We were so reluctant to leave Mandvi… we watched our last sunrise and lingered over breakfast as long as possible, and slowly tore ourselves away from that lovely beach and onto buttercup. Late again as usual, but this time on purpose, we just didn’t want to go.
That I think set the mood for the rest of the day. We were an hour into our ride, and I realised I had left my riding gloves behind. They were lovely gloves from cramster with a lot of padding, to protect my hands incase we fell . The other very chivalrously gave me his gloves and I have been using it till today. We are in Goa as I type this. Chivalry aside this makes no sense, as it is more important for the rider to protect his / her hands so that they can continue riding after the fall. Hope we get good gloves before the end of our journey.
Anyways getting back to our ride – we had planned to hug the coast of the gulf of Kutch from Mandvi and stop at Jamnagar all the way on the other side. This ride was another long one – around 310 KM and it already had a bad start which got worse. The road we were on was a 8 lane highway and was filled with trucks. Mundra a port town 50KM from Mandvi is an important one, and we were accompanied by giant container trucks all the way. Gone were our shady roads filled with birds, gone were the dusty villages we stopped to explore and have a cup of chai, gone was our joy ride. The sun was beating down on us, and buttercup was like a little fly between all the container trucks, weaving in and out. Luckily the trucks were really heavy, so they maintained lane discipline and were travelling at slow speeds, but I was still nervous. At one point we were between two container trucks which seemed to stretch forever, and I experienced a very heightened sense of fear, excitement and a sudden adrenalin rush.
The highway loops around the bottom part of the little rann, where it meets the ocean and this part is nothing like the wild ass sanctuary portion of it, the giant highway cuts it into two for starters, I really don’t know how animals get from one side to the other and it is just one salt pan after the other. This has to be legal I guess, as it is just off the highway. But despite all the man made intervention, you cannot rob the beauty of the dessert, and beautiful it was, with just a lot of crap on top.
We were now in the mouth of the Rann of Kutch and decided to stop for lunch. The one good thing about riding on the highway is that it is lined with dhabas and petrol bunks but on the downside you will not find a secluded pee spot, there will be no shade and trucks! trucks! trucks!
Try your best not to stop for lunch in a dhabba which has a puncture shop attached to it. (consider this a dire warning).
We went in merrily, ate our fill, had an ice cream to beat the heat and slowly sauntered out. When in Gujarat, please try the Havemor ice creams, they are local, have been around since 1944 and are delicious. My favourite is the humble mango dolly ( mango sorbet around vanilla ice cream on a stick) which costs 10rs. They also have café’s in all the big cities which serve great food too. Their chole – batura is to die for and they serve this crisp romali roti – with chat masala on top like a snack. I have never eaten anything like that before. Its wafer thing and melts in your mouth – so TRY IT !
Anyways we stepped out of the Dhaba, and realised buttercup’s back tyre was flat. Someone had hammerred a blunt iron nail, around an inch and half log into the tyre, and gotten through the antipuncture liquid and made a hole in the tube.
There was a puncture shop located in the compound – conveniently and we trudged there. The poor guys who made the hole thought we had a tubeless tire and they could make a quick buck, but unfortunately for all of us involved the other is old school and we had traditional tyres. This was more than what that guy bargained for, he had no idea how to remove the wheel and I think was a little nervous with the other peering over his shoulder. He then opened the door to a shed, and started to yell for Ismail. The shed was their home, and was exactly what you would imagine it to be, dirty, shabby and smelly, with rags and tyres hanging everywhere, and sunlight filtering in through gaps in the roof, catching particles of dust.
Ismail didn’t like being woken up, he came out glaring, torn shirt and tousled hair. He pulled out a matchbox and I was expecting him to light a beedi. But he had other uses for it, he proceeded to dig his ear with it, and use the other end to clean his teeth, continuously glaring at us in contempt.
The first mechanic was short, stumpy and resembled one of the seven dwarves, with a few missing teeth and he obviously looked upto Ismail, they had a whispered consultation and then proceeded to yank the back wheel out. The Other was getting paranoid, seeing buttercup being treated this way and urged them in his broken Hindi to be careful. They ignored him. He then asked me to ask them if they knew what they were doing, while he frantically called the enfield helpline. The helpline helpfully asked us to look for a local puncture shop or wait 3 hours, and I asked Ismail in my not so broken Hindi if he knew what he was doing. Matchstick in mouth he glared at me with so much contempt, and tugged at the wheel till it came out. I decided to stand by the luggage and not get in their way and was hoping they weren’t going to fleece us.
The puncture was fixed in no time, the dwarf like guy stood on the tyre, slipped out the tube, found the leak, stuck a little band – aid on it and it was done. He made sure there were no other leaks by immersing it in a tub of water and then put the tube back in the tyre. Now came the tricky part – putting the wheel back in without damaging the disc brake.
They were more confident now, and started slipping the wheel back in. 20 minutes later we were done, the Other took buttercup for a spin and realised the brakes didn’t work properly. So they had to adjust the alignment of the wheel again… and then again… and then the other felt it was good enough to manage till we hit Jamnagar. It was 5:00 clock, we had stopped for lunch at 2:00, we were tired and covered in dust, I think it is the dirtiest I have ever been, every vehicle that passed the highway covered us in a fresh film of soot.
The dwarf and Ismail looked a little sheepish and seemed to feel bad for our plight as we left, they charged us 50 rupees for our ordeal, which I felt was a ridiculous sum for them to have gone through all that effort and for us to have lost our day. We now had to ride at full speed to reach the outskirts of Jamnagar before dark.
In our efforts to go around the Gulf of Kutch, we had planned to stop at a town called Navlakhi on the way, which was at the mouth of the gulf. I was hoping to get some amazing photos their, but we had to skip it and plough ahead. The puncture has cost us.
We were now off the highway, on a pot holed riddled road, two hours from Jamnagar. We were riding westward, into the sunset, and initially the sun was high and it was blinding, it made the potholes very difficult to see, actually it made anything at ground level really difficult to see. We almost had our first fall, when two wild boars, a mother and kid darted out from the bushes and decided to cross the road and then changed their mind mid way and scampered back.
But once the sun dipped, it was beautiful, the whole landscape including us were bathed in beautiful orange light, and as we were riding west we saw the longest sunset of our lives, it seemed neverending. The prolonged light helped us reach the outskirts of Jamnagar as darkness fell – phew.
Jamnagar is supposed to be the fifth largest city in Gujarat, and is home to several industries. Our plan was to reach there by 4, and explore the palace and lake built by the erstwhile kings, whose names all started with jam. (pronounced jaa- aam and not like jam that you spread on your toast). Those plans were also ruined by the puncture, we were just looking forward to a good nights rest.
As soon as we entered the city, we were met with one automobile showroom after the other, and presto ! there was an Enfield show room. The service guys their deserve a special mention, they were closing, but checked Buttercup’s wheel and fixed her up in half an hour. They were exceptionally nice to the bike and gave us coffee too. I really needed to pee by then, and the manager, a tattooed pan chewing giant instructed his minions to open up his toilet for me, as I was a lady. I was overjoyed at the thought of a spotlessly clean toilet. I entered and the recently ingested coffee wanted to find its way out violently. The walls, floors and pot were covered in paan stains, and I couldn’t leave as he was standing proudly outside and I didn’t want to insult his nice gesture. So I covered my nose, counted to 30 and came out smiling and thanked him. Despite the complete lack of personal hygiene he was a really nice guy, he refused to take money from us for, saying you guys have come from so far and they even gave us a free reflective sticker for buttercup’s bum.
So we finally reached our hotel, Aram at 8:00 PM, the website says it’s a heritage building and it has good ratings too but the whole thing is a farce. The building is a good looking 45 year old mansion, but is hidden from view by a new nondescript modern building. Our room looked nothing like the photos online, it was a windowless little hole. But the plus points are, the staff were very friendly and polite, they gave us a welcome drink of jal-jeera as soon as we entered, (which was the first welcome drink that really welcome us, as tired as we were and it was extremely refreshing) , the bathroom and room were clean – sheets, towels the works and the shower worked damn well.
Squeaky clean we decided to have dinner at the Hotel Restaurant which is in the new building. Hotel Aram seems to be a popular spot for the localites for there were a lot of people waiting to be seated. We looked around and a lot of people seemed to be eating Indo – Chinese food, we assumed it was good and decided to break away from DBRS routine. Big mistake, worst food of the trip. The soup, friend rice and gobi manchurian were inedible. I have never tasted anything this bad, the breakfast the next day was no better. Aram is a pure veg hotel, so there are no eggs on the menu, so we were forced to eat a poor cousin of poha and white looking aloo parathas. Even the tea was undrinkable. I have never had bad chai in Gujarat before !
So I would rate this hotel 2 out of 5
Though we both hate wasting food, we left our dinner almost untouched and made a bee – line for the street. The hotel is situated on the main market street and we found vendors selling har-bora. I have no idea what this is called n English or Hindi, but my Gujrati flatmate SS introduced me to it back in 2010 when I lived in ahemedabad. They are green beans, each pea in a separate pod, which is roasted over coal and then while it is warm you pop it out of its shell and eat it. It is delicious, our own Indian edmame. The other said he had eaten it in North Karnataka along with the local villagers while shooting for his film on wolves. I guess it is a plant found along the western coast. I was too hungry to take pictures, but if you see a street vendor selling gree pea like things in the west coast – eat it !! We also found a havemor for desert, and happy and tired we fell asleep…
We were out of connectivity for a whole week in coastal Maharashtra but I have a several almost ready posts, so see you soon.