As my fight with life continues and I keep striving to come out a winner as always, I’ve missed going on a road trip all of August. So far one of the worst months in 2018 – running around looking for a home, rentals, agents, it does get really lonely and in such moments I miss Chao the most. He would be standing by me like a rock doing everything – such a talented person who would take on the role of a plumber, electrician, carpenter, engineer – you name it and he could do it. Every time when we were shifting there were endless jobs which he would take care of and it is so difficult for me to handle everything alone without him. But I will and I did with the support of my friends.
Finally God has been kind and I’ve shifted into my own home, free of rent and shifting homes every 11 months. So this arduous job hopefully will be for one last time. So when The Road Trippers Club announced their Nashik trip, I had to get out of Mumbai and breath in the fresh air. All the shifting, muck, dust had caused a major bout of bronchial allergy and I needed this break. Vishal had decided to go along but had to back out due to some personal reasons and so I jumped in. Reached out to Tappan Patel (Captain of this trip) who said that I could carpool with him and Umaji and I was set.
Early at 6.15am Tappan picked me up from the Western Express Highway and we headed to the meeting point of Fountain Hotel. Everyone was wondering why we were taking the Ahmedabad highway when Nashik highway was the obvious route. Tappan had meticulously planned the trip and they were going to be pleasantly surprised. It was nice to meet Colonel and his family who had just started driving 10 days ago. Really brave of him to hit the road and that too – the highway so soon. But then bravery runs in his blood having fought various battles in his illustrious career. Anil, Pari and Sudipta in their Duster were friendly and jovial. Sudipta works for Jio (so she was called Jio all along) and Anil is a hands on husband balancing home and work taking care of the over energetic Parineeta. Swati who works with little kids and Ajay who’s an entrepreneur, running a packing plant of our common Tata salt, in their brown Duster were equally warm. Shampa, Anilava and Deepak – always good to see them. Deepak in his majestic Thar always supporting and the last car in the convoy.
Anilava took all the orders for breakfast and headed towards Sri Datta – our breakfast point. Misal pav, Vada pav, Sabudana Khichdi, Thalipeeth and some dosas with hot tea – our stomachs full and taste buds thrilled, our convoy set out for Smartika (cant understand the reason for this name). Karishma with her fiance Rachit and the cute Tiny joined us from here as well in their red Datsun Go.
After driving a few kms we turned from NH48 towards Wada on NH848 and from there took the Ghoti – Trimbak road. What amazing beauty and mesmerising sights awaited us as we trudged along. Tappan who was leading in his Land Rover wanted to race away in his car as he has been on these roads multiple times, but for the rest of the roadtrippers it was their first visit. I remember we had taken this route before and Chao had spoken about this road as we traveled many times to Jawhar to do farmer meets. He had taken this road once and he was only worried that if our car broke down for some reason, we would have to wait for hours before another vehicle came along. But it was safe for our group as we were in a convoy. Totally worth a visit if you are going to Nashik and have some company. Solo not advisable, but I’ve decided to take this drive solo sometime soon. Slowly and steadily stopping wherever I like and filming the beautiful sights. Might just shoot a music video here. Its just indescribable and you have to see it to believe it. No camera can capture it as much as your eyes can. Its a totally winding single road, with lots of dangerous spots and advisable only for experienced drivers. I got a good massage toppling from one end of my seat to the other as Tappan went quite fast on this road. It was difficult for him to resist as he is a very experienced driver with lots of control over his vehicle and knowledge of the terrain. Colonel who was right behind him just couldn’t keep up. As we were way ahead, we stopped at a spot where a woman was making hot tea. We had already had a cup by the time the convoy caught up with us. Then everyone wanted to have tea with ginger and fresh lemongrass.
After tea we proceeded towards Anand Resort which was our spot for the night. We reached in good time and by 1.30pm had checked into our rooms. The rooms are spacious and well equipped and the resort is nice. Surely would recommend it for an overnight trip. Especially loved the jhulas outside every room. The restaurant is also huge with open space and enough parking for cars. Vijay joined us with Swapnil (he was so funny), Rajesh (the yellow Mustang guy) and a few other roadtrippers.
After checking into our respective rooms, the beer party started for the boys. Tired after the drive, bottles of wine were uncorked, chilled beer and whisky started flowing. Here I met Preeti, Mukeshji and Yohaan. Yohaan had won the Electric car treasure hunt competition recently organised by the Roadtripper’s Club along with Mahindra. They were talking about a recent 25 day trip that they completed in France recently. Every new roadtripper I meet adds another trip to my to do list. Long way to go and the world will never fall short of places to explore.
Drinks were followed by lunch and the women went for a quick nap including me. Phone kept ringing so could manage a short one. Around 5 there was a knock on the door and everyone was gathered to leave for Talyachi – Wadi, farmhouse of Nachiket Patil, our host for the night. He had made all the arrangements for the evening ahead. In the Thar with Sudipta driving, we set out with the convoy for the organic farmhouse which was 3-4 kms away. Nachiket’s family welcomed all of us and we went for a tour of the 30 acres plot. Various organic vegetables and fruits have been planted, they’ve even made a dam and are breeding fishes in the water. Lots of hard work and years of toiling is required to build what they have made. As we walked higher up, there was a point from where the view was just unbeatable. This was the highlight – a view to die for and time for some pictures. All the phones were active clicking selfies and we also got a group shot here on timer with Deepak’s canon. I would have spent hours just staring at the sky and absorbing the view. Cant describe it enough.
Nachiket had arranged for some lovely snacks – veg and non-veg for all of us and it was dark by the time we got back. The alcohol was flowing and there were conversations happening between different groups. I got some time to chat with Vaishali from Nashik itself who’s a single mother of Shaurya and a practising gynaecologist. Its no mean feat to juggle a successful career and bring up a young boy all by herself. Pari and Shaurya became inseparable and played like they had known each other all along. Sudipta and Vaishali were surprised. Swapnil from Nashik itself was a riot and I was wondering if all Swapnils have this common trait between them. Like our very own Sopneel. Nachiket had also arranged for a DJ and Karaoke and a few roadtrippers sung a few songs. (kuch sur mein aur kuch besure!)
Deepak then requested everyone to be seated and announced their next big event – AdvenTorq on 6th and 7th October. It will a funfilled Road Trip Festival at Bhandardara with patrons from all 8 RTC Chapters and road trip enthusiasts with various activities planned. Offroading in Thars, Wine Tasting, Unplugged music, Barbeque and a Beer guzzling contest (ahem!). More details will be posted on their website soon – www.roadtrippersclub.com. Do not miss this fabulous event! We were all excited about this event and promised to come in full throttle with our friends and family.
By the time we finished dinner, it was only 10.15 pm but in the open it was cold and windy and so we headed back to our rooms. A few of us crashed while the men continued their drinks session till about 1.30am. I wanted to sleep as much as possible having been busy with my shifting and extremely tired. Crashed as soon as I hit the bed.
Woke up early morning but went back to sleep. At 8am asked for hot tea for my throat and then got ready. The jhoolas outside the rooms were a nice spot to chitchat. Breakfast was regular stuff – poha, omlette, bread butter and Aloo Paratha. It was not bad at all. At 10.30 am after checking out of the resort, we headed back to Talyachi Wadi. We bid our goodbyes to Colonel and his family since they wanted to leave early and take the Igatpuri highway as that would be easier for his drive.
This time I got a ride in Rajesh’s yellow Mustang. Sexy car. It was painful for the Mustang with low ground clearance to be driven on the stone riddled village roads, but brave of Rajesh to do so. The convoy reached and all of us were welcomed again by Nachiket’s mom, dad, family etc. Preeti got chatting with me and it was nice to know about her life and her son Yohaan. Inspite of her busy schedule, she manages to take time out for their road trips which is commendable. As we all sat chatting with each other while Pari & Shaurya played with the adorable Tiny, the villagers took the bulls for a bath. It was time to celebrate the Pola Festival.
Pola is a traditional festival celebrated by farmers mainly in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. On the day of Pola, the farmers decorate and respect their bulls. They are first given a bath, and then decorated with ornaments and shawls. Their horns are painted, and their necks are adorned with garlands of flowers. The bulls do not work that day, and they are part of the procession where farmers celebrate the crop with music and dance. A special meal was prepared for them and the family did the pooja of the bulls along with Shampa, Preeti, Umaji and Karishma. Shampa got a lot of claps since she did it perfectly and without getting scared of the bulls. One of the bulls was angry and raced towards the spot where the men were sitting and it was a sight to see them running on all sides. Tappan and Swapnil climbed up the nearby porch where some of us were sitting. It was hilarious and crazy at the same time (the kids were playing around) and the villagers said – no Pola Festival is complete without this incident. What is a festival without some thrill. While we were enjoying a tasty lunch of Puranpoli with dal and ghee, Tappan went for a horse ride. Haven’t tasted such a perfect puranpoli ever.
The hospitality of the Patil family along with the perfect planning of Vijay with his team was just exemplary and we were spoilt thoroughly. They have increased the bar so high, that its going to be difficult for anyone to match it. Return gift of Awle ka Murabba was so benevolent and we all couldn’t thank them enough. After getting a group shot with Nachiket and his family, we set out on our return journey. The adventure was not ever yet. A brief stop at Vijay’s farm which he’s developing with his heart and soul and Vandanaji’s support was another surprise for us. Always warm and always welcoming, Vijay’s farm is located at such a beautiful spot on a small hilltop – its something you will need to see to believe it. The view is just captivating and we look forward to the barbeques and evening camping with RTC soon. Chao would have been so so thrilled as this was his dream – a small house in a farmland somewhere in the midst of nature. Maybe someday I shall live his dream.
Finally the return journey commenced and as usual Tappan raced ahead in his Land Rover and no one could keep up. Then we realised that Karishma was not feeling so well and was vomiting continuously due to the winding roads. Her fiance Rachit was also fresh at the wheel and so couldn’t drive as fast as the others. One does need a lot of experience to drive on single roads with a lot of turns. So I took on the wheel of the Datsun Go as Tappan requested them to relax. It was fun for me as I was driving on such roads after a long time. Very very satisfying. But a smaller vehicle cannot match up to the Dusters, Thar and Land Rover. But we made good time and reached Virar for a quick stop for chai and to see Tappan’s Bungalow. So tastefully done and perfect for the weekend.
From there we bid our farewells and were on our way back home. In almost 25 mins Tappan dropped me on the highway at Kandivli as there was very less traffic. Sometimes we do get lucky in Bombay. Home in 10 minutes in time for dinner with my family.
I have no words to describe what this trip gave me – lots of memories, some lovely friends, a beautiful drive, lots of oxygen (was feeling so much better and less coughing) and great camaraderie. These trips give me happiness and hope for the future. A big thank you to Tappan and Umaji for allowing me to be in their Land Rover and my lifeline – the Roadtrippers Club for planning such marvellous trips! Karishma – thank you for capturing all the moments so beautifully! Till next week, its adios from Your Rearview Mirror!