Trip to Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar, Diu, Somnath , Bhuj and the White Rann
(6th – 10th November’18)
A reunion with my friends at Noida on 15th of August’18 led to the planning of this trip. Gujarat had been in my bucket list since long and finally plans were approved for the visit . The auspicious occasion of Diwali also reverberates with long holidays at work place. 3 days of holidays clubbed with two days of paid leave made our trip plan of 6 days.
The journey began on the night of 5th of November. I reached the airport quite early to avoid the evening traffic. Flight to Ahmedabad airport was scheduled at 11:30 p.m . After reaching airport I got to know that the flight has been delayed by an hour. I was not much worried with this fact as late night arrival at Ahmedabad is not something to worry about. The Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi was beautifully decorated to mark the festive celebrations of Diwali. I took pictures from all corners and then had dinner and waited for my travel partner. After her arrival we checked in with our luggage and proceeded towards security check and then the boarding gate. After the security check in , we were informed that the flight has been delayed by another 1 hour and this time I got irritated. Somehow at around 1:30 a.m we boarded the flight to Ahmedabad and reached the Manchester of India-Ahmedabad at 3 a.m . An Ola took us to the hotel . After Checking in , both of us went to sleep.At around 10 a.m , we started the tour, our first destination being the Akshardham Temple. Akshardham Temple is located at Gandhinagar which is at a distance of 30 kms from Ahmedabad. Thus Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar are twin cities much like Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. The temple premises were well maintained and the architecture inside was extremely beautiful. The art inscriptions were on the stones. I could find them quite similar to the architecture of Dilwara Temple of Mt. Abu , the only difference being the base was marble there and here it is the stones. The first floor of the temple has paintings describing the life of Swami on whose remembrance the temple is built. The paintings were efficiently illuminated and major inspirational events of Swami’s life were depicted and described in words. The basement of the temple consisted of the actual remains of Swami and also the accessories that were used by him. We sat in the temple for a while and could see some women filling up the colorful diyas with ghee. The temple boundaries were decorated with colourful diyas on the occasion of Diwali and the women were preparing them for the night.
We were thinking of where to have lunch, when my travel partner suddenly said we can visit IIT Gandhinagar. And I willingly said yes and then we took an auto to reach there. The campus is under construction phase. We had lunch there which was nice. After a sumptuous lunch, we went to the hostel rooms . We had a good time with the cousin of my travel partner and her friends who are pursuing Masters in Humanities. I was impressed with the sustainable plan of the campus. Multiple solar panels were placed in the campus for storing the solar energy . After spending a few hours there , we came to Ahmedabad to visit Sabarmati Ashram. The Ashram is located on the banks of Sabarmati river. The simple lifestyle led by the freedom fighters was quite visible there. The peaceful atmosphere with chirping of birds and the river flowing next to it made our evening. At 6 p.m , the Ashram closes for visitors . We then searched on Google for restaurants nearby. One was at a distance of 1 km. We followed Google Map and walked there to have Gujarati Thali. The food was delicious. We then proceeded to the hotel for starting our journey to Diu ( One of the Union Territories which is an island). The bus stand at Ahmedabad has many modern amenities. There is very good seating arrangement and the platforms are quite well maintained. Though the bus stand was crowded, it was clean. The bus came at the scheduled time and we boarded just to find I had wrongly booked the Semi-Sleeper Seats instead of Sleeper. The journey of 10 hours began. We reached Diu in the morning at 7:30 a.m and went to a nearby hotel for freshening up. Within an hour we started the sight-seeing of the small island. We visited the famous Church, Museum, INS Khurki Memorial, Jalandar Beach, Nagoa Beach, Naida Caves and returned within the specified time to get the bus to Somnath.
Somnath is at about 80 kms from Diu and we boarded the bus at 1:30 p.m . We reached Somnath at 4 p.m. The Somnath temple is at a walking distance from the bus stand. We walked towards the temple with luggage wondering where to keep it. Luckily there was a luggage room outside the temple. We kept the luggage , took our tokens and proceeded towards the temple. The temple ambience was quite peaceful and there was not much crowd. Thus we comfortably visited the Jyotir Lingam and then enjoyed the cool sea breeze in the premises. It is located adjacent to the Arabian Sea and the waves touch the boundaries of the temple. A binocular was placed there to take a view of the Lingam inside the sea. I put efforts to locate it but in vain. The temple premises are very well maintained with ornamental plants decorating the pavement and trees all around. At around 6 p.m we proceeded to have some snacks around. A market complex is located just outside the temple. We visited it and had Khichdi in one of the shops. Meanwhile we saw small groups of children visiting every shop and reciting few snippets . The shop owners in return would give them sweets or money or anything pleasing the children. The ritual was amusing. I wanted to have some Dhokla and Jalebi. Just then we spotted a shop selling hot Jalebis. But there was no Dhokla. We went upstairs to find a shop with Dhokla and Jalebi. As we ordered both , the shop owner offered us to taste the “saag ke pakode”. We said no and asked him to serve us what we had asked for. But he served us the Pakode and said that is not chargeable. Then he served us Fafda and asked to have it with Jalebi. “ Fafda – Jalebi “ is a very famous food of Gujarat. Thus was the surprising behavior of the shop owner who wanted us to taste Gujarat’s Delicacies irrespective of what we asked for. After we finished I paid the shop owner a few bucks extra to respect his “ MehmaanNawazzi” . We proceeded to the bus stand to board the bus to Bhuj. The bus came and we boarded . On Diwali eve, we were enroute Bhuj. We reached Bhuj early in the morning and took an auto to the hotel. Throughout the bus stand we could hear autowallahs saying “ White Rann” to all who had come to bus stand.
After resting for a while, we asked the same autowalla to take us to the White Rann. The Rann is around 80 kms from Bhuj and it takes almost two hours to reach the great salt desert. On our way we stopped at the village “Bhirandiyaara” to have Mawa ; that’s what the village is famous for. We reached the Rann just on time to view the beautiful sun set into the unending white canvas. We got disappointed on the first glimpse of the Rann as it wasn’t looking the way it was in pictures. The salt had crystallized but we were still able to see the brown ground beneath it. It was like a Mela there with people riding on colorful camels and stalls decorated outside for the cultural extravaganza. The sun had set and it was gradually becoming dark. It’s a 1 -2 kms walking stretch from the entrance to the White Desert. We returned for our stay at the Mudhouse. The hosts gave us a hearty welcome and made sure our stay was comfortable. The mudhouse was beautifully decorated. And it felt like experiencing the village stay. For dinner we had home-made Guajarati Cuisine. It was really delicious. We woke up early the next morning to witness the sunrise at the Rann. This time our hearts jumped with joy as we could see the vast stretch of completely white canvas. A huge crowd had gathered there to welcome the new day. The sun rose from the clouds and there was a lot of cheer. The most interesting in all was the pedestal built to view the sunrise replicated the solid structure of salt(NaCl). We took some photographs there and then returned to have breakfast and then to Bhuj.
That evening we spent in Mandvi Beach. There are frequent buses to Mandvi from Bhuj. It takes 2 hours by bus to reach Mandvi. As we came out of the Mandvi Bus Stand, we saw a giant wooden ship. Mandvi hosts the ship building yard and craftsmen can be seen assembling the wooden ships. Since the Gujarati New Year is celebrated just next to Diwali, the beach was crowded with many games, stalls and other amusement instruments. The beach has many windmills and we witnessed the sunset in the calm Arabian Sea. My native place is quite near the Bay of Bengal and I have visited the sea beach multiple times. The waves are really high and one needs to be very careful while playing with the water . In contrast to it, the Arabian Sea is quite calm and the water at Mandvi beach was very clean .
The next day we relaxed the whole day at our room and in the evening boarded the train to Delhi. Thus the trip to Gujarat came to an end with pleasant memories with Gir and Dwarka being shortlisted for the next visit.