I’m a firm believer that road trips are good for the soul. If we’re being realistic, holidays are too decadent. We have no time, no money… lives to carry on with.
But road trips?
A tank of gas, good company, a few hours and a killer playlist is all one needs to rejuvenate a weary spirit. You never know what’s around the bend, and the feeling is exhilarating.
I, for one, have a constant need (you can call it ‘itchy feet’) to be in a place where I don’t know the roads like the back of my hand. I was telling Beverly Dee just the other day that I need to go somewhere. Anywhere.
And just like that, out of the blue, a sudden road trip was planned overnight. *Flashback to Hampi!*
A couple of friends and I left on our road trip at around 10 am. Smooth roads and very little traffic (after a point) helped us make good time. On entering Gujarat, we stopped for traditional Parsi breakfast at Ahura, comprising of Sali per eedu (grated, deep fried potato topped with a fried egg), akuri (almost runny scrambled eggs) and strong tea.
Like Ahura, which is just off NH8, you can also choose to stop at Atithi, which is a little before Ahura and is the older of the two restaurants. We left feeling stuffed and stayed that way until we entered Udvada at 1:45 pm.
I’m no stranger to wandering through narrow lanes and drowsy villages. But Udadva makes you feel like you’ve taken a trip in a time machine. The teeny tiny town is considered exceedingly sacred by the diminishing Parsi community and this pilgrimage site is famous throughout the world. Yet, it still remains as quiet and calm as ever – no traffic, no noise and as clean as can be.
So clean, in fact, that even the stray dogs are skin and bone thanks, to the dearth of garbage to rummage through for scraps of food.
This guy happily walked with us for a bit and was too happy to pose for pictures!
Most of the houses lie vacant and are slowly decaying. There are only a handful that have been renovated and people can be seen relaxing in the front galleries overlooking the road.
The Atash Bahram fire temple is the chief attraction here – open to only people from the Parsi community. The sacred fire has been brought from Iran and has been continuously burning for the last 1280 years. A Parsi friend I went with told me that there isn’t even electricity in the temple – electricity is considered impure and so the temple is always lit with oil lamps that are brought down with ropes, filled with oil and hoisted again.
We walked through the little town and marvelled at the doll-house like architecture. The entire place can be walked through multiple times in a single day – and there isn’t really anything else to do there, except look at charming houses and relish the silence.
And of course, eat!
Udvada is the perfect place to sample popular Parsi fare since most of the dishes are still cooked on a chulavati or a wood- fire hearth. There are plenty of hotels to lunch at, Hotel Mek being one of the more popular ones. We lunched at Dharamshala – a place that not everyone can eat at, unless you have Parsi connections.
We feasted on a traditional Parsi lunch of fried fish, chicken curry, vegetable curry, rice, papad and Sali (potato sticks) The thing about Parsi food is that it is rich in flavour without the spices being overpowering. Whenever I eat some, I can’t help but compare it to a warm hug that says ,”everything will be okay.”
Next, we moved on to my favourite part! Ice cream! Apparently, the only dessert you’ll find at Udvada is mango-flavoured Sancha ice cream. And God, how delicious it was! Hand churned and ultra creamy, it was mind blowing. By the time we decided to have another scoop, the ice-cream guy had vanished, taking his delicious mango ice cream with him.
Before heading back, we made a stop at the Udvada Museum. This well-maintained, airy, villa-like structure is a treasure trove for those wanting to know more about the Parsi community. You’ll need maybe half-an-hour to read through the boards on various rituals, clothing and customs. Trust me, after a heavy lunch, I was in no mood for history, but I found it immensely interesting. Give it a shot!
A replica of the holy fire similar to one at the Fire Temple.
P.S. Loved the way this security guard opened his eyes, looked at us and went back to sleep again. We turned on all the lights and fans, walked through the museum, turned everything off and went back while he happily snoozed away. Ah! Simple, village life!
With a town as small as this, everything is a must-visit spot. Our last stop was Irani Bakery, a couple of streets away from the fire temple. When I heard ‘Irani Bakery,’ I pictured the nice sit-down ones we have in Mumbai with its range of biscuits, bun maskas and teas – but this one was quite tiny. We picked from among their limited biscuit selection to take back with us
If you’re looking for a long drive, some divinity and dhansak, take a trip to Udvada. It’s simplicity is pretty refreshing!
Ever been to a tiny town before? Tell me about it!
Till next time