Itinerary


Gujarat has a huge amount to offer - crafts, wildlife, 3rd century BC excavations, palaces, beaches, temples, etc, etc.    Long or short trips can be arranged with general or specific interests.

Have just had a great trip with 11 ladies from the Auckland Patchworkers and Quilters Guild.   (Feb 2010)
 
Two of them arrived on 4th Feb, having been in Mumbai for a couple of days visiting the son of one of them, so they were quite independent already!   They had read about the Suraj Kund (which they thought was 'sewerage'!) Fair on the flight from Mumbai and were all set to get themselves to that the next day so I left them to it.   Didn't quite work out as they thought as the public transport mentioned didn't work, but they got a car and had such a good day that they recommended it to the rest when they arrived on 5th evening.   So on 6th we all went to it!  It is a large fair of crafts from around the country - this year featuring Rajasthan particularly - and with food stalls, entertainment, etc - a really vibrant and colourful introduction to India!   Then that evening we had a Waitangi Day dinner at an eastern restaurant with some Kiwis who are involved in the Commonwealth Games.   Then on the Sunday we did the Cancer Society "Walk for Life" with several thousand other people (around Nehru Park and the diplomatic area) then lunch in a nearby hotel, and an afternoon of sightseeing with a guide - Humayun's Tomb and the Qutub Minar.
 
Next morning it was up early to catch a flight to Ahmedabad, where we were met and whisked straight to the Calico Museum as we had a tour booked at 10am.   This houses an amazing and very well kept array of textiles - the tour lasts 2 hours but is so quick and efficient that you are left feeling it is all a bit rushed.   Would be great to be able to spend time and see it all properly but they want to have lights on as little as possible to protect the exhibits!   Then we checked in to our hotel - House of Mangaldas Ghirardas (http://www.houseofmg.com/) where we had a sort of brunch before heading out to see the Gandhi Ashram, a textile showroom and one of the old stepwells, then back to the hotel where some had a swim before dinner - an excellent Gujerati thali in the rooftop restaurant.
 
After breakfast the next day we drove to Patan to see the patola weaving - in this incredible fabric every thread is pre-dyed in all the colours required so that when woven the pattern emerges.  Totally incredible.    Then on to Dasada in the Little Rann of Kutch (dried out salt marshes) where we checked in to our resort, had lunch and then headed out on a jeep safari to see the wild asses - saw quite a few - they are magnificent animals built more like zebras than donkeys...       Accommodation here was in round huts built like the village ones and set in what will be a nice garden when the grass and plants grow - it is new!
 
Next day it was a longish drive to Bhuj, the place where the earthquake was centred in 2001 and a centre for great crafts.      First stop was at the police station to get us all registered so we could head north to the main craft centres which are comparatively close to the Pakistan border - this was no problem, just took time...  We spent 3 nights in Bhuj - our hotel there was pretty standard but not much else available except a nice resort out of town a bit which was full.   The first day we went to visit Kala Raksha (http://www.kala-raksha.org/) which is a great craft centre set up by an American lady to help preserve the local embroidery skills by teaching the local women about design, marketing, etc so that they have an outlet for their work.   I had been in touch with Judy and she was able to spend some time with us there and to get the women to show us how they do various things - like sewing the mirrors onto the fabric and other embroidery techniques:  also some of the patchwork story pieces they have made - one was of a visit to a big local fair which the Chief Minister had attended and showed the fair lay out, where they had stayed, the roads (with the route taken by the CM in a different colour), the stalls, ferris wheel, police on duty, etc, etc - and such detail that the CM was recognizable as were Judy and the ladies who went - incredible detail...   We had been told there would be nowhere to eat out in the village area so had a packed lunch from the hotel and were able to eat it there, with chai kindly provided by them.     Then we went to see the Rogan painting family - only 3 people left in the world doing this amazing fabric painting using oil mixed with crushed stone colours!   Just fascinating...    The next day we went to see other villages where there were expert embroiderers, wood lacquer workers and copper bell makers.   And we also visited an antique fabric collector in Bhuj itself - and had a wander down the market in the town.    
 
From Bhuj we went to Wankaner, where the main palace is still sadly in disarray following the earthquake.   We visited it - all a bit sad really as he seems to have lost heart completely and has done nothing about even starting repairs...  would cost a huge amount certainly but should be manageable a bit at a time.   It is a huge property and he seems to be rattling around in it by himself...    Must have been truly magnificent in its day - and could be again.  We had a cup of tea with the Maharajah and he showed us around, including the vintage car collection.     We stayed in his other, summer, palace in the town  
which is intact but a bit run down - would make a considerable difference if they kept it dusted and polished - but was comfortable and interesting with its art deco swimming pool (sadly no water) and step well - and meals in the garden.
 
Then on to Gondal via Rajkot, where we just stopped to visit the Museum en route - essentially the private collection of a British political agent  and including everything from local sculpture, art  and crafts (incluing folk embroidery) to minerals and history of the local rulers.   In Gondal we stayed in the Riverside Palace.. where we had huge rooms, some with what seemed like a 5' trek to their attached bathroom!  Had hoped to visit the Ayurvedic medicine factory in the afternoon, but it was Sunday so it was closed as was nearly everything else!   So we went for a walk through the town and found a thriving vegetable market which was interesting - and  were shown the other 2 palaces, one a hotel (in which I had stayed previously and with the Maharah's private railway carriage on display and a vintage car collection) - the other a 'museum'  though actually largely used as local government offices with just a small collection of memorabilia, and a large number of horse-drawn vehicles being restored for a display.   Next morning we visited the medicine factory - very different from my last visit when it was large pots over open fires outside - now all very clean and hygienic in new purpose built buildings!    
 
We then drove to Junagadh and looked at the amazing maqbara tombs with their spiral staired minarets and the old fort and natural step well on the hill above.   Lunch at a resort there and on to Gir to see the lions!   We were in 3 jeeps and drove round for a couple of hours seeing lots of deer and not much else but were lucky at the last minute - in fact the drivers got into trouble for staying in the park longer than they should - but we did see a group of 5 lions at a watering place - two teenage ones who were playing and a couple of adults.  
 
And finally on to Diu - the last bit of the road  was along the coast and looked and felt like it had been just about washed away.   In the dark too.   Got there about 9.30, just in time to catch dinner before the dining room closed and then to fall into bed!   Had intended the next day to be completely free but everyone wanted to go into the town to see what was there so we went to the Fort (old Portuguese) and the Cathedral, had lunch on the waterfront and explored the local market (bought expanding bags for the ever increasing amount of shopping!), then back to our resort hotel and the beach/swimming pool for the afternoon!
 
Next day it was off to Bhavnagar and another palace - Nilambagh!
  Had intended to go to Palitana on the way, but the driver suggested next morning would be better so we had a late lunch on arrival and just wandered in the grounds, relaxed, caught up.   There was entertainment in the courtyard in the evening, provided by children of the school in the grounds - I missed most of it as I was on the internet trying to get urgent train tickets for someone, but just caught the tail end and it looked great - 5-6 year old girls doing the traditional dances!   Dinner and early to bed for an early start.
 
Up at 4am the next morning to drive an hour to Palitana and climb to the wonderful Jain temples at the top of the hill - 3,300 steps - but you could be carried!   We took 2 "dholis" - chairs strapped to 2 poles carried by 4 men.   One lady agreed to a chair and   I got another as a spare which I and one other shared turn about!   It was about 7.30-8am when we got to the top - views en route are magnificent over the river, countryside and the town.   Coming down is interesting as they take you backwards in the chair - to avoid tipping you out I suppose!!  Back at the bottom about 10am and then went to get breakfast en route.    
 
We were going to go to the Black Buck Sanctuary on our way to Utelia but saw plenty on the road and when we got there decided it was not worth the cost so just used their loos and left!      Love their wonderful twisted horns!  Got to Utelia - yet another palace - early afternoon and went on a visit to a local village where we were able to see both old and new housing and how the people lived.   Dinner in the courtyard, which was lovely.   Nice to see this palace being gradually restored - the Yuvraj (Prince) said they couldn't afford to do it all at once so had set aside so much per year and are now almost finished.   Still no dining room - it's roof fell in, but he showed me that the arched wooden ceiling has been redone, and with only 30% new timber - 70% being salvaged and reused. The next morning we went to see the 3rd C BC excavations at Lothal - and the excellent museum there.  Incredible to see the skills there were at that time and the well planned town with its storage for goods, bead factory, housing, drainage - and the dry dock.   We met an Italian girl there who is part of a team visiting regularly over 5 years to see if they can find more seals showing what and where they traded.  And finally back to Ahmedabad in time to do some shopping and then to visit Vishala with its utensil museum and restaurant serving traditional Gujarati thalis for dinner before boarding our train at 11pm to leave Gujarat!
 
And so the next morning we woke up in Udaipur, in Rajasthan - and another bus was there to meet us.   We checked into our nice haveli - had to walk a bit to get to it as it is in the old town with very narrow streets, but we sent one lady and the luggage in tuk-tuks - then had breakfast on the roof before heading off with a guide to see the temple, palace and Sahelion ki Bari (Garden for the ladies of the court).   Then a cold drink on the roof with a great view over the    lake before our evening cookery class which was interesting and fun: we ate what we had cooked - and lived!     
 
Another breakfast on the roof before our long drive to Jaipur - got there about 5pm and everyone settled into the last palace of the trip, this time with an outdoor art deco      pool, beside which we had dinner!   Fullday of sightseeing and shopping the next day, starting at the Amber Fort, then a carpet factory, blue pottery, jewellery and textiles, lunch break,  then carried on to the Jantar Mantar (Observatory) and City Palace.... by which time we were exhausted!    Had expected dinner in the grounds again but found it laid inside - and quite rightly as there was a spectacular storm with lightening, thunder and heavy rain!
 
Last but not least to Agra - via Fatehpur Sikri.   Got there mid afternoon and checked into another 'ordinary' hotel, then I whisked them off to see the Itmud-ud-Daulah , tomb of the Taj Mahal lady's grandfather - sometimes called the Baby Taj, though it is nothing like it - and a real little gem - and to Kohinoor to see the magnificent 3D jewelled embroidery display which just stunned them all.   By then it was time for dinner in our hotel's revolving restaurant - with Taj View, except that there is a blackout zone around it so nothing to see!!    Up early next morning to go to the Taj -  lovely to see it at dawn when it is less crowded - and then in full sunshine by the time we left.   Back to the hotel for breakfast and checkout and then to the Fort.  Finally lunch at The Silk Route, where they all said they had the best meal yet!  And back to Delhi - and the YWCA!!!!   
 
Next morning they had a guide to take them to Old Delhi - to the Mosque and for a rickshaw ride in the market.   They liked the latter so much - and saw some wonderful trims and things so wanted to go back and walk through the market too, which we did.    On their last morning I took them to the Lotus Temple, then lunch and a bit of shopping at Dilli Haat (open air food and craft market), and managed to find the Indian cricket team shirts they wanted in Sarojini Nagar market and back to the Y to check out.   Finally High Tea at The Imperial befote taking them to the airport!!   Two stayed behind to go to Jodhpur for a couple of days, including overnight in a spectacular desert camp!


Contact me by
- calling 021 2868 666 (New Zealand mobile), and I will get an immediate message to contact you
- emailing csartours@xtra.co.nz
- or phoning me in India on 0091 987 100 3919.