Monday, October 11, 2010

Westward ho!

An exciting adventure, travelling to the westmost tip of India. We leave Bangalore aiport in the morning and fly to Bhuj via Mumbai. The most endearing thing about Bangalore airport is the flock of sparrows which has made its home there. They fly about unafraid, twittering and chirping and pecking at crumbs strewn around the restaurants.

We reach Bhuj in the afternoon and drive to Mandvi, about an hour away and close to the sea. This is the venue of the conference 'Gujarat and the Sea'- an overview of Gujarat's historic maritime links and tradition, an initiative of the Darshak Itihas Nidhi. A diverse and highly qualified set of people have arrived, including Indian and European scholars- historian, archeologists, underwater archaeologists and experienced seafarers - both European and Gujarati, and they meet and discuss traditional methods of navigation. Sarah Bancroft, using material from British archives, sets up an intriguing exhibition.

Late in the evening we go to our hotel, where we leave our bags in super tents on the picturesque beach of the Mandavi Palace. We rush out to get our first glimpse of the sea.

Dinner and traditional music is organised on the beach. The night sky is clear and we watch the seafarers demonstrate calculations of direction using the stars and simple, hand made instruments. It is a calm and beautiful spot, both in the evening and in the morning - when the only thing we see is a passing fisherman's boat. Couldn't be more apt!

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