Day 6: Ahmedabad – Dhordo ~6 hours (Rann Utsav Tent City) – The prize destination was now within reach. We started early just because we did not want to miss the sunset trip at the Rann and google maps showed some 7.5 hours of driving. Just as we rolled out of Ahmedabad, the magic of Gujarat roads started dawning on us – cruise at 120 kmph was actually possible. The scenery kept getting prettier as we drove away from the big city. We saw large windmill farms, sprawling deserts and beautiful lakes dotted with birds.
The first stop was at large mostly empty complex but we found a clean Cafe Coffee Day – an Indian chain that serves a hot liquid they insist on calling coffee. It was a good refreshing break before we pulled off the drive all the way to Bhuj in one go. We were making really good time and it looked nearly certain that we would be in the Rann long before the target of 4pm. We found a Fern hotel, which was quite nice and ended up having a leisurely stop. Only about 90 minutes of driving was left for the day and spirits were high, driven by good food and a smooth drive.
The road after Bhuj got narrow but still was smooth and we continued to make good time. Hoardings and signage for the Rann Utsav now begin to appear and welcome you to the magical tent city. We got there by about 3:30 and had time to settle into our tents before a tea break and the sunset. The details of the stay at the Rann are in a separate blog, so I will spare the repetition here.
Day 7: Dhordo (Rann Utsav Tent City) – Details in the other blog, but make sure you do read about the off-roading in the Rann and the flamingos.
Day 8: Dhordo – Deesa ~7 hours (Hotel Anantara Greens) – The longest drive of the trip was upon us. We had a good breakfast at the tent city and checked out. The original plan was to drive up to Mount Abu today and we had hotels booked there. However, the 9 hour drive time and the forecasted zero degree temperature made us rethink and we booked a cheap highway hotel to shorten the drive and save us the detour and the climb to the hill station. The drive this side was quite uneventful and turned out to be a different highway after Bhuj than the one we had come by. The stops were quite simple and nothing to write much about.
The adventure for the day was the hotel. As we entered the complex there was hardly a soul to be seen. There was even some discussion of continuing on to our Mount Abu hotel. Once we found the reception things changed quickly. The staff was actually there and seemed very nice. The rooms were large and since they were quite cheap, we even paid a little more to get upgraded to suites. This was super comfortable and clean and all for around 3000 bucks a room. After a good hot water shower – something that was a little challenging in the Rann tents, we had a fairly good meal in the restaurant. The suites gave us enough space to collect in one room and chat and play cards late into the night. Once I hit the sack, I realized the only minor issue with the hotel – soundproofing of the rooms.
The breakfast was not a buffet and offered a few choices from a small menu. There were fresh fruits, tea, juice, idly and even some poha – what else could one ask for? We got the cars fueled in the petrol station right next to the hotel and then drove on to Pushkar – the final stop.
Day 9: Deesa – Pushkar ~7 hours (Hotel Bramha Horizon) – There wasn’t much to do in Deesa so the drive had started early and we were all looking forward to some relaxing time in Pushkar, so there was some eagerness to get there. The drive was actually quite smooth till the last 45 or so minutes when we took an exit from the highway that took us right into Ajmer city on a Thursday night. It was a very bad idea, especially because of all the blocked roads due to the upcoming prayers in the Ajmer dargah. It took us about 30 minutes to get out, but finally we did manage to find that short hilly road that leads into Pushkar. The hotel seemed quite nice and they upgraded one of the rooms to make the welcome even better.
The first step into the room could be called the highlight of the day – the size of the room and just the look and feel was awesome. It got a little better once I took a shower with the high power hot shower. We walked down for the dinner to find a delicious buffet. It was a little low on spice but the staff eagerly offered to spice it up for us – very good food and very good service. We went out for a stroll just to help the food settle in and buy some coke for the rum we had managed to sneak in, bought at a roadside stall. Pushkar being a religious town prohibits meat, eggs and liquor but goes totally chill on the more leafy sort of intoxicants – a product none of us had tried or wanted to try. The night was then spend with cards, some snuck in rum and good conversation.
Day 10: Pushkar (Hotel Bramha Horizon) – This was a day meant to rest up and get over the weariness from the driving before heading home the following day. I was up early and after a good breakfast found a spa for a good massage. The place looked a little weird, an old style metal gate in the street next to the gurudwara – but the massage was quite good. This was also close to the main street of the city and by the time i was done, everyone else had come by to shop and bit and then chill of at some lake view cafe. There were all sort of trinkets to buy, from hippy clothes to dream catchers to essence. There were also a lot of temples to see and maybe a few ghats to take a dip in. I skipped the religious stuff and ended up having the local malpua (a speciality) and a dal vada (also a speciality). I also skipped the famous Brahma temple and instead we found a cafe that wasn’t just lake view but also called Lake View cafe, a rooftop place looking into the lake and with a great view of the city. We kept ordering some things every little while that allowed us to spend a good 3 hours chilling, for a very small bill.
Once back at the hotel, there was a lovely sunset to see from the window. The evening after was a repeat of the night before – dinner at the hotel followed by a walk and then the rest of the rum and cards with conversation. Only this time the walk was to a falafel wrap place – the Ganga Laffa & Falafel restaurant. The wrap was delicious and really a lot of food. It was good we walk, because I needed it.
Day 11: Pushkar – Gurgaon ~ 6 Hours (Home) – We had decided that there was no real reason to hurry up the departure. It was the last moment to remember and chill. It was a lovely breakfast and then just packing up the stuff into the cars and start the final drive back. Two good and quick stops later, we entered gurgaon and were greeted by a noticeable drop in quality of driving and air around us. Welcome Home!