The Gujarat Trip - Day 3

We had started from Bangalore on Day 1 and covered Dwaraka on Day 2.  It was now Day 3.

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Somnath .  The morning arathi was scheduled at 7 AM and we hurried to the temple (a short drive from the hotel).  As in other temples, we were immobile ("without mobile") and had to pass through Z-category Security check to get in. The arathi was on and we were lucky to be stopped before the inner sanctum and could witness this from distance undisturbed. Like Dwaraka the crowds cleared after arathi and we could go back in to have multiple darshans.

The temple itself is beautiful with breathtaking gopuram and specious interior. Evidently it has been constructed/renovated recently.  It is on the banks of Arabian Sea and offers a scenic view.  We lingered for a while and then decided to check out a few other temples nearby.

We were told that the Triveni Mahasangam Ghat was a few minutes walk. As it turned out, it is more than a kilometre away and best visited by vehicle, if available (to save time and energy).  Like Gomati river in Dwarka, the Sangam had hardly any water and summer is not the time to visit if you are particular about taking bath, absolving yourself of your sins and so on.

There is a Surya Mandir near the Ghat, as well as Pancha Pandav Cave. They are nothing to write about. It was already hot and hence we took a rikshaw back.  We also visited Lakshmi Narayan Temple.

We then got back to our hotel and had breakfast (and what do you know - Sukh Sagar served dosas and it made our day!)

Our next destination was Bhidbhanjan Temple.
Bhidbhanjan Temple
The temple was under renovation.  This was followed by Bhalka Thirtha, the place where Krishna was hit by the arrow shot by a hunter.
Bhalka Thirtha

This wrapped up our Somnath visit.  It was close to noon. We had got an online permit for Gir Jungle Trail for 3-6 PM slot.  Our driver (a seasoned veteran of these places said that there was no chance of us seeing any lions during this time of the day.  He advised us that if at all we wanted to see any animals, the best bet was to do the bus ride in Gir Interpretation Zone or Devalia Safari Park.

Gir is an hour's drive from Somnath and we reached by 1 PM.  We pass through Talala, famous for its mangoes.  There are huge mangroves on either side of the road, with ripe mangoes ready to be plucked.  Once we entered the forest area, we saw that there was virtually no greenery - just trees with dry leaves or no leaves all around.

It was lunch time and the menu was the traditional Gujarati Thali - by now, our favorite food.  The only consolation was the unlimited buttermilk (chaas) though it was more cold water than chaas. We met a couple of Forest officials who concurred with the driver's suggestion of taking the bus safari over the uncovered jeep one.

We realized that our online permit was useless in Devalia Safari Park.
Devalia Safari Park
We reached the place at 2.30 PM and had to wait for half an hour before the tickets were issues for the bus safari.  This is very similar to the safari in Bannerghatta, except that Bannerghatta has a smaller area and you can see way more tigers!
Sleeping lion

There was a convoy of 4 buses each seating 40 persons. The driver took trails quite familiar to him so that we came upon a couple of lions, sleeping in the little shade that they could find in the barren forest.  There were also zoo-like enclosure featuring leopards.  And a few deers looking for water.

A half an hour ride, but quite fun.

We left Gir and proceeded to Junagadh. This is again an hour's drive from Gir. Once in Junagadh, our driver stopped the vehicle next to a roadside juice shop.  There was sugarcane juice, mixed with pineapple juice and lime juice - an interesting concoction, sold at Rs.5/- a glass!  He said this was a seasonal drink and much popular in this area.  It was quite good!
Sunset in Swaminarayan Temple

We visited the Swaminarayan temple in Junagadh. Like other Swaminarayan temples, this is a beautiful temple with intricate carvings and a tall gopuram.  The temple itself opened at 6.30 PM and we enjoyed the sunset there.  An interesting aspect of summer in Gujarat and the effect of a single timezone in India is, the sun sets only by 7.15 PM.

It was time to bid goodbye to our driver, after he had dropped us at the Railway Station.  We had a train to catch - at 11 PM.

Junagadh Junction is a small railway station and the Station Master was happy to open his waiting room seeing a crowd of eight!  (As it turned a lot more passengers turned up as it grew darker)

We idled the time and took turns going to the nearby restaurant for dinner (yes, thali with unlimited chaas).  The train was only a few minutes late and I don't think it took more than a few minutes after we boarded for us to fall asleep, exhausted by the day's adventures.

The stage was set for Day 4.

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