Last evening I was told by the Police Sub Inspector that he would be ready by 4.15 am to attest the departure from Koteswar. He further told me that he was staying in room number 27 in the same Jain Inn where I was staying too in room number 1. I was ready, after priming up the car and loading the luggage by 4 a.m itself. I went to the room of the PSI and found it locked. A slight concern gripped me. I drove to the police station and was told that the PSI is on a night combing operation. Panic replaced concern. However, I was assured that ‘saab’ would be there as decided. And indeed, Mukesh Choudhary showed himself up a few minutes thereafter. I was relieved and we drove to Koteswar. The PSI had taken prior permission of the BSF to ‘flag off’ the expedition and to take photographs. All went off as planned; the attestation and the photographs. The GPS tracker was also working well – the GPS data could be used to supplement the Limca documentation, particularly at places where documentation would be difficult to obtain. I shifted gears at 4.30 am; the Coastal Expedition had begun – 6600 kms in 8 days.
The routine planned for the day was for nearly 1000 kms. The check points included Jakhau, Mandvi, Gandhidam, Bhachau, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Porbandar and Diu. All through to Diu the contacts provided by Manoj Sasidharan, IPS worked. In most places police personnel waited on the highway to pilot me to the stations where the attestation would be done. Precious time was also saved by the logistical fine tuning. I was provided detailed inputs about the road condition by Cherian Abraham, who had toured the parts extensively. His eye for detail and photographic memory helped me considerably.
The 86 km drive to Jakhau from Koteswar proved to be the loneliest – darkness, the road was narrow, with steep drops and not a soul on the road. However, the road was well surfaced and road warnings were adequate. I kept my eyes peeled for the Nilgais till I got to the diversion from the highway for the police station. I found a check post where I disturbed the snooze of the lonely constable. He was upset that he had been ‘caught’ by a superior officer on a night inspection. When I asked him for direction to the police station he breathed easy. At that point a person appeared on a bicycle. The constable asked him to guide me to the station. The PSI was expecting me at the station and I was on time. At Mandvi I was taken to the residence of the Police Inspector for he had gone home to freshen up after a night operation. By the time I finished the attestation at Bhachau at 10.20 am I was feeling quite hungry. I docked at a wayside eatery for a light snack. The reason for spending extra time at the eatery was to get the car washed – a few people were engaged in cleaning cars of customers who patronized the eatery – for Rs. 50 they did a very competent job; the car had not been washed for nearly a week and I had traveled 2400 kms to Koteswar from Cochin.
I wished I had more time to explore Jamnagar (the Oil City), Dwarka (the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom) and Porbandar (birth place of the Mahatma). By the time I left Porbandar it was getting dark. Driving in the night is extremely stressful due to the ‘flood lights’ of oncoming traffic. However, the high beam is partially arrested by the stipulation of the yellow band across the right side headlight. Even then, by the time I got to Diu my eyes would not close! Cherian had booked me into the Radhika Beach Resort. Fortuitously, I found a short cut that took me faster to the Beach Resort. The friendly staff ensured that I was warmly received and comfortable in the room in a short time. I got the arrival attestation done by the front office staff. I announced an early morning departure. The manager asked if I would like to have my breakfast packed. I agreed, even though I was skeptical it would be ready in time.
I had traveled 956 kms through the day in 17.5 hours. My eyes were tired, but the rest of me was in decent shape. I was getting ready for bed close to midnight when a friend called after checking my status on the GPS tracker. He asked where I was. I mentioned that I am “in Radhika”. From the tone of his voice I could make out that he was a wee bit envious of the man who moved to Deepika (the newspaper) from Beena (my wife) and was now in Radhika (the beach resort). Without the words in brackets, one can imagine why!