Gurgaon shortly and the first toll was paid at Manesar. The six-lane road was superb till Kishangarh, 70 km further to Jaipur. At about 9 am, we stopped for tea and refreshment. Visiting the loo was also important. By 9.30 am we started again. Jaipur was just about 120 km away. We passed Jaipur via the bypass. As we were cruising at 80 kmph, the speed traffic police were at work and I felt that I was being waived to stop. I did not. Very confusing speed limits at several stretches of the same highway – at some stretch it is 60 kmph and in some, it is 90 kmph. I don’t understand the concept of the speed limit on highways. You don’t realise when you have hit 100 kmph, especially high powered cars like mine, a Honda Civic 1.8V petrol. However, I became a bit cautious and looked for signs for the speed limit. It was 90 at the Jaipur Ajmer Highway, a six-lane superbly maintained road. At least 3 more speed guns were observed on the way till Ajmer. Fortunately, none signalled me to stop and pull over.
For me, the road is known up to Udaipur. However, there are always constructions and reconstructions. After the turn towards Nasirabad leaving the Ajmer city on my right, there were plenty of diversions which slowed down the speed. The road was now four-lane. Potholes were there aplenty, some of which were filled up while some were yet to be attended. We passed through Bhilwara, an industrial town famous for textiles. We passed by the factories of Mayur Suitings and BSL Ltd.
We did not stop for lunch anywhere. We had some snacks and fruits with us with plenty of water bottles. After starting at 9.30 am, we drove for 6 hours continuously, stopping of course for paying the toll charges, and reached Chittorgarh by 3.30 pm, a drive of roughly 450 km in 6 hours, pretty good. Google map showed us the way to the hotel which was just about 4 km from NH 48.
The hotel Padmini is in sprawling premises on the banks of small river Berach. There was ample parking space. The room was so-so. The hotel was not well maintained. It was not the travel season. Hardly 12 rooms were occupied out of more than 200 rooms. The owner seemed to be a very wealthy person. There was huge lawns on the right, front and back side of the property. There were stables having four thoroughbred horses. The gardening was pretty good though the lawns needed immediate mowing. We went to the river bank. The river, with it’s almost still and clean water, was flowing silently. The banks were lush green which great tree cover.
We returned to our room for rest. The idea of halting overnight is to take proper rest so that the drive on the next day is a fresh start. The restaurant attached to the hotel was good. Our dinner was nice with tawa roti and ‘lababdar paneer’. The hotel owner maintains his own cowshed and the milk and milk products are supplied from there. For dessert, we had chocolate ice cream. It was a satisfactory dinner. We retired early to get up early. This was only a stop-over. Our real road trip and an unknown road start tomorrow.