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Old 8th December 2012, 14:47   #46
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Default Re: The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)

Oooh man, the Lions gave Cheetah people a miss this time. Hope they had better mind in the afternoon safari. One does feel disappointed. Nevertheless, the jungle charm and serene beauty is quite enchanting in itself.

Last edited by parsh : 8th December 2012 at 14:49.
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Old 8th December 2012, 15:57   #47
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Default 5.2 Devaliya - Gir Interpretation Zone

5.2 Devaliya - Gir Interpretation Zone

Devaliya - Gir Interpretation Zone- which is some 15 odd kilometers away from Sasan Gir is a blessing in disguise for not-so-lucky folks like us. Unlike Sasan Gir, Devaliya national park is fenced. There are no Gypsys here, instead you travel in a mini-bus. The best part is, wildlife sighting -including lions- is near guaranteed.

After the breakfast, there is nothing else to do till 3:30pm, when the afternoon safari starts.

We head for Devaliya and reach there around 10:30am.
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Timings.
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The reception and ticket office.
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The mini buses. After getting the tickets, our bus (#132) starts in less than 5 minutes.
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A minute into the safari we see a deer cautiously drinking water.
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More spotted deer (male) in perfect lighting.
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We come to a fenced area and see a lion and lioness inside. The lion is sleeping.
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The lioness is pacing.
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More deer. These are fully grown animals.
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Now the best part of the safari! We come near a tree and the guide in the bus asks everyone to keep the noise-level low. Under the tree are 2 lions - sleeping peacefully!
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The deer are nearby.
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But the lions are not interested.
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They must have their tummy already full.
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That's a black-buck deer. Its really beautiful. People who have not heard about the common spotted deer have also heard about the black buck deer because of the Salman Khan hunting episode a few years back.
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There is something in the distance.
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Ah, its a nilgai.
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Closeups of nilgai and deer. They come quite close to the bus sometimes.
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11:30am -> The safari is over and we are back to GIZ reception area.
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Seeing so many animals from so close - lions included - what a thrilling experience!

Everybody from the family thoroughly enjoyed this 45 minute safari. Any residual gloom from morning safari evaporated.

Last edited by SDP : 8th December 2012 at 16:06.
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Old 8th December 2012, 17:43   #48
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Default 5.2 Devaliya - Gir Interpretation Zone (continued)

5.2 Devaliya - Gir Interpretation Zone (continued)

Souvenir Shopping at Devaliya
After the safari, we settle down. Right in front of the souvenir shop.
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We check it out. Try a couple of caps. We pick one.
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We try T-shirts and pick up close to 10-12. Variety of sizes.
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The kids discover a creepy sculpture.
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Who thought of painting those eyes in white?
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Its almost 12:30pm. Time to say good bye to Devaliya and search for a place for lunch. BUT not before a family photo at the entrance.
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The car parked just outside.
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Lunch at Devaliya
I ask a Innova driver about any decent places to eat and he says - "Just 2 kms from Devaliya, towards Sasan Gir, just by the road side you will find village hotels with a open kitchen. You can't miss that place. Good food."

We start towards Sasan Gir and in another 5 minutes stop at Hotel Raika.
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We park by the roadside.
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You can't miss the kitchen.
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One lady preparing Bajra rotis..
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..another one preparing chapatis.
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An elderly gentleman in traditional kathiawadi attire roasting brinjals for the baingan-bharta.
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We settle down and order food.
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While waiting for food, we spot 3 deer some 100 feet behind the hotel. No photo though.

The Kathiawadi thali.
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A bit spicy, but good food.
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Simple happy people who treat you more like guests rather than customers.
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1:15pm -> We are back on the road, headed towards Sasan Gir.
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Last edited by SDP : 8th December 2012 at 17:48.
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Old 8th December 2012, 19:42   #49
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Default Gir Crocodile rearing center and the Sinh Sadan

5.3 Gir Crocodile rearing center

1:35pm -> We reach Sasan Gir again. There are still two hours for the safari to start. We decide to check out the Crocodile rearing center in the mean time.

Its just next to the Sinh Sadan.
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A few tortoises as well.
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Can you count the total number of crocs in that pile-up?
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The area is peaceful and has thick cover of trees. I am getting ideas by looking at the person on the right.
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Apparently its a camp site. I am tired. I lay down flat on my back and take a power-nap. I feel refreshed after 20-30 minutes.
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Watchman's dog.
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Kido playing games on granama's mobile.
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I need to go and pay for the Gypsy and guide again. I carry my camera along and click a few snaps in the Sinh Sadan premises.

5.4 The Sinh Sadan

That's the second gate.
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This is the main gate.
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The sketches around the lion are also interesting.
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The main reception area.
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Useful information about Sanctuaries in Gujarat. Looks like the wild after-sales&service sanctuary is almost 5 times as big as Sasan Gir!
#16 Porbandar Bird Sanctuary -> 0.09sq kms? That small?
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The map of the area and the various safari routes.
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A few photos put up there are interesting.
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If you love Gypsys and have dreamt of owning a open-top one during your childhood then you will feel like a kid in a candy store.
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Old 8th December 2012, 21:12   #50
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Default Re: 4.2 Drive, stay, food and other observations from day-4

Quote:
Originally Posted by SDP View Post
Sandesh, your detailed help in planning this leg of our trip was extremely helpful. Although there are accounts of people covering Ahmedabad to Somanath in 5 and 6 hours, I budgeted 7 hours of actual driving time, 8 hours including breaks. This was based on your latest updates about the region. It actually took 7 hours of drive.
You are welcome. Glad I could be of help

Quote:
Originally Posted by SDP View Post
Looks like they borrow a few parts from Bullets. What are these called by the way?
They are called Chakkda or Fatfati in local lingo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SDP View Post
Murdered English on a sign-board.
That's called Guj-inglish . I am sure you must have spotted this new spelling of Sanctuary, just where you take a left for Devaliya Interpretation zone.
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Great pics. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Last edited by skanchan95 : 8th December 2012 at 21:13. Reason: Correcting Quotes
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Old 8th December 2012, 21:35   #51
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Default 5.5 Sasan Gir - Afternoon safari

5.5 Sasan Gir - Afternoon safari (Fingers crossed)

I go and make the remaining payment 30 minutes before. A grumpy guide by the name Jagadish gets assigned to us. He calls me on my cell and asks us to come to the gate of Sinh Sadan. Although I had asked him earlier to get the Gypsy, he starts looking for the Gypsy only after we reach the gate. Not a good sign.

Its 3:35pm and we are still at the Sinh Sadan gate.
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The temperature might be around 30-32. No sweaters, shawls, jackets needed. Just caps. The backbenchers move to the front-row this time.
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During Devaliya visit, I had found the binoculars in the car only and we carried them along for this safari.
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The morning route was #1. Now it is #2. The entry point is slightly away on the Devaliya route.
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We take a turn from the main road at the Sukhsagar resort.
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3:40pm -> We reach the entry point.
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A quick check of the entry permit and id-proof.
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There is a poster of a lion and I click a closeup. Never know, might have to crop and use this one later. . I push out the negative thought hurriedly.
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The safari starts. Fingers tightly crossed.
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Unlike the morning guide, this guy is pretty laid back. Ours is the 5th or the 6th Gypsy entering from this gate. That's not good. From the noise of the Gypsys ahead of us, the lions might go deep.
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Another problem with following other Gypsys is the amount of dust we are inhaling.
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In the afternoon safari, the chances of spotting a lion walking along the road are practically nil. Most would be sleeping somewhere at this hour. There is a little bit of chance of catching them headed for water. So we are watching every waterbody closely.
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I see a forest guard and click a snap. The Gypsy driver advised me against it. Do note that the forest guards only carry a stick for their own defense.
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The guide has a good sense of photography and stops only at places where the sun is not behind the multiple deer we spot.
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4:30pm -> While driving by a tree, the guide sees something. He asks the driver to stop and reverse a bit. He points us to a large lizard (Monitor lizard?) in the tree. Its a bit difficult to spot initially.
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The noise from us alerts him.
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Another 5 minutes later, we spot a mongoose.
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A beautiful deer.
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Peacocks.
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Peahens.
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5:15pm -> We spot a wild cat. Its noticeably bigger than domestic cats.
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It looks straight at us and gives a nice pose.
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The clock is ticking. We are almost 2 hours into the safari. About one hour left. Would we get lucky this time? Would we spot a lion?

Last edited by SDP : 8th December 2012 at 21:43.
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Old 8th December 2012, 22:51   #52
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Default 5.5 Sasan Gir - Afternoon safari (continued)

5.5 Sasan Gir - Afternoon safari (continued..fingers more tightly crossed)

We encounter a few Gypsys stopped at a particular point. All the guides exchange notes and then everybody starts in the same direction. Apparently there has been a spotting nearby.

With a confirmed lead, our Gypsy picks up speed. By this time, we had inhaled so much of dust that all my handkerchiefs are doing a different job in this trip - that of covering the mouth.

And unexpectedly we stop at a point where almost 6-7 Gypsys have already stopped. Our guide proudly points towards the right and indeed there is a sleeping male lion there!
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This shot should give some idea about how far the lion was.
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The lion remains in that position for some time. We are excited, but I ensure that there is no noise from our group. The lion is not fast asleep and is moving his tail once in a while. Folks from some of the Gypsys are behaving as if they are in a zoo. The lion, although resting, is alert. He raises his head. He doesn't bother to look at the tourists, but his ears are picking up all the chatter.
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As the lion raised his head, the people in all the Gypsys got excited. Cameras are clicking at a fast pace.
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The lion is least bothered and continues to gaze towards the jungle.
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Couple of forest guards are monitoring the situation and keeping the Gypsys under control. (Not sure what the young boy is doing there.)
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The forest guard guides one Gypsy at a time off-road and allows them to get a bit closer to the lion. The Gypsy in front apparently had people with good connection to Sasan Gir authorities. They were the most noisy and and were trying to attract the lion's attention by hook or crook. The forest guard is in two minds whether to intervene or not. Finally he runs out of patience, comes to the Gypsy in front and politely tells them not to do such things. He says -"He is the King! If he doesn't want, he won't look at you even if you beat drums here."
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The Gypsy in front and our Gypsy are the only 2 off-road and closest to the lion now. And then it happens! It happens in a matter of a few seconds, but I will remember every second of it for my life.

Starts with no head visible.
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Something alerts him. He raises his head.
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Looks at the right.
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Then towards the jungle. We pray - please, Please, PLEASE turn a bit more to the left.
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and he does!
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He decides to do us a big favour and just for one second, turns towards us!
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A closeup.
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We are elated! In next 10 seconds the lion goes back to his starting position.
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We spent overall around 12-13 minutes there. Two DSLRs from our Gypsy clicking non-stop. And we are happy that we are able to catch those precise moments when he turned to us!

5:35pm -> The forest guard waves us off and we start from there.

5:50pm -> The sun is about to set. We spot more deer and peacocks, but the light is no longer good for photography.
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About 6:10pm, we exit the sanctuary.

We freshen up at the Sinh Sadan and also check out a exhibit which gives some interesting trivia about the extinction of Cheetahs in India and the Maldhari tribe that shares the Gir jungle with the lions.

We start towards Somnath around 6:30pm. A parting shot of the Sinh Sadan.
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We travel back, exchanging our views about the day's experience and reliving those magical moments, a wide grin on our faces!

Last edited by SDP : 8th December 2012 at 23:09.
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Old 9th December 2012, 01:53   #53
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Default 5.6 Drive, stay, food and other observations from day-5

5.6 Drive, stay, food and other observations from day-5

1. Drove the XUV for almost 3 hours today. Distance covered -> 109 kms. Toll paid -> Nil.

2. Besides this spent close to 5 hours in open-top Gypsys. Loved it.

3. Reached back to Lilatavi Guesthouse at Somnath around 8pm. Due to all the dust encountered all day, a bath was essential. Post the bath, had dinner at the same Sardar Hotel.

4. Even the car suffered because of all the dust. Besides the exterior being covered with dust, even the interiors got a generous helping of dust because of the fresh-air mode used by the ACC to avoid the windshield from fogging up.

5. One Lion-safari charge -> Rs 675 for permit + Rs 200 for 2 cameras + Rs 1000 for Gypsy + Rs 150 for guide + tips (driver + guide)

6. Devaliya safari charges -> Rs 115 per head

7. During search on internet, (besides Sinh Sadan) I was finding very few stay options at Sasan Gir and all were expensive properties. The reality is different. There are many more options in more affordable range. e.g. just outside the Sinh Sadan, a food hotel Annapurna also had a few rooms for rent and the guy was asking for 800rs per night per room. The Hotel Raika in Devaliaya where we had lunch also had stay options on the other side of the road for ~1500Rs.

8. For breakfast and lunch, the hotels just outside Sinh Sadan offer limited options. Sinh Sadan should also have some options, did not check out though. Devaliya GIZ has a small canteen, but they were really struggling to handle the crowd.

9. There are leopards as well in Gir. Their population is smaller than the lions and are rarely spotted.

10. Spotting lions in Gir safari is not guaranteed. Most people take multiple safaris. 2-3 safaris minimum.

11. Would have loved to take the XUV inside ther Gir Sanctuary. Apparently there is a way to get into the sanctuary with your own vehicle. Anybody who has done this earlier, can you please share how to go about it?
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Old 9th December 2012, 08:40   #54
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6.0 Day-6 (23 Nov 2012) planning

Quote:
Day 6 (Fri-23-Nov) -> Start around 6am towards Porbandar and Dwarka. Stop at Porbandar for a quick visit to Kirti mandir. Might try to cover Sudama Mandir as well. Reach Dwarka around 12 noon. Head for Bet Dwarka directly post lunch and cover Dwarkadhish temple, Rukmini Devi temple and Nageshwar Jyotirling after returning from Bet Dwarka. Stay at Hotel Gomti in Dwarka.
We still haven't covered Bhalka Tirth and Geeta Mandir from our day-4 plan. So we include that as the first thing in today's plan. With all the peculiarities about Dwarkadheesh darshan timings, it is important to reach Dwarka as early as possible in the day. So visits to Geeta mandir, Bhalka Tirth and Porbandar have to be quick.

We get up around 5:30am and get ready. We are moving base from Somnath, so I load the car with all the luggage and clean the car a bit while others get ready. Handing over the keys and getting back the deposit takes longer than I expected.

6:45am -> We start from Lilavati Guesthouse.

6.1 Geeta Mandir

During planning, I remember, Sandesh (sakanchan95) clearing my doubts about Geeta mandir being a different place than Bhalka Tirth and understanding that although both are associated with Lord Krishna's demise, there is a subtle difference. Apparently, Bhalka Tirth is the place where Shreekrishna was struck by the stray arrow and Geeta mandir is the place where he passed away to the other world.

The sun has just risen, but the direction is not in favor of photography.
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The Goloktham Tirth has many other temples besides the main attraction - the Geeta Mandir.
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The Geeta Mandir
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A board in Gujarathi.
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Mother and son - posing for a snap.
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My mother and her grandson - posing for another snap.
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We explore the place.
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Its beautiful. Is this the Triveni sangam?
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From here I notice the sculpture at the top of the Geeta Mandir. It depicts the scene when Shreekrishna tells the Bhagwad Gita to the confused Arjun.
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Although I was primarily interested in the Geeta mandir, my family explores other temples in the GolokTirth as well.

7:10am -> We start towards Bhalka Tirth.

The sun-rise.
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Although the fish smell offends your senses all the time, this is the first time we see the fishing boats in Veraval.
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The sun-rise while crossing a railway-line.
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A new ship being built.
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6.2 Bhalka Tirth
7:20am -> We reach Bhalka Tirth and park.
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No, that shivlanga is not part of Bhalka Tirth. Remember, Bhalka Tirth is associated with Krishna and not Shiva?

In fact, Bhalka Tirth is just next to this huge shivalinga. That's the entry point.
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The Bhalka-tirth temple. Even so early in the day, there is a decent crowd of devotees.
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We get the darshan. The idol is beautiful. I come out to capture the sunrise once again.
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We in front of the Bhalka Tirth.
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Last edited by SDP : 9th December 2012 at 09:01.
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Old 9th December 2012, 08:57   #55
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Default Re: The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)

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Although the fish smell offends your senses all the time, this is the first time we see the fishing boats in Veraval.
Well that's one of Veraval's two lifelines , i.e. main sources of employment - the other being Indian Rayon Factory. For a local(former) like me, it was a part of daily life. These days fishery catches and export market are dull, or else you sure would have spotted chakkdas ferrying fish to factories, something like this:
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In terms of tonnage of fishery exports, Veraval ranks first in the country. You will find it hard to believe that there are more than 100 factories involved in fisheries export in such a small town. I am sure you would have seen 3-4 factories on the main road while on your way to Bhalka Mandir.

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Originally Posted by SDP View Post
No, that shivlanga is not part of Bhalka Tirth. Remember Bhalka Tirth is associated with Krishna and not Shiva?

In fact, Bhalka Tirth is just next to this huge shivalinga. That's the entry point.
The Shiv Ling is an extension of a building belonging to the Brahmakumaris. Inside the Shiv Ling building, there is a small museum. Not sure if they open it so early in the morning.

Last edited by skanchan95 : 9th December 2012 at 09:05.
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Old 9th December 2012, 10:12   #56
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Default 6.3 Gandhiji's birthplace - The Kirtimandir - at Porbandar

6.3 Gandhiji's birthplace - The Kirtimandir - at Porbandar

8:00am -> We finally leave Veraval and head for Dwarka through Porbandar.
Morning scenes along this route.
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Madhavpur Beach. We stop her for a minute or so.
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9:45am -> We reach Porbandar and park as close as possible to the Kirti Mandir.
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Before visiting the Kirti mandir, we want to have a breakfast. We walk for 15-20 minutes, but find no restaurant.
We retreat all the way back to where we had parked. We walk for 2 minutes and see the Kirti Mandir on the right (building with brick-red pillars).
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The road is pretty narrow and it is best not to park here.
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We get inside Kirti Mandir and explore the place.
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View from the first floor.
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Darwaja
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Gandhiji and Kasturbaji
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The pillars
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A family photo
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10:30am -> Sudama mandir is apparently very nearby, but we miss it. Everybody is hungry.
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We waste the next 30 minutes driving around in Porbandar, in search of a decent place for breakfast. Somehow we can not find any place open even at 11am. We settle for misc items in our kitty and head towards Dwarka.
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Old 9th December 2012, 10:58   #57
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Default Re: 6.3 Gandhiji's birthplace - The Kirtimandir - at Porbandar

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Before visiting the Kirti mandir, we want to have a breakfast. We walk for 15-20 minutes, but find no restaurant.

We waste the next 30 minutes driving around in Porbandar, in search of a decent place for breakfast. Somehow we can not find any place open even at 11am. We settle for misc items in our kitty and head towards Dwarka.
I should have warned you about this and feel bad not for doing so. In Saurashtra region( from Rajkot onwards), there is no decent place where you can order "normal' breakfast and you'll be lucky if you find one. You will find several places where you get freshly made Gaathiya/Faafda( with semi-fried hot green chillies) & Jalebi though, i.e the staple food which the locals eat anytime.

A few pics when myself and some friends drove over to Dwarka in October. This place is on the main road in Porbandar. Unfortunately, this is the only thing you can get in the name of breakfast.
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Last edited by skanchan95 : 9th December 2012 at 11:06.
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Old 9th December 2012, 11:16   #58
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Default Re: The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)

SDP, detailing in your posts is amazing.

Many people who have visited Gir have been disappointed by gypsy safari.
The bus safari is much better.

I am not sure if this is true, but have heard that lions dont hunt and they are fed by the authorities.

I would have been happy to see Duma inside the "Century"
Did you visit Diu? its worth a visit once.
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Old 9th December 2012, 12:23   #59
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Default Re: The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)

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Originally Posted by skanchan95 View Post
I should have warned you about this and feel bad not for doing so. In Saurashtra region( from Rajkot onwards), there is no decent place where you can order "normal' breakfast and you'll be lucky if you find one. You will find several places where you get freshly made Gaathiya/Faafda( with semi-fried hot green chillies) & Jalebi though, i.e the staple food which the locals eat anytime.

A few pics when myself and some friends drove over to Dwarka in October. This place is on the main road in Porbandar. Unfortunately, this is the only thing you can get in the name of breakfast.
...
We did see a couple of such places, but kept on searching in vain for better options. To be frank, I would not have mind fafda+jalebi. In fact would have loved Jalebi ! Can't say the same about the rest of my family members though!

I was hopeful about Nataraj and Moon Palace which we saw while going towards Kirti mandir, but both were closed. We stopped at Hotel Harmony, but they don't have a restaurant attached. Then there were a couple of 'paratha' places, one was closed and the other was supposed to be inaugurated in 2-3 days. We couldn't wait that long.

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Originally Posted by silverado View Post
SDP, detailing in your posts is amazing.

Many people who have visited Gir have been disappointed by gypsy safari.
The bus safari is much better.

I am not sure if this is true, but have heard that lions dont hunt and they are fed by the authorities.

I would have been happy to see Duma inside the "Century"
Did you visit Diu? its worth a visit once.
Thanks Silverado! As per my understanding, lions in Devaliya are fed, but not the ones in Sasan Gir.

After the average 'guide' experience, I am definitely going to try getting "Duma" inside the jungle, the next time I am at Gir. A little birdie told me that there is a local deity's famous temple inside the sanctuary and the the forest officials allow private vehicles till that point, which is around 15kms into the jungle. Would need to find more details.

Diu is also reserved for next time!

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Old 9th December 2012, 13:10   #60
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Default 6.4 Nageshwar Jyotirlinga at Dwarka

After Porbandar, we stop just once, near a waterbody and notice a lot of birds.
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The XUV crosses another milestone during this 200 odd kms journey.
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We reach Dwarka by 12:45pm. We have a booked a single large 4 bed room at Hotel Gomati (as separate 2-bed rooms were not available). We claim the room quickly and head for lunch at the same hotel.

Darshan at Dwarakadheesh temple is closed from 1 to 5pm. I was aware of this and so my plan was to go to Bet Dwaraka in the mean time and then cover Nageshwara Temple and Rukminidevi temple. After lunch, I checked with the hotel owner and he told me one critical information - the darshan even at the Bet Dwaraka temple would be closed between 1-5pm. So he suggested - "You should cover Nageshwara temple and Gopi Talav till 4pm and then head towards Okha Port for a ferry to Bet Dwaraka. Come back from bet Dwarka by 6-6:30pm. Drive back to main Dwarka by 7-7:30pm and then take the Dwarakadheesh darshan".

Perfect! I thanked the hotel-owner. Lunch was over by 2pm. After resting for half an hour, we started for Nageshwara Jyotirlinga at 2:30pm.

6.4 Nageshwar Jyotirlinga at Dwarka

The temple can be identified from quite afar because of the huge Shiva statue.
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We reach the place in 15 minutes and park a bit away from all the crowd.
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A snap for the family-photo collection.
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The HUGE Shiva is really imposing and I couldn't stop myself from clicking it from multiple angles.
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There are a large number of pigeons and apparently there is parking issue.
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The entrance.
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The sun-light was from the perfect direction and the CPL helped to darken the sky well.
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The Nageshwara temple.
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Bhagwat-Geeta summary.
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Information about the 12 Jyotirlingas.
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A Shani-mandir in the same premises.
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Lotuses in a river (or was it a lake?) just next to the temple.
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Family.
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The temple again.
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Posing with the temple in the background.
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Parting shots of the Shiva
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Love the peaceful expression on that face! Wish I could forget all my worries and attain that state of mind.
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3:40pm -> We start from Nageshwara temple towards Gopi Talav/Rukmini Temple.

Last edited by SDP : 9th December 2012 at 13:14.
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