I was quite bugged with riding short distances in Gujarat, most towns remain close to each other and are well connected with good road network. By the time you head out of town, stretch a bit on the motorcycle, take some pictures- you reach your destination. It’s actually that easy! The longest I would have ridden in a day in Gujarat, would be from a village called Bhadthar to the town of Bhuj, which was roughly 330 kms. Apart from that, it’s been 150- 200 kms of riding in a day which felt quite insufficient to cool down the hunger to ride long.
Getting out of Veraval wasn’t a task at all, the state highway arrived sooner than expected. Even if one rode on the ‘coast road’ or NH 51, you really can’t view the sea because it’s pretty far! But they still prefer to call it the ‘coast road’. Total distance to Porbandar was 150 kms and I intended to reach by lunch time. The highway did have some good curves but poor maintenance spoiled the fun at many spots.
By 12.30 PM, I reached a place my relative said I would love. He was right, Madhavpur beach was exactly between Veraval and Porbandar. A beach with no tourists around, a beach that was clean and a beach that was beside the national highway. That’s quite a combination to ask for in India, especially the ‘clean’ aspect of it. I stopped there for about half an hour, had some coconut water and enjoyed the sea breeze while I spoke to a friend on the phone. The heat? With the sea around, that wasn’t annoying at all!
Then I rode 60 kilometres and reached Porbandar in an hour and to my horror, most of the little town was without tarred roads! Underground Gas piping work had been going on since two years and citizens were facing all the brunt. No roads, just mud everywhere made many people look like mine workers. I made my way through though, it felt like I was on a different kind of adventure and reached my cousin’s house for lunch. A joint family that it was, people were waiting to have lunch with me. But I had other priorities after filling the tummy- going straight to KTM’s service center that was just two months old.
My 390s chain had become very loose and the motorcycle desperately needed a wash. My younger cousins in their teenage were more than happy to take a ‘superbiker’ cousin of theirs around town. With the day ending soon, I calculated the route ahead but with the Navratri festival going on, I was asked to stay for a longer time in Porbandar as I had a lot of far relatives to meet and also to check my ancestral village out. I intended to leave in two or three days though since I wasn’t that fond staying up every night until 3 AM in an extremely loud environment and watch people dance (I wasn’t good at the garba folk dance).
I was wired in a different way in fact, and sleep was of utmost priority to me. So much that my cousins dropped me home everyday by 11.30 PM and then went back to dancing at the arena. Since I was inclined to silence and nature, I decided to pay another set of relatives a visit just twenty kilometers away. They are farmers and specialise in growing organic food only- something I looked forward to the most near Porbandar.
They were stunned and proud of my arrival on a motorcycle. After lunch, we headed to the fields were I was taken around the sowing beds and by sunset, we chilled under a tree and had chai. Parakeets and peacocks made noise and played around while the flying foxes began their day. I wished I had stayed there for a day or two out of my week long stay in Porbandar but I had already got a high dosage of meeting and greeting relatives, I wanted to go further on this journey. Riding back to Porbandar and preparing to ride further was the only activity I could think of.
After a day of lazing around and packing, I started my ride towards Okha, the westernmost point of India at sea. My relatives insisted I stay until Navratri was over but I just had to leave. I was to stay in a government guesthouse on the beach, thanks to my police inspector friend in Vadodara for providing me with necessary contacts. I exited Porbandar by 8.30 AM and rode continuously on NH51 coastal highway. While it was picturesque at many places, the presence of oncoming traffic on a two lane highway at most areas dropped by speed. If you happen to ride in Gujarat, you better be extra cautious!
A small stop was made at Dwarka, a popular temple in Gujarat revered by thousands of Indians. Since Parking and riding gear storage was a concern, I had some sugarcane juice outside the temple and sped off. Greeting god from the entrance was the only thing I could do, I’m sure he’d understand that. ߙﾠWhile the name Okha does hold some importance, it didn’t matter much to me since all I wanted to do there was spend a night by the sea at the government guest house. As soon as I made it to the guest house just before noon, I got to know that it was full, mostly occupied by people from the Prime Minister’s office as he was to pay Gujarat a visit in a few days. What a time for the Prime Minister to visit Gujarat!
There was no point of staying in Okha then as the guesthouse was the only best spot to stay in. You either get a room there or you leave. In addition, I had just ridden 140 kms which felt like nothing. I’d rather ride some more and spend sometime in my family friend’s farm at a village called Bhadthar that was on my list after Okha. I would also save a day that way. The village of Bhadthar was roughly four hours away, decent enough to satisfy my hunger to ride more distance. After a quick lunch stop at a popular eatery in Okha, I took off through the state highways towards Bhadthar while the heat had me sweat a lot, even in a month like September. I wondered if the mesh riding pants from HELD even worked or it was the polyester base layer underneath it that made me get hot. I never got the point of have having a base layer but since many brands and ‘experts’ claim it to be important and useful, I thought of trying it myself. It felt weird wearing tights underneath though, makes me wonder what else would I have to do to just stay comfortable and cool on a ride.
While the sea was not that far away, the road to Bhadthar was mix of many State Highways while mercury levels indicated 36 degrees centigrade. Thankfully though, highway traffic remained low, making it much easier for me to enjoy the landscape. A buttermilk stop was mandatory on the way, in fact it was an emergency. Two litres of water was the capacity of my hydration bladder but that seemed to last for about three to four hours only. Without stopping too much, I quickly made it to Bhadthar by 5 PM and was guided to the farm by the farm owner’s son.
Muddy, narrow trail roads took me to the farm, a kind of country side introduction I love! On reaching Misri Bhai’s house, I met the family staying there after two years, the last time being on my way to Rajasthan when I happened to meet them on the highway. I was shown my room and after a having a shower, the sunset and the cool evening breeze were a pleasure to take in. Dinner was done with at 8.30 PM on the floor in typical village style, a style I always prefer in order to keep my knees and digestion alright. When it turned dark, I lay down on the Charpoy outside with t Misri Bhai and stared at the starry sky. Our attention fixed on a glowing dot in the sky that moved very fast. I thought it must’ve been a satellite since it wasn’t an aircraft for sure. After sometime though, the object flew past at an extremely high speed again, confirming that it wasn’t a satellite or anything I had known of. With so many bright lights in the dark sky, it was difficult to take my eyes off.
I slept indoors rather hesitantly since I was told that dew drops made everything wet in the middle of the night. The next day, I spent a rather joyful and knowledgeable day at the farm by staring at the rising sun, playing with a calf, chilling under the trees, walking barefoot on the farm as the sun set and visiting a nearby temple in the evening with the family. The white light from the full moon at night with no light pollution around made the farm look pretty and other- worldly. I rode towards Kutch the next day as I sort of regretted for staying so long in Porbandar, I might as well could have spend an extra day or two at the farm and with people who were extremely caring, hospitable, jolly and down to earth.
Luckily, the to the main city in the Kutch district called Bhuj, was about eight hours away so I had a good amount of riding to do. But, my experience of Kutch, the white desert and surrounding places was way different and unexpected. In fact, it appeared as a big surprise!