The moment I see a long weekend break in the calendar it is on my holiday list! And my first thought is – where can I drive to for a quick break? I love road trips for many reasons but most importantly for its flexibility. I don’t have to book and adhere to any flight or train schedules, I can stop wherever I want and actually explore some of those hidden parts of the country that don’t make it to any tourist maps or lists.
On a recent long weekend I ended up with no prior bookings and really wanting a short break. After a lot of deliberation I decided to head over to Ahmedabad to see a bit of the city and then drive out to see the Adalaj ni vav (the Adalaj Stepwell), the Sun Temple at Modhera and the Rani ki vav (Queen’s Stepwell).
We borrowed my uncle’s car and drove all around Ahmedabad visiting some of its unique sites such as the Sabarmati Ashram, walking through the pols (old neighborhoods) of old Ahmedabad and exploring some of its many religious sites built-in the Indo-Islamic styles like the Jama Masjid and the Sidi Sayed mosque.
We also drove a little out of city to see the gorgeous Adalaj ni vav, a stunning five stepwell built to collect rainwater during seasonal monsoons.
On our second day here we drove out of Ahmedabad and our first stop was the beautiful sun temple in Modhera. This is one of the few temples dedicated to the Sun God and a must see for everyone interested in historic architecture. There are loads of interesting architectural and design features in this temple and I spent a long time here trying to capture some shots of this beautiful temple and its kund.
We then drove further to Patan to see the UNESCO world heritage site of Rani ki vav. This stepwell is simply stunning. Built in Maru-Gurjara architectural style, Rani ki vav has seven levels with stunning sculptures at each level. What I loved most about these sculptures was the level of detailing and proportions. Another definite must visit in this area.
We then spent some time with the weavers of the beautiful and delicate patola sarees.
We spent the night in Patan and then started our return drive to Ahmedabad. The roads were fantastic throughout this route and helped us cover a lot of distance in a relatively short time. Our car and the sturdy CEAT tyres also helped make our journey super smooth and comfortable.
While a road trip may not need any prior reservations / bookings, it does need its own set of groundwork and planning. And I am sharing my list of pre-trip checks and tips for the road for a safe driving trip in India with you below –
1. Your Vehicle / Car – the most important element of a road trip is the ride i.e. the vehicle. Do make sure that the car has been recently serviced, is correct for the terrain you intend to drive on, has a sturdy set of tyres (like CEAT tyres) including a spare, is in proper working condition (is not already troubling you with something), etc.
Keep phone numbers of road side assistance handy for your route and visit a service station if you experience any trouble.
Keep the following documents (updated and valid) for the car with you at all times – your driving licence, registration, car insurance and pollution under control (PUC) certificate.
Make a kit of the following items and keep in the vehicle – first aid kit with all the required medicines, bandages etc, a flashlight with new batteries, sturdy foot pump and flat tyre repair kits, phone charger, fire sleeve and some spare cash. Also keep a duplicate set of car keys in your wallet and a spare set of sunglasses and spectacles (if you wear one).
Always stock the car with adequate drinking water for the day and some health bars, dry fruits, quick bites etc for a quick snack.
2. Research on the route and plan your breaks – Before any trip I research and decide on the best possible route for the trip. I also try to speak with someone who has done this trip for information on road conditions, safety aspects, any specific offbeat places to explore en-route and the stopovers to rest. Depending on the driving hours and kilometers, I plan my breaks and book places of stay. I also download the offline Google maps of the route as a back-up (in case of no internet connectivity).
A word of caution – Google maps is not always the most reliable option. It has once taken me majorly astray so always check for signages to be sure you are going in the right direction. And always trust your instincts.
For places to stay, many people keep this open and look for a hotel only when they reach their destination. Somehow this does not work for me as I like to be sure of the place I stay in is safe and available. The last thing you need after a long drive is the inconvenience and hassle of not finding a safe place to stay.
3. Terrain and weather conditions of the destination – Always check on the terrain and the weather conditions to be sure that the roads are open and drivable. Per the weather conditions get the correct gear fitted in the car for example fog lights, tyres, hill assist etc.
4. A few rules for the roads –
Always start early to try and avoid traffic. Also try to reach your destination well before night fall to avoid being out on unknown roads after dark as safety on majority of Indian roads is an issue.
Always keep your family / friends informed of your whereabouts and message them every couple of hours.
Start the day with a full tank and keep a close eye on the petrol gauge. Start looking for a petrol pump when the tank is half empty.
And most importantly, while driving, always be alert and avoid driving rashly or on the wrong side of the road, using high beam lights, cutting lanes, overtaking on curves, unnecessary honking . And under no conditions should you ever drink and drive.