Monday, 31 December 2012

the last leg

Down to the south of Gujarat to Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary which is the 
last refuge of the Asiactic lion. Widespread hunting decimated the population,
they were on the brink of extinction with only 12 left in 1884.

The beautiful forested park covers a huge area, and the numbers of lions
have increased, so much so, there are plans to transfer some to other

We set off at 5.30am, or we nearly did.   Two punctures called for an
solution which appeared in the shape of a very old rickshaw.   It sounded
like an old traction engine, puffing and spitting along the dark road.
We all squashed in, including our driver clutching one tyre for repair.
Issaf, such a nice man, was dropped of, in the dark, at what looked like
a deserted hut.

Ten minutes later we were at the gate of the Sanctuary queuing for our
permits.   No permits left, so we pulled out the VIP card which worked.

Still dark, and very cold, we set off through the park in an open jeep.
A driver, our forest guide, Keith, Samshu and myself.  Birds were just
waking up.    Monkeys were asleep.  A few spotted deer roaming
through the grasslands, nilgai and sambar deer appearing through the
trees.   We drove on for around two hours.   The sunrise gave hope of
some warmth!   Occasionally we would drive out of the valley, and, 
my goodness, the sun was a welcomed sight.

Did I mention it was Keith's birthday?    Where was that lion?   This
was going to be some birthday present.    We had almost given up hope
when, on the crest of a hill, this magnificent beast appeared,

followed a little later by another one basking in the sun.    Fantastic.

Back for breakfast, and we were starving.  It's hard work stalking lions
Issaf was waiting for us with the car and all punctures fixed.  I found a 
seat in the sun while our stuffed parathas and curd were being
prepared.   Later, after having a shower, I noticed weired red rings on my
legs.   Goodness, had I been bitten by something nasty?    No, it turned
out they were chilblains, things of distant memory when sitting too close
to an open fire on cold winter days.   Who would have thought this would
happen after sitting on a hot stone wall warming up after a chilly start
to the day?!!

Moving up the north coast the next stop was Valavadar National Park,
Blackbuck sanctuary.

The countryside here reminded me of an African savanna, tall golden
grasses, interspersed with single low trees.    The blackbuck are beautiful
creatures, their horns resemble barley sugar twists.

Then there were nilgai, also known as blue cows

We spent a happy couple of hours driving through the park.  On the south side were
lakes full of winter migrants, various ducks, wonderfully coloured little birds darting
in and out of bushes.   Oh, so peaceful.

Lotus flowers coming into bloom

there had to be an elephant - we noticed this one as we were
passing a small village

Our friend, and guide, Samshu (and the lovely toran over the door has machine cut shisha!)

And so our wanderings came to an end.    Overnight train from Amedhabad to
Mumbai.   Two days to catch up with some shopping and then the flight home.
We stay by the harbour in Mumbai, the other end of the road from the Taj and
the Gateway to India.    The usual routine on leaving day is to pack, have breakfast,
followed by a quick stroll up to The Gateway to India.   A bit of a boo hoo, then
taxi to the airport.

This time we could hear the strains of a military band.   Oh, I do like that sound,
and what a send off.

It was a naval band, plenty of flags fore and aft.   In the middle of the parade,
young girl sea cadets.   They were practising for a big event I would guess.

the tail end

outside the Taj Hotel the girls are giving it their all.   The complete rendition of the
Sailor's Hornpipe, including all actions.   It fair brought a tear to my eye.

We arrived in India tired and exhausted, and returned fully restored, except I was
so chilled out it has taken some time to get round to doing things that should be
done - like my blog!    

Monday, 24 December 2012

out and about

Around Sayla we mooched about in the countryside, it was beautiful.
Little lanes, big tractors, carts, cows, fields with maize, wheat, etc.
Lakes full of birds, some arriving for the winter like these demoiselle
cranes arriving from Siberia.    They formed a huge black clock, such
a remarkable sight.    These are not little birds!     They are as tall as
all 5'3'' of me!   After a while some broke away and flew further west,
whilst the others had to decide their holiday spot.

There were storks and pelicans also arriving for their winter holidays.

it's all about cows

and some of the lovely people we met along the way

and quilts

and beadwork

amongst other things!

Now where was I?

ah yes, we were about to leave for Gujarat.     After a little (!) intermission 
I shall continue with the journey.

We left Udaipur for the five hour journey to the small walled town of Sayla.
The Aravali hills gave way to rich agricultural land.     Ahmedabad was not
on the visiting list!    It is such a polluted area, although first time visitors
should go to the Calico Textile Museum.   Such a wonderful collection of
textiles, including the interior of a Mughal tent, richly stitched or painted cloth.
Be aware of the opening times, and be prepared for the doorman who
might or might not let you in.   Ask me how I know!   Grrrrrrrr.   However, 
for some peace and tranquillity, over the Sabarmati River, about five
minutes away, is Gandhi's ashram.   It is such an oasis in this chaotic city.

The ever growing suburban sprawl goes on for miles and miles, and the
traffic is seriously scary.   It's a hide behind the sofa situation!

After stopping for the odd chai or two we reached our destination

The Old Bell Guesthouse

This is only half of it!   The rest is hidden behind more trees.   You might notice
a spot of red on the balcony - it's me reading.    I have had this property in my
sights for many years and it was not disappointing.   Not so far from the National
Highway, but so peaceful, surrounded by countryside.   Build in the mid 19thc
and designed by Colonel Bell, it was for European visitors to the court of Sayla.

Sayla is a small walled town, a bit of the beaten track and off the main tourist
route.   It was delightful, and we were greeted warmly.    

part of the old palace, now in a dilapidated state.  It must once 
have been magnificent.    We were invited in to have a look
around a huge room full of amazing things - a stuffed tiger,
ditto a sloth bear, lounging against a table.  He did look hungry.
A throne, paintings of six generations of ancestors, 
a palanquin which brought a great grandmother to her new
home after her marriage.  Books, maps etc etc.
Our host was the son of the last ruler before India gained 
independence.  A charming gentleman.   Returning to the
Old Bell we met our host, who is his son and had already
heard we had paid a visit!

nice piece of cloth!

testing the local transport

The reason for coming to Sayla was to find the factory making shisha glass.
After years of research I always came up with Limbli, which is more or less
next door.   Absolutely no luck.   Our host has had several guests on the same
quest, and he has asked around, and even as the local 'lord' he has drawn a blank.
I even heard, and later noted, that authentic shisha is not used around here,
instead  thick machine cut glass, and even plastic, is the preferred medium.
I wonder why?   Three hours away in Kutch shisha is used in abundance.

plenty of beautiful patola/double ikat weaving in the villages

the thread is tightly bound as a resist before dyeing
and this is repeated several times with different
colours to produce the pattern when weaving

a beautiful silk saree in the making

and so back to the Old Bell Guesthouse for a naughty 'sundowner'.
Gujarat is a dry state, but needs must!   Sitting on the balcony
watching the sun go down, peacocks roosting in electricty
pylons, oh yes they did, and then the bats flying out from the
roof on the search for tasty morsels.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Decorative designs made of clean swept floors of 
living rooms or courtyards during Hindu festivals

a white outline of the design is marked out with
chalk or rice flour, which is then filled with
coloured powders or flowers.

decorating a freshly made cow dung courtyard

a doorstep in Udaipur

a modern approach, household paint!

Teachers from the village school at Pachewar invited us in
 to see the rangoli designed by children in three different classes.
It is a competition, and I am very glad we didn't get asked
to be the judges.   All beautifully done - who could choose?!!

little diya lights complete the design of this rangoli

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

back streets of Udaipur

Oh, we do like a little wander.

Life goes on, much as it has always done.   A world away from
the tourist areas of Udaipur, where you are constantly being
invited to 'just come in and look'.   

In this small street we are greeted with genuine smiles, 
and no hassle.  

Blue house, blue  cart, with scales.   Later it will be trundled 
through the lanes, perhaps with vegetables for sale.

A goldsmith with his crucible balanced on a metal plate.
He is sitting on the steps outside his home.   
Such concentration.                                                        


The Musician.   Diwali.  A very simple melody!  Everyone happy
give a few rupees.          I had bought a box of delicious Indian
sweeties to share, they went down well!              


The Potter.  There were an amazing amount of small potteries.  Beautiful water
pots.  I would love to bring one home.   Would it survive the journey?  Perhaps I 
should at least try next time!    

Decorating the water pots.  Behind a mound of diya dishes.   Much in demand for
Diwali.   The little oil filled diya decorate the houses, in windows and along walls 
and roofs.     

A young mother with her child, and a 'friend'.     As Mark Tully says "you are never
alone in India".  The baby is well wrapped up, despite the temperature being 
around 28c.    Doesn't she look happy?   

the big blip

Hello, namaste - we're back!     When we left Udaipur on 15 November, 
for roads less travelled in Gujarat, there was a distinct lack of Internet access, 
in fact, none at all. Even at the end of the trip in Mumbai, there was a short 
burst of wifi, like ten minutes!   Apparently trouble with the satellite.    Well, 
we just had to accept  that information.

This was a good thing!   After twitchy fingers, and needing to know what was
going on in the world, the laptop also had a holiday.

This year was a difficult one, for many reasons.   We really needed down time
to let the brain empty, file and/or delete.   It took about a week to recuperate,
then just to relax and enjoy the journey.  

A bit of a shock landing at Heathrow.   Not only pouring rain, a temperature
drop of 30c, followed by a cold frosty spell.  Hibernation time!    Out with the
Blue Moon quilt   Spent a few days quilting, which was great.  No stitching
for a whole month!!!!

brrrr ..............

I started this blog in 2008 as a journal of my Indian travels mainly for 
family and friends, and Keith who joined me two weeks later, just
so they knew where I was and what I was up to.  I had an invitation to 
a Mela in Bhuj, which I could not refuse.   Previously I had sent group
e mails. Time for techno Tig to join the 21st century.  That was a huge 
learning curve, especially since I only set up the blog days before
my departure!

That's almost five years ago!  The blog goes on.  Thank you friends and 
followers for visiting, and for your comments which are always welcomed.

So I have a lot of catching up to do!

When in India you have to expect the unexpected around every corner.
You also experience 'breakdown' with everyday objects.   Take my new
sandals for instance 

very comfortable for wandering around Udaipur

and then the glue on the straps failed to do it's job.   Step up the street cobbler.
What a good job!   Glue applied to both shoe straps, and for added stability, 
saddle stitching to the sole.    You might notice they are a light cherry red.
Oops, to late.  They were polished within an inch of their life, very nice and
smart, however, I've lost the red and now have a sort of military brown!

Keith's binoculars went wonky, I lost mine!   I also think I need a new camera!
I am 'borrowing' some of Keith's photos for my blog which I will mark as his.
For a real treat, do visit his website.   He is still in the process of sorting his
pix.   They are brilliant.