Holy crap… Today we drove from Jaipur to Rathambore National Park… something tells me we were supposed to be in jeeps but instead a small bus turned up. I am not sure if the road was the main road or if the driver took a short cut… But either way, it was a really really rough journey!
Being the optimist I always try to always find the good in a bad situation – so at first I thought it was all fun and games… And then the the novelty wore off and I started to worry about the bus rolling in the middle of nowhere and our remains being eaten by wild dogs. Seriously this was one rough journey!
At first it started as a single tar sealed road, slightly dodgy because of the cars, camels and tractors going in the opposite direction – it was a bit like playing chicken. This was ok. It was when the road started to deteriorate so badly the bus driver decided to take an alternate route things went from bad to worse. The 2nd route had a slightly thinner road, it was unsealed and not at all designed for a small bus…. It was plain scary and at one point we asked to get out and walk!!!
Obviously we didn’t crash – but we were late to our destination, had to scoff lunch and then get on ANOTHER bus to do a safari in the jungle and look for tigers. The safari bus was more comfortable than the other bus but we were over busses and therefore totally unenthused by the safari.
Consequently…. We didn’t see any tigers. It was all a bit of a piss take really… so many jeeps and busses in the jungle looking for tigers, they made so much noise – the chances of seeing a tiger are pretty slim.
We arrived at a place called ‘Diggi Palace’ which believe it or not is another heritage hotel and was actually a palace! Its quite nice, has a huge lawn and space for a swimming pool (its crying out for a pool!). For most of the day I chilled at the Diggi Palace, I called home as the funeral for poppa was today – it was really good to talk to the family.
In the evening we went for an orientation walk – there are lots of markets and textiles here and its pretty easy to get carried away. I made the mistake (in hindsight) of buying a Rajastani skirt (long skirt with sun/moon patterns on it), the top half of a swasi thingie (see this blog entry) and a silk scaf. As soon as I got back to the hotel I KNEW I wouldn’t wear the skirt (its just not me), the swasi thingie OR the silk scarf!!! Silly me… will carry them around for a bit, wear them a couple of times and then probably ditch them!
The second day in Jaipur was a free day, so I went with Anant (our tour leader) to buy tickets for the bollywood movie the group is going to see. Anant wanted one of us girls to go because the queues for tickets are gender based… as expected the girls queue was much smaller than the guys queue! After getting the tickets I came back and chilled out for a bit (caught up with my journal, read and relaxed) and then joined the rest of the group for coffee and a movie in the evening.
The movie (Heros) was SOOOO cool… what an experience. The movie theater was beautiful and the atmosphere was comical. You are sitting there concentrating on the movie (its in Hindi), there are people talking, kids playing, babies crying, phones rining… its like a circus. Then when a famous star comes on screen the crowd goes wild and starts cheering! Its so funny.
The movie itself was good too… 4 out of 10 of us stayed till the end. And while it was in Hindi and didn’t have subtitles I was impressed that we could understand what was going on! Here is the website for the movie if you are interested: http://heroes.erosentertainment.com/
Today we travelled by private car to Jaipur, the drive took about an hour and on the way we stopped by the fantastic Amber Fort.Having been to so many forts over the last couple of weeks I nearly gave this one a miss (I’m feeling a bit forted-out) but I’m glad I didn’t… this one was quite different.
We travelled by jeep a further 1-2hrs into Rajastan and headed towards Fort Madhogarh. The Fort has been converted into a lovely heritage hotel; it was quite a special place to stay. The fort is in the whoop whoops – so in the early evening we went for a village walk which was pretty cool. Kids ran up to us to say hello and have their photo taken. Intrepid (and perhaps other groups) come to this village regularly so we went a novelty – but the kids were still excited to see us which was nice (and well trained, I don’t think many asked for rupees… they just wanted their photo taken)
It was Diwali (a special holiday) so after dinner the family who owns the fort (real royalty) joined us for dancing and a fireworks display. The fireworks were fun but a tad scary – these people are fearless!
After visiting the Taj I finally got hold of the family and received the bad news that my poppa passed away on Saturday. Even though poppa was old and I knew it was on the cards I was understandably pretty upset… my heart wanted to jump on the next plan back to New Zealand to be with the family, but my head (and the family) said to stay in India. The hardest thing about travelling not being at home when things happen (the good and the bad). The group was great though and I am thankful for their support (and the distraction of the tour).
We left Agra at about 8.30am and travelled by bus to Fatehpur Sikri a small but busteling town…. I called my sister from a payphone in a market… I was sitting on a box, talking to my sister, had a million flies swarming around me, a croud of men watching me and the occasional camel walking past… It was surreal!
We visited the fort, had some lunch and headed on to Bharatpur. In Bharatpur we visited the Keoladeo Bird Park taking a cycle rickshaw into the park to view the birds. It was quite lovely and we saw lots of wildlife including a Hyena which is apparently VERY rare (the guide hasn’t seen one in 7 years). It was all very nice but I was lost in my own thoughts…
Here are a few photos of the fort and the bird park:
I got up at sparrows fart to visit the Taj when it first opens at 6.30am hoping for some people-less photos. Well, that was a joke… I should by now that in India there are never places where there are no people!
While I enjoyed watching the morning sun light up the façade of such a beautiful building I didn’t get the spectacular photo I was hoping for… but as I said before… no photo can capture the absolute beauty and grandeur of the Taj Mahal!
We had an early start this morning and got the train to Agra. Seeing as was only in Agra less than 2 weeks ago I decided not to visit the sites again with the group. Instead I caught up on emails and tried to call home (no joy), fixed my Tevas and then visited the Baby Taj by cycle rickshaw. The Baby Taj is similar to the Taj Mahal but completely different! Its smaller, flatter and I think it was built before the Taj.