Car trip, Mumbai – Manali – Mumbai, 4550 kms in 15 days

The “car-driving-bone” was predominantly present, had tickled at will and left it’s mark on a number of occasions.

In 1995, newly married, from chennai to tirupati, on bike, was it’s start. Thereafter, post-arrival of santro, mumbai-lonavala, mumbai-kashid, mumbai-pune, mumbai-ratnagiri, mumbai-mahabalewshwar and mumbai-shirdi-mumbai in 11 hrs was it’s foray on the western front.

On the eastern side, on transfer from mumbai, mumbai-goa-kholapur-hyderabad-vizag in six days, vizag-annavaram (thrice), vizag-vijaywada-tirupati (first time 850 kms  in a 12 hr stretch and second time with a halt at vijaywada) and vizag-puri-konark (500 odd kms) , this too twice, the second occasion being for mom-in-law (the reason she visted us!!) was enough to confirm my subjugation to it.

In 2010, the “car-driving-bone” was tickling again, feverishly!! We wanted to travel with our labrador Jini  …. but that was not to be. Exhaustive search on the net and calls to friends (pet-lovers or otherwise) ended in a conclusive result – NOTHING for a pet.

So, much to our dismay, it was, as always, the lodger for Jini. The planning started in March / Apr 10. The northern-most city I had touched was Delhi. But Delhi in May!?! To cool off, the idea was was stretched till Manali. And in came google maps and ghumakkaar.com to advise. The final plan that shaped was like this:

THE PLAN


Preparation of the Car

Hyundai happens to be my favourite car company for various reasons and our santro had been a faithful companion on ALL past pursuits, instinctively informing us about oncoming issues. On mumbai-goa-kholapur-hyderabad-vizag trip, just short of kholapur, the fuel pump gave away. The local mechanic at kholapur could not identify the issue. a random search led us to the hyundia workshop and half-hour flat the pump was repaired- free of cost (my developing ghumakkar credentials impressed them!!). On another occasion much later, in the vizag-tirupati trip, the fuel pump again showed not-so-good signs. a call to the laxmi hyundai service manager at vizag who contacted the outlet at tirupati and when i reached the fuel pump was ready to be changed!!!

Why did the pump went bust? I had driven on nearly empty fuel tank on number of occasions (so fill the tank when the fuel light glows). With experience came wisdom.

The car was thus serviced by the hyundai company garage, and second opinion taken. Tyres with tubes recently renewed- no tubeless as the process to repair tubeless in areas other than big cities is still not available. A RTO approved sunscreen in all the windows especially in the front screen too pasted, the ac serviced – the car was ready.

A note on road conditions in India: Generally the following conditions exist: –

(a) Bad – potholes, god knows when they were last repaired. No activity on any stretch of the road indicating of any repairs, No Toll Booths also. such roads, today, are very limited in number!!! these would not score more than 4/10

(b) Average – you will notice many boards indicating “Diversion Ahead”, “Today’s Pain Tomorrow’s Gain”, “6-laning / 4-laning in progress, inconvenience regretted”.  These would score between 5 – 7/10. In circa 2010 India has many such roads!!

(c) Good – Smooth, with few / nil diversions but with many Toll Booths (actually it is a  indicator of a good road finishing or about to start!!) . Such roads are well known and also much frequented. The count of average and good roads would be quite similar and these roads would score 8/10.

(d) Excellent – these are the Expressways . Such roads can be counted on the fingertips and these would certainly score the highest 8-9.5/10

A Note on toilet conditions along the highway / expressway / state roads

Male Traveller – mother nature will help u all along…….

Female Traveller – god help you!!!


Part One – Mumbai-Udiapur, 788 kms, 13 hrs 30 mins

Statistics

Start Time: 0700 hrs

Arrival Time: 2030 hrs

Road Condition: 6.5/10 for the majority of the stretch in Maharashtra, in Gujarat, after Vapi, 8/10 till Vadodara. Vadodara-Ahmadabad expressway 9/10, Ahmadabad-Sardar Patel Ring Road- 7.5/10 , Sardar Patel Ring Road -Gandhinagar Chowkh – 6.5/10 (single lane), Gandhinagar Chowkh-Udaipur – 7.7/10 (see note above for details)


View Mumbai to Udaipur in a larger map

Reliability of Google Maps

Gmaps, in India, are reliable in a limited way. In the planning stage, whilst giving the overall picture it was good but a closer look and I discovered that between Vadodara and Ahmedabad it suggested the NH 8 and not NE1. And sometimes the routes suggested veer away from the NH to the state highway and back again. This saves a few kilometres but adds much headache and time to your route. The best way to find the directions in India – look around for a helpful face (plently), roll down the window and ask, until unless you are sure about the local language,  in hindi (read CERTAINLY NOT ENGLISH!!) , irrespective whether in N or E or W or S, with support of little sign language) … beats all internet savvy tools hands down.

0700 hrs, at Home

We had intended to start early (read 0530 h) but tying up loose ends kept us on our toes till late and consequently we slept late. So after adequate rest we started at touched dahisar at 0800 h. Mumbai traffic had not yet picked up but post dahisar the highway was jammed coupled with the many diversions the average achieved was around 45 kms/h.


Vasai Creek Bridge


0900 h – crossed Manor

2 hrs and 111 kms from home, averaging 55.5 km/h

oh!  the traffic. later starters, we progressed ahead very slowly.

Heavy traffic at Manor


1100 h – Vapi @ Macdonalds on the highway

4 hrs and at 184 km from home , averaging 46 km/h

Many kilometres short of Vapi Macdonalds sign shows up informing you about the kms left to go to reach them…. this turn out to be a mix blessing. Yes it did ensures good food but the mall has the dirtiest washrooms and for the highway traveler this is a doom. The other outlets you skipped for Mac could have given you average food but a decent washroom. On this account the mac manager has only a shrug for you (we serve burgers not washrooms…too late….). Post-Vapi the roads are good with six-lanes too in-between.

Post-Vapi

1545  – NE 1 – “A big joy ride”

8 hrs 45 mins and 448 kms from home, averaging 51.2 km/h

After reaching Vadodara we took the NE-1. prior entering the NE1 a much need face wash, a small walk and the nature’s requirement were met. This road certainly is as the board proudly claims  “a big joy ride”.  My photographer decided to take a snap (she too was equally alert till now and on NE 1, with a disciplined traffic providing much respite she, after extracting a promise of maintaining the speed below 100 km /hr (with tubed tyres I believe this is a comfortable limit. I had read in some auto magazine just prior to buying the car) she doozed off and I became more alert.

1700 – Exit NE 1

10 hrs and 547 kms from home, averaging – 54.7 km/h

Exiting from the NE1 we followed the signboards for Udaipur. Though this the the only signboard we saw and after sometime and with the helps of the local we were on the NH8 again.

1725 – Join NH 8 for Udaipur

10 hrs 25 mins and 567 kms from home, averaging 54 km/h

A small single-lane stretch and we entered the double lane NH 8. The road condition was good and continuous to be so till one reaches Udaipur (even in the hilly section prior to the city).

National Highway 8 on the Ahmadabad - Udaipur Stretch


SMOOTH ROAD ON THE HILLS TOWARDS UDAIPUR

2030 – udaipur

13 hrs 30 mins and 788 kms from home, averaged 67.1 km /h

TOTAL TRIP AVERAGE – 58.4 km/h

Udaipur at last !!!! The head woobly and the legs hardly feeling the ground, our friends greeted us with chilled drinks, snacks, conversations, great food.

They also ensured space for a sooooound sleeeep.

Udaipur next day – early morning

UDAIPUR NEXT DAY MORNING

Part Two Udaipur – Agra …………follows……….

whilst we were busy clicking photographs the sun had risen..the famous May heat of North India !!!!


28 Comments

  • Nisha says:

    So Onil, you are a road man, eh? :)

    Wonderful write-up. The tip about Google Maps was very thoughtful. Since I travel alone most of the time, I have not done much of road travels except for going short distance by public transport during daytime.

    I agree with you, woman travellers face a gigantic problem of restrooms on Indian roads.

  • M Thenraj says:

    Thanks a lot dear… Thenraj.

  • M Thenraj says:

    Really a fantastic feeling after reading your experience. Love to do like you dear. Thanks a lot for sharing the infos to everyone here… By the way, what will be the best month to visit Shimla/Manali/Chandigarh by Road?? Please reply.

    With luv… Thenraj.

    • Onil Gandhi says:

      Thanks thenraj for the kind words.

      Before monsoons is the best and then immediately afterwards… to enjoy the apples harvest… i have been told the beauty then is totally different. if fond of skiing then winters (but then u need to be a deft driver – for hill-driving in winters is another ball game).

      I recommend u read Outlook Traveller Gateways (on HP) for more details

  • Karam says:

    Can you send me your email as I would like to fwd you an email that a relation wrote having read your ladakh trip. He has been there.
    Karam

  • Karam says:

    This trip would be a dream come true for me. I would like to travel the length and breadth of India by train or car. By car sounds good having read about your trip. Fantastic journey – thanks for sharing.

    • Onil Gandhi says:

      Thanks Karam. With a vehicle of your own (car, caravan or bike) one has the complete freedom to move about anywhere, any time. Like I did from Agra to Delhi and Chandigarh to Rhotak.

      Wishing you all the best towards your dream. Any help do let me know

  • Sneha says:

    hey.. this is awsome. the trip plans are just too good. i remember doing a golden triangle trip by road 3 yrs back. but this is so much longer and better on road.
    good to meet you here!

    -Sneha

  • tariq says:

    im planning to do the bombay delhi, nh8 end of this month. ur blog is very informative n entertaining, thank u

  • bikerdude says:

    Onil, a very engaging read…

    @Nishant, Mumbai – Udaipur in summers seems to be an invitation for trouble… heat stroke, dehydration and crappy traffic don’t make for a comfy ride. Thrills aside, it would be a recipe for a disaster. Monsoons… well I would like to keep away from Mumbai due to the crazy rains… no point in getting stranded when the water starts seeping into the muffler.

    This is a dream stretch in the winters though.

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    @nishant the roads in this stretch were generally good and bikers too can use them without worry

  • Looking forward to the second part of your road trip!

    Seems like you had good fun doing this road trip. Wonder how good the roads are for bikers in the summers and also in the rains? especially Mumbai Udaipur :).

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    thanks vibha and nandan.. good support from your team enabled this to happen

    yes there are a few errors….. how do i correct errors in this post?

    loos in gas stations …. are clean ONLY in cities. elsewhere they cite shortage of water or ‘recently broken pipes’ as resons for poor hygiene. it will be worthwhile to maintain a “clean loo list”. A data bank on this and other details would help us ghumakkars a lot!!!!

  • nandanjha says:

    Welcome aboard Onil.

    Road reviews are my favorite so please write about your previous travels as well. I believe there is a typo, after 2030 hrs udaipur, in the avg calculation.

    for nature needs, typically some good gas stations have clean loos. I fall back upon them, almost always. We also skip some after quickly checking the sanity. The rulebook says that every gas station would need to have a loo and some of them really keep it very very clean.

    Looking fwd to read about the rest of the journey.

  • vibha says:

    Wonderful write-up Onil. The tip about Google Maps was very thoughtful. Thanks.

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    @munnabhai…thanks

  • munnabhai says:

    Zen and the art of motorcar driving. very impressive.

  • Onil Gandhi says:

    thanks mahesh. working on part two….

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Onil,

    Let me have the opportunity to comment first.

    Wow!!! ,

    What a detailed write-up supported with lovely pictures. Especially last one (sunset).

    I liked the way you described the Indian road condition , toilets & limitation of Google map.

    Looking forward to see part-II

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