Day 1: New Delhi - Nasirabad - Pali - Abu road - Palanpur (810 km)
The day before we were supposed to leave finally arrived, and Aarti woke up with a terrible cold and cough! At that moment it seemed as if this trip was not meant to be. Still, we were determined to go, and Aarti took the day off to rest and be in a shape to travel the next day.
As is tradition with us, we left early morning the next day at 4:15 am. We’d been warned by friends who’d left for a holiday in Rajasthan a few days before about early morning jams near Manesar. And half an hour after leaving, we found ourselves stuck royally in precisely such a jam right after IFFCO chowk. We tried to bypass some of it by taking a detour into the by-lanes of Gurgaon, but were unfortunately able to avoid only about 3 kms of the jam, the reason for which was a very long truck’s unsuccessful desire to take a U-turn in the middle of the highway!
We managed to clear the jam by 6:15 am, and decided to stop at McDonald’s for breakfast before we actually started our journey. Finally, at 6:45 am, with our stomachs full and the jam behind us, we zoomed away!
The NH 8 is in a terrible state, with work on in full swing to make it a six lane highway. Also, traffic was a lot, and thus our average speed was pretty less. We reached the cut for Ajmer at 9:45 am, and thereafter the road was as smooth as butter!
To reduce time, we took the cut for Nasirabad instead of going through Ajmer. The left for Naisrabad goes further towards Chittaurgarh, which is currently the fastest way to reach Udaipur. After that, we took the right towards Mangaliyawas, and the State Highway was fantastic albeit narrow. With 4 laning of NH8 in progress, our average speed till Beawar was quite slow. As we took the right towards Pali, our stomachs started growling unbearably, and we broke for lunch at the Sendra Valley Resort.
All in all, the 450 kms took us about 10 hours with only a half an hour break for breakfast. While our average speed initially was pathetic, the wonderful road after the Jaipur bypass more than compensated for it.
All this while, Aarti was still feeling quite unwell, and hence had not driven at all. After we took a left from Barr towards Pali, the road till Sirohi is a decent two-laned highway with average speeds of 80 to 100 kmph.
We reached Sirohi at sunset, and were bored of driving on straight roads since morning. Hence, we off-roaded a bit to settle our nerves, and carried on. As it started getting dark, the highway too turned beautiful as we approached Mount Abu.
We’d scoured the map, and decided against our initial plan of staying the night at Mount Abu, and zeroed in instead on Palanpur as our night halt.
When we finally caught the expressway at Jhadoli, we were in for a total treat! What roads! World class is an understatement. As we whizzed past several sleepy villages, we realized that we should have caught this expressway long back, and that even though it would have been a much longer route, the drive would have been effortless.
We reached Palanpur, the diamond district, at 7:45 pm, and went straight to check out the two hotels Aarti had read about in the super book on Gujarat we’d bought – the India Guide on Gujarat. In half an hour, we’d checked into a decent hotel called Way Wait, and then proceeded to have a colourful, although average, Gujarati thali for dinner. As we ate, a disturbing thought that had occurred to me before the start of the trip suddenly became a harsh reality - chicken would definitely be in short supply on this trip!
Thus our first day on the road came to an end. Aarti was still not feeling well, so we decided to rest properly the next day and leave late by about 11 am.
In hindsight, I think we had taken a sub-optimal route. Upon our return, during a discussion in a thread with Tanveer (tsk1979) and Ramky (ramky1), it turned out that the best route towards the Little Rann of Kachchh would've been Delhi - Chittaurgarh - Udaipur - Ahmedabad - Little Rann of Kachchh. Although the distance would have increased by about a 100 km on this route, but better roads would've lead to eventually some saving on time and lesser risk of getting stuck in a bottle-neck.