After visiting Goa with friends, spending time in Mumbai with my cousins and rediscovering the simplicity of life in the Rann of Kachchh, I entered the final part of the 10 day tour. I reached Mt Abu around 7 PM and I got fresh to start a comfortable trip with my family. All the temples were closed to visitors by that time. So after dinner my brother and I hit the streets to experience Navaratri. Looking the city in lights, I enjoyed the chilly weather the hill station had to offer. We found a place where people were dancing Garba to catchy tunes. I was hesitant to join them as it looked like a controlled environment and I wasn’t even in appropriate attire. Troubling my brother on the way back, I reached the hotel and retired for the day.
It was during the check out when my dad taught me the difference between an Estimate and proper Bill. The receptionist handed us an estimate and I was referring to it as the bill until my dad pointed the difference. That’s one advantage traveling with an experienced person. I learnt lot of things from him during this trip. I had booked an Innova for us and it was our transport for the next 4 days. Enjoying the scenery down the hill we started our long journey to reach Jamnagar. We took a diversion and went to Solar Park at Chankara village on the way. There were a gazillion solar panels in arrays. I felt happy on seeing the place being utilized to generate electricity from a renewable source. It cost us some time and we reached Jamnagar late which dashed my desire to explore the Marine National park. Fortunately the industries in Jamnagar SEZ made up for it as there were ginormous factories including the world’s largest Reliance Petrochemical Refinery lined aside the roads. Our eyes caught salt producing areas and numerous windmills during the day. The roads turned very bad hereafter. Personally, I feel that the roads in the villages if Kachchh were far better than those in the Saurashtra region. We decided to halt at Dwarka which allowed us to see the temple lit by night lights. It didn’t take much time for Krishna temple to impress me. Although the temple is very old and the stone art weary, I was intrigued with the numerous intricate carvings in the Gopura (Tower).
The next morning we covered quite a few places: Gomti Ghat, Nageshwar Temple (which is considered as a Jyotirlinga), Gopika Talab, Bet Dwarka and Rukmini Devi temple. If it interests you, here is another blog with more details documenting a similar trip : Gujarat-Rajasthan Trip May 2013. We then left for Porbandar to see Mahatma Gandhi’s birth place. The place is now called Kirti Mandir and we saw the exact spot where he was born. The house is a heritage structure maintained well by the ASI. We thus got to see an early 18th century styled house and I had fun climbing the slightly steep wooden stairs holding a rope. We left for Somnath after this. The locals were celebrating and so we saw a parade (People took to the roads with sticks and most of them had colored themselves red and looked fierce). This combined with bad roads really slowed our journey.
We reached Somnath and seeing the huge temple in the calm night was an experience in itself. The crowd was very thin which gave us ample amount of space to roam around the surrounding area in peace. My mother started narrating stories which were depicted around the temple. I love history and felt privileged to listen to them from her. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the light and sound show as it was closed due to monsoon. It felt more meaningful to picture moon with this temple as Somnath literally means “Protector of Moon God”. I had booked the hotel Sagar Darshan from the Temple’s trust and was the best choice in the entire trip. All the rooms are beach-facing and have a splendid view of the temple. One can stand in the balcony and enjoy the nature and thank God looking at the temple tower.
It was my birthday the following day and so I decided to spend the first few minutes at the beach with the temple in vision. I sat alone on bench between the rooms and beach around 12 AM on October 14th. This was one of the best birthday nights I ever had. Under the shadow of Jyotirlinga Somnath temple in front of the beach with white waves coming closer I couldn’t ask for any better gift.
We went to temple again in the morning and saw the Baana-Stambha, which an arrow which points in landless direction (There is absolutely no land in that direction, until Antarctica!). We then left for Gir forest. We missed the morning window (8AM to 11 AM) by just ten minutes for Safari ride. We had to wait for 4 long hours for the next ride. We went to a nearby lunch place where mom tried to make the local roti by herself while my brother and I made a futile attempt to find a peacock.
After spending some time in the shade having family fun, we went for a ride in the bus. After crossing the huge gates of barricades we got on to a trail and we saw Sambar, Blackbucks and deer. After one more barricade we entered the lion area. My dad and I spotted cage like area near the entrance and saw a lion approaching a shady tree to accompany one already sitting there. It appeared as if they had just been to a “Software Engineering” class for they were yawning a lot. I didn’t expect the lions to be domesticated. I wanted to spot a normal hunting lion in the forest. thus wasn’t contented with what I saw. After spotting few more deer, our 30 minute staged safari ride came to end. We left for Ahmedabad from there and stayed at Hotel Pinnacle for the night. I was more than amazed at the hotel’s facilities for the price. They had everything from Bathroom slippers to Shoe shiners including complimentary drop to Airport. I happily availed their service and left for Bangalore from SVP Airport. The rest of my family visited the Vintage Car display the next day, which my brother enjoyed a lot.
In this trip, we did all our journey during the day and hence wasted valuable time. I felt that the travel was really boring. After this experience I learnt an important lesson: It’s not a good idea to crunch many places in short time while traveling with family. Backpacking is a different experience, but sitting in a single vehicle for hours together isn’t that exciting. Anyway, we covered almost all the main places in the Saurashtra region in Gujarat.
Places we stayed: (Links to my TripAdvisor Reviews)
Mt Abu – Maganji Hotel (Spacious Family Suite)
Dwarka – Hotel Gopal (4 bedded congested room)
Somanath – Sagar Darshan (Beautiful beach facing spacious rooms)
Ahmedabad – Pinnacle Hotel (Amazing facilities for affordable price)
In a span of ten days I visited four states – Goa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. I covered many places, planning everything sitting in front of my laptop. I spent quite some time scanning the maps, searching for places and asking people. I enjoyed every bit of it. The main sources of information were TripAdvisor, Quora, blogs and friends’ network. My decision of avoiding the preplanned trips worked well in my favour. My suggestion to you would be to plan your own itinerary, travel in silliest ways and learn from mistakes. No trip is perfect for me until I have a bunch of new experiences.