The Station Master had told me to leave for Jhabua by 4 am. I did that after the morning attestation. The early start helped, but the road condition till the border of Gujarat was not conducive to speed with safety. I negotiated the road to Dhar in better condition than anticipated. The glorious sunrise near Jhabua over the Machili ghat lifted the spirits. At the fuelling station in Jhabua, where I had got in for attestation assured me that the road would get better after 15 kms. What he did not reveal is that it was 15 kms to the Gujarat border. The Gujarat road was certainly much better, but was not of the express standard. That would happen only after Bhachau.
The routing in Gujarat was unfathomable. What was given is Godhra-Kheda-Surendranagar-Morvi-Bhuj. I could not understand why it was not Godhra-Ahmedabad-Viramgam-Bhuj. The specified route was needlessly longer and time consuming. I intend writing to LBR about such unscientific routings I discerned in the two expeditions. I reached Bhuj by 8 pm; excitement was in the air with only 150 kms to go. I could surely complete it well before midnight. That is when I missed the warning of low fuel. I drove well out of Bhuj and saw the warning light. I turned back and got to a fuel station after some time. I used the fuel bill and the GPS tracker data as documentation. I made haste towards Nakhatarana. I reached it in less than an hour and found the village deserted. I found a couple of elders out on a stroll and stopped to take directions from them. One of them happened to be a village elder, who agreed to attest the log sheet when I told him the purpose of my travel. He gave me his mobile number promising to visit Cochin!
I had only a 100 kms to go for Koteswar. As I was nearing the destination anxiety started building up once again. It always does. You start wondering if anything will happen to spoil the party. It was pitch dark on the lonely road – a flat tyre or a Nilgai in full flight. With these thoughts still exploding in my head I turned into the police station in Narayan Sarovar. They had been informed prior of the need to be in readiness to attest the end of the expedition in Koteswar. With the police team in tow I reached the land’s end at 10.55 pm – had covered 3799 kms in 114 hours and 25 minutes. Besides the time it was the fact that I am the first individual to complete the East-West expedition all alone that gave me the most satisfaction.
The regular SI was on leave and hence, photography was prohibited by BSF personnel. After the attestation I checked in at the Jain Inn. Thus, Koteswar was where it started – the beginning of the Coastal Expedition – and also where it ended – the East West Expedition. The beginning is the end and the end, the beginning.
Mission Fast track has been successfully completed. I became the first person in India (the World?) to complete the Coastal and the East West Expeditions solo and within the time proposed to LBR. Undertaking the expeditions as a double header did put additional strain, but its ‘conquest’ was immensely fulfilling.