We are back home now and have had some much needed shut-eye. So here is the whole Desert Storm story, this time from the top.
Yet another Sunday when we hit the road in the wee hours, hoping to cover as much distance as possible before traffic starts building up on the highways. The first bottleneck, at Manesar, is cleared as planned and so on for the industrial towns till Jaipur. We reach Jaipur in 3.5hrs, our fastest yet from Delhi. We drive non-stop till Chittorgarh where we catch up with the group of officials who had left from Delhi yesterday.
We are hoping to reach Bhuj by night. Two of our friends are playing catch-up with us travelling in a Maruti Gypsy, which they’ve affectionately named Suzy Blu for its blue hard top. Gypsies are a pain on highways; it takes a lot of push to keep going beyond 100. We are pushing the throttle quite comfortably in our Tata Safari. We don’t mind pulling over occasionally to enjoy the scenery and to let Suzy catch-up. The stretch of NH76 from Udaipur to Pindwara is amazing. With 100kms of smooth tarmac cutting through the hills, this road rivals the best of the tarmacs around the world.
And then, there is a frantic phone call. Our co-rallyists in Suzy have run out of fuel. They forgot to check tank status. That happens, I guess. There are no petrol pumps till 30kms in either direction. Suzy rolls down the road, presumably on fumes. We factor in the reputation of the region for ‘incidents’ and decide to tow Suzy till the next petrol pump.
Picture this, a 3L Tata Safari towing a Maruti Gypsy through Arravalli Hills for 40kms. It is a test of patience and manoeuvring to move with least tugs and pulls. About 10kms before the expected petrol pump the route morphs into a dirt track and then a narrow road through Pindwara. We are now on bumpy roads and are being chased by stray dogs and seeking directions from genuinely enthusiastic locals who point to their right while telling us to go left.
After a long and eventful haul we reach Palanpur and halt for the night.
It is a cruise from Palanpur to Bachau. There are 15-20km long pencil straight stretches of road slicing through wide spans of land. We only stop at the toll booths, which are too many by the way. The convoy regroups at Bhuj and heads out to Camp Dhordo about 80kms away and at the edge of White Rann.