Gujarat School Trip 2024!!!

So last year at about this time Podar International School grades 4-9 travelled to Bangalore and Mysore which was a huge success, and you could read about it here. This year they decided to take grade 6-9 to Gujarat with the older grades (8-9) going to Gir National Park and Diu and the younger grades (6-7) going to Ahmedabad and Statue of Unity. The main complexity with the last trip was that there were a lot of people in the same place trying the same activities at the same time. This time my school had the very smart idea to stagger the travellers and change the destinations by grade.

As per usual the trip began with us waking up really early in the morning to reach the airport by 4.45am where we were efficiently grouped and led through the standard airport procedures. We were also once again given new ID cards and tags for check-in. Though since I managed to fit my clothes in just a backpack, I did not really need the tag. It was a smooth experience even with the number of yelling parents and children that just 6 teachers had to manage.

The flight booking was with Air India both ways who have some very comfortable flights and they served breakfast which meant one less stop on the way to our hotel. The distance between Mumbai and Rajkot is small enough that even with some take-off delays the flight landed early at Hirasar Rajkot Airport.

From the Rajkot airport we drove off early in our buses and were making good time because of smooth roads and light traffic. On the way we stopped at Uparkot Fort which is one of the oldest forts in India and features some amazing historical features. The ninth graders had arrived a day earlier which limited the number of students that the teachers had to manage but for this fort we would be exploring together. The fort is located on a hill at an altitude of 357 feet so it was a bit of a trek getting there but the majority of the fort was shaded and was nice to explore.

We learnt that the government of Gujrat had put 44.5 crores into the restoration of this fort and many other historical sites throughout Gujarat. The fort had three canons (two real and one replica) called Neelam and Manek. The interior of the fort included halls and a tunnel system of sorts called the Adi Kadi Vav. There was an incredibly deep well and a granary. The interior of the fort was also elegantly decorated and naturally cooled with limestone walls though a little echo-ey. The fort also offered a view of the Girnar Temple which was the last thing we took in before beginning the descent back to our bus.

The drive form there was just about an hour to Hotel Vishal and when we reached, they served us a nice snack consisting of tea/coffee and samosas before allotting rooms. The rooms in this hotel were in cottages that had been split into two rooms and they acted more like suites with the two rooms. So, it was more like a 6-person suite.

The plans for the night included a traditional dhamal dance which featured fire blowing. The experience was very fun and engaging with multiple people being made to join the dance and many stunts. The dance went on for about 45 minutes after which announcements were made to the ninth graders, who would be leaving Guj that day. We were also told to turn in early as the next day involved waking up early for some safaris. We had dinner and danced a little with the ninth graders before heading to bed.

My room had an issue with the AC so all six of us ended up dragging the mattresses into the other room in our cottage and sleeping there. After a restful night of sleep, we awoke before dawn and began getting ready for the morning. We were given some tea, coffee and milk as well as biscuits before climbing into the bus for the half hour ride to the Gir National Reserve.

We were once again efficiently broken into the groups of 6 for the jeep and set off in good time. I have been Gir before and you can read all about that experience here. This time my jeep was a little less lucky and we didn’t see any lions though some jeeps were incredibly lucky spotting a dozen lions! The picture is from that jeep. My only issue with this safari is that since phones/cameras were not allowed on the jeep there was no way for any group without teachers to document their journey.

After the safari we drove back to the hotel and had some breakfast. From there we had time to rest un-wind and play some sports. There was availability of both football and cricket a chance which was immediately jumped at by all. After some time, lunch was served but after a good breakfast most people ate light. The choice to serve both meals is one I didn’t agree with but knowing my school meticulous planning must have gone into the choice.

That afternoon we went for the Devalia Safari which has specific number of lions and leopards held there to be viewed from cantors in a half hour ride. The Safari started from the same place as the last time but this time in the sun we were moved to a different part to wait for our vehicles. The issue here was that the cantors took far too long to arrive, so we had to wait in the broiling sun for an annoying amount. Still with the guarantee of both lions and leopards everyone was quite happy and upbeat about the coming ride. The Devalia is incredibly rewarding due to the sheer number of animals you can see and the ease with which you can see them.

After that we pretty much had the rest of the day to ourselves up until a disco party in the night, so we spent time at the playground or exploring the vast grounds of Hotel Vishal Lords.  The dance parties organized by my school are always electric with amazing dance music exhilarating lights and lots of participation, so it was no doubt that this party was one of the best. After the party, the teachers gave us a chance to call our parents to tell them how we were and unlike last time my parents and I talked as if we were just catching up after a day apart. I realized then how much independence we were given on these trips. After the calls we had some fun with people singing and acting before heading to bed.

The next day would have us travelling to Diu where we would be spending the last night of our trip. Diu was an exciting proposition, but the 5-hour drive was not as appealing. Still, most of the ride for me was spent asleep which cut down on how bored I could be.

Let me skip to our first main spot in Diu; which was Fort Diu which is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Portuguese Origin World’. The fort had two layers of protection (a moat and the sea) but the moat is no longer existent. The fort also features some canons which are real and some small bunkers to take shelter when the fort was under fire. It is also actively being restored by the government. The fort also rises to quite a height with a lighthouse right on top. Th elevated platforms were huge hits for posing for pictures but did prove a little dangerous and jumping off of them onto the floor below (though safe) was not encouraged.

Post this we visited the St. Pauls Church of Diu which was also built by the Portuguese which was beautiful and featured spectacular architecture. While it was built in 1610 it is still an active church.

By this time many of us were very tired and hungry so we were pleased that the next stop was the hotel. The Fern is an amazing hotel chain, and their ‘Seaside Tent Resort’ did not disappoint with luxurious rooms, wide open spaces, a gym, basketball hoop and amazing food. A lot of people were very excited to use the amenities and we were set free on them for a few hours before leaving for our next adventure.

This would be our last excursion of the trip, a ride in the Floatel by Lords which would take us on a 16km round trip past Pani Kotha and back. The whole ride was accompanied by much song and dance as usual and was great fun. They also served some tea, but most people were not that hungry and skipped it.

After this we headed to the beach to watch the sunset which was beautiful, but we did not spend long there as we had to return to our hotel in time for a cultural performance featuring a tradition music performance. The music was truly exquisite and very relaxing but very soon after the performance another round of dancing took place. I am really not a huge dancer so I wasn’t the most interested in dance, so I (with some friends) took this time to explore the grounds and we even found a lighthouse and did some stargazing.

The night ended with a gratitude session and some preparations for tomorrow. The teachers handed out a printed photo of all the eighth graders in the Diu fort from that afternoon which they graciously signed later that night. Since this was the last day and waking up particularly early was not required, we all ended up sleeping around midnight or beyond.

The last day was once again a demonstration of the teachers amazing efficacy in organizing us boarding us and getting us home safely to our parents. I did originally wonder why they drove us all the way to Rajkot when we were walking distance to the Diu airport but I soon realized there were no direct flights to Bombay so they chose to drive us back to Rajkot.

All in all, this school trip was another resounding success by Podar International School, and I am very happy they organized it. This trip developed our sense of time-management, communication and responsibility while still allowing us to have a ton of fun with our friends. As one of my friends said “It was a trip encouraging independence and deeper connections with nature and Indian heritage.”

I hope my school does something similar again and thanks for reading. Bye!

3 thoughts on “Gujarat School Trip 2024!!!”

  1. Very nice and interesting description of Gir forest, It looks like a vivid picture of the jungle of Gir,, Well expresses. Write more,

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