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India: Gujarat & the Malabar Coast with Karl Grobl – March 2020

Overview

The birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, the state of Gujarat in western India, is an off the beaten track area where traditional artisans weave the fabric of century’s old traditions in tribal villages and embroider, dye and print some of India’s finest textiles.

The Malabar Coast is stunning and the inland areas teem with coconut groves, rice paddy fields, secluded beaches, verdant hillside spice gardens and isolated inland waterways. Slow-paced and rhythmic Malabar is the essence of authentic India. People here celebrate life with a myriad of marvelous rituals and colorful festivals, making this region one of the best places to see unique religious and cultural traditions.

On this trip we’ll explore the best of these areas. Highlights include two spectacular fairs, (the tribal fair of Baneshwar and the an Elephant Festival in Thrissur), the peaceful Backwaters of Kerala on your own private houseboat, the quaint Jewish Quarter and bustling spice bazaars of Cochin, the picturesque lanes and passageways in the Pols of Ahmedabad and the fascinating Rann of Kutch.

The trip will also include vibrant city of Mumbai, (formerly Bombay), with its contemporary, often in your face culture, reflecting both the affluence and poverty of more than 15 million people crowded onto this island. Restaurants, bars, museums and shops intermingle with shining new skyscrapers, congested streets, bright neon lights, poverty-stricken slums, and the glamorous film industry of Bollywood.

We hope you’ll join us on this trip that is sure to be a photographer’s delight!

Itinerary

Day 01:  
Arrive in Mumbai. On arrival, you will be met and greeted by our representative and will be transferred to the hotel. The western state of Maharashtra is home to Bombay, India’s greatest port, financial capital and trend-setting East-West nexus. Perched on the Arabian Sea on an island and separated from the rest of India by a winding creek, Bombay, now known as Mumbai, is a world unto itself, with a unique intensity that hits you the moment you land. Its culture is contemporary, vibrant and often in your face, reflecting both the affluence and poverty of more than 15 million people crowded onto this island. Restaurants, bars, museums and shops intermingle with shining new skyscrapers, congested streets, bright neon lights, poverty-stricken slums, and the glamorous film industry of Bollywood. Overnight in Mumbai.

Day 02: 
After breakfast visit Dharavi slum. This alive, vibrant place is full of energy and hope. During our slum walk you will experience a wide range of activities like recycling, pottery-making, embroidery, baking, soap-making, leather tanning, and many more. When passing through the residential spaces, you will undoubtedly feel the sense of community and spirit that exists in this area.We will also visit Dhobi ghat as well as other sites in this great city. Overnight in Mumbai.

Day 03: 
After breakfast transfer to airport to catch the flight for Cochin and on arrival, drive straight to Thrissur and check in at the hotel. The afternoon will be spent at the festival grounds at Kanipayyur Ayyamkulangara temple, host to the Elephant festival. There you’ll photograph the extravagantly decorated elephants carrying deities from neighboring temples as they arrive at the local temple accompanied by drummers and dancers. Overnight in Thrissur.

Day 04: 
After breakfast, drive to Alleppey – the boarding point of the houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala. We will have a private houseboat with your own cook and staff. The rest of the day we’ll enjoy cruising in the backwaters. The romantic and unique Backwaters of Kerala are made up of a labyrinth of canals and lakes that stretch between the capital Cochin and Quilon in the south. From the vastness of Lake Vembanad to the quiet streams just large enough for a canoe, the Backwaters form the arteries through which rural daily life calmly flows – children splashing in the water, women washing clothes at the water’s edge, fishermen up to their necks in water digging out fish with their feet, rice barges transporting coconuts and rice (the staples of the Keralan diet) and, above all, an overriding sense of peace and tranquility that permeates every aspect of this stunning region. Overnight on Houseboat.

Day 05: 
After a short cruise in the backwaters, de-board the houseboat at the Jetty and drive to Cochin. On arrival, check in at the hotel. Cochin, documented since Roman times, is the oldest European settlement in India. With its enchanting Jewish quarter, picturesque Chinese fishing nets, Portuguese churches, Hindu temples and bustling spice and antiques bazaars, Cochin has a seamless blend of diverse architectural and religious influences. This ancient port has now split into two main parts: the old town of Fort Cochin on the peninsula, with its winding alleyways lined with merchant houses and spice markets, and the brash, modern industrious city of Ernakulum on the mainland. Late afternoon boat cruise to photograph the Chinese fishing nets at sunset. Overnight in Cochin.

Day 06: 
After breakfast visit the Jewish synagogue, Dutch palace, Chinese fishing nets and the Vasco D’ Gama Church. In the evening we will visit the cultural centre where we will see the artists, starting with the make-up session, followed by Kathakali Performance in the theatre.

Day 07: 
Your morning is free to do a sunrise boat trip or walk in the local market. Later transfer to the airport to board the flight to Ahmedabad via Mumbai. On arrival, transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Ahmedabad.

Day 08: 
After breakfast, walking slowly, we will explore this ancient city through its narrow lanes and bylanes. These small neighborhoods, called Pols, are both the backbone and heartbeat of the old city of Ahmedabad. Later also visit the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi, where he spent a large part of his later life.

Late afternoon visit Sidi Saiyyed Masjid, Jama Masjid, Ahmad Shah’s mosque as well as the old market of Ahmedabad. The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, built in 1573, is one of the most famous mosques of Ahmedabad. Built by Sidi Saeed, an Abyssinian in the retinue of Bilal Jhajar Khan, it was built in the last year of the Sultanate of Gujrat. The mosque is famous for beautifully carved ten stone latticework windows (jalis) on the side and rear arches. This intricately carved stone window is called the Siddi Sayyed Jali and is the unofficial symbol of city of Ahmedabad. It is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Overnight in Ahmedabad.

Day 09: 
After breakfast drive to Poshina. On arrival, check-in at Darbargadh Palace where Hanu, the Maharaja of the area will be your host. Afternoon visit the Garasia tribal community and visit their sacred place where they place terracotta horses in memories of their ancestors. This is very interesting town where we see many of the Garasia tribes from nearby villages come to by pottery, knifes and other household goods. Visit the potter, the iron smith as well as other local traders here. The Poshina knife is considered a collector’s item here. Overnight in Poshina.

Day 10: 
After breakfast, drive to Dungarpur. On arrival, check-in to the hotel. In the afternoon we’ll visit the Baneshwar tribal fair. Evening return back to the hotel. Overnight in Dungarpur.

Day 11: 
We will have the whole day to witness the Baneshwar Fair. The Baneshwar Fair is held at the delta formed by the meeting of rivers Mahi and Som. This is a religious festival with simple and traditional rituals. On this occasion tribal from the neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat join their brethren from Rajasthan to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. The Baneshwar fair is predominantly a tribal fair with more than half of the congregation consisting of Bhils. We’ll visit the temple of Baneshwar Mahadev. Here, in the morning, saffron is applied to the Shiva Linga after it is bathed and an aarti of burning incense is waved before it. In the evening, bhabhut (ash) is applied to the Linga and an aarti with a fine-wick lamp is waved. Devotees offer wheat flour, pulses, rice, jaggery, ghee, salt, chillies, coconut and cash. Overnight in Dungarpur.

Day 12: 
After breakfast proceed to (Dasada) Rann of Kutch. On the way, we will stop at Patan and Modhera. Patan, once the capital of medieval Gujarat, Patan is known for its Hindu and Jain architecture. We will visit Rani-ki-Vav or stepwell. Patan is also famous for patola (an intricate form of double ikkat weaving) sarees. Modhera Sun Temple which was built in 1026 AD during the reign of King Bhimdev I of solanki dynasty. The Temple is said to resemble the famous Konark temple in Orissa. On arrival in Dasada, check in at lodge. Overnight in Dasada (Rann of Kutch).

Day 13: 
We’ll spend the day exploring the Rann of Kutch. The Rann is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind in the entire world. It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. Home to endangered Asiatic Wild Ass, the area is known for its unique wildlife and birds. Rabari and Banjara are the two important tribes of the region. While the Rabari, the most nomadic of Gujarat’s tribes, constantly migrate in search for better grazing ground for their camels and sheep, the Banjara and other tribes have settled here. Early morning enjoy the game drive to the Rann of Kutch to see the landscape, wildlife as well as the salt workers that live here.  Afternoon visit the Rabari villages. Overnight in Dasada (Rann of Kutch).

Day 14: 
After leisurly breakfast, drive to Ahmedabad airport to board the flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival, transfer to international terminal to board the flight for onward journey.

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