The purpose was a bit different. While I was looking forward to visit the famous temple, I wanted to re-establish that relationship with my machine. In the recent past, I have had little opportunity to drive and take care of the m’cycle, and the elements were challenging the relation as well. The blue beast had been subjected to treacherous rains, moisture and vandalism in the terrible city and as much as I tried to protect it; I always a step behind the threats. A stolen relay, rusting screws and a rattling exhaust system proved that the city was powerful. “Is the performance really as good as it was earlier?” Hence one could say that the relationship that the bike n I shared was scarred and it would take a lot of Kms to rebuild that trust.
So I thought it’d be wise not to put others through the torture and set off alone for Shirdi. I started at around 5:45am. The NH-3 is relatively easy to get to from Vile Parle, the route being: cross the Western Expressway to get to Andheri (E) -> MIDC Marol (to avoid the metro construction chaos @ Andheri (E) ) -> Eastern Exressway @ Powai -> Left at the end of the expressway.
From here, the highway is phenomenal and within a few minutes, one crosses Thane. A bottleneck is found at the toll plaza before Thane. Though warned about this, I realized the intensity only when I actually saw this. The line of monstrous trucks stretches for almost a Km. The bike proved to be an advantage here and I wriggled out of this area in a couple of minutes. It was 6:45 when the odo declared that I had completed 50 Kms. The sun was not out yet and the speed ranged from 80-100kmph depending on the car I chose to follow. As the Kms in the odometer increased, another serious problem cropped up. The winds were getting chilly. In my preparation for the trip, though I had researched on the quality of roads, availability of petrol, food, etc, I had forgotten about a very vital element: The Weather. Now the winds were punishing me. Science says that sea is a great moderator keeping the temperatures almost at specific levels. The winds near Mumbai were cool and my windcheater ensured that I was comfortable. Now that I was moving away from the coast line, the real winter of India greeted me. After a few minutes, the temperature dropped drastically and I stopped at a fuel station just to ask the attendant how cold it was. “12-14 degree C sir..”. No wonder my body was numb and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. I had no other option but to continue at a moderate speed, praying that the sun would be out soon. At around 7:30, the dark sky slowly morphed into shades of blue & orange and just as I entered the ghat section, it happened! The sun was out!
As it is with all religious places, touts are ready to pounce on you the moment you land. Dodging the zillion offers and imperatives stated by several touts, I parked and got in the darshan queue. As it was a weekday, crowd was moderate.
It usually takes around half an hour for the darshan; that is if you reach before the aarti time (11am-12pm).
At 1:20pm, I got on the bike again. The return journey was fantastic now that I went through Nasik and the only sad part was getting back to the crawling Mumbai traffic. I reached a few minutes before sunset and the odo declared that the to and fro distance was 510Kms.
Distance: 250Km+ (One way)
How to get there:
The NH-3 will lead you upto Nashik and the signs to Shirdi will guide you to NH 50 thereafter. There are packages available with overnight buses (Volvos as well) and facilities for freshening up in the morning. (www.neetabus.in)
There are plenty of lodging facilities available for overnight stay for a ll budget ranges. Take care to book in advance if you plan a weekend visit.