Monday, April 13, 2009

Holy Cow!

Day 398
The train pulled into Ahmedbad at 7 am, only about 30 minutes late. I ignored the tuk tuks and walked to my chosen hotel. One very persistent driver tried to get me to his hotel and followed me almost the entire time. At one point I was greeted by some cows munching on garbage in the street.

I couldn't find the hotel I had wanted and ended up at a more expensive place. It was quite nice and had a tv, but also a weird 24 hour rule. I checked in at 7:30 so I had to be out at 7:30 the next morning. After a quick breakfast I threw on some clean clothes and headed out.

The plan was to buy my train ticket for the next night. It wasn't until I had gotten to the station that I realized I had forgotten my passport and wouldn't get very far. Instead I got a tuk tuk to my first stop. We arrived to the Dada Hari Wav well and I tried to get the driver to wait for me but he didn't understand and drove off.

At the well I was greeted by an elderly man who spoke limited English but wanted to show me around. I was the only tourist, local or foreign. I don't really know how to explain what this place was, to call it a well is too simple. There were three white stone levels that lead down to 2 small wells. It was built in 1499 by a woman in the Sultan's harem. The wells were dry but it was easy to imagine what they may have looked like with water in them. It was really quite eerie, but amazing at the same time.

Behind, or perhaps part of the well complex was a mosque. I had to take off my shoes and the elderly man had me climbing up rough stone steps and following a bird poop trail. There were two ornately carved structures. The first had tombs in it and he motioned for me to make a donation by showing me euros and dollars that others have left. This was when I realized that I only had enough small change to get back to town, a tuk tuk driver would never change a 1000 rupee note! The second building was definitely a mosque. There were a lot of ornate carvings all over the place. The elderly man motioned that I should give him some money, I would have too had I had anything small to give. I tried to explain that and he seemed to understand because he went away.

To get a tuk tuk back I had to walk down a dirt road. Some kids followed me and asked for money. There were some women working in what looked like a coal place and they all waved and said hello. I had a tuk tuk quickly and was soon back at my hotel. Once I had my passport I went back to the station. Here I found the only westerner I had seen so far. There wasn't any space on the train that I wanted so I ended up switching my itinerary and heading to Udaipur instead. The worst part wasn't the itin change, but that I couldn't get an aircon sleeper. I was in the second class non aircon sleeper. This wasn't good, but for $3 I couldn't complain too much.

Once the ticket was booked I got another tuk tuk to the Hatheesingh Temple. This was a Jain temple. Unlike Hinduism, Jainism doesn't have a caste system. Jains believe that only by giving up material things (some monks go naked) and fasting and meditation can the soul be purified. The Hatheesingh temple was built in 1848 out of delicately carved white marble. I'm not sure what I expected, but this place was brilliant. I was pretty much alone here as well, except for a woman singing. The further I walked from her the more haunting it sounded. One the way out the guard asked me what I thought and I told him that it was incredible. He told me that they don't get many tourists and that he was very happy to see me.

I was in a pretty isolated place and had had to keep my tuk tuk for my next ride. I didn't really like him though, he kept the change from the first ride. On the way to the next stop a couple of school kids came up to shake my hand, they didn't ask for anything but had huge smiles on their faces.

The Sabarmati Ashram was Gandhi's headquarters during the struggle for Indian independence. It was founded in 1915. The ashram is right next to a river and I imagine that it was calm when Gandhi was here, now the traffic in front is crazy. The museum bit was a bit boring because it was very similar to the one I had been to two days before. Gandhi and his wifes house was preserved on site and that was pretty interesting. In 1930 Gandhi left the ashram on the Dandi march and promised to not return until there was peace in India. He never came here gain.

On my way out I managed to find a better driver who didn't charge me so much. Back at my hotel I washed the days dirt off and watched tv. I decided to be very lazy, I was pretty tired after all and slept. Around 6 I was woken up by the phone. They hotel staff asked me to come to reception. It turned out that there was a man there who wanted me to hire him as a guide. It might have been a lot of fun as well because it included meals at his house. I was just so annoyed at being disturbed that I told him no.

For dinner that night I ordered in and spent the evening watching tv before falling asleep early.

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