It was a sultry afternoon, when I reached Ahmedabad. But the feeling of exploring some parts of Gujarat through the next couple of weeks, had somehow subdued the fatigue in me. I was driven to my hotel, where, after taking a long shower and a hearty meal, I was finally able to lay down for a few hours. I was told that I would be headed for Kankaria Lake in the afterhours. So, at around 4 PM, I was being driven towards Kankaria Lake. An amusement park has been developed around the lake with numerous joy-rides thrown in here and there. I, myself, couldn’t resist but take a hot-air balloon ride, which helped me get a bird’s eye view of the entire city of Ahmedabad.
The next day, I started early for Bhuj and reached Bhuj in the afternoon. In the evening, I visited the Swami Narayan Temple and was bestowed by the architectural work and the all-white palate of the temple. The next morning, I visited Prag Mahal and the adjoining Aina Mahal. The after-effects of the devastating Bhuj earthquake are still evident in these two places. Returning back to my hotel and after having a quick lunch there, I started towards the Great Rann of Kutch. The endless white stretches of salt-pits are a wonder for any visitor. One needs to carry a valid photo-identity card of them, to be able to enter the Rann of Kutch. It was a lifetime moment to watch the sun go down beyond the horizon at the Rann of Kutch.
My next stop was Jamnagar, which is famous for the Bandhni works in sarees and salwar-kameezes for women. From Jamnagar, I drove towards Dwarka and reached my hotel at Dwarka in the afternoon. The Gomti river flows into the Arabian Sea at Dwarka. I watched a beautiful sunset sitting on the ghats.
My first stop next day at Dwarka was Rukmini Devi Temple, while I was headed towards Vet Dwarka. One needs to take a boat ride from the Okha port, through the heart of the Arabia Sea to reach Vet Dwarka, where the temple doors close by 12:30 PM sharp. Photography is strictly prohibited in the temple premises. While I was returning back from the Okha port, I passed the Tata Salt Factory on the way. The Nageswar Temple is a must visit for any traveller at Dwarka. An enormous Shiv Murti sits inside the temple area.
A trip to Gujarat remains incomplete without visiting the Somnath Temple. I made a small pit-stop at Porbandar on my way towards Somnath. Large vehicles are not allowed inside the city of Porbandar. The auto-rickshaws are the best way to get the city known, where the auto-drivers act as guide by themselves. I visited the birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi, which is now turned into a museum, before a short visit to the Sudama Mandir as well. In the evening, I went to the famed Somnath Mandir, which stood there with all its grandeur, to witness the aarti being performed the temple priests.
The Union Territory of Diu is a breath of fresh air from the grasp of the towns and cities of Gujarat. Gujarat being a dry state, Diu comes as a welcome escape for the revellers by heart. For a lover of sea like me, the dip in the raging Arabia Sea at one of the beaches of Diu, was quite refreshing. I visited the Diu Fort next day which stations the light-house and from there, I went to the Diu Museum and the old Church of Diu adjacent to it. The remnants of the Portuguese culture are evident from every nooks and corners of Diu. I rounded off my tour of Diu by paying a visit to the Gangeswar Temple, where the raging Arabian Sea sweeps five Shiv Lingas constantly, inside a cave, with its water, a wonder for everyone.
The jungle safari inside the Gir National Park and Sanctuary was the most exciting part of my trip to Gujarat. I took the early morning safari at 6 AM to catch a glimpse of the king in his own kingdom. It was so exciting to watch the lions in their natural habitat. The safari takes around 3 hours to complete and the jungle was something to get explored, with the mid sized shrubs all around the inside the jungle and the sandy meandering paths all through.
For the last leg of my tour, it was a 430 KM long drive back to Ahmedabad from Sassan Gir. On the way, I crossed the cities of Junagadh and Rajkot. My last day was all about roaming around Ahmedabad which included visiting the Jama Masjid, an old Jain Temple, the famous Sabarmati Ashram on the banks of river Sabarmati and the grand Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar.
With my taste buds lingering with that of dhoklas, it was time for me to say, Gouri Gujarat – it was nice to visit Gujarat.