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Old 30th November 2012, 18:41   #1
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Arrow The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)

0.1 Background

"WHY" -> I am almost 40 years old and this is my first real long trip in India. Although during my brief stint in US, I had gone on some crazy long drives (e.g. Memphis to Las Vegas - NonStop - 3 drivers), I have never really ventured to far off places in India. A lot of it is because of the poor infrastructure in India especially from tourism perspective. We want to go out for a few days to get away from stressful city life and experience some good things. But the following concerns put a big question mark if any travel in India is a happy experience at all:
1. Crazy traffic and bad roads even while on a vacation
2. The thought of using a dirty public toilet that makes you cringe
3. Finding a decent place to stay without burning a big hole in the pocket
4. The un-hygenic conditions in which your food is prepared & served at some of the places

Travelling with wife and young kids tends to accentuate some of these concerns.

As a child and even during my teenage years, I have not really travelled to touristy places at all. Long vacation typically meant spending time at our native village or my grandmother's place. But I want my own kids to travel a lot also, and see,feel and experience a wide variety of things. And if possible, I want to take my parents along to some of these places.

With the acquisition of a big comfortable SUV (Duma) in June'2012, I decided to take a leap with my long-trip dreams. Week after Diwali was finalized as we did not wanted to disrupt kids' school. Called up my parents and bounced the dates off them, they said OK to accompany us.

My dad is 71 years old and my mom is 65. Also my first long trip. So don't want to venture beyond neighboring states. Gujarat, Karnataka, MadhyaPradesh. As far as tourism is concerned, from these 3, Gujarat's "Kuch din toh gujaro Gujarat main" and MP's "Hindustan ka dil dekho" promotions have had a lasting impression on me. Between these 2, Gujarat is closer, so Gujarat it is this time. "WHEN", "WHO" and "WHERE" is finalized.

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Last edited by SDP : 4th December 2012 at 12:21.
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Old 30th November 2012, 19:06   #2
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Default 0.2 Planning

0.2 Planning

Next step -> "HOW"
Now the real problem started. Except a few references during history and geography lessons while in school, I was blissfully unaware of what to see in Gujarat. Thought of starting a thread in the routes and travel queries section. But starting a open-ended planning thread without any research-effort from my side would be like disrespecting fellow TBHPian's time. So did research on internet about what to see and typical iterniraries etc. Chalked out a 7 day plan from 18th Nov till 24th Nov and started the detailed planning thread on TBHP: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...th-dwarka.html (Planning 7 day trip : Ahmedabad - Sasan Gir - Somnath - Dwarka)

Besides the planning guru HVK, a lot of other folks helped to bring the plan from "ambitious" to all the way down "doable". Lots of help from members based out of Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad and Veraval! A BIG Thank You guys for all the support.

Cutting the long story short (you can read the details in the planning thread), the final plan got elongated by one additional day. Here's the final plan:
Quote:
Day 1 (Sun-18-Nov) -> Start around 5am from Mumbai and reach Ahmedabad by 2pm. Head for Akshardham@Gandhinagar directly. Reach Akshardham not later than 4pm. Spend next 3-4 hours at Akshardham. Water-screen laser show and other exhibits at Akshardham. Return to Ahmedabad for dinner around 9pm. Stay at hotel Treatotel in Memnagar.

Day 2 (Mon-19-Nov) -> Start around 9am in the morning. Day trip to Adalaj (Rudabai ni vav) -> Modhera (sun temple) -> Patan (Rani ni vav, Sahasraling Talav, Patan Patola Salvi family) -> Sidhpur (Rudra temple remains, Bohra community houses). If time permits visit Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad in the evening. Stay at Treatotel.

Day 3 (Tue-20-Nov) -> Take Ahmedabad city tour (Dekho Amdavad) operated by the tourism department. 8am till 1pm. Post lunch some shopping. Evening at Kankaria lake or take rest. Stay at Treatotel.

Day 4 (Wed-21-Nov) -> Start around 6am from Ahmedabad and reach Somnath by 1pm. Visit Somnath temple and Bhalka Tirth post lunch. While the family takes rest, I would drive to Sasan Gir to complete the formalities for the morning and evening lion safaris on 22nd Nov. Sasan Gir office timing 5-7pm for this formality. Stay at Lilavati Guesthouse of the Somnath trust.

Day 5 (Thu-22-Nov) -> Wake up in the middle of the night and travel to Sasan Gir just in time for the morning safari. Lunch at Sasan Gir. Post lunch, evening safari and then travel back to Somnath. Stay at Lilavati Guesthouse.

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.

Day 7 (Sat-24-Nov) -> Start around 9am from Dwarka. Possibly get Dwarkadheesh darshan in the morning. Head for Jamnagar. Call up Hotel president the day before to check the feasibility of visiting Narara marine park and low-tide timings in the morning. Cover Narara island if possible. Head to Vadodara through Rajkot -> Limbdi -> Vataman -> Borsad -> Vadodara. Reach Vadodara by 8-9pm. Stay at Vadodara.

Day 8 (Sun-25-Nov) -> Cover Laxmi Vilas palace and the Sayaji Baug in the morning. Start for Mumbai around 1pm. Reach home by 7-8pm.
The places to be visited marked on the Gujarat state map:
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Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 17:36.
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Old 30th November 2012, 19:13   #3
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Default 0.3 General Preparation

0.3 General Preparation
The preparation started 2 months in advance and went on till the last moment.

Although the XUV has a navigation system built-in, I had found it to be unreliable sometimes. It might not show the best route, it recalculates the route if you miss a turn (rather than suggesting a U turn), some roads are not updated in the maps etc. So spent a lot of time on Google maps to note down the coordinates of important places and key milestones along the route. Noted down point to point distances and figured our estimated travel time based on multiple sources including advice from TBHPians.

Did a lot of research to finalize what all 'attractions' we wanted to see. Went overboard and listed more than we could cover. It was OK as we could always drop a few. But adding a new one on the fly, if we get free earlier, would have become a challenge. Didn't want to open the laptop and get onto internet in the middle of the day.

Although a few people suggested not to book hotels in advance, I did take help from a travel agent to book the hotels in advance. 3 nights booked at Treatotel at Ahmedabad. 2 nights booked at Lilavati Guesthouse at Somnath (a mistake, details later). 1 night booked at Hotel Gomti at Dwarka. One night booked VERY LATE at Saffire Regency at Vadodara. The Vadodara booking was done very late as the plan changed from 7 days to 8 days quite late and the agent kept on dilly-dallying the booking because of the Diwali season.

Booked 2 lion safaris in advance for day-5 ie 21st Nov. Its amazing how Somnath Trust and the forest dept at Sasan Gir are still living in the 70's and operate using faxes and Demand Drafts.

Was extremely skeptical about hotel food during this trip. Had not received any concrete recommendations for eating joints OR the suggested ones did not gel with our plans. The kids are finicky about food, they would not try anything new. My mother is also choosy about food. Wife needs the place, dishes and cutlery super-clean. I decided that we would stick to veg. food for the entire trip. With all the religious sight-seeing on the cards, nobody really objected. Plus there was no point getting food poisoning because of stale meat/sea-food in a land where people prefer veg food.

Luggage -> OK. 8 day trip, so 8 pairs of good clothes + t-shirts + trackpants + 2 pairs of shoes etc etc etc. That was just for me, one cabin-luggage sized Skybag full, almost bursting at seams and still there is more stuff left. So one more carry bag for me. Wife had a separate large bag. The clothes and medicines for the kids went into another extra large bag. My parents had 2 trolley-bags of their own. Then another backpack stuffed with junk food like variety of namkeen, chocolates, chips etc.
My own camera bag - Nikon D90 with 18-120 + 70-300 + 50mm prime + charger + 16GB memory split across 4 cards. We are going to Gir as well, an additional camera would be useful. So another camera bag with my sister's Nikon D5100 with kit lens + charger + 22GB memory. Not to forget my Olympus 10x50 binoculars.
Another backpack with my laptop, charger, Photon+. Caps, shawls, sweaters, towels. The list was endless. Then there were a few handbags, polythene bags with misc items. Finally with last 2 seats folded, the boot was completely filled till the bottom of the head-rests of the 2nd row.
Unfortunately no snap with the hatch-door open. I guess I did not take a snap as it was a ugly sight. But you can get a fair idea by looking at the rear-shot of the XUV in the next post. While packing I had told my wife - no compromise, take whatever you want. We didn't want to regret leaving anything behind or waste time searching for things at a unknown place.

We had obviously overpacked, but then what's life without a few excesses (especially when your car's boot allows it).

Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 17:45.
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Old 30th November 2012, 21:04   #4
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Default 0.4 Getting the cheetah ready for the trip

0.4 Getting the cheetah ready for the trip

Knew that Gujarat police stop vehicles without the yellow sticker on the right hand side headlamp. Bought a yellow insulation tape and put one on 2 days before the travel.
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I was apprehensive about being troubled by traffic police while on the trip. I have a special registration number - 9222. But the number plate from the dealer was quite basic. A day before the trip, I got the plates upgraded so that the "MH-nn XX" part became smaller and "9222" became bigger.
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Also added a orange strip on top and a green one at bottom. The number plate looks impressive now. Hopefully not too many people would notice that we are from out of state and the large special number should convey "VIP" . Fingers crossed.
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The vehicle was serviced 2 weeks before the trip and a potential problem with power steering fluid leakage was solved. Had heard about a few clutch failures also (again because of oil leakage). Was worried about any pipe-burst. Nothing could be done in that case. BUT if the leakage is minor, may be I can at least top up the oil. So bought a bottle of brake fluid and another of Power Steering Fluid. Made a note to myself to check the fluid levels regularly during the trip. Again fingers crossed!

My XUV runs on 32psi in front and 30 in the rear tyres - as per M&M recommendation. With 4 adults, 2 kids and 8 days of luggage; I decided to bump up the pressure to 34 in all tyres. Wanted to do it on the last day before the trip and carry my own pressure gauge. Could not find my pressure gauge and finally went to top-up the air around 4:30pm the day before (18th Nov). Incidentally, a senior influential leader in Mumbai had passed away a couple of hours before and the shops had started shutting down. The puncture-shop guy quickly filled up air which I couldn't reliably verify to be 34psi. Asked him to check the fifth tyre as well. He tried and then gave up as the tension was building up to close the shop. I said - never mind, would check the air-pressure during the trip if needed.

With all the uncertainty around sun-films, I was going back and forth about the decision to install the sun-film on my windows. Did not want trouble during a out-of-state trip and opted out of it. But the plan had all the travel during day-time. So I cut 2 of my old white cotton shirts (not tees) and created 5-6 different sized pieces which could be pinched in the window and would hopefully provide relief from the harsh sun. Was skeptical about this, but turned out to be a perfect solution (although non-photogenic).
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Considered installing foot-steps and roof-carrier, but somehow drifted away from it. No time, plus the need was not that strong.

Waxed the car - multiple sessions spread over 5 days before the trip. In hindsight, that really helped to keep the car clean during the trip. Filled up diesel the day before. Removed the center head-rest in the 2nd row as it typically obstructs my rear-view. The kids would be in the middle (flanked by my parents), so that particular head-rest was anyway of no use. Stuffed a stack of tissue papers in the center-compartment of the dashboard. Water bottles in each of the door-bottle-holders in first and second row. A few black garbage disposal bags so that the car does not get littered with chocolate wrappers and stuff. We take pride in claiming that we do not throw anything out of the window.

Moved the simple type-R steering lock from my Alto to the XUV and kept the fingers crossed that it would provide some security.

Last but not least, carried 2 full-size pillows so as to provide comfort to my parents and kids. They turned out to be quite helpful. My mom used one to block the sun from her side of the window sometimes and used it to rest her head against the window a few other times. The other one provided additional support to my dad's back. The kids used them for sleeping during driving.

All set! Enough planning and preparation, its time to actually head to Gujarat!

Last edited by SDP : 2nd December 2012 at 07:17.
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Old 1st December 2012, 16:34   #5
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Default 1.0 Day-1 (18 Nov 2012) planning

1.0 Day-1 (18 Nov 2012) planning

Quote:
Day 1 (Sun-18-Nov) -> Start around 5am from Mumbai and reach Ahmedabad by 2pm. Head for Akshardham@Gandhinagar directly. Reach Akshardham not later than 4pm. Spend next 3-4 hours at Akshardham. Water-screen laser show and other exhibits at Akshardham. Return to Ahmedabad for dinner around 9pm. Stay at hotel Treatotel in Memnagar.
Due to the death of the highly influential politician in Mumbai On Saturday 17th Nov, there was a good chance that a 'bandh' would be called in Mumbai on 18th. We had anyways planned to start from Mumbai at 5am. That's quite early even if there could have been trouble in the city. I updated everyone in the family that we should try to leave Mumbai at the earliest on 19th. Got up at 3am. By 4-4:15am, everybody was ready. Another 15 minutes to cleant the XUV and load the luggage.

4:35am-> We started from Mumbai towards Ahmedabad. "Ganpati Bappa Morya"! Odo reading -> 4271

1.1 Drive from Mumbai to Ahmedabad
The drive was pretty effortless. Not much traffic. A Fortuner gave company for a good amount of time.

7:00am -> Its about two and half hours since we started. The sun has risen around 6:30am. Need to stop somewhere to freshen up. We spot a "Sugar N Spice" and pull over.

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The XUV looks smashing in morning light.
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My dad and my son.
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The morning sun reflecting from the hotel's glass facade.
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A family group shot.
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The place is open and looks decent. We decide to have breakfast also.
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Garlic bread with cheese for the kids!
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Dosas for us.
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Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 18:02.
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Old 1st December 2012, 18:19   #6
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Default 1.1 Drive from Mumbai to Ahmedabad

1.1 Drive from Mumbai to Ahmedabad (continued after breakfast)

7:55am -> We rejoin NH8 towards Ahmedabad after an hour of breakfast.

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ALL back-seat passengers belted up.
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The NH8 has good signage.
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Quite a good part of NH8 is a series of flyovers, one after another.
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Overloaded truck.
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Hotel. Pure Veg. A lot of hotels have only vegetarian options in Gujarat.
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Ahmedabad still a double ton away.
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We take the route through Ankaleshwar and Bharuch. First glimpse of the Golden Bridge over Narmada river.
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First sight of green and yellow autorickshaws in Gujarat.
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The bridge is really narrow and as recommended by a fellow BHPian, I fold my ORVMs. It's a weird feeling. Felt like I am 75% blind.
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Vegetables being grown on the Narmada bank.
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Finally, the LONG golden bridge comes to an end.
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Ah..Gujarat state transport bus. We need to get used to seeing a lot of these over the next 7 days.
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A interesting structure on the way.
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The Vadodara-Ahmedabad Expressway!
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Awesome is the only word that can describe this expressway.
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On highways, the Navigator is on mute and is used just as a reference.
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Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2012 at 19:41.
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Old 1st December 2012, 19:03   #7
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Default 1.2 First (and only) encounter with Gujarat police and Day-1 lunch

1.2 First (and only) encounter with Gujarat police and Day-1 lunch

In about 55 minutes, we exit the Vadodara-Ahmedabad highway at the Sardar Patel Ring road. Its 11:45am. We are doing fantastic on time. Although as per plan, we need to head directly for Akshardham, there is enough time to check-in the hotel, freshen up and have a relaxed lunch before we start for Akshardham.

We are booked for 3 nights at Hotel Treatotel in Memnagar area. We take the ring road exit towards Sarkhej and then join the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway towards our Hotel.

As we get closer to Ahmedabad city, the traffic increases noticeably. At a traffic-light, a policeman looks at our number plate and signals us to pull over. Now what? My heart leaps. Although we have nothing to fear about, we are not exactly looking forward to doing any 'donations' and more importantly wasting time. I pull over, lower the window and stay in my seat. The chap approaches.

Him (in Hindi): "Where are you coming from?"
Me: "Mumbai"

He pulls out a small notebook and starts noting down information.
He: "Name?"
Me: "Sanjay"

He: "Full name!"
Me: "Sanjay xxxx xxxx"

He: "Sanjaykumar xxxx xxxx" and writes it down.
I chuckle. I have been renamed on my first day in Gujarat!

He proceeds to get details about my complete address, my destination hotel and how long we would be in Ahmedabad. Notes down my driving license number, cell number as well and waves us off. Just 4-5 minutes and no money involved. That wasn't too bad.

After a little bit of difficulty, we locate the hotel. I had noted the exact coordinates of the hotel's location and had fed them to the navigator. The problem is, from google maps, you can't figure out if it is the front of the building or the back. So at one random point with the hotel nowhere in sight, the navigator announced "You have reached your destination". I park the vehicle a few feet farther down and get off to ask about the address. One guy mentions that most likely the hotel is in the lane just behind this road. Another guy gives a landmark "next to Sterling Hospital". In another 5 minutes we park at the hotel. Its 12:30pm.

After dumping the luggage in the rooms and quickly freshening up, we come down to the Tamarind Hotel attached to the Treatotel.
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The waiting area in the lobby.
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Waiting for lunch.
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We ordered standard Punjabi stuff. The food arrives. No surprises, it is just like any decent Mumbai hotel. The kids like the food. We are Happy.
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One problem solved. At least for 3 days we don't have to worry about where to eat and what options would we get.

Last edited by SDP : 1st December 2012 at 21:01.
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Old 1st December 2012, 21:13   #8
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Default 1.3 A visit to Akshardham complex @Gandhinagar

1.3 A visit to Akshardham complex @Gandhinagar

Post lunch, we head back to the rooms to straighten the backs a bit before starting for Akshardham.

3:00pm -> We start towards Gandhinagar.

It takes us around 30-40 minutes to reach the Akshardham parking. Directions to Akshardham after entering Gandhinagar are not very good. Also no signs in Hindi/Engilish.

Akshardham is very strict about security - most likely an after-effect of the terrorist attack a decade back. No cameras, no mobile phones, no electronic items of any type, no bags, no belts, no leather articles, no bottles. Being a Sunday, the crowd is thick. They won't even allow anybody besides the driver in the parking. So I drop off everybody at the parking entry and go inside and park. All the volunteers and parking attendants speak only in Gujarathi.

We leave EVERYTHING in the car and just carry around 1000 odd rupees in the pocket. We walk for 6-7 minutes and reach the entry of the Akshardham complex. The queue and the security check takes another 10 minutes. Finally we are in around 4:15-4:30ish pm.

The complex is huge. We see the main temple right ahead of us and start walking towards it. In hindsight, we should taken some time to understand what all is where and their timings etc. The entire left hand side is devoted to kids' amusement park. There are quite a few rides. No time, I steer my kids clear off it. The complex is huge, beautiful and clean. We keep walking and come closer to the temple. We notice the official photographer taking photos with the temple as the backdrop. There are some 10-15 people around the photo-booking counter. We decide to come back to it after the darshan. After briefly admiring the landscaped surrounding and the fountains, we enter the temple. Surprisingly, here the crowd is quite thin. We admire the gold-colored main Swaminarayan figure and the intricate carving work of the temple. We even sit down in the main area for a few minutes to take it all in.

We notice a few people going to the basement and join in. There is a small exhibition there with misc artifacts. Some of them are beautiful and interesting. But the exhibition appears scattered - no central theme as such. We come up again and come out of the temple.

Had heard that there are multiple exhibits/shows inside the complex and although tired, we think of at least covering one or two. Just when we reach the entry, a security guy closes the gate and says 5pm, no more entry. Slightly disappointed. I realize that we need to get tickets for the water-screen laser show. We get directions and we all walk upto the ticket counter. Its 300-400 meters away! The first show at 6:30pm is already sold out. More disappointment. I take tickets for the next show - 7:30pm. The show is 45 mins. It would be 9:15-9:30pm before we reach back to the hotel.

We again walk back to the place where the official photos are being clicked. Its about 5:30pm, and we get the family portrait clicked. I need to come back in an hour to claim the photo.

We have all gotten up at 3am and its been a really long day. The sun is beating down upon us. The multiple long walks inside the Akshardham complex are also taking its toll. Hints of irritation are clearly visible on the faces of my little group. I take a decision that no more roaming around. We will settle down in the cafeteria, have some snacks, take rest till 7pm and then queue up for decent seats at the laser show. Its another long walk to the cafeteria. We get some Samosas, water, cold-drinks, a pizza and tea. The tea, although from a vending machine, tastes good. More than the food and the drink, the rest helps a lot. Mood becomes a few notches better again.

Around 6:30pm, I go with one kido and collect our family portrait.
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It has come out nicely. Mood improves a few more notches.

Its getting dark and the complex is already lit with artificial light. The whole temple, the fountains, the gardens and even the steps look absolutely beautiful with the lighting. I miss my Nikon big time. Diwali was just last week. So there are a whole bunch of deep-malas as well with oil-in-glass-container diyas. Absolutely fantastic. We go back to the cafeteria and get everybody to experience the wonderful sight. The following photo from Akshardham's website gives a basic idea about the lighting effect and the diya-decoration:
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Its about 7pm now. I was told that we should queue up for the laser show around 30 minutes before. So we head in that direction. There is no queue. Just a big crowd. The crowd swells as the show-timing approaches.

After the first show ends, they just remove one barricade and the entire crowd gets funneled through that small opening. Its a stampede kind of situation now. We feel a consistent strong push from behind us and I am genuinely worried about the well being of my family. I pick up one kid, hold my dad's hand and give cover to wife and mom. I try to push back and create a buffer space between me and mom in front of me. 5 tense minutes and we somehow come out of the ordeal without anyone tripping. Some distance ahead, there are barriers which enforce queues and they are checking tickets here. I feel like cursing. This should have been done at the entrance and not mid-way. After the ticket-checking, the queue morphs into another crowd at the gate of the open-air theater. I am no longer interested in getting better seats for the show. I am only concerned about the safety of my family. We stay away from the crowd and ensure that nobody is pushing us forward. We get in and get seats towards the center anyways.

In hindsight, given the grandeur of the laser show and the design of the theater, the location of the seats don't really matter. And they sell tickets as per the capacity of the theater. So the whole crowding and near-stampede was utterly pointless. The authorities should really do something about it. While typing this one thought came to me - rather than waiting for the authorities to realize the issue or react after some accident has happened, I should write to them and convey my experience and request them to handle the arrangements better.

The mood had become somber by now. I no longer have any expectations from the laser show. I just want to get this over with and go home (or rather to the hotel room). I have seen laser shows in the past and am expecting this one also to be another one where they dazzle you with shapes, patterns, colors and animation. I was pleasantly surprised as this show actually has a story line that too a deeply meaningful one. The laser effects just 'help' in the story-telling and do not overshadow the main story at any point. I am not going to spoil it for you by giving details. The story-line is loosely about purpose and meaning of life. Even sitting there I remembered "Reclaiming my life".

One sample snap of the laser-show from the internet:
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-satchitanandwatershow11f.jpg
Here's a link to a YouTube video which is a trailer of the laser show:

The absolutely brilliant show improved the mood again. Soon we forgot the near-stampede and got engrossed in the story. After the show, we exited the theater after everybody, said good bye to Akshardham and drove back to our hotel in Ahmedabad. The stupid navigator system took us through the busy 132 ft road rather than the Gandhinagar-Sarkhej highway.

Reached the hotel around 9:30pm. After dinner at Tamarind, it was almost 11pm before we retired to bed.

Last edited by SDP : 2nd December 2012 at 07:23.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 07:55   #9
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Default 1.4 Stay, food, drive and other observations from day-1

1.4 Drive, stay, food and other observations from day-1

1. Mumbai suburbs to Memnagar in Ahmedabad. Total distance of 528km. Total time taken 8 hours. Total driving time 7 hours. That means average speed of 75kmph! That's awesome. I have never managed anything more than 60kmph over any long distance in India. NH8 rocks! Total toll paid during the day -> 506 Rs.

2. The XUV's ride improves noticeably with load and the 528kms did not feel that long. Maintained sane speeds throughout. Mostly in the 90 to 110 range. Occasional stints of 120-125. On the Vadodara-Ahmedabad highway, maintained 120 consistently. 89kms in 55 minutes. That means average speed of 97kmph for this stretch! Love it!

3. Starting early is a big advantage as the slow moving truck traffic was sparse at that hour.

4. Quite disciplined traffic on NH8. Negligible honking. Did not witness any rash driving, racing, tailgating. Most people do leave the fast lane when you flash the high-beam or tootle the horn.

5. Did I mention, the road is terrific! No potholes, no uneven road, no sharp turns, no surprises. Local traffic is isolated decently well from the through traffic by way of bypassing every junction with a flyover and having neat service lanes with defined entry and exit points to either join the main highway or to exit it.

6. The bypasses do their job decently well and signage is adequate. No accidental entry into a busy town.

7. While talking about bypasses, one thought: When a bypass road is typically built to bypass a town or a city, the bypass road goes around the city. There is typically nothing around the bypass at the time of construction. People love that bypass as it allows you to zoom past that city. After a few years, the town/city grows and engulfs the bypass. A thousand houses and businesses come up lining the bypass. Finally the bypass loses its meaning and becomes as busy as the original road going through the town/city. How about the local authorities sparing some thought while granting development permissions along the bypass so that the bypass does not become too busy?

8. Stayed at Hotel Treatotel. Quite a tongue-twister name. Typical hotel in the league of Hotel Ginger and is meant for typical business traveler. Compact rooms. Well insulated from outside noise/dust/cold. Good beds. Decent bathrooms. The water was hard and had a weird taste while brushing the teeth etc. For drinking we stuck to packaged drinking water throughout the trip.

9. Complimentary buffet breakfast had a decent variety and the kids LOVED it, especially the fresh juice every morning.

10. The Tamarind hotel (part of the Treatotel) was not very crowded whenever we used it and the service was quite prompt. Good food.

11. Many roads do not have name-plates. Within city, the navigator was choosing all the busy roads and without proper signage it was difficult to choose proper road yourself.

12. I had not researched Akshardham at all. Should have. Would have avoided the chaotic experience that we had. 3-4 hours is the bare minimum that you need to do justice to Akshardham @Gandhinagar. One can easily spend the entire day at Akshardham without getting bored.

13. The food in Akshrdham is reasonably priced. Thanks for not taking undue advantage of the monopoly.

14. As per the website, the night time lighting is put on only on Saturdays and Sundays. We were lucky to visit the place on Sunday. BTW the entire complex is closed on Mondays.

Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 13:31.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 13:16   #10
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Default 2.0 Day-2 (19 Nov 2012) planning

2.0 Day-2 (19 Nov 2012) planning

Quote:
Day 2 (Mon-19-Nov) -> Start around 9am in the morning. Day trip to Adalaj (Rudabai ni vav) -> Modhera (sun temple) -> Patan (Rani ni vav, Sahasraling Talav, Patan Patola Salvi family) -> Sidhpur (Rudra temple remains, Bohra community houses). If time permits visit Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad in the evening. Stay at Treatotel.
Its going to be another long day today. We get up around 7am. By 8am, everybody gets ready. By 8:45am, we finish the breakfast and start for out first stop for the day - Adalaj.

Adalaj is just outside Ahmedabad towards Gandhinagar and is a 25-30 minutes drive.
An interesting intersection.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0119.jpg

2.1 Rudabai ni vav @Adalaj

9:15am -> We reach Adalaj. Its pretty early and we are among the first tourists reaching the place.
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I park farthest from the gate and we get inside.
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The information board is not in good shape.
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We see a flight of stairs going down.
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We need to walk down equivalent of a 5 story building.
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We reach the bottom. The actual well is covered and there is a barricade which stops you from getting too close.
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I miss a fish-eye lens. This is what 18mm could capture.
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At the bottom, its a bit dark and noticeably cooler as compared to outside. Now we need to climb back all the way.
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The pillars have exquisite stone-work.
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The intricate work is mesmerizing.
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A closeup which depicts a few scenes.
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A view of the sky above.
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The stone might look like cement, but its not. Also note the color variation in the stones.
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A shot taken from half-way down the stepwell.
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We come out of the well and explore it from the outside. A shot of the garden surrounding the 'vav'.
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Last edited by SDP : 2nd December 2012 at 17:14.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 17:12   #11
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Default 2.1 Rudabai ni vav @Adajaj (continued)

2.1 Rudabai ni vav @Adalaj (continued)

The garden is well maintained.
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Five tombs.
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A view of the entire vav's length from the well side.
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A shortcut to the bottom of the well.
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Some posing for the snaps.
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In hindsight, this was a bad idea. Although its quite broad, why take risks just for one snap?
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Wife and kids discover a nice 'photo-frame'.
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One parting short of the intricate work.
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11am -> We say goodbye to Rudabai ni vav.
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We get into the car and the MID shows outside temperature as 42 degrees!
Since it is not humid, we don't sweat, but the sun is burning us for sure.

Next stop Modhera Sun temple.

Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 08:42.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 19:45   #12
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Default 2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera

2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera

Modhera is around 85kms away, northwards from Adalaj. The toll-way till Mehsana is very good.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0244.jpg

A camel cart joining the highway.
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After Mehsana, the road becomes a 2 lane highway. The lanes are decently broad though, which means overtaking is not too tricky.
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12:00 noon -> Modhera is still 15kms away.
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Finally 12:20pm -> We reach the sun-temple at Modhera and park the car.
The temple is apparently completing a thousand years 10 years from now.
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First glimpse of the temple and we realize that this is going to be a grand experience. It looks huge and beautiful.
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The entire structure has 3 parts: the surya-kund (the pond) , the sabha-mandap and the garbha mandap (main temple).
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0280.jpg

That's the surya-kund.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0281.jpg

A guide approached us and we hired him after negotiating a bit. Believe me, those were the best spent 100rs from the entire trip. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and very enthusiastic to impart that knowledge. He told us so many things, half of which I have forgotten by now. But at that moment getting a glimpse into the history while observing the sculptures was a good experience. e.g. the surya-kund has 108 temples. So taking a bath in the kund and doing a pradakshina was equivalent to praying to 108 gods.
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One of the pillars on which the kirti-toran once stood. It was destroyed during Khilji's attack.
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The 2 supporting pillars and the missing toran.
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This is not the original dome. The original dome was destroyed by Khilji. This one is part of the restoration effort by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0291.jpg

The Sabha Mandap has 52 beautifully carved pillars depicting scenes from Ramayan, Mahabharat and the life of Lord Krishna. Why 52 pillars? Answer: 52 weeks in a year.
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Yashoda churning butter.
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The mighty Bhima shaking off Kauravas from a tree.
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Don't recollect correctly. Most likely from Ramayana. Lakshman hit, and the monkey army worried.
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Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan.
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Bhima lifting a elephant. Don't remember the context.
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The pancha-mahabhoot! Five bodies and a single head.
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Kaaliya mardan!
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The intricate stone work. So intricate that one might confuse it for wood-work.
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The super-rich Kuber.
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Bramha, Vishnu, Mahesh?
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Some yellow colored bees. The guide told us not to disturb them as they sting real bad.
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Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 10:37.
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Default 2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera (continued)

2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera (continued)

The place is magical and needs to be absorbed with all your senses. I will let the photos do the talking mostly and jump in only for an occasional comment or two.
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The God Surya (sun). Apparently his knee-high gum-boot style shoes are part of his unique identity.
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Elephants. A whole layer of the temple's decor is made of elephants.
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Beyond a certain point, the kids lost interest and found their own way of enjoying the place.
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That's the Sabha Mandap and the 2 pillars (with missing toran) in front of it.
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That's the Garbha mandap.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0327.jpg

That's my daughter!
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The Sabha-mandap has a now-closed underground passageway that apparently connects this temple to the Rani Ki Vav in Patan which is 30kms away!
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No puja/worship happens in the temple as the main figure of God Sun (along with the huge amount of wealth buried under it) was looted during the Khilji attacks.
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The amount of detailing makes you wonder how many years it would have taken to build this temple.
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1:10pm -> The guided tour lasted around 20 minutes. My parents were exhausted by now and chose to rest a bit.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0335.jpg

I couldn't take in enough of this place and started another round of photography.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0336.jpg

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The layered structure of the temple's exterior. The guide explained the various layers and their significance. The bottom-most layer is formed by inverted lotus flowers. The top-layer is apparently Saraswati, signifying 'knowledge' as the most important.
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That's another structure towards the north-east and is supposed to be the entry point for the temple.
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Surya-kund in all its glory.
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Default 2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera (continued)

2.2 Sun Temple @Modhera (continued)

Final set of pictures at Modhera sun temple.

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0356.jpg

Apparently the entire structure is made of interlocking stone pieces, because of which no significant damage was noticed during the Gujarat earthquake a decade back.
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13 pillars in one quarter. Total 52.
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1:45pm -> We started from Modhera.

A quick stop at Hotel Tiranga for lunch somewhere near Chanasma.
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3:00pm -> Post-lunch we started towards Patan
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The XUV crossed another milestone.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0409.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 14:11.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 22:15   #15
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Default 2.3 Rani ki vav @Patan

2.3 Rani ki vav @Patan

We reached Rani ki Vav at Patan around 3:30pm and parked.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0410.jpg

Unlike the Rudabai ni vav at Adalaj (which is in the midst of thick population), this one is off the busy town. The premises are bigger than at Adalaj and the garden is well laid out.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0412.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0479.jpg

Apparently the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) has done enormous amount of work from early 60's to clear the well and restore it to its former glory.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0416.jpg

A view of the complete vav from the well side.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0417.jpg

This vav is again 5 storied.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0420.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0421.jpg

The upper 2 layers witnessed the maximum damage and the peripheral walls have been heavily restored as is visible from the snap.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0422.jpg

After exploring the vav from its periphery, my parents decide to let the lunch settle down and opt out of entering the vav. My son (who had an eye on the remaining Pepsi pet bottle) also stays back. So just the remaining 3 of us trod along and enter the vav.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0424.jpg

This vav is bigger than the one in Adalaj and attracts hoards of visitors.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0427.jpg

We descend down two flights of stairs and the shadow provides welcome relief.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0430.jpg

Since the roof of the vav is gone, there is ample light for photography.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0431.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0433.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0434.jpg

Quite a significant portion of the vav is off-limits for the visitors. So we didn't get a chance to climb down all the way to the well.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0435.jpg

But what we got to see was beautiful.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0437.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0440.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0441.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0446.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0453.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0455.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0456.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0459.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0460.jpg

In following 2 snaps, the ASI's redevelopment/restoration effort is clearly visible.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0463.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0464.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0466.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0468.jpg

The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0472.jpg

After spending some good 30 minutes down there (and even relaxing a bit in the cool shadow) we climb up again.
The Mumbai cheetah goes to greet the Sasan Gir Lion (A Gujarat travelogue)-dsc_0474.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 3rd December 2012 at 14:55.
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