Triplogue - Gujarat II:
Palitana to Junagadh

8 December, Palitana to Diu, 162km (a)

I kept wondering if we’d been unknowingly killed by a truck and transported to cyclists heaven –so excellent was the first one hundred kilometers of today’s ride.

We went on the advice of our waiter from last night, who caught me gazing at a wall map in the lobby and told us to follow a route marked as a track --one not figuring on any of my three maps—and using that most dreaded of Gujarati words, "shortcut." But the conviction with which he stated that this was our best option made us decide to give it a try. I figured we’d either break the long journey into two days or hire transport anyway.

But here we are in Diu, one hundred sixty-two kilometers later, watching the last light fade from the sky, exhausted and elated over having made it all the way under our own power…

The first segment of our ride took us through rolling desert landscapes, the imposing holy mountain of Palitana always visible off to the right. Then we must have dropped a bit, because everything turned green and lush –the most flourishing farmland we’ve seen in this country so far. A second holy mountain, crowned by an enormous white temple –presumably Jain—appeared in the distance as we passed through numerous serene little villages. Each of these featured large portraits by the roadside. Most were of a chubby old man wearing little beyond his Santa Claus beard and a satisfied expression, and the few others featured a stiff-looking female deity standing on the back of a crocodile. Virtually every man we saw wore the traditional Gujarat costume of white pajamas, tight in the legs and skirted at the waist, with large gold earrings sprouting out of the centers of their ears. And the few drivers were courteous to a fault –which I attributed to the influence of Jainism, a religion whose most fervent proponents would literally not hurt a fly.

The crossroads village of Jesar appeared after fourty-one kilometers of blissful riding. We stopped here to stock up on the usual cycling treats and liter after liter of water. The inevitable crowd that appeared was more polite than any other we’ve encountered in India. They kept their distance and posed their questions one at a time. The man running the little shop wasted no time on small talk, asking Fred directly, "What is truth?"

From Jesar our route climbed into some high brown hills looking as if they’d been teleported here from California. The study wind practically blew us up the steepish slope, and the long, gentle ride down the other side was sheer pedaling ecstasy, with gorgeous vistas opening out to either side. Like the route to Jesar, our road was narrow but well-maintained, with hardly any traffic at all. Were we still in India?

Rajula jarred us back into reality at the hundred kilometer mark. Dusty beyond description, hopelessly overcrowded and generally chaotic, the town was urban India hell in a nutshell. We considered spending the night here, especially when we passed a decent-looking hotel on the way out of town, but chose to push on. After all, the tailwind was straight from heaven, and if we pushed we could make it to Diu by dark.

And we just made it. The last sixty kilometers, back on the main highway, were much tougher going. The road was in poor repair to say the least and the scenery was mind-numbingly monotonous. But we persevered, pausing only to pump air into my slowly leaking tire every six kilometers or so. I was too lazy to replace it, worried that we’d never make it by dark if I did. And it’s true that we just barely made it. The sky was already bright red by the time we pulled into this blissful beachside resort called "Magico do Mar." It’s the first hotel coming into Diu, chosen primarily because it spared us the last few kilometers of pedaling into the old part of town. We’ve scored a fantastic adoboid bungalow on the beach. The grounds are impeccably landscaped, the food is terrific, and the only other guests are two French women named –you guessed it—Nadine and Liliane.

Over a delicious al fresco dinner we convinced them to join us for a drink in Diu town. Their driver took us to a funky seaside place up on a rooftop where we imbibed locally-made whisky, which wasn’t bad at all. Here we learned part of the Nadine and Liliane story. They’re not a couple as we initially thought, but rather traveling buddies who met on an organized tour of India some years ago. Of course, being French, they spared us any interesting details, yet we enjoyed spending this last evening with them nevertheless. We laughed when we discovered that Nadine had had the same idea that I came up with in Palitana yesterday, namely that some enterprising person could market the place to Westerners as a spa vacation. All the elements are there: vegetarian food, a vigorous exercise regimen and spiritualism to spare… It’s funny how these two women have been such a part of the Gujarat landscape for us, and we’re both a little sad that we’re unlikely to see them ever again. Tomorrow our fellow nomadic princessi leave for Bhuj, many hundreds of kilometers to the north, which is neither on our itinerary nor within the range of our tired sore legs.

Mystery Jain saint

 

On the road of our dreams

 

Low-caste bone collectors near Una

Diu's bustling port

 

 

On the beach in Diu

9-10 December, around Diu, 66km (a)

This really is a very special place, an oasis of tranquillity in the maelstrom of India. Due to our rushed itinerary, we spent only two full days here, though we easily could have stayed a week or more. The faded colonial aspects of the old town give the place a timeless air; our suburban lodgings feel positively homey; the locals couldn’t possibly be more easy-going, and the endless stretch of abandoned white sand at our doorstep is perfect for long, long walks. Our puritanical detractors scorn us for taking off on a two-year "vacation", though this is the first time our voyage has felt like a vacation in many months.

Yesterday we rode into town for lunch and ran into another French female couple we’d met on the road (staying at the same place as us in Udaipur). Unlike Liliane and Nadine, Nathalie and Astrid are most decidedly lesbians, though their usual French aloofness prevents them from being outspoken on the subject. Over plates of sizzling vegetables and nummy fish dishes, we discussed more innocuous subjects, like Gujarat food, art and the relative merits of Vadilal ice cream.

I was up for a pedal around Diu island (or is it a presque-ile?), but Fred was not. He said he felt wiped out from the previous day’s ride, thus letting me to explore on my own. I headed west along the island’s north coast, stopping to check out a crumbling church converted (just barely) into a cheap guest house. I followed little tracks just to see where they went, but always ended up back on the sublimely shaded main road. This was India in slow-motion, without any of the frenzied mayhem one finds elsewhere. Another thing that surprised me was how harmoniously the Muslim and Hindu populations seemed to coexist. At the eastern tip of the island I stumbled upon an outdoor mosque full of guys in haji hats, literally in the shade of a Shivite temple.

I took the shorter, southern route back to Diu town, riding along dramatic seascapes and battling the wind. I stopped at what is considered the finest beach on the island, nothing special really but full of exuberant Indian tourists from all over Gujarat state. One obviously drunken man leading what appeared to be a school group threw his arms around me and planted kisses all over my surprised face as his miniature charges giggled nervously. Others rode camels or played in the waves.

All the white folks were at a place known as Sunset Point. I suppose it was the appropriate hour, though I couldn’t help but think about how ghettoized it all was. I ran into a young French (and straight) couple we’d seen somewhere before in the courtyard of a hideous hippie hotel made from freight containers and billed as a "resort." They were on bikes too and we rode back to town together. It was pitch black by the time I returned to our seaside digs, and both Fred and I were famished. We were all alone at dinner tonight, and Fred said he wasn’t feeling any better, retiring to bed while I went over the border (for our hotel is on the Gujarat side) to a bar to drink with a friendly waiter from our hotel, Krishnan. Krishnan told me that he was going to a wedding afterwards in his nearby village and invited me to go along with him. Game for something out of the ordinary, I accepted. I had been to weddings on my previous trip to India and remember them as bizarre and fun.

Last night’s wedding was more bizarre than fun. I followed Krishnan and his brother on their bikes through the moonless night. Their village was some distance away, and we stopped first at their family home, which doubles as a popsicle factory and outlet store. The father was fat and a little pompous while the mother was drop-dead beautiful. We sat around a little awkwardly in their spare but comfortable living room for a while before setting off to the wedding reception, already well under way in the street just around the corner. The groom greeted us enthusiastically in educated English, then leapt back into a mass of sweating, dancing bodies. Unlike the other Indian weddings I’d attended, the men and women were mixed together, and some of the dancing was frankly erotic. The most popular dance, though, was a simple routine involving wooden sticks. I was seated next to a visiting uncle from Ahmedabad to watch the proceedings while the less refined relations –a few of them strikingly good-looking—stole glances at me and giggled. A videographer (another of Krishnan’s brothers) recorded the whole thing, often aiming his 10000-watt light in my direction.

When the stick dance ended the music was cranked up even further and individuals got up for displays of virtuoso writhing. One cousin in particular was amazing to watch. He twisted and contorted his skinny frames in ways I’d never seen, in a sort of parody that made my neighbor exclaim with delight, "He’s just like a woman!" He was quite popular with the crowd, who next wanted to see me do the same. I was way too self-conscious to comply, especially with a Klug light beaming down on me, and only one Indian whisky under my belt. Of course this was all very disappointing to my friends, who shortly thereafter led me back to the Magico do Mar, this time with the headlamp of a motorbike to light the way.

The next day we rode back over the bridge into Diu town, this time to be tourists. First stop was the fabulous old fort, built by the Portuguese centuries ago. Part of it is still used as a prison, which we were disappointed to learn was not open for visitation. We walked along the walls and enjoyed the views of the sea and the town for a couple of hours. Afterwards we checked out a lame excuse for a museum in an old Catholic church (still another church now functions as the town hospital) before sitting down for a mediocre lunch in a travelers-style eatery, our fellow diners being the usual sort of bearded, beaded and bedecked Eurotrash.

Fred still wasn’t feeling terribly perky, so I spent the better part of the afternoon on a long, long walk up the beach, during which I didn’t encounter a single soul –unless you count cows or goats, that is. For the sunset we had the staff of our hotel set up a table for us on the vast and abandoned stretch of sand and ordered some snacks. The accompanying beer we had to go next door for, since the adjacent property was in Diu territory and we were still in dry Gujarat. Fortunately no one gave us trouble for consuming the beer on our beach, some five meters into the Gujarat side. It’ll be our last beer for a while, too, since tomorrow we head back into the land of the teetotalers.

11 December, Diu to Veraval, 94km (f)

After three days of utter relaxation in Diu it was with mixed emotion that I mounted my bike this morning. It took almost the entire stay just to get over the exertion of our last marathon ride. I’d hoped that this day would be equally rewarding as our last riding day, only with less effort. As our trip winds down I fear that I am finding less resolve to continue. Today Andy seemed in a similar state. He pedaled lazily and was disengaged. We wandered a bit on the island before parting. Andy stopped to chat up a few Germans who were traveling by motorbike and dropped off a French novel for Astrid and Nathalie while I longed to get on with our ride.

Diu retains a foreign (non-Indian) feel. Could it be left over from its days as a colony of Portugal or is it because it is overrun by beach-seeking tourists. Indians are discovering Diu too. Not only because it is one of the few places in Gujarat where one can find a beer, but also because an Indian holiday is not that unless they see some foreigners on their vacation.

Our vacation had come to an end as we began pedaling across the island to catch a ferry back to the mainland. Passing empty churches, fields of cane, coconut palms, and bustling villages --much of the time protected from the sun by a canopy of trees-- we headed for the boat back to "real" India. The fishing village at the end of Diu island was far bigger than the town that shares the territory’s name. After a little wander we found the "ferry". It was little more than a fishing dory with an outboard motor, already crowded with folks and piled high with firewood. Our bikes were tossed on top of the heap and we boarded while begging urchins flocked around us. The peasants stared at us silently as we made the short crossing.

When we arrived at the other side there was no dock. I shed my shoes and waded in the water, guiding the bulky cycles down the criminally narrow gangplank to the beach. Amongst a crowd of twenty kids we readied the bikes for our departure. It was then that Andy realized his cycle computer had disappeared. He searched his gear, the boat, the sand and considered pat searching a few of the urchins before giving up his search. He concluded it must have been lost at the other dock while loading the bike or pinched by one of the beggar urchins.

The microscopic road to Kodinar was well paved and nearly vacant. Understandable considering it dead-ends in the sandy little village where our ferry dropped us. With a kick-butt tailwind, flat coastal terrain and newfound energy I was ready to rip. Andy on the other hand was feeling energy free and lagged behind listlessly.

Halfway through our leisurely eighty-kilometer day we stopped at a dingy little hotel for lunch. Strangely the restaurant and reception were on the third floor. Andy headed up the stairs while I secured the bikes. Somehow on the way up Andy brushed his arm against the sharp edge of a light fixture and cut a gash on his arm. Liability is not something the Indians worry about. Without complaint I bandaged him up and we ordered our lunch.

Some sort of political or business meeting was going on in the dining room so they sequestered us in the back room. The sign on the door said VIP and the blasting air conditioner confirmed we were in a place reserved for big mucky-mucks. We ordered our meal and waited for what seemed to be an hour for our food. Two other tables seated after us had been served before us though they’d ordered afterwards. When the second table was served I called the waiter over to ask what the problem was. We made such a stink that the family at an adjacent table was shamed into not touching their food until we had ours. They just sat and stared at their plates getting cold in the arctic breeze. Just as we were readying ourselves to leave and try our luck elsewhere, our order arrived and the crisis was averted.

Back on the road again the scenery was far less interesting and the road far more challenging. Huge tracts of it were nothing but rocks set in sand. Trucks menaced us by running us off the good portions of the road in order to avoid the bad, without regard as to whether it was on their half of the road or not. I put myself in a trance and pedaled to our next destination lost in thought.

We arrived at a massive temple in Patan. Its majestic carved domes set impressively at the seaside were carved of stone and housed the shrine built by and dedicated to the god of the sea.

The temple had been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The last reconstruction/redecoration had cost the interior some of its former stature. The main shrine now looks more like a bus terminal than a temple. Outside we sat on the seawall and chatted with fellow (Indian) tourists and fed the mangy stray dogs and cats with scraps of food from our bags. One kitty was so young we wondered how it would survive without the company of its mother.

We set off for nearby Veraval, where we planned to spend our night. From our guidebook and the town’s location on the map I envisioned a charming little port town with lovely beaches and bustling with activity. I had the last bit right. Like every town of size in India it was chock-full-o-activity but sadly lacking in all the other characteristics I’d attributed to it. All the hotels were dirty little dumps except for one run by Christians. We checked in there, sadly disappointing our hosts when we revealed that we were part of the unwashed masses in spite of our waspy looks (ok, Andy’s waspy looks).

The port of the town was the main interest, crammed full of vessels of all sorts all engaged in loading and unloading goods, fish and people. Near the docks boats of biblical proportion were under construction. These Noah’s Arcs were being built by hand of wood by thousands of workers buzzing about like ants.

The town itself was a network of unpaved roads whose dust was in a constant state of churn by the parade of commercial vehicles going to and from the port. Within three moments of walking around I was hacking up dirt clods and hoping we’d find a dust-free restaurant for dinner. We dined at a dark and dingy place on exquisite and spicy curries and meats, then retired to our Christian quarters. I fell asleep to the bring-bring of my bike-bell being rung by the kids downstairs.

Back to the mainland

 

 

Sheepish Gujaratis

Do's and Don'ts at the lion zoo

 

 

Ferocious wild lion of Sasan Gir

12 December, Veraval to Sasan Gir, 68km (a)

"Are you Christian?" yet another grinning and immaculately-dressed young Indian was asking me, at seven in the morning. Since he was bearing that elixir of life, coffee, as well as breakfast (two slices of stale white bread) I was required to answer as politely as I could manage. Our squeaky-clean hotel seems to double as a local hotbed of Christendom. God only knows how the Good News penetrated into this godforsaken place. It makes you wonder about the persuasive powers of whoever it was that converted them (a Mormon?). Whatever were they thinking?

Getting out of town was a piece of cake. We headed out the same way we came in, past the bustling port, and then into the hills. The ride was great, on a reasonable road with lots of local color. All the other vehicles seemed to be the multi-hued tractor-buses so favored in this part of the world, carrying villagers in high Gujarati drag. The women looked gorgeous in their bright saris and glistening jewelry, while the men’s gold earrings, huge mustaches and white outfits gave them a distinguished, exotic look. The weather was excellent and our day’s destination –the only place in the world boasting wild Asiatic lions, a species I never even knew existed before—was only a few hours away.

We stopped in the biggish town of Talala, which had a Timbuktu air to it –a bustling yet uncrowded trading outpost possessing a palpably multicultural flavor. With everyone in their traditional garb, it looked like the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. Strangely, a lot of the villagers here were obviously of African decent. I’d noticed a few yesterday in Veraval and elsewhere, but here they represented a significant segment of the population. How the hell did they find their way to this backwater? The 7-11 wallah here was even more inquisitive than most. "What is your religion?" he wanted to know, and was eager to use his very good English. "Do you have money from your country?" he asked. I pulled a crumpled old dollar out of my bag, told him its worth and got change in rupees. While munching on the bananas we bought, a cow wandered up and chomped down the skins that we fed her with incredible alacrity.

Beyond Talala we had the road all to ourselves. It climbed through jungle-covered hills interspersed with pastureland. I kept an eye open for errant lions, who are said to kill more than fifty villagers a year. There are more than five hundred of the beasts in the area, and you’d think that people might prefer living somewhere else. We passed through the gates of the national park and sanctuary and not long afterwards we had arrived in Sasan Gir village, which is basically a little roadside way-station catering to lion-watching tourists. Since the downmarket, state-run accommodation was full, we followed the long driveway to Gir Lodge, run by the Taj group of hotels and one of the swankest places to stay in all of Gujarat.

--Which isn’t saying much. The room was pretty ordinary and obscenely overpriced, but the setting was gorgeous and the manager was so charming we couldn’t resist. After cutting us a reasonable deal on a room-and-board package, he invited us to tea in the Englishy garden out back. He was from Rajasthan originally and had many questions and suggestions regarding our route. One of the bellmen was also very keen on questioning us, as he had ridden his bike from Gir all the way to Jaipur once.

After a less-than-spectacular lunch, which we ate in the cavernous dining room all by ourselves, we hit the road to visit the lions. The manager had told us of a preserve-within-the-preserve, a sort of safari park, where one was almost guaranteed to see lions. It was a beautiful ride out there, on a deserted road over ruggedly rolling hills. We jumped through the usual bureaucratic hoops to book seats on a bus, where all the other tourists were Indians. Our driver was Indian too, even though he looked African. I wondered again how the majority of brown Indians interact with the tiny minority of black ones.

The bus penetrated a series of high gates and we were inside the fenced-in reserve, a surprisingly vast area. The driver sped around a series of dirt roads at an alarming speed, reminding us of our experiences at Ranthambore. This "safari" was more high-tech, however, in that the drivers/rangers communicated via radio to let each other know where the lions were. Our lions were spotted right at the perimeter fence, which made for an experience (not to mention photo) akin to seeing them in an ordinary zoo. We did spot some other critters though, including a smaller "jungle cat", lots of sambhar and spotted deer and a magnificent nilgai –a sort of giant antelope.

After the tour we met a group of bureaucrats from nearby Rajkot who were about to enter the preserve on foot. The leader of their group boasted that as state employees they had "connections" which allowed them the privilege. "But isn’t that dangerous?" I asked, flabbergasted, recalling that even the bus we had taken featured thick iron bars on all of its windows. The stout little man responded with a sly look: "A little, but if you walk quietly and know how to behave there is actually very little danger. And seeing the lions on foot is really the best way."

The ride back to "town" was even more beautiful in the golden light of late afternoon. It was one of those days where you’re convinced that cycling is really and truly the best way to see the world. Back at the hotel we played backgammon on the lawn and watched the sunset. We snuck down a little bottle of Indian whisky we’d bought in Diu to mix in with soda water we’d ordered from the bar. Shortly after we’d poured our third round, a handsome young guy marched out to talk to us.

"Did you see any lions?" he asked out of sheer politeness, before giving us a little lecture on the fact that alcohol is forbidden in Gujarat state. "If any police saw you drinking they could shut us down," he said sternly.

"We thought we were being discreet," I said in feeble defense of our crime.

"It was quite evident sir," said our officious friend, in a tone usually reserved for speaking to children.

So we slunk upstairs with the remainders of our illegal cocktails and freshened up for dinner. Back downstairs we were greeted by the same guy who had reprimanded us earlier. We were surprised to learn that this obviously educated person had moved here from Delhi to work as a cook –and not a very talented one at that. I figured he might be a good source of information on the local black population and asked him about their origins and place in society.

"There are two theories as to how they got here, actually. One is that they were imported as retainers for the powerful nawab of Junagadh, and the other is that this part of Gujarat –it is known as Saurashtra— broke off from the African continent long ago."

"So long ago that homo sapiens didn’t exist as a species yet," I discounted the more preposterous of the two theories, "isn’t it possible that the Portuguese brought them to Diu from one of their colonies in Africa?"

"No; that is not what happened," he stated severely, as if my hypothesis was utterly ludicrous.

"And how are they accepted in Indian society?"

"Unlike in your country, there is no problem of racism in India. Basically these black people keep to themselves, though they speak Gujarati and have adapted our customs entirely. But they are only good for digging ditches or taking care of animals, as they are not dependable and quite lazy and ignorant."

This is not at all the first time we’ve encountered hypocritical discourse in India. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve heard tautological or oxymoronic statements like "We Indians are a tolerant people, except for the Muslims, who are pigs."

When our cook friend disappeared into the kitchen to rustle up a barely palatable dinner, we turned our attention to the only other people in the vast room (and the only other guests in the hotel, it turns out), a middle class family from Bombay. The father worked for an American shipping concern, the mother was obviously extremely well-educated and their nine-year-old son was adorable. They told us how they had seen both lions and panthers on their first safari, and invited us to share a jeep with them bright (or rather still dark) and early the following morning.

Falling asleep I heard what sounded like the roaring of a nearby lion. Was I already dreaming?

13 December, Sasan Gir to Junagadh, 65km (f)

A thump-thump-thump on the front door of our hotel room woke me from a sound dreamy sleep. I’d heard lions’ roars all night from the feline rehabilitation center two kilometers away. The growl at the front door was the room service boy bringing our bed-tea at 6 in the morning. It was still pitch black outside as I put on every piece of clothing I have in order to brave the morning cold. Today we’d go for a lion safari in Sasan Gir. The day before we’d seen lions in a special compound; today we hoped to see them roaming in the wild.

Even through all my clothes the wind whipped the cold air through them and left me huddled and shivering in the back of the open jeep. Our driver and our guide were wisely wrapped in yards of cloth, looking like living Egyptian mummies. The driver careened around the savanna with one hand, uh, actually one stump, on the wheel. We drove along scanning the underbrush in vain for a lion. The closest we came was to see paw prints in the dust on the road and to hear the whooping noise of monkeys warning the deer about the approach of a lion. We saw hundreds of barking deer (whose cries the little boy with us imitated to perfection), monkeys and birds, but no lions were seen on this safari.

We returned to the hotel, demonstrated our bikes to the staff and rode off towards Junagadh and the end of our journey in Gujarat. The wind blew us over the hills around the Sasan Gir preserve. Towards the middle of the day we changed direction and headed into the wind for our last kilometers through primitive villages. One of the last ones before our final destination was surrounded by an imposing medieval wall. There we stopped for a drink and had an unusual experience. The goofy shopkeep tried to short-change me. He told me the price of the goods purchased, took my money and gave me change for a smaller bill. When I asked for the remainder he gave me more but still shorted me five rupees. I tired of his absurd little game and walked off. He was five rupees (12 cents) richer. Had this been a common occurrence? Had we been fleeced before and been blissfully ignorant? I didn’t thing so. And what if we had? --certainly it wasn’t significant to us. Later we’d learn that we had been in greater danger than losing a few rupees. I read in a Bombay publication how several hundred people each year are attacked by lions in the area we cycled through. Had we been attacked it would have been a unique way to go.

Arriving in Junagadh we sought lodging, ending up at the Hotel Relief. It was a relief. A relaxed atmosphere, big room in the center of town and helpful staff would make our stay a restful one. One dramatic moment did occur there. The hotel owner was out when we took our bikes and bags to be shipped to Bombay. From there we’d mount the next part of our journey. Unfortunately the owner’s father and a flunky had not been party to our discussion about this logistic. The two thought we were skipping town without paying and caused a big scene. The owner was all apologies when we saw him later. I just laughed it off.

Junagadh was a big surprise. I’d expected a horrible little dumpy provincial capital and was instead treated to one of the more livable towns we’d visited. The town’s buildings are styled with a influence from Europe. The local nawab had been a collaborator with the colonialists and had profited substantially from that relationship. As a result he had an impressive castle in the center of town that now serves as a museum of his furnishings. The nawab fled India to Pakistan during Partition, leaving everything behind. His artifacts on display at the musem were fantastic. They included several lion-themed chairs and sofas fashioned from solid silver. The huge pieces of furniture each must have weighed more than a Buick. He’d been conscious of the natural history of the area and taken care to preserve the Asiatic lion. It was he who established the reserve at Sasan Gir and it was because of him that there are several hundred lions left.

Another highlight of the town established by the nawab was the zoo. I’d been ready to see a sad little compound full of iron cages and sick looking animals. What we found instead was a huge zoo with immaculately maintained grounds, large cages with natural settings for the animals and a varied selection of species. The best collection was the cats. Slinky spotted leopards paced their cages, powerful tigers eyed tasty looking schoolchildren and sleepy looking Asian lions hung about looking regal. My favorite was the white tigers. These phenomenally looking beasts purred so loudly my body vibrated.

Thousands of years before the last nawab ruler departed Junagadh, Emperor Ashoka ruled India. One of his long-lasting legacies would be his edicts. They were carved on rocks as a reminder to all. A huge boulder just outside the town still carry his words that promote the spread of the Buddhist faith.

When we finally left Junagadh we had train problems. This time our sleeper car did not exist. Instead we were crammed together with eight others into a squalid second-class sleeper. Finally we baksheeshed the conductor to find more suitable berths. Andy and I ended up in separate compartments. Andy shared his with the train guards, one of whom slept with his Uzi under his pillow.

Time to trade in Roy for an Atlas?

 

Junagadh snack seller


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