At dinner, last evening, George and Amit had warned me of the possible traffic hold up on the Mahad Ghats. I started early wanting to beat the truck traffic. Fog slowed me down, but only for a while. I took the Mahad Ghats quite easily and reached Mahad in slightly over 2.5 hours. It broke the record set by George by quite some time! The going was so good that I expected to be in Mumbai well before noon. The traffic and a misunderstanding of the directions given by Jose Tharakan delayed me a bit. But, it was the hospitality of the Tharakans and the fabulous lunch that set me back a couple of hours. Jose also stuck a yellow tape on the right side headlight, telling me of the stipulation of the Gujarat traffic police who fined Rs. 100 for the violation. He guided me back to the Dahisar toll booth from where I took off for Gujarat. The roads were superb. However, I was constrained to pull up for a power nap after the heavy meal.
Superbly surfaced 4-laned roads greeted me on entry to NAMO(Narendra Modi)land. In fact, the roads were fabulous all the way from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The short stretch between Ankaleswar and Bharuch was a bit of a struggle. Heavy vehicles were seen held up for kilometers short of the Golden Bridge spanning the Narmada. Evidently, work was going on for restoration of some part of the bridge built by the British in 1881. Vendors were busy selling the famous Bharuchi peanuts in packets of varying sizes. I was almost resigned to the possibility of buying peanuts and resting awhile till the traffic wound its way past the bridge. Just when I sized up a possible peanut vendor a truck driver asked me to cut a few lanes and take the outer most lane reserved for cars. A few other truckers helped negotiate the move and I sped past the hold up. The road from Vadodara to Ahmedabad, the National Expressway 1, was a dream. I had been getting reports about the NE1 for many years, but this was the first time I was driving on it. The super 115 km road could be negotiated in less than an hour, even in the night. Why cannot we make more such roads and make travel a pleasure in India? Of course, good roads come at a cost. Between Cochin and Mangalore I paid only Rs. 10 as toll for a distance of 450 kms. The stretch from Mumbai to Ahmedabad cost me Rs. 590 for a distance of 550 kms. The wonderful fact is that I negotiated the stretch in about 7 hours! And, no sweat. Saved on fuel and wear and tear, too.
Accommodation had been arranged in the Railway Officers’ Rest House (ORH) in Ahmedabad. After parking and arranging with the attendants to keep an eye on the car I took the luggage up to the appointed room. The heavy lunch banished any thoughts of dinner. I settled down for the night, comfortable in the thought that I had less than 500 kms to reach the start point of the Coastal Expedition. I also decided not to rush with an early morning start.