Our planning for this trip included finding a tour that would go to places we wanted to see with a start date close enough to the wedding not to require a long wait but with sufficient buffer time to be comfortable. Our GAdventures tour begins with a meeting in Delhi on Monday evening. For flexibility at both ends, I booked a Sunday morning flight from Ahmedabad to Delhi meaning that all we had to do today was get from the resort to an airport hotel in Ahmedabad.
John had kindly arranged a small bus to leave the resort for Ahmedabad at midday so, unlike Laura and her group who left at 5:00 am for a morning flight from Ahmedabad, we went down around 8:30 am for a relaxed breakfast. There were other guests there from both sides so we spent some time chatting and saying goodbyes before going back to our room.
We were packed and ready by 10:00 am but waited until 11:00 before going down to checkout. We expected there might be a rush and there was, but the process was simple and we were able to sit in the reception area for a while and talk with some of the others waiting for various modes of transport.
Our bus had room for 15 including the driver and there were 12 guests to board. That part worked well but it had very limited luggage space. Luggage was left at the rear of the bus as we boarded and then the bus operators proceeded to load most of it onto the roof. We did see ropes out the side windows and hoped it was well secured. Just before we left they brought our packs inside. Evidently there was insufficient room on the roof.
The route back to Ahmedabad differed from the route we took down on Wednesday. We went through the nearby town of Anand and then onto the national expressway which took us all the way to the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The expressway traffic mostly moved at a fair pace but there were occasional slower moving trucks that insisted on staying in what should have been the passing lane. That required our driver to engage in some wrong side passing manoeuvres.
The surrounding countryside was dry and dusty but we saw a variety of crops. Early on our journey there were fields of marigolds, some with workers engaged in harvesting. Judging by the large number of marigolds used for decoration at the wedding there would be a thriving trade. We also saw fields of grain, cabbages, and what looked like it might be tobacco.
Traffic in Ahmedabad was as heavy as we remembered it with a mix of vehicles and constant beeping to assist with weaving a path through. We arrived at our hotel, the Pristine Residency, a little before 2:00 pm. Checkin required passports to be photocopied, completion of a form with names and home address, and a photograph to be taken.
We relaxed briefly in our room and then decided to take an Uber to the old city, a world heritage site, for a look around. Traffic near the airport was busy and disrupted by preparations for the Trump and Modi show on Monday. It took me three attempts to get an Uber that did not cancel, possibly for a quicker or better fare, before it arrived. Meanwhile Majella tried to talk with a group of ten or a dozen police standing in the street outside the hotel. Eventually she found one who spoke English and confirmed they were part of the 3000 police who would be in the airport area for the Trump and Modi visit.
Our ride into the old city initially followed the route to be taken by Trump and Modi. There were barriers being erected along the roadside and evidence of recent landscaping. We saw the beginnings of what we thought might be the regional displays we had heard about.
Traffic in the old city area was intense. Our driver asked in limited English if we wanted shopping and we agreed to that. He deposited us near a street market area which happened to be adjacent to the original 1411 stone fort erected by the city founder. We were able to walk inside part of the structure and admired its solid construction that has stood for 600 years and the intricate carvings on some portions.
From there we walked down Gandhi Road which was bordered by street stalls and packed with pedestrians, motorcycles, and motor rickshaws. We spent some time in various shops or stalls and Majella bought a couple of small items as gifts to take home. A man in one stall motioned for me to take a photograph of him with his colourful fabrics but, to my surprise, declined to accept money for the favour.
Google Maps indicated an ancient tomb nearby so we headed for that. At one point we were unable to cross the traffic jam of rickshaws coming in from a side road and instead went along the side road and continued in our chosen direction at the next street.
Along there we found an old building that I first thought might have been the tomb but was actually the entry to Jama Mosque. It was built in 1424 and is an impressive stone structure. The mosque roof is supported by a multitude of stone columns and in front of the mosque is a large open courtyard that would function as an extension of the mosque for prayer.
Women are not permitted in the actual mosque and Majella had been distracted on entry by a man who asked where we came from and, on hearing Australia, named various cricketers including Majella’s favourite, Ricky Ponting. She had been distracted then looking for the photograph of her taken with Ricky but it was not on her phone. When I returned from the mosque I managed to find it in the original 2012 Facebook post. Meanwhile she had been engaged in conversation with two Muslim women who spoke good English. The mother was a teacher and the daughter was studying psychology. In the discussion that followed, Majella learned that the young woman was engaged and would be married in a couple of years time. The match had been arranged but with the young woman’s consent and obvious joy. They showed Majella photos of wedding outfits they were already planning.
We were asked twice for photographs to be taken with children or adults before we put our shoes back on and headed down the street. Around the corner we found the tomb we had been looking for but there was no informative signage that we could see or any means of entry. We continued on our way.
With no real idea of where we were going but thinking we would try to find somewhere with easier flowing traffic before hailing an Uber, we walked on up another street. Eventually it began to seem familiar as the shops were displaying saris, kurtas, and other formal dress. As we reached the end of the street we realised it was the street that Laura had taken us to on Tuesday. The traffic there seemed less frantic but we thought it best to use an Uber rickshaw rather than a car since they seemed plentiful and more manoeuvrable in traffic.
There were several rickshaws marked as Uber nearby. I opened the app, indicated our destination, and had an almost immediate response. I checked the number on the Uber I was standing beside and there it was. We boarded and were on our way. It took about 20 minutes through heavy traffic to get back to our hotel.
We were back in our room soon after 5:30 pm. We had not eaten lunch so needed dinner reasonably early and the hotel restaurant menu offered plenty of variety at reasonable prices. We went down at 7:30 pm.
Nick had posted on Facebook earlier in the day about eating butter chicken with his boys so Majella was determined to have butter chicken as her first meat after several days of vegetarian diet. She ordered that with naan bread and rice. The waiter seemed surprised that I would need to think about ordering since they could provide butter chicken for two. It arrived quickly and was tasty. Majella had specified not too spicy but it did have a little bite. There was more than enough for two and we were unable to contemplate dessert.
On the way back to our room we checked at reception about arrangements for the shuttle to the airport. With that sorted we retired to prepare for an early start and our flight to Delhi.