Road trip around Gujarat part 2

Anya checks out local biker style

Anya checks out local biker style

One of the towns we visited was Bhuj out in Kutchch. Much of this area is salt flats which flood during the monsoon season. At this time of year it feels a bit like driving through the desert and the glare off the salt is intense in the more remote regions. Many of the people out here were traditonally nomadic and they are famous for their handicrafts like embroidery which were originally created for significant like events like birth, marriage and setting up home. These days most stuff is made for tourists and the antique pieces are either worn out or criminally expensive.
What I like about this area is that life is really tough and this has created a ‘wild west’ feel to many of the towns and everything seems to have a slightly extreme edge to it. The bike Anya is sitting on is the Kutchch workhorse and is used for lugging people or goods across the dead straight roads for miles. It is astonishingly noisy and based on an ancient German engine (probably pre WW2 by the look of it!). Like most things out here, it looks like a prop left over from a Mad Max movie.
Tribal boy's head gear

Tribal boy's head dress.

A head dress like this was given to children at 6 months - hence the tight fit!

A head dress like this was given to children at 6 months - hence the tight fit!

Everywhere she goes Anya is the object of extreme curosity. A bit unnerving, especially when men keep grabbing her and taking photos of her with their mates. The evidence here seems to be that she is getting used to it.
Anya shows the big boys how to pose for the camera

Anya shows the big boys how to pose for the camera

On the way to Bhuj we stopped off at Diu which was an old Portuguese colony much like Goa. No foreign tourists to speak of, but it does have a beach as well as old Christian churches and a b

Portuguese prison

Portuguese prison

The beach is even better when you should be at school doing maths!

Sunesh 'The Hoff' Patel

A taste of luxury in Diu - a hotel with a pool

A taste of luxury in Diu - a hotel with a pool

Of course, it wasn’t all fun – Dad made everyone go and look at old ruins as well:

And worse than that, an old fishing village which really stank!

swordfish minus its sword

swordfish (oops, sailfish, of course!) minus its sword

One that should have got away...

One that should have got away...

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Cape Town day 3

We were supposed to be sailing out to Robben Island today but it was too windy and the boats were confined to the harbour. By a happy coincidence, Cape Town is the home to the largest mass-participation bike event in the world when 35,000 riders take on the Argus cycle challenge around the Cape Peninsula. The finish was right by our hotel and the roads were closed all day. The main route is about 110km and attracts all-comers much like the London Marathon. Even more excitingly, there is a professional bike race during the week (Giro del Capo) which ended today using the same route as everyone else. The professionals set off at around 6.30am and finish before most of the amateurs are even underway. This year was dangerously windy on the route with gusts of up to 130kmh which slowed most people down and allowed the fastest amateurs and racing tandems to almost catch the pros. For the record, Barloworld dominated the race and should be riding the Tour de France again this summer.

Robbie Hunter gets pipped on the line:

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Cape Town day 2

Guess what – it was really hot again today! Since it is now the weekend, we headed for the beach. After a quick drive over the hill behind the hotel, we set out to explore Camps Bay and Clifton.

Even the beach huts are pretty spectacular:

and further down towards Cape Point, they even have penguins!

Sunburnt? Moi?  That’s a healthy glow!

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Cape Town views

The Robin Hood Primary School/Creative Partnerships ultimate field trip got off to a poor start when we were stuck on the plane at Amsterdam airport for two hours before take-off. By the time we arrived in Cape Town it was 2 in the morning and we had spent 13 hours on the one plane. Fortunately the car hire place was still open and we had a simple drive in to the city on deserted roads. The hotel is the lap of luxury – well done to Anne-Marie and Bright Space for finding this little gem in amongst the huge corporate hotels. We are very central and close to the Waterfront and Green Point visitor areas. From my windows I can see the new Green Point football stadium being constructed for the World Cup next year. Looks like it should be finished on time!

The weather is scorching, about 38 degrees the first day. We wandered down to the Waterfront area which is transformed from the working docks in to a huge tourist trap of shops, cafes, bars and hotels. The highlight down here is the aquarium. It’s similar to all the sea zoos we have at home except there is the ‘two oceans’ phenomena here of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meeting. As a resulting they have everything from tropical reef fish to nasty things that live deep down in cold, dark water…

Look out behind you Elle!

Here is the very atmospheric kelp forest – perhaps this is where our mermaid lives…

Smile for the camera!

The amazing shrinking woman in frog land…

Clowning around with the clown fish:

After I had dried off and been thrown out of the aquarium, we set off for Table Mountain hoping to get up there for sunset. The sky was still clear and the weather hot as we took the car out of the city in the rush hour. It costs about £10 for a return ride in the cable car which has to be one of the best of it’s kind – the view is spectacular and the floor of the car spins as you go so that you get the full panorama. At the top it’s as flat as you hope it will be and the plantlife is very unusual and prolific.

Looking down the coast

Bas in her sensible walking shoes

We even found a tree up on the top…

… or has Elle become a giant?

and then there was the sunset:

Goodnight!

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Cotton factory

In much of Saurashtra and northern Gujarat there are cotton fields that are being harvested at this time. Consequently, most towns in these areas have cotton processing plants which looked a bit snow factories to our children! We stopped at one to get a closer look at the raw cotton and before we knew it we were on a guided tour. Health and safety? Who’s watching anyway?

 

 

Cotton is picked by hand and then packed in large sacks and taken to the factory for processing.

 

 

 

All the factories in the area have these huge piles of raw cotton just waiting to be dived in to!

 

 

 

From there the cotton is hoovered up a pipe and in to the factory for cleaning and softening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, after fluffing up the cotton, it gets crushed in to a bale weighing about 160kg.

 

 

 

Finally it is stacked ready to be taken to a textile mill where the cotton will woven in to your t-shirt.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the seeds which were removed from the cotton are sorted by hand. The best will be used for re-planting the fields and the rest will be used as animal feed.

 

 

 

 

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A few more truck shots

On the way back to Mumbai I managed to grab a few more photos of the Kings of the Road. Now where is that anorak…?

Building up seems to be an opportunity to build out as well.

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Final week in village

Well the end is almost upon us and we are preparing to leave Moti Pethan on Tuesday. It is going to be a very tearful departure from the village but we still have a few more days to spend in Mumbai before we fly home to the cold and wet. We managed to celebrate Christmas Day and Sunesh’s birthday in some style on the local beach. Although the nights are getting cooler, the days are still very comfortable 30 degrees plus. However, that doesn’t seem to stop the locals donning jerseys, bobble hats and scarves!

I might not manage to do much blogging in Mumbai although I suspect they will have connection speeds I can only dream of out here. We all wish you a very happy new year and thanks for the Christmas messages – apologies if I haven’t replied to you all individually but it is a painfully slow process at times. Looking forward to seeing everyone again soon, Iain and family x

This week we went shopping to Surat by train. The highlight for the children was finding Pizza Hut and Baskin Robbins ice cream. The train journey was also very entertaining.

There is a proper footbridge, but I think it’s just for tourists.

Anya enjoyed the freedom from rules and regulations. Not only are there no windows on a train, but the doors seldom close either.

I had to disuade the boys from travelling first class air-conditioned on account of it already being over-booked.

For some reason Surat has a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps someone better informed than me can shed some light. (Lennard? Thanks for correcting the fishy error earlier, smart alec)

There was a wedding this week which is another excuse for everyone to get a free lunch

If school dinner was more like this I think more children would go for them – I certainly would! Maybe the teachers should do the serving?

The main event happened in the evening when the groom arrived

The groom in his Elvis-inspired outfit is welcomed in to the family

Then the fireworks begin.

On Christmas morning the children awoke to find a thick layer of fresh snow outside in the garden and stockings stuffed with cheap Indian goodies! (OK, the snow bit is a lie…)

Gromit gets in to the Christmas spirit

The party just carried on the next day as Sunesh found a few birthday presents had followed him overseas.

On Christmas Day and Sunesh’s birthday we managed to spend the afternoon on the local beach at Dandi. I hear it is cold in the UK. Ho hum, tough luck for some!

Anya gets ready to take on the Indians at their own game

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Road trip around Gujarat

The lady of the manor at leisure

The lady of the manor at leisure

Sunesh, Sanjeev and Anya have just come back from two weeks travelling around Gujarat visiting some of the historic, beautiful and unusual sights it has to offer. The highlight was going on a camel safari in the Rajasthani desert outside Jaisalmer. Apart from that, they also climbed up 3 mountains to look at temples at the top, spent a few days on the beach and stayed in a couple of old palaces. I’m not sure how many thousands of kilometres we travelled, but sometimes we drove for 10 hours a day and Gujarat doesn’t even look like a big state compared to other states in India! Over the next few days I will post up a few pictures to give you a flavour of what we saw. Connection speeds are terrible at the moment and there are frequent power cuts …

We have enjoyed the faded charm of old palaces

We have enjoyed the faded charm of old palaces

Lounging about on the veranda

Lounging about on the veranda

A bed each? - such extravagance!

A bed each? - such extravagance!

We also visited the ‘eco’ fair – all hand powered of course!

We saw Jain temples at the very tops of mountains. Sanjeev would like me to point out that he was dragged out of bed at 5am to do this.

A temple too far...

A temple too far...

Cracking open the Pringles at the top to celebrate another conquest

Cracking open the Pringles at the top to celebrate another conquest

It was always worth the climb although we struggled despite lots of snacks and bottles of water. Most people were visiting as pilgrims rather than tourists and they were fasting, weren’t allowed to drink and most walked barefoot. Some had walked from their home towns and we even saw one man rolling down the road towads the mountain!

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

In case you were wondering how all this marble and stone gets to the top of a mountain – it’s still done by the same method used over a thousand years ago…

The definition of suffering. These guys could only manage a few steps at a time and it's hours to the yop in 35 degree heat. I didn't have the heart to ask how much they get paid but this must takes years off your life.

The definition of suffering. These guys could only manage a few steps at a time and it's hours to the top

Definition of aneasy life - probably for the dolly carriers as well.

Definition of an easy life - probably for the dolly carriers as well.

And then there was the desert…

and then there was the desert...

a sea of dunes...

...the camels...

...the camels...

Sanjeev of Arabia returns

Sanjeev of Arabia returns

such glamour...

such glamour...

such romance...

such romance...

such High School Musical!

such High School Musical!

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Our travels

Hello again to everyone. Thank you for your recent messages and apologies for not posting anything new for a while. We have been on the road travelling to some of the remote corners of Gujarat state which has been a fantastic experience if a little challenging on the stomach! We have stayed in faded old palaces in dusty and forgotten backwaters to shiny new reswort hotels by the sea. Currently, we are in Jaisalmer in Western Rajasthan. It is an old fortified town that looks like a sandcastle in the desert complete with palace, narrow streets, carved balconies and open sewers. All very charming, but the most touristy place we have been by a long way. The children love it because there is a lot to do and see in the shops and the food is a little more western in style. It is also the only place we have been where the internet is easily available, hence this message.

Yesterday was the highlight of the trip so far as we hired camels and set off in to the sand dunes to watch the sunset. The boys had their own camels and I rode with Anya. Getting on and off is absolutely hilarious as you feel you are about to be pitched over the camel’s head. As soon as we get back to the village I will post up some photos of our travels.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope the stress of Christmas preparations is getting to you all and that you are still enjoying the cold weather. There are times, when I am sweating hard, that I almost wish I was there! Speak to you all soon…. Iain and family x

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Temple feast

This week there were two lunches for everyone in the village. One was to celebrate someone’s birthday (I ate the food and didn’t even meet the birthday boy!) and the second was to celebrate a particular god’s day. This meal was hosted by the temple and we ate in the village school grounds. Everybody comes to eat in several sittings and the scale of the cooking is astonishing considering everything is cooked over an open fire and takes a whole day and night. I will never moan about cooking on a campsite again!

The hardest thing is trying not to put your dirty foot in your dinner

The hardest thing is trying not to put your dirty foot in your dinner

Bhart trying to scav a bit extra

Bhart trying to scav a bit extra

Dal anyone?

Dal anyone?

So this is where Stan's Cafe rice ended up

So this is where Stan's Cafe rice ended up

Next sitting...

Next sitting...

The next night it all starts again!

The next night it all starts again!

Now that's what I call a cooking pot!

Now that's what I call a cooking pot!

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