A Travellerspoint blog

Road trip to Udaipur

The departure of Natalie

sunny 33 °C

Yesterday was our last day with Natalie, and although Natalie and I were feeling really poorly, we were determined to have a good day. The journey to Jamnagar, was lovely, but we were too busy coughing and getting Bill and Vinay to look out for chemists, to see any scenery. If they were not on chemist watch, we were grilling them on who they thought had the worse cold, cough or wheeze (we both also had sore tummy and back muscles from coughing, but they couldn't judge on these). Vinay, reliably informed us that we needed Rexcof, which his wife had told him was the best cough syrup. We did eventually see a chemist and Bill and Vinay got out of the car with instructions to return with multiple bottles of Rexcof, tissues, cough sweets and decongestants. You can imagine our disappointment when they returned with some herbal honey linctus, but we were willing to take anything by this stage.

Jamnagar is on the western coast of Gujarat and is a lovely little town, they have some beautiful buildings, but unfortunately they were virtually in ruins. In the afternoon, we drove around the town, Natalie and Bill got out to walk around the old town and they disappeared for ages at one stage, but they were forgiven as they returned with Indian sweets. Indian sweets are usually far too sweet, and we can't eat them, but the sweets in Gujarat are not so sweet and we have developed quite a taste for them (especially as they let you taste them all in the shops). Natalie and I got out of the car to get some biscuits (we were seriously in need of car cookies) and saw a chemist. We asked if they had any Rexcof and he proudly showed us several bottles. Reading the label when we got back into the car, we saw there were strict instructions not sell it without a doctor's prescription. I am not too sure what is in it, but it stops me coughing and allowed me to have the best night's sleep in months! Stop press on Rexcof, it's brilliant stuff (possibly lethal), I feel so much better today, no cold or coughs, but when I am due a dose, they start to come back. I am beginning to get addicts angst about my next fix (I meant dose!).

Suitably dosed up, we then headed to the Bala Hanuman temple. In this temple they have chanted 'Jai Ran' every day (24/7) since August 1964, which means ever since I was a two year old. We were fairly intrigued by this and sat in the temple listening to them for some time, as it was very soothing to listen to. The temple is in the Guinness Book of Records for the chanting; we swear they stopped several times whilst we were there.

We said our goodbyes to Natalie last night; because we were leaving early this morning. We have had such a happy time altogether, we have shared our love of India, food and gin and we have laughed and laughed. I was very sad to see her go, but I consoled myself with the thought that we would see each other in July next year. This all fell apart this morning; getting into the car, I saw Natalie's hat (it had got so wet when they were climbing, it is about four sizes smaller) and cried and cried and then cried because we were leaving Natalie behind (she was catching a flight at lunch time). Bill and Venay were very good, but I suspect as time went on, Vinay wasn't so sympathetic. I cried at Natalie's empty chair (and even patted it several times), I cried when we had a car cookie or a sweet and made Bill and Vinay thank Natalie for getting them for us. I cried when we got to a toll booth as Natalie always translated the signs for me, I cried because the air conditioning wasn't needed on her empty seat and I cried when I had a Thali, because Natalie loves a Thali. I think the point Vinay became really puzzled, was when he showed us a statue of a freedom fighter (whose husband had been killed by the British) and I cried and apologised for everything wrong the British had done to India. I seriously hope nothing ever happens to Natalie as I don't have the stamina to cope with separation from her.

At lunch time, in the restaurant, there was a lady who had some red paint on her face, which we were a bit puzzled about. The lady came over to speak to us and she told us she was pregnant and all the family were together to celebrate. Bill, asked if he could take a picture and she went over to her husband to ask. After the pictures were taken by Bill, it was then their turn to take pictures of Bill and they even thrust some poor child at him, so they could take pictures of Bill with the baby.

Today we have travelled about three hundred and thirty miles to Udaipur. Udaipur is in Rajistan and is the state above Gujarat. I hardly want to say it, so I shall whisper it....that we had a good journey. It did take us nearly twelve hours, but we are here and the hotel is rather good and we don't have to sit in the room drinking alcohol. Life is good

Posted by mulliganward 06:34 Archived in India Comments (3)

Rajkot

sunny 33 °C

Natalie and I are absolutely full of cold, with terrible hacking coughs. This hasn't really been helped the last couple of days by the suggestions given to us by every Indian person we meet, to either drink tea or have their special rice, all with promises to cure us, all to no avail. It isn't too bad for me as I have lost my sense of taste, but Natalie has to taste them!

Yesterday morning, we just had an hours journey to Rajkot. Our hotel, is said to be a heritage hotel (an old property, converted into a hotel), we have failed to find any of the original palace and are faced with a very 'modern' complex, a bit Butlins meets Centre Parcs. Bill and Natalie did find pictures of the original palace, but that has been flattened to make way for this hotel. We are again the only guests, so we seem to have our own security guard outside our rooms and at one stage last night we had four staff members in our room, 'doing' various things. Everybody seems to be walking backwards and forwards in front of our room (possibly to get a glimpse of a paying hotel guest). We do have a positive, there is Cadbury's chocolate in the fridge.

We set off yesterday afternoon for the government wine store, which was in another hotel. It wasn't as crowded as the last one, but it was very busy and the staff were rather officious, but we did get drink. In fact, I suspect we have too much drink; Bill and I are heading for Rajistan tomorrow (which isn't a dry state) and we will still have a box of clinking bottles. Our driver, who is a tea drinking Christian always seems to disapprove of our stash of drink, he told us this 'terrible' story of a friend of his, who has a glass of wine everyday (we just sat quietly tutting in the 'appropriate' places.

After we were stocked up with alcohol, we set off for the markets, I really didn't feel too well, but I can always find the energy for shopping. We were stopped a lot yesterday by people who mimed putting food to their mouths; Natalie said they were asking for food for their children and I wa grabbed several times, by people wanting money, and I was even pinched by a young boy. So we set off in this procession to look around the market, it was very very hot and we were struggling (but you couldn't have failed to find us, Natalie and I were coughing away and Bill was complaining about the heat), but we did find a shop selling cases (we are swapping Bill's backpack with a large case). Natalie kept asking the price of the case and the man kept telling her how strong the case was, this went on for several minutes, until Natalie told him, we now understood it was very strong, but just wanted a price! Making our way back to the car, Bill managed to stand in cow muck (in his flip flops) and even managed to get some on our new, extremely strong case!

Natalie had told the driver that we wanted to go to Prem Mandir, which was a Catholic Church, we didn't have an address for the church and kept going around and around. At one point Vinay, pointed to a Catholic Church and suggested we went there as it was a church and was catholic. We did eventually find it and it was worth the hassle of finding it. Prem Mandir is a modern church (finished in 2000) and had the most amazing stained glass in there depicting the stations of the cross (ok, I didn't know that, Bill had to tell me). The church was just a large round shaped room (no chairs) and the architecture was Hindi, Sikh and Christian, the mural of Jesus at the alter, depicted him sat on a lotus leaf (Buddhist) and he had a bindi on his forehead (Hindu). The church is said to be a place of worship, incorporating many religions and it was a beautiful place to stand and reflect; unfortunately this wasn't to be. There was a pair of young school girls in there, who were very keen to speak to us (especially Natalie in Hindi), they were there at our every turn, 'helping' us. Natalie had a terrible coughing fit and swore whilst trying to get tissues out of her bag and Bill was followed around by our helpers. We decided to light some candles and this became like a Monty Python sketch; our helpers couldn't understand why we were happy to give fifty rupees when they were just thirty rupees and then we struggled putting the candles in front of the alter. Usually you put candles in sand, but there was no sand, so we had to melt the bottom of the candles. Bill managed to break both of his candles and Natalie broke one of hers (they were left at a jaunty angle) I gave up trying to stand mine up and just tried to lean them against the side, but our helpers were not having that and kept taking them off me. What we hoped would be a spiritual moment turned into a farce (punctuated by Natalie and I laughing and subsequently coughing). It was a beautiful church and we would have loved to have seen a service there, but it was not to be, but I will always remember the laughter we had there!

Today is our last full day together. We have a two hour journey, which will be filled with Natalie and I coughing (I feel so much better today), car cookies and Hindi lessons for Bill, we have had so much fun.

Posted by mulliganward 16:06 Archived in India Comments (1)

Gondal

sunny 29 °C

Gondal was originally a hundred square mile state, comprising of four towns and more than 175 villages, Gondal today is just a small town and all it has to show for it's stately history is a nineteenth century Riverside Palace, which was once the residence of the Gondal Yuvraj (Crown Prince) and the Orchard Palace, which is the hotel we are staying in, which is in the palace estate. We have stayed in a few palaces in the last few weeks and this one may be the best. The hotel houses a collection of vintage and classic cars (post 1910) a royal rail carriage, which smells of moth balls and some horse-drawn carriages.

The hotel seems to be exclusively run by this couple; one seems to do most of the work and the other seems to do very little, but look pretty. By way of a change, we are the only guests in the hotel and if we order food, they have to get it from the palace. Natalie and I joke that the hotel is actually closed and these two young men have broken in and are pretending to be the owners. We have set up a whole scenario around them and of their antics and it makes us laugh, especially as they keep filling the roles we have set for them. The worker at the moment is setting the table and the other is preening himself at the desk.

This morning (although Natalie and I are absolutely full of cold, and Bill is at the fever stage) we went to a 'factory' that made homeopathic medicine. We were shown around and it was really very interesting. We were shown the different stages and we now realise why homeopathic medicines are so expensive as some take years to make. The ingredients in some of the remedies were rather strange, there were metals in many of them (thus, they were unable to export to the UK) and in one room there was an awful smell of ammonia (Bill left very quickly) and we found out the main ingredient was cow urine! We met the doctor, who owned the business, which was set up by his grandfather and we had a long chat with him. After the pharmacy we went to the Royal Palace, we were all pretty unimpressed, especially as we were been shown around by a moody teenager, who spent the whole time texting his friends and even asked to take a picture of us, which he then sent to his friends. Inside the palace is a small Muslim temple and there was a family worshipping there and when Bill passed them, they offered him a drink, people are so nice.

The best part of the day was going to a Khadi cotton factory, where the ladies were sat at their looms making cotton material. The noise in the room, was soo loud and nobody had any ear protectors on. The ladies (there were some young girls in there, who looked like they should be at school), were all happy to see us. We have more or less seen the whole process of cotton production in recent weeks. Gujarat, has cotton growing in the fields, we saw the cotton been put onto reels, today we saw the ladies make the white material and in Surat at the fabric market, we saw hundreds of buyers, buying the white material, so they could print their designs. It made me feel very humble, watching all their hard work, especially as we had just purchased a shirt for the equivalent of four pounds. The shop attached to the factory was excellent and we soon had armfuls of purchases.

After a good snooze this afternoon, we are ready for invalid food....soup and French fries, strangely enough our illness has not stopped us drinking beer. One of the hotel 'owners' just told us that we have brought them luck, as it has been raining all afternoon; everywhere we go Bill and I seem to bring monsoon rains, we think we should hire ourselves out.

Posted by mulliganward 07:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

Climb every mountain

sunny 38 °C

Yesterday, we left Bhavnagar at the crack of dawn, so we could get to Palitana nice and early so Bill and Natalie could climb up to one of Jainisms's holiest pilgrim sites, which is called Shatrunjaya. It is a hilltop of an estimated nine hundred Jain temples (built over nine hundred years), and to get there you have to climb 3,400 steps.

It was an easy hour drive, we passed through villages waking up, with little traffic on the roads.We saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky, which Natalie and I felt was an omen for a good climb. We saw lots of wild boar and their piglets; our driver, Vijay, was telling us that the boars were owned by the people that are the street cleaners (who would have been the untouchables in years gone by). We got into Palitana about seven o'clock and as we headed for Shatrunjaya, we saw people walking towards the start of the climb and we noticed that they were not young people and lots of them struggled walking, but up to the temples they were going. As we rounded the final corner our car was literally surrounded by 'doli', who are the men who carry people up to the temples (in a chair like contraption, carried on sticks), there was easy fifty men surrounding the car, tapping on the windows, trying to get our attention, so we would pick one of them to carry us up to the temples. Several men really fixed eye contact with me and although it was really funny, they were a bit scary. Bill and Natalie were absolutely surrounded by the men when they got out of the car, but they managed to escape most of them.

I have written about Jainism before, but as a quick recap they do not believe in killing anything, so they are strict vegans, they do not eat root vegetables, in case worms and insects are hurt in getting the vegetable out of the ground. To put this in context of climbing Shatrunjaya, Bill and Natalie, were not allowed to wear any leather on the mountain and were not allowed any food. Jain people climbing the mountain, often stop at each step and do a 'poojah' (prayer) and to sweep any insects off the step, but they still skip up and down the mountain in super quick time. There are also a group of Jain people who do not wear clothes and we have seen several of them the last few days!

We left Bill and Natalie climbing and the driver and I went to our hotel; it was only about seven thirty and the owner was not expecting us so early, but they were very welcoming. The hotel is called Vijay Vilas and it is a 1906 palace and it is in the shadow of Shatrunjaya, you can see the temples at the top, from our balcony. Within minutes of getting to the hotel I was out on the balcony, sitting on the swinging chair, relaxing, reading my book. The hotel has had some bad reviews, which is disappointing, as it is not a five star hotel, but a beautiful old palace and should be viewed that way. The lady owner, proudly told us the history of her family and showed us paintings and pictures, including a couple of letters from the Duke of Edinburgh thanking her grandfather, for teaching him how to play polo.

It started to rain about eight o'clock, we were told this was the first rain they had had this year and everyone was extremely pleased. It was lovely hearing it fall and I felt very relaxed, but I realised Bill and Natalie were on their way up to the temples. The driver and I returned to Palitana a few hours later to pick Bill and Natalie up. It was quite a different journey to the one out to the hotel, the drive was now extremely muddy, we went through some very large puddles and springs were gushing across the roads. Waiting in the car at the bottom of Shatrunjaya, one of the doli's told us that they were on their way down.

Bill and Natalie came into view, absolutely soaked, but very pleased with themselves. They started their climb, followed by a group of doli's, who were hassling them to be carried and they continued to follow them for a third of the climb. Bill said they had only been climbing for about thirty minutes before the rain started, he said to say it was the heaviest downpour he had ever experienced, would be an understatement. The steps were a stream of water and at times they were wading in water and had to take their shoes off. As they climbed, they could see step wells, which were filling with water very fast. An archway marked the finish of the climb, but because of the deluge, they could hardly see it. They were both struggling to see things as they had glasses on which either had rain on them or were smeared by the rain. The mist and the rain, meant that they did not see many of the temples clearly and they spent a lot of time sheltering from the rain. It sounds to me that they had a bad time, but Bill says they had a brilliant time as it was an achievement and an exciting, unique experience and the rain left spiritual.

This morning we had a four hour drive to Gondal. It was a lovely journey, we were going through small towns and villagers and people waved as we went along. We stopped at a garage for petrol and quite a group of people came to stare at us, they told the driver that they had never seen 'foreigners' before. We are staying at Orchard Palace and I must say it is rather nice! We have a floor to ourselves, two balconies and a very large sitting room, with floor cushions. The young man, who showed us to our room, has gone in search of beer on the black market. Natalie said if he can find gin, she will never leave. Life is good.

Posted by mulliganward 00:57 Archived in India Comments (0)

Road Trip

sunny 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.

Posted by mulliganward 04:09 Archived in India Comments (0)

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