Well, this could almost become a habit: visiting a place for a few days then writing a post on the night bus to the next place! Uploading the pics from my phone is a pain is the backside though.
So in my short Gujarat trip, my last stop was Bhuj, the capital of the Kachch region famous for its handicrafts. I bought a new t-shirt there, with a cool fabric and embroidery! Mum will be proud of me (as soon as I ditch my horrible grey t-shirt).
My night bus arrived early. At 6am, we stopped at the bus station, the sun had not even risen yet! I hitched a ride on a Tuktuk with a mother/daughter Aussie couple, and crept into the City Guesthouse. Luckily, I was able to check in early morning!
After a nap and a shower (bucket of warm water thrown over my head), I decided to go get some breakfast : I skipped dinner because of the night bus and was hungry!
Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out the workings of Indian cities, and could not find a single place open serving breakfast… I settled for some street food called Dabeli, a kind of burger with spicy mashed potatoes and peanuts. It was super delicious but was so spicy it gave me hiccups! My stomach was also quite unhappy about the spices at that time if the day.
Near our guesthouse, there is a tea place in which I sit down to analyse the map. I meet a French traveller, who gives me some advice on the places to go and also recommends me to take a bus to a coastal city in the south as a day trip!
I start my visits in the neighbourhood and go visit the Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal, two ancient palaces in a mixed Indian and Western style. The place has been severely damaged in an earthquake in 2001 and it was shocking to see the poor condition of the buildings! Arches were out of place, cracks stroke through the walls and columns seemed to have become too weak to support anything…
Inside of Aina Mahal was a poorly maintained collection of old things, chandeliers and mirrors. Inside of Prag Mahal there was a very fancy dining room, chipped ceiling paintings, decaying hunting trophies and stuffed animals… I climbed up the clock tower and had a great view over the city.
Next thing to visit was the amazing Swaminarayan Temple! This bright white building was all I expected from India! Old architecture, temples, intricate carvings… It was beautiful! It looks bigger than it is on pictures, and apart from all these columns and a nice chandelier there’s nothing inside so it was a quick but magnificent visit!
Escaping to Mandvi
As recommended by my new friend, I made my way to the bus station (where dozens of locals came very close to stare at me for a while) and got on the bus to Mandvi, a small coastal town where they build wooden ships.
I visited the palace, which wasn’t that impressive inside: it looked pretty much like my grandmother’s living room. But the building itself was great, and the walk back on the beach was awesome!
By a very random sequence of events, I found myself trotting on a camel, scaring flamingoes off the beach! Amazing things like that happen when you travel!
So I was about to walk back from the Palace to the town, a 5km walk on the beach. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn and found myself on a private beach I wasn’t allowed to access. I insisted that I only wanted to walk to the private beach, and they let me through.
On the beach, there was a camel who seemed to be sunbathing! I laughed, took a picture, and when the owner noticed me he called me to come closer and hop on for a picture!
That is how, suddenly, I found myself riding a brightly decorated camel! And then, we started walking towards the shore, and then trotting! In the distance, I noticed some pink flamingoes and as we ran towards them, they started taking off in a flock toward us! What an amazing moment!
I soon realised that riding a camel was even more uncomfortable than I remembered from Mongolia, it is totally different from riding a horse! It feels like it will fall down with each step and it is quite a rough ride.
I was presented with a horse, very brightly decorated itself, and offered to ride it too. As I noticed they had prepared it just for me I accepted. After all, why not!
After this incredibly fun interlude, I started off on my walk back to Mandvi, hoping to make it back before sunset. The walk was very peaceful, as the beach was desert and clean. I enjoyed being by myself and singing, while avoiding to walk on jellyfish. At some point there were some men drinking and smoking on the beach. I politely but firmly refused their company and kept on walking.
When I was approaching Mandvi, I suddenly realised I was stuck: as the tide was coming up, a river had formed on the beach, and I couldn’t easily cross. I packed my bags, removed my leggings, folded up my dress and walked through the river, glad the current wasn’t too strong! Made it!
I sped up to reach Mandvi before dark, and was rewarded by a great sunset. After some street food snacks, I’m on the bus back to Bhuj. Definitely a great escape from the city!
The following day, I visited another palace called Sarad Bagh, which had also been destroyed by the earthquake. Inside, there were several huge stuffed tigers and some great pieces of artwork.
I also visited the Chatedi tombs, some ruins which were even more put to ruins with the earthquake!
That was enough of exploring for me, but from discussions with travellers who had been staying there for a while there is plenty more to do, especially visiting nearby villages and handicraft places!