Soulful Saurashtra: Tales From Roads Less Travelled

By Kerfegar Eduljee

When ‘ride-routes’ or motorcycle trips to the western part of our sub-continent are discussed, it’s mostly about touring Rajasthan and the Rann of Kutch. Having journeyed to more exotic destinations prior, this time was going to be unique – a ‘motorcycle road trip’ touring Saurashtra via the entire coastline! As my good friend, Ravi Iyer, and I embarked on this 10-day trip, clocking over 2,500 kms, we strangely weren’t able to spot a single motorcyclist after crossing Tarapur. Even locals were gobsmacked upon the revelation of our trip itinerary!

I commenced this fascinating journey from South Mumbai at 4:30 a.m. The first stop was Surat toll gate, after a 300 kms non-stop ride. The ride was largely uneventful, barring the horrible smog between Pardi and Chikhli, compromising the visibility and to top it up, we also encountered a slight drizzle, resulting in the helmet visor turning grey-black, on account of the a potent mix of soot and water! Chugging on, we reached our transit destination – Tarapur, covering a distance of 500+ kms.

On Day 2, we geared up to ride to Diu, via Port Alang. But we took a diversion, to visit the Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling Yard, where we visited shops selling impressive curios, artefacts and even lifeboats from ships which are broken down at the Port. We then headed off to Diu, an erstwhile Portuguese ruled part of our country. We visited an old Lighthouse and took a tour of the decommissioned warship – INS Khukri, which now serves as a museum. That evening, we bid farewell to the setting sun, adjacent to a large scale model memorial of this warship.

The following day began with a visit to the Gangeshwar Temple, known to house five ‘Lingas’, placed along the shoreline in a way that the sea water laps their base, during change of tides. Our next stop was the Immaculate Conception Church, built in 1610, where carved frescos greeted us amidst artistically detailed woodwork. The prominent ‘shell-motifs’ are inspired by this beautiful coastline. A visit to the glorious Fort of Diu followed. Built in 1535, one could well imagine its erstwhile splendour as we admired its magnificent construction and the scenic views, including an island-prison. No wonder it’s considered as the most important Portuguese Fort of Asia. Outside, locals were selling dry fruits and spices. Unfortunately, the Diu Museum was under renovation.

Another gorgeous sunset awaited us at the pristine DDH beach, a far cry from the crowded Nagoa Beach. We were amazed by the clean, well-paved roads we witnessed, as we rode past Diu Airport. These rising and dipping roads, greeted travellers with breath-taking views of the sea, which confluences with the sky.

The next destination – Sasan Gir – had us embarking on the exciting Gir National Park safari, over a 3-hour drive in a convertible jeep, where we lucked out with multiple animal sightings – including five lion cubs.

Next day’s agenda included a 30-minute bus safari in Devalia National Park, where we encountered more sightings, including leopards, though unfortunately, in an enclosure. About a 100 kms to and fro from Sasan Gir National Park, we visited the Somnath Jyotirling Temple – a large, significant place of worship, built adjacent to the shoreline and said to be one of Shiva’s 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’. Interestingly, this temple is aligned in a straight line (without any land mass in between) to the South Pole, and the same is also inscribed on one of its pillars since centuries, proving that our Indian civilization knew about the South Pole way before the rest of the world did!

Dwarka, via Porbandar, was destination next. Situated on the banks of the Gomti river, the widely regarded and intricately carved Dwarkadish Temple, is considered one of the four ‘Dhams’. We witnessed its unique, 52-yard flag hoisting ceremony – a precarious and faith-driven ritual conducted multiple times in a day, atop the 78-meter-tall temple!

Our next stop was Okha – via the Salty City of Mithapur – the Westernmost point on the Gulf of Kutch (Saurashtra). We ferried it to Beyt Dwarka island and stopped by Gopi talav (lake) on our way back to the city. The same evening, we visited the Dwarka Lighthouse, which was inaugurated in 1963. The calming deep orange sunset and the pink and purple twilight afterglow felt sublime.

We commenced the return leg of our journey, riding from Dwarka to Tarapur. After an overnight stop at Udvada to pay homage to ‘Iranshah’, we headed back to Mumbai the following day, having completed our entire journey.

Route Itinerary: Mumbai – Tarapur – Port Alang – Diu – Sasan Gir – Somnath – Porbandar – Dwarka – Okha – Rajkot – Bharuch – Tarapur – Udvada – Mumbai.

Road Conditions And Riding Tips: Needless to mention, there are some stretches of road in bad shape. Also, the upcoming multi-lane highway resulted in diversions and a two-way traffic flow on an otherwise single-lane road. Travelling on the wrong side of the road seemed in vogue in multiple stretches, including highways. Considering all this, we had to be doubly alert keeping the headlight on, for the oncoming traffics’ attention.

 Riding Gear / Motorcycle Set-up: It is prudent for motorcyclists to be as visible as possible on the road. That calls for wearing brightly coloured, full-face helmet and riding gear. Reflective strips on the riding gear, luggage as well as the motorcycle, goes a long way ensuring safety, especially during night rides (which are best avoided). A motorcycle’s tail-light should always be functional. A through and complete TLC of your steed prior to the ride is mandatory.

Food Tips: Hotel Ramvijay Refreshments (1933), in Diu, is a paradise for those with the sweet tooth. Don’t forget to have its delicious vanilla ice-cream in chilled milk infused with saffron and cardamom. Also, have a swig of its ice-cream soda! The Portuguese prawn curry rice at O’Coqueiro (Diu) is quite delectable, and to be washed down with cold, freshly-squeezed orange juice. You could pick up some authentic locally made jaggery, honey and ghee from local shops outside Gir National Park, and eat your fill at the Kathiavadi dhabas in and around Gir. In Dwarka, you simply have to try out the savoury street snacks. Also, visit Kanhaiya Dairy, for some locally churned unpasteurized white butter and ghee. You can stop by Shri Khodiyar Kathiavadi Dhaba, Bharuch for its lip-smacking spread.

To conclude, it’s indeed been a privilege to have ridden across this beautiful part of our great country. The people we met and places we visited, were the symbolic pearls in Saurashtra’s necklace!

And remember… ‘Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly!’   

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