Friday, 13 March 2015


It was on the journey to Palitana that things started to go a little pear shaped.  The first part was fine but a puncture to the bus tyre was the beginning of the trouble.  After the repairs were complete I started to feel unwell and in the warmth of the bus I started to feel cold.  Then there were serious hints of diahorrea.  Let me tell you... it's the most terrible feeling sitting on a bus, shivering and not quite knowing which will arrive first: your destination or bowel movement!  I prayed hard it wouldn't be the latter and fortunately I made it okay.

The next 24 hours were spent in my hotel room either in bed or visiting the toilet.  It wasn't pleasant.  I also had the sweats and a high temperature at various times.  My main concern was dehydration and I made an effort to drink as much as I could.  I'm not certain what it was other than a virus of some kind and I have no idea where I picked it up.  The possibilities are endless and it's simply one of the pitfalls of travelling the sub-continent.

Repairing bus puncture

Unfortunately, this has had an effect on my travels throughout Gujarat but I'm happy to say that it hasn't stopped me from doing anything that I planned.  So although it hasn't been an optimal experience, I've enjoyed it just the same and seen some great sights.  The first of these was the temples on the hilltop at Shatrunjaya (Place of Victory), 3km from Palitana.  After the day I'd had previous you can probably imagine I was apprehensive about climbing the 3200 steps up to the top.  But it was better than I had prepared myself for and the ascent took about 1.5 hours.

Before I even reached the top there was a sight that I unfortunately won't quickly forget and believe wasn't something I was rushing to get my camera out for.  In a country that is very conservative about dress and showing too much skin, a guy passed me on the path stark bollock naked!  I had no idea what it was all about other than being of some religious significance.  Just to make my day I passed him again going down the hill.  Charming...

Hilltop temples of Palitana

The temples themselves were amazing and well worth the effort to get up the hill.  There are literally hundreds of them built over a 900 year period.  Almost all of them are Jain and it is evidence of their belief that merit is derived from constructing temples.  They are built in nine different enclosures with one main temple and many minor ones clustered around.  They date from the 16th century because the earliest ones built in the 11th century were destroyed by the Muslims.  The hilltop also gave nice views back to Palitana.

My next stop was the beach town of Diu.  I'd been looking foward to the beach there and it didn't let me down.  It's a beautiful, peaceful place with a strong Portugese influence.  This is evidenced by the narrow streets and alleyways together with brightly painted buildings in the old town area.  Diu township is on the eastern end of an island between a huge fort and city wall.  I walked around the old fort which has a lighthouse within it that gave a great view of the town and across to the mainland.  In the afternoon I hired a bike and rode down to the fishing village at the far end of the island.  I stopped at a nice beach to watch the sunset on my way back.

Portuguese fort, Diu
I spent the following morning at the beach before getting a bus to Veraval.  I had the whole place to myself and it was very relaxing.  Perhaps too much because I ended up sunburnt!  Veraval isn't a place I'll remember very fondly.  The area around the port smells of fish and the city is dusty, noisy and congested.  I was only using it as a gateway to visit the temple in the nearby village of Somnath.  To be honest, it was doubtful whether the temple was worth the visit.  There's no doubt it's a beautiful structure with some fine carving but it has no sense of history because it's only 50 years old.

The site itself certainly has a history with the original temple being built over 1000 years ago.  Since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt four times.  (There was a pattern of Muslim destruction and Hindu rebuilding which continued for centuries.)  So, in a way I actually enjoyed visiting the adjacent museum more because it has been partly constructed of fragments of the last original temple and contained many stone carvings found at the site.  I'd hired a bike that day so took it back through the port to see people mending nets and building wooden boats by hand.  Noah himself would have been proud of them.

Fishing town of Veraval
Despite my health issues, I really enjoyed travelling through Gujarat.  The bus rides were relatively short and although the buses were standard-issue old meatwagons the roads were surprisingly good.  To quote from the Lonely Planet again on the journey from Palitana to Diu: "...this is the trip from hell, along bumpy village roads in dilapidated old rattletraps."  Sometimes I love it when my guidebook is proved wrong!  It wasn't nearly as bad as all that.  The trip from hell must surely be from Mandu to Indore.  If there's a worse one than that I just don't wanna know!

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