Thursday, 9 February 2017

Junagadh

Today started very much like yesterday except we are in a different hotel in a different city. Today we wake up in Bhavnagar and it is a mad rush to get down to the car for 8am, as Michael set his alarm to silent so we sleep right through it. Breakfast of toast (black on one side and bread on the other) the we meet our driver and head west to Junagadh. For the first half of the journey the roads are pretty bad, pot holes and gravel in places and the constant confusion of overtaking and being overtaken while avoiding cows and dogs.



Lunch on our arrival in Junagadh is samosas and pakoras and puri from one of the stalls outside our hotel, then it is straight back into the car to head to the Uparkot Citadel. To get there the driver takes us down some truly narrow streets, lined with shops and overrun with people and scooters and cows and dogs. First we look at the cannons whilst trying not to get swamped with school children. Then it's into the huge old mosque; we wander through the main hall supported by many pillars, where there are yet more groups of school children, and then we find a narrow staircase that takes us up to the roof. There are three huge open holes -- that Michael thinks would have originally been covered by large domes -- and a hazy view of Junagadh. The teachers from a new group of school children begin talking to Michael and before we know it we are posing for pictures with them all.



Next it's down to the Buddhist Caves -- they are not caves, more like three levels of rooms excavated into the ground -- and then it's further on to the Adi-Kadi Vav, a vast step well. First we walk around the top and numerous groups follow us and ask for 'one photo' which always turns out to be about 10 photos. Everyone is really friendly and asks the usual question of what is our country, what are our names,  and if we like India. More photos, children forced to have pictures with us by their excited parents. We walk round to the actual steps of the step well and we notice that no one is actually walking down, and despite our aching bones from all of yesterday's steps we start the decent to the stinking water below. We seem to have started a trend as, soon, the 200 or so steps are covered with people following us down. More photos requests on the way up, precariously balanced on the steps. And then even more photos on the way to a second step well, this one believed to be one of the earliest of its kind. We decide against exploring the bowels of this one, and then I get annoyed as a group of young men pull up in a van next to me and start pointing their cameras at me while Michael is distracted having other photos taken. A short walk back to the driver and Michael is cornered by two people on bikes who want to talk with him, I walk on only to be approached by another teacher who wants me to take a picture with his students. As I walk over I wave and say hello and they reply in unison before being ordered to gather round me for the photo. Michael frees himself from the men on motorcycles just as I free myself from the children and we hurry back to be car to wake our dozing driver.


We drive the short distance to the Ashoka Edicts only to find the small room covering the rocks closed for construction works, there was no construction taking place, however, and when we peeped through the doors the rock was covered in a cloth. Back to the car, the poor driver hadn't even had time for a cigarette. He takes us on to the Mahabat Maqbara, a mausoleum in the centre of the city, relatively new -- having only been build at the end of the 19th century -- and covered in bird poo. Pretty breathtaking nonetheless, as the exquisitely carved stone is excessively ornate. There are 4 minarets, each with a spiral staircase running around the outside. I decide to climb one and Michael warns me not to go to the top as some of the stone is missing. As I ascend the stairs, narrower than I am, I see Michael approached by a young man who chats and there is yet another photo request. There are white goats running around the place, eventually chased off by dogs, and from my high vantage point I can see the field below, home to more goats, cows, buffalo and even some chicken. Our driver warns us that the museum is closing soon, so it's back in the car to rush to the Darbar Hall Museum. It holds a strange collection of things; we visit the silver room, the carved wood room, the weapon room, and then we finally see the Darbar Hall, which I learn is basically a big meeting room for apparently important people. Bizarrely the chairs are covered in think shiny plastic to preserve them, especially weird as most artefacts in the museum are identified by numbers written directly on them in extra thick Sharpie.




We are done, exhausted from a long day's touristing, and aching from yesterday's climb. The driver deposits us back at the hotel and it's straight out in search of food. Michael finds some oranges -- he has been craving fruit -- and after a long walk around the busy streets of Junagadh we find a grubby little restaurant back by the hotel and each eat half of our thali. We could live to regret this, come morning.


Back up to the room in need of an early night, sleep could be interrupted by the trains hammering past every couple of hours, continuously blowing their horns.