Chapter I: Across Gujarat
DAY 1- 12th October, 2015, Monday – “Announcing the Arrival of Flight!”
You will be received at the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. On arrival, you will be escorted to your hotel. For the remaining part of the day, you can take it easy in the luxurious environs of your hotel. Or, you may want to get out and explore right away. If you wish to do the latter we would suggest visiting Chor Bazaar the knick-knack-and-what-not street of Mumbai.
DAY 2- 13th October, 2015, Tuesday – In Maximum City
Welcome to Mumbai! a cosmopolitan city that is also the financial and the film capital of India. It is said that the city was given to the British as part of the wedding dowry when Catherine Briganza (Princess of Portugal) married King Charles II of England. Well, since then a lot has changed.
Mumbai will be the first rally point for everyone. We have sliced out an entire day for you here, so that you have a chance to see the city up close and the teeming millions that make it very special. This day also marks the 144th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation. We have thrown in a heritage walk in the old Fort area, visits to the busy Victoria Terminus and the bustling Crawford market. And that’s not it. We also take you to the Dhobi Ghat- said to be the largest (laundromat) in Asia.
We end the day with a little dinner at the hotel.
DAY 3- 14th October, 2015, Wednesday – Getting Closer to the Start
The day starts with an early breakfast at the hotel, post which you will be immediately whisked away to the Mumbai domestic airport for a short flight to the city of Bhuj, in the state of Gujarat.
Bhuj is located North of Mumbai and lies in the dry and arid Kutch region. Not very long ago, the city was subject to one of India’s biggest natural disasters- an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the magnitude scale.
Established in the 16th century, the city is currently the headquarters of the Kutch region. It is also a famous destination of handicraft work. On your arrival in Bhuj, you will be taken to a nearby village to witness some of the resist-printed cotton work by the local artisans. You will then be driven back to the hotel, just in time to savour a relishing Gujarati vegetarian meal.
DAY 4- 15th October, 2015, Thursday – Temples and Bazaars
You have not seen India, if you’ve missed the Indian bazaar (generally known as ‘mandis’). So we have carved out some time for an early morning walk to a nearby ‘mandi’. This will give you ample opportunities to haggle with the local fruit & vegetable vendors. So be persistent and drive a hard bargain!
After your breakfast at the hotel, you will take a tour of the Aina Mahal and the Prag Mahal. In the evening, you will also be a part of the aarti ceremony at the famous Swaminarayan temple. The aarti ceremony will be followed by devotional music and later you will also have the chance to see the temple kitchen where free food is served.
DAY 5- 16th October, 2015, Friday – The True Start of the Trip
This is bound to be one of the busiest days of the chapter. After an early morning breakfast, you will be driven to the border town of Lakhpat(literally city of millionaires), which is at a distance of 140km. from Bhuj. This flourishing-trade-centre-now-turned-ghost-town was once an important post connecting Gujarat and Sind (now in Pakistan). You will be taken on a tour through the old town and around the fort that surrounds it. There is also an old Gurudwara in Lakhpat and it is said that it was at this place that Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikhism – had stayed on his way to Mecca.
After Lakhpat, you will be taken through the Rann to a small town called Nirona. The place is known for a three hundred year old work of art called Rogan. And if you don’t know about it, I suggest you gear up for some serious lessons, for Nirona is the only place in the country where this work is created.
A vegetarian supper prepared by the local community will await you when you arrive at Hodka in the evening. You will then check in at the rural resort, which is run by the local villagers(a UNDP project).
DAY 6- 17th October, 2015, Saturday – Love Across the Salt Desert
On this day, we show you around the villages in the grasslands of the Banni area exploring mud-work, godadi-work (very small quilts), patch–work and hand made embroidery. This area is often referred to as the gateway to the Rann.
Time and again, we have read and heard of the sunsets over the Great Rann of Kutch. The salt desert is an endless white palette where the day and the night meet fleetingly at dusk to paint a beautiful twilight. So, we give you a chance to watch the sun go down. This will be followed by a local performance while you savour your meal and then retire for the day.
DAY 7- 18th October, 2015, Sunday – Two Caravans
As always, you start with breakfast, check-out of your room and board your vehicle to leave for Dasada. This will be the longest drive so far and we intend to stop somewhere along the road to show you where and how do Indians get their salt. If your are lucky, you may have a moment with the colourful caravans of the nomads enroute to Dasada. You will arrive at Dasada in the evening and will have the end of the day for yourself to reminisce about life and how good it has been for you.
DAY 8- 19th October, 2015, Monday – Lines on the Map and Lines on a Drawing
You would start the day with an early morning jeep safari into the Little Rann of Kutch. After breakfast, we lead you into an excursion to the the Modera Sun Temple. Lunch would be served enroute. You would also visit the Bechraji Temple. The Tropic of Cancer passes through the Bechraji temple. Dinner will be served in the camp at the end of the day.
DAY 9- 20th October, 2015, Tuesday – Of Salt and Water
After a leisurely breakfast, you would leave for Ahmedabad. Enroute, you will stop at the Adalaj step-well. The step-well at Adalaj was built towards the end of the 15th century and in this part of the world such wells are locally called ‘vavs’. The well is intricately carved and five stories deep. You will have a chance to study the intricately carved structure and observe its architectural embellishments.
You also visit the Rani Sipri mosque in Ahmedabad. Later you will check-in at your hotel, have lunch and proceed to the Sabarmati Ashram. This Gandhi Ashram was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi for about twelve years. The place derives it’s relevance in history as the point from which Mahatma Gandhi led the Dandi march. In the evening, you will be taken to the local market at Law Garden.
Since this will be your last night in Gujarat, you will celebrate it with the locals as you clothe yourselves in traditional attire – colorful embroidered choli and ghagra for women and turbans and kedias for men- and dance to the tunes of folk music in decked up pandals.