The highways were crowded, but flowing traffic meant that we could pull out some good average speeds. After a quick lunch stop in Vapi, we continued down the NH 8. Riding down the highway late afternoon had hot winds whipping us head-on. No, astride the Tiger, they didn’t make me break into a sweat, but the sheer dry heat meant the temperature was soaring beyond what I was remotely expecting. We didn’t know then, but there was a heat-wave in Gujarat. That explained the 44º C temperature that had to be ridden through as we passed Surat and left it behind in a hurry, the heat having no remorse.
It was almost evening by the time we saw the exit on the highway signalling our arrival in Vadodara. The busy marketplace we went through led to one of the old gates to the city. It was quite a structure, and with some policemen looking on, we managed to get some quick pictures before heading to the Kirti Temple, another magnificent work of art. Luckily for us, when we got there, the place was deserted. The sun was beginning to set and the evening light made the orange Tiger stand out and gleam. Our luck carried through to the hotel, which wasn’t too far away from the temple or the sights we’d seen on our way there. Dinner was an interesting egg fast-food affair and, apart from the sweltering heat, we came away happy with our choice of eatery.
Early next morning, we hit the not-so-busy streets to try and capture the big Shiva statue situated in the middle of the Sursagar Lake. Needless to say, it was quite a sight to watch the sun rise from behind it. However, we had to scoot because it was a big day for us: the Tiger would enter the lion’s den, but only if we managed to reach Sasan Gir before 2.30 that afternoon. Our final stop, then, was the majestic Laxmi Vilas Palace, still used as a palatial dwelling, complete with peacocks in the yard.
Our route to Sasan Gir would take us past some of the lesser-used highways, and that meant long stretches and high speeds. The Bhavnagar-Pipali highway also had the Velavadar National Park en route and many a salt refinery. The Tiger wasn’t allowed in at the gate, so I made a dash towards the salt for some quick pictures. Seeing the white mountains of salt over twice my height and a conveyor belt adding more volume with every passing second was quite a sight! Pure rock salt was streaming down, with the occasional lump rolling down all the way to the ground. After a quick stop, we were off, approaching the junction which would take us either to Bhavnagar or bypass Amreli. It was getting unbelievably hot so we figured we’d stop to cool off at the next little town en route, Chalala. We had a simple lunch of sev-tomato curry and rotis, a typical local lunch, before gunning it towards the Gir National Park.