Disclaimer: the following ramblings are the thoughts and views of this week’s guest author and our friend from Didcot, Direction Dan. hemiexplorers accepts no responsibility for damaged cause by misuse…151 days in.
We arrived in Ahmedabad via night bus, some 18 hours after leaving Aurangabad. The state of Gujarat started to show promise; the roads were wider and smoother, the road side farms and silk weaving stores which doubled as people’s homes had diminished and in their place appeared the construction sites of flats and apartments. However people clearly still lived in their place of work. Ahmedabad itself was some what of a disappointment at a first glance, the 6th biggest city in India was lined with chemical plants on the outskirts and a strong whiff of sulfur lingered in the air. The inner city was busy, dusty, and booming with noise. The streets were lined with the familiar sights of street peddler, restaurants and tuk tuks but once we set out to explore we stumbled across a few hidden gems. On the western side of the river Sabarmati we danced our way through a small bazaar bustling with people and vehicles all trying to squeeze down the somewhat congested road, a little over half way up we came across a Ganesha statue and some locals invited Mike and I to dance, for real this time (and this wouldn’t be the last time that day either). Just a little further up the road and BAM! We spotted some elephants, I got a few cheeky photos before the owner started to ask us for money.
After lunch we took a government bus to the Sabarmati Ashram, once headquarters to the Grandfather of India, Gandhi. These houses had now been turned into a museum but you could still admire the simplicity of their design, mirrored by the minimalisic possessions of the Ashram inhabitants. We learnt of Gandhi’s civil disobedience against the British Empire, the famous salt march, his extensive education and various travels around the globe. But for a man who preached simplicity, truth and understanding I found his teaching to be slightly hypocritical. ‘One should speak the mother tongue’ and ‘strength through following the Hindu way’. Shouldn’t Indian people be able to express themselves in anyway they see fit and follow whatever faith system they choose to believe (or not believe as the case may be)? That evening we wandered down to the riverfront to the night carnival marathon -the main reason for our visit to the city. We had picked up our race numbers and t-shirts earlier that day but decided to return to soak up the atmosphere and experience the locals performing in a talent show. I had no idea that the anti abortion movement in Ahmedabad was so strong! Once again we danced with locals, followed by the ritualistic selfie with a westerner. Indian people seem to be obsessed with capturing the moment they met a white person.
Sunday was race day! A laid back start to the day was followed by a fruitless trip to Bhadra Fort (seemingly not open to the public), the Teen Derwaya and the Siddi Sayid’s Mosque. The trip severed its purpose and it was soon time to venture to the start line. There was no entertainment this evening, unless you count the herding of hundreds of runners into race pens for some enforced Zumba…. After 15 minutes or so Helen was off on her 10k about 10 minutes later Mike and I followed suit.
The race started in the raised river side garden, we took a bottleneck right, then right again onto a ramp that lead down to the road, finally we turned left onto the duel carriageway where we crossed the official start line (that’s right, we had to run 500m before starting the half marathon!). This half marathon was a gruelling two laps of a 10.5 km circuit up and down the duel carriageway. Although the location could have been better, the organisation of water stations and chemical toilets couldn’t be faulted. The first lap went well, I saw Helen three times and couldn’t have been more that 4 places behind Mike. However the combination of 31°C heat, my exhausted body from the Ridgeway Challenge (for readers who don’t know, Dan ran all 86 miles of the Ridgeway only 14 days before!) and the lack of speed sessions lead to a gradual decline in pace, I battled on to the end where Helen was waiting to take my picture as I crossed the line. We collected our medals and stood on the finishers podium to take our picture (plus multiple selfies with the other runners) before walking back to our Hotel.
All in all not a bad event, well organised and with great potential to grow, especially with the riverfront being developed rigorously. Although I doubt I will return to Ahmedabad in the future, as there is little for a tourist to do that can’t be done in a day.