28.07.2014 28 °C
We changed our original plans yesterday, and instead of traveling north to Anand, and then the following day, traveling west to Bhavnagar, we decided to do it in one fell swoop and travel to Bhavnagar in one day. The Taj hotel in Surat was a lovely hotel and so was the food. We also loved the city of Surat, which was so clean (they had the plague in the early 1990s and went from one of the dirtiest to one of the cleanest cities in India) and the people were some of the friendliest people we have come across, so we were sad to leave it.
It took us nearly two hours to get out of Surat, if we were not going in the wrong direction, we were stuck behind hundreds of cars all heading for a single lane tunnel; Natalie had lost the will to live in the first hour; she was excused as she had been unwell. We toddled along fairly uneventful (helped by our stash of biscuits and sweets). We had agreed to all stay awake, so we could talk to the driver and keep him awake, but I realised early on, that it was all down to me as Bill and Natalie were both asleep fairly early on in the journey. I was really pleased when we eventually got off the highway as we started to see life going on at the road side again (including my favourite, camels). Not that life on the highways (similar to our motorways) is boring, there are often cars and lorries on our side of the road, traveling towards us and there are cows and dogs wandering the highway. The highways have no road markings, we suspect they have realised it is a waste of time as there are usual five or six lanes of cars, jostling along on a two lane highway. Several times, we went through some really bad monsoon rain, but it quickly cleared up.
We were told that the journey would take about six hours, but with a break it took nearly nine hours. The journey was quite uneventful until the last hour, when we got a puncture. The driver did get the tyre pumped up, but he didn't find anywhere to have the puncture mended , so we limped into a Bhavnagar with three working tyres. Our poor driver (Vinay), not only did he have this to deal with, but he had me grilling him on every facet of his life, for nine hours, in my attempt to keep him awake. When we all finally hobbled out of the car, we were all moaning about various parts of our ageing bodies, which didn't cope well with such a long journey. The hotel we are staying at in Bhavnagar is another palace, and is in much better condition than the palace we stayed in, in Poshina, but it seems to lack any character. It is clean and it does have wifi, so all is good.
The food isn't so good at the hotel, which is a first in India. The food in India has been the absolute best. When we look at a menu (if we are not in a vegetarian restaurant and most restaurants are), vegetarian food takes up most of the menu and then there are a couple of meat dishes. Bill finds it impossible to pick a meal as there is just so much choice. The Indian food is so much more tasty than we are used to in England and there seems to be so much of it.
This morning, we didn't feel like going very far, so we asked Vinay (wife, two children, four brothers and sisters, hasn't got a dog and doesn't like dates) to take us into the city, it wasn't too long before we saw a bustling market and asked him to stop. It is Eid today, so there were lots of people in the market buying things for their celebrations. Natalie, was stopped so someone could take her picture, we are often asked for our pictures to be taken and we marvel how it would go down in England, asking someone from another country if we could take their picture. Our driver was asked the other day, if we were from Africa (but I suppose if you never went to school or watch TV, why would you know). Anyway, the market was great, Natalie and I managed to buy some cushion covers and I got several presents (angry birds is full and we need a new case).
Tomorrow, we are leaving very early, so we can get to Palitana early. Palitana is about an hour away and Bill and Natalie are going to climb the mountain (over 3,500 steps) to see the Jain temples at the top. The mountain is Jain, which means they cannot wear any leather or take any food. My plans are to drop them off and get to the hotel and not walk up 3,500 steps.