Our time in Mumbai had come to an end and we were heading into Gujarat via train. Luckily Tim checked the train station we were leaving from as it wasn’t the one we thought. Our Uber ride to the station took us on a pretty impressive ride via a freeway that was built over the sea. I suppose when you are short on space on land you go over sea.
I said a few days ago we hadn’t really experienced slum life but we got a dose of it on the drive. Nearing the train station traffic slowed to a crawl and we soon found ourselves driving through a slum area where the buildings were made of corrugated iron and stacked on top of themselves each other. It was pretty eyeopening.
The train trip was luxury! We had beds and air conditioning and we settled in for a relaxing and pleasurable 6 hour trip to Vadodara. Unfortunately we had a child in our cabin who was a pain in the butt and made the journey not so relaxing. But still it wasn’t too bad and when we arrived at about 6pm we were feeling pretty good.
We walked out of the train station into some sort of street festival where there were people letting off firecrackers, a truck with massive speakers followed by a troupe of dancers. Didn’t we just stick out like a sore thumb walking through the crowd in our big backpacks. We found our hotel and walked into a lovely newly renovated place where we were very happy to spend the next few days.
The next day we got up early and caught a local bus to Champaner and Pavagadh. The start of the bus trip was quite horrific to say the least. It was packed, hot and we got stuck in peak hour traffic. The traffic jam was typical Indian infrastructure mayhem, where there was an intersection without lights or roundabouts and to make matters work was undergoing road works. Patience is not an Indian strongpoint so cars were going in every direction which just made the jam worse. But we made it through and were soon hurtling closer to Champaner and Pavagadh.
Champaner was the Sultan of Gujarat’s capital in the 15th Century. Unfortunately it was abandoned after the Mughals defeated the Sultan and the capital was moved to where it is now in Ahmedabad. Pavagadh is a volcanic hill just behind Champaner. On its peak sits the Kalikamata temple which is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, where thousands of pilgrims each year climb its peak to worship.
We were definitely off the beaten track again as we hadn’t seen another Westerner since leaving Mumbai and the amount of stares had increased. But everyone was friendly even to the point where a lovely man helped us catch the right connecting bus.
We arrived in Champaner and decided to go up Pavagadh first. We found trucks that ferry people up and the locals tried squishing us in the one leaving that was already overflowing with people. So I made the executive decision to catch our own “special” taxi as the locals called it which was the same taxi just without the extra 11 people in it. We wound up the mountain and came to the base station of the cable car. We were a little nervous catching an Indian cable car but we decided it would be fine. The line was actually quite large and the facility obviously catered for crowds a lot larger than the one this Monday. It was hilarious watching the Indians get on the cable car as they were all very nervous and a lot had obviously never been on one. It was the first time we have seen them obey the number of passengers which most of the cars leaving with less than the max 6.
At the top of the lift we then had to walk a few hundred meters to the top. The steps were lined with stalls selling souvenirs and food which made the trip pleasant. It was the first place like this we were not mobbed with people trying to sell their wares. We were getting stared at constantly with even a few finger points so I don’t think they get many western tourists here. We were asked for lots of photos and Tim even had to hold someone’s baby.
The top of the mountain was nothing to write home about and neither was the temple but sometimes like the saying goes it’s the journey not the destination and we had thoroughly enjoyed our experience here.
We headed back down the mountain and ventured across the road into Champaner. By this stage it was stifling but the sites were too beautiful to not see. The first stop, Shahar-ki-Masjid was in the main fortification which once would have housed the Royal palace. Shahar-ki-Masjid would have been the private mosque of the Sultans. It was beautiful with two minarets flanking the central arch. We then had a bit of a walk outside the fort through scrub land to see the next two mosques but they were totally worth it. Made even better by the fact that we had them all to ourselves. Kevada Masjid was the first which had beautifully carved minarets but unfortunately its central dome had collapsed. We met two men who lived in mud huts just down the road sleeping under the shade of the stone as it must have been so much cooler than in their huts out in the baking sun. Next was Jami Masjid which was the piece de resistance and is apparently one of the finest mosques in Gujurat. Inside it had amazing stone screen work with the windows all bearing different designs.
After this we decided to head home and by this stage I wasn’t getting on a packed public bus so caught another “special” taxi and made it home in about an hour in relative comfort. S
The slums around the train station.
The troupe of dancers performing just outside the train station when we arrived in Vadodara.
On the bus to the sites we came across a lorry filled with kids. They started waving and pointing at us and while we were at a standstill Tim asked for a photo. Interesting way to transport your class.
The final stretch we had to do on foot to reach the Kalikamata Temple on the top of Pavagadh.
A stretch of the walk showing all the shops selling trinkets etc.
This lady saw me taking a photo of the shawls and insisted I get one with her in it.
Saher-Ki-Masjid. Once was the private mosque for the royal family.
I was in awe of the beautiful stone carved windows in the mosques. Also in awe that they have survived so long.
On the walk to the temples outside the fort. Take note of the guy having a nap in then background. You see a lot of people with metal framed beds sitting outside their houses. Better to sleep outside where it is cool.
One of the farm houses we passed on our way to the mosques.
Kevada Masjid. Although not the biggest I think this one was my favourite.
The detail on the minarets were amazing.
The entrance into Jami Masjid.
Definitely by far the biggest and best preserved.
The central dome.