The Sockeyed Blog

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Junagadh

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Junagadh is an ancient city dating back to at least 250BC when it was the capital of the Maurya empire under Ashok.  It is built around a huge Mughal on a central hill.  Close by is an impressively-tall holy mountain, and while dry, the city has a certain greenness too it and feels somewhat cooler.

We rode an autorickshaw through an ancient gate and along several narrow streets up into the old town to the house of another one of Derek’s old friends, Iqbal Vora.  They originally met in Veraval, but I remember meeting Iqbal and his family in Junagadh at the house of Razia’s (Iqbal’s wife) parents.  I have a couple of photos what I took then of Iqbal and his two young daughters, Shaheen and Shohanna, on the roof of that house.

Razia and the girls, now grown women, met us at their apartment.  Shaheen and Shohanna were still quite recognizable although it was somewhat stunning to see them as adults.   This has been the pattern for this trip: adults have gone on to middle age and children have become adults.  It’s quite fascinating to be able to return to such a place after a decade’s absence.

There is also a new addition: Sohil, Iqbal and Razia’s 8-year old son.

After lunch, some writing and a short rest, we went for a walk around the town, oogling the old buildings and narrow twisty streets, vegetable stalls and chai-wallahs.  We climbed up into the fort shortly before sundown and peered into bottomless step wells, apparently 2,000 years old, and at canons taken from a Turkish fleet defeated by the Portuguese in the 16th or 17th Century.  Saturday night is the time for locals to head out as Sunday is their day off, so parts of the fort were mobbed.  We watched the sun dip down, then wandered back into town eventually meeting Iqbal at his three-wheeler supply store, Speed Auto Agency (Derek helped with the name some years back).  Iqbal, like everyone else, has aged and now looks middle-aged, but is still bright-eyed and warm.

Junagadh's Pleasant Historic Streets

Junagdadh's Uperkot Fort

Historic Buildings at Dusk

Late-night Roadside Puncture Repair

After chatting for a while, he closed up shop at around 8pm and the three of us pile on his motorbike only to have it run out of gas after a few hundred meters.  We walked down the street pushing it down a dusty busy road for a few hundred more until finding a gas station.  Soon we were home for dinner.

The food was tasty little pastry triangles, noodles (Razia’s family spent time in Burma), sweets and jello.  A couple of things about meals still take getting use to.  The first is that men always eat before and separately from the women even though the women have prepared the meal.  I always get the sense that women are stuck with the leftovers.  Often they eat in the kitchen too.  Second is that almost every meal has been taken sitting cross-legged on the floor, which takes some getting used to.  Invariably one of my feet will fall asleep and I’ll hobble to a chair after standing up, hoping that I won’t stumble on my numb appendage and fall into the dinner.

After some chatting and playing karems (a game like shuffleboard), we went to bed and I slept very solidly.

I woke up feeling very refreshed for the first time in days and was alert for much of the day.  We had a bit of time before our 11:50am train, so we went to visit Razia’s family in their wonder old courtyard house, then four of us – Iqbal, Sohil, Derek and I piled on his motorbike and drove into the hills outside of town into cool, refreshing air.  We went to the town at the start of a famous walk that circumnavigates the mountain, about 37kms in total.  During one particular festival, coming up shortly, 500,000 people do the walk at once!  I’d like to do the walk someday, but certainly not in that kind of company.

With time getting short, we rolled back down to the apartment, collected our things, said good-bye, then Derek and I and our bags piled into an auto to get to the station.

We had reserved seats for the trip into Ahmedabad in 2nd class sleeper, which mean sitting in an open compartment facing a row of people across from you, will a couple more across the aisle.  The back of the seat flips up to make a sleeping berth and there is one more above one’s head.  We sat with three young IT techs on their way to Pune after visiting family in Gujarat.  Two wives and one young nephew were also there.  The three fellows spoke very good English and we chatted for a fair bit of the way.

The journey was quite enjoyable; it wasn’t too hot and there was plenty to look at out the open door – the flat landscape with acres of cotton and banks of cactus, minor rural stations and bustling urban ones, cows and herders and ox-carts.  I listened to music and enjoyed watching the world go by.

Peacock on a Telegraph Pole, Seen from the Train

Stacks Rails and a Signal

The trip took about 7 hours and we arrived to total chaos in Ahmedabad.  The train was continuing onwards, and there was the usual detraining mayhem as people piled on while we tried to get off.  Fortunately we had size and momentum, and some help from a kindly fellow, in our favour.  I felt very bad for our travelling companions who had 14 large boxes with them (full of food from home) and a very tight connection to their next train.  Last we saw they had three porters helping them get their stuff for the right platform.

The train station was an amazing scene.  Masses of people walking and sitting everywhere and massive diesel locomotives pulling in and out, pulling carriages full of more people piling on and off trains.  Everything was sooty and loud and gritty and surreal.

Our auto ride to the hotel was a real treat.  Our septuagenarian driver was incredibly skilled, smoothly and dexterously weaving around buses, autos, bikes, cars and cows.  Never once was it jerky and rough; rather it was being carried in water through rapids.   I think that I may have even hooted with the enjoyment of it all several times.

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Written by sockeyed

October 25, 2009 at 20:23

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

One Response

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  1. Lovely tales. Don’t overdose on tea!

    Graham

    October 28, 2009 at 22:54


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