A Travellerspoint blog

AGRA

and the Taj Mahal


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Sunday 13 March

Up, packed and breakfast......Aloo Ghobi....the most divine potato curry with puri ( deep fried chapatis......kinda), and by now the girls are quite accepting of me and my coffee pumper! The locals think it's quite the contraption, and generally a few guys appear to see it in action!

Yay! We meet our driver, Saheed, who is ( unfortunately for him!) going to be escorting us around India for the next 10 days. Such a lovely, gentle guy.

Judy decided to call her mobile on the off chance someone answered. They did. 30 minutes later he arrived at the hotel to a reward! Every cent she had was still in her wallet. The receptionist said this was very rare, to get it back. I asked wasn't it good karma to return it to its rightful owner ? He replied, no, it was good luck to find it! We put it out to the universe, and the universe delivered. Good karma.

In the bus and off we go to Agra. A big drive. The highways are crazy, cars, trucks, totally blinged out with tassels, flowers, streamers, crazy horns and colourful decorations. They make our trucks look terribly boring! I'm thinking of buying some bling and giving the Suncity Plumbing trucks a new look! I'm sure Mick will let me!
Many times you just learn to accept it. Swerving within an inch of an oncoming vehicle, roads that are two lanes wide with 4 lanes of vehicles! Definitely wakes you up!

Camels pulling carts, an elephant walking up the freeway, families crammed into cars, all waving at us, smiling, happy people. Ladies in the most colourful saris, children curious about us, babies with kohl under their eyes ( they believe that putting black kohl under their eyes makes their eyes bigger). Drop toilets, highway side chai, laughs and experiences. India really awakens your senses, in every way.

In the bus we all get to know each other a bit better. Life stories, jokes and we learn a few Jo-isms.......Jo Rowan, not me! We have a new saying, " as ra as rocking horse shit!"..... Jo has some amazing sayings and a great vibrant personality! We also discover the many many names for a vejutsha! Yes, some things may need to remain our secret!

We arrived at our hotel, the Lighthouse Hotel to wifi that only worked in the hallway. Imagine 7 ladies, all seated on the floor in the hallways trying to contact loved ones and catch up on life at home!

We headed to Agra Fort. Wow, they really knew how to build forts here! This place was amazing- there really aren't the adjectives to describe these places, their size, the decorative paintwork, the decals, details and history. We try to sneak photos of strangers in saris, they try to sneak photos of us. We are back to not knowing who is more enamoured with who! We pose for pics, they pose for pics. Total strangers, but again, warmth in their smiles, understanding in their eyes, love fills their hearts.

We have given Saheed a challenge. One, that when we told him, elicited a swear word! Judy, Christine and I bought 1 litre of Hendricks gin each at Singapore. We needed tonic water. You'd think, being called Indian Tonic Water, it would be easy to find. Wrong! We visited approximately 8 shops, each one suggesting he try another. We would eagerly watch Saheed from the bus, and he'd turn around and shake his head. We were very close to giving up. But Saheed could not be defeated........at the 9th we struck gold! 22 cans later ( their total stock!) we all laughed and celebrated! Mission accomplished!

For dinner, we had planned to go to Sheroes Hangout. Sheroes being the female version of heroes. Sheroes Hangout is a restaurant run entirely by women, victims of a shameful crime of being acid attacked. They showed us a short video that tells each of their stories-7 ladies. One lady burnt by her mother for refusing to sleep with her. One girl burnt by her husband as her mother in law wasn't happy that she had given birth to a girl child. A girl attacked by a passing bike riders passenger throwing acid on her. Shameful stories, horrific burns and disfigurement, eyes melted, faces melted. Unimaginable pain. One girl said she felt hot, then horrendous pain as he skin started dripping on to her foot. Some perpetrators jailed, some not.

But these girls, warriors, survivors, decided to open s restaurant to empower themselves. No more hiding behind the sanctity of their front doors. No more shame. They decided to live, to show their attackers that they could overcome their looks and be productive members of society. To raise awareness of this despicable crime. To forgive, and fill their hearts with love. And in turn, your heart is filled with love with them.

Such an emotional evening. Hate, blame and sympathy were initial reactions. Then, along with them, you start to calm down and feel love and acceptance. And these women, these sheroes, truly, make you realise what love and life is about. The importance of belonging. These women sure do belong. Dolly, our waitress, taught me more about acceptance and love that night, that I think I've learned in a lifetime. Upon turning home, I am going to work out a way to fundraise for Sheroes Hangout.

Day 2- Monday- 14 March

Up early for a 6am departure for the Taj Mahal. Tickets purchased and off we go. The best time to see it is early before the crowds are too maddening. "Crowd" is a totally different concept in India! A crows here is probably the population of Geraldton in one city block.

You enter through one of 3 gates, and each one is majestic. Walking through a huge archway, filled, yet again, with amazing decoration and art, and then.....you see it. The majestic Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. And rightly so. The ponds leading up to the temple itself are beautiful. As far as crowds go, it isn't too ad, but still, you feel the need to elbow people out of the way! The bench. The bench seat made famous by Princess Diana sitting at it for a photo........well, clearly we were born to sit there too! The cameras were going crazy, video out, at times I'd get confused as to whether to film or photograph. Beauty in every turn, each section reveals itself and yet again, it's beauty brings tears to my eyes. A serenity overcomes you. Something far greater than you exists and I basked in the glow of appreciation that in ,y lifetime, I'm getting to experience this in real life.

After the Taj, it's back for breakfast .....eggs! The first time I've had eggs, hard boiled but amazingly yummy!

We leave for a trip to the Taj Ganj Welcome School. Naim and his wife, Bryanah run this local school. They teach English to the children. It is a free school open to all. They survive purely on donations. As soon as we entered the children rushed at us, eager for photo, saying "hello!" . They were excited, as were we! They were so bright and happy! Some shy, some cheeky, all adorable! We enjoyed chai tea upstairs with Naims family, his mother and father, his grandmother, his 4 children and some of his sisters. Such a lovely welcoming family! Naim runs some of Nevermind Adventure motorbike tours, we were all openly welcomed into their home. A beautiful home, with two rooms and a small area as a kitchen. Even with language as a barrier, language isn't needed as we greet each other, smile and hug. We are invited to go there that evening for dinner. Naims wife will cook, his sisters will do henna on is and dress us up in saris!

We return later and have the most amazing night. Naims sisters speak good English. Funnily enough, one is quite bossy and soon we are being told to sit down, keep still, give me your hands.....don't move! We are having henna. The art they do on our hands and feet are incredible. Henna goes on like clay, dried and then peels off. Let me just say you know you've got hairs on your arms when it is coming off hours later! ( our hotel room looked like it had housed a plague of mice.....little black strips everywhere!)
Sari time, let me say, leave your inhibitions outside the door! We are stripped and dressed! No care for our feelings......hehe

Then we go outside to the oohs and aahs of the family! Proud, I think, that we had embraced their ways. We sat on the floor, on a beautiful rug, and proceeded to eat the most amazing food! Of course, it takes some getting used to that they won't eat until after we leave! We hug, thank our hosts and retest to the bus, and back to the hotel. Local children follow us through the alleyways back to the bus, saying hello, laughing and posing for pictures! Another amazing day in India.

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Posted by Jochester71 19:58 Archived in India Comments (0)

Colourful Delhi

Sari love


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Day 2 - Delhi

So after a few rooftop gins with soda and lemon ( as a side issue, Indian Tonic water is hard to find....ironic much?) with the group of girls, we are now complete. The Nevermind Girls Troupe is Jo ( Rowan), Judy, Christine, Lorraine, Jan, Anna and myself! An awesome group with lots of laughs.......

We decided to head to the Lodhi Gardens. An amazing place built by the moghuls with temples, gardens and a beautiful mosque. Toilets are few and far between in India, unless you're a guy....then you can pee anywhere! After we saw a local lady squat behind a pile of rubble, when in Rome.........
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After a hectic Tuk Tuk ride back to Old Delhi, we explored the Chandni Chowk markets again, this time by cycle rickshaw. Anna and I shared one, to be honest, they aren't very wide, so we wedged our bottoms in and took off. This place is a myriad of narrow laneways, like a maze, some wider, some a mere metre wide. There are people ( lots and lots), animals, bikes, motorbikes, rickshaws, tuk tuk' all sharing these ancient passageways.

Our cyclist was rather lean, Anna and I feared for his health and safety but he carried on. Their bikes are metal, no gears, very basic. He kept yelling to people in the laneways, we started to translate and ended up in raucous laughter.

He was probably saying move out of the way, our translation however translated roughly as, " for gods sake move, I've just got the pedals going and I've got two lard asses on here, do not make me slow down, they are wedged in my rickshaw and I need to deliver them to the spice markets!"...... Of course, every time he spoke we translated a new phrase, and died laughing!

The alleys are organised into areas, and we soon found ourselves at the spice markets. Huge hessian bags of spices, nuts, dates, dried fruits. Amazing smells. We were then led up 3 flights of stairs to the chilli market. Whole hessian bags of chillies. Red chilli everywhere. We all started sneezing, coughing and laughing, then we'd sneeze again! Guys sitting on the ground getting s haircut or shave. Dogs everywhere. The smells are not as offensive as I'd imagined.

We also made our way to the Sikh Temple, s beautiful building. The Sikhs are easy to pick out. They wear turbans , have beards and moustaches twirled up at the sides, gentle people. We left our shoes, washed our feet and were greeted by a friendly man, with a warm smile who covered our heads with a scarf. Inside, is stunning. They come in and pray, a man sings verses from their bible, and a man plays drums and a harmonium. English translations of the verses are shown on a screen ( I'd say the screens are a new addition), people file past the shrine, laying offerings. Such warmth and kindness.

We exit, and are getting used to us looking at them, their beauty and poise, and them staring at us, white skin, red hair, blonde hair. It is sometimes hard to know who is staring at who, Indians by large, are very friendly.

A stranger meets in a crowded street, s glance into each other's eyes, a warm smile, an understanding. India is profoundly effecting me. I feel calm. Safe. Laughter comes easily.

Dinner at the hotel and a late night again.

Day 3- Sari Shopping

Today we headed off to buy saris. We have decided to start a new movement, #colourtheworld. This place is so amazing, and it is so colourful. Even the trucks are decorated. There is colour everywhere, black is hard to find, unless it's the soles of your feet.

Today we did a Bollywood Dance class. After our tuk tuk ride there, we we given our costumes to dress into. It was then that Judy discovered she had left her back pack in the back of the tuk tuk. As you'd appreciate, she was devastated, and we all feared it gone forever. As things go, it wasn't too bad, a few hundred AUD dollars, a credit card, and her phone. Anna said to put it out to the universe that it would come back. So we silently hoped.

Two hours of dance lessons, laughter, twirls and whirls and (sweat) we finished. Well, what a way to spend an afternoon, the teachers were great, and patient, and to be honest, the guy who kept coming in to video us ( yes, apparently in two weeks we will be sent our own video!) was really hot, so to be honest, that was the only time we'd dance with much love, movement and professionalism.....ha ha ha

After the class we were quite exhausted......back in the tuk tuk and off to the hotel!

Naim and Veresh, more Nevermind family members arrive to meet us at the hotel. Naim has picked up a Royal Enfield and came from his home in Agra for a ride. Best mates, Naim being a Muslim and Veresh being a Hindu. We drank a few quiet gin and tonics on the rooftop then retired ready for our big adventure to Agra tomorrow.

Rest eventually found us!

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Posted by Jochester71 18:46 Archived in India Comments (0)

Delhi

The land of colour and spit!

sunny 32 °C
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So we arrived late and had a terrorising drive to our hotel in Old Delhi. The lanes are marked 4, there were probably 7 lanes of Vehicles, each one vying for pole position. Arriving at Hotel Tara Palace we were led down a small alleyway- lucky we'd been warned as if not we surely would have panicked!

We woke early - blame the different time zone- I went up to the roof top and realised that dawn hadn't yet broken. Lucky. The haze was quite bad, but certainly I could see the red fort in front of us, a Sikh temple to the rear and an amazing Muslim temple to the side of us. Old Delhi is home to Chandni Chowk markets. I use that term loosely as it is in fact a maze of streets, with different areas. We saw the saree district, optical, shoes, paper (Think wedding invitations), then the motor section ( automotive) and finally butchery.

Butchery.....goats heads with their eyes still open, goats hooves with skin and hair on them, and tripe......all in the open air. It was amazing, exhilarating, confronting, and totally awesome.

We went to a Muslim temple and had to wear a scarf and robe ....as I went to enter I realised I had a catastrophe on my hands. My backpack zip had decided to cling on to my scarf for dear life. No amount of assistance would free it. With several men, and then a police officer.....no one could free the scarf. It was a sad event. Grown men, admitting defeat by a fine printed scarf and a gnarly zipper. The appearance of a pocket knife did nothing to lift my spirits. There would be no happy ending to this. The policeman walked away, forlornly.

As we entered the temple, we were required to have a scarf over our heads, and wear a long cape. To say we look like three fat oil barons is probably too nice......see for yourself!

On brighter news, we were hopeful that a power blackout wouldn't hit- as you can see, it would be a daunting task finding the fault!270_CFDC5DF309F24AB30A5C1DDD5A8AA195.jpeg

India is a colourful, bright, sometimes "in your face" place. A place where not every smile directed to a local man elicits a smile. But, I'm here, exploring another amazing country with friends- what more could I possibly want?CF4C9645F26D7CCB236C655ED715F072.jpegCF45F8B4DED60E890F811781B3D54D1B.jpeg90_CF4070A5E4AF4623C31D4982388B10D0.jpegCF2A2659AE98F4F8526C45E4878C96CB.jpegCF24AA85EA5B0F942CD09E4D0D08A8D7.jpegCF1D8622D1CE1E3393DC92043228ECF7.jpeg90_CF180532E53162034465FE7900AD04B3.jpeg90_CED9C7EE9760FD248CCC4C2B80F671E5.jpeg90_CED4488DA919AD0FFF07C70541E1DB60.jpegCECEFD10D8D134FAC7BC901726C73314.jpegCECACC5AEF99205F1D74A4511CF594E9.jpegCEC55590A49C9D5F45E6D8BF7698A29F.jpegimage.jpeg

Posted by Jochester71 08:50 Archived in India Comments (2)

Getting ready to witness extreme colour ( and crowding!)

sunny 26 °C

So on Tuesday I leave for my exciting trip around Rajasthan, India.

My girlfriend Anna and her husband Matt run a company called Nevermind Adventures- if you want to ride the wild roads of India then look up their website!

Once a year Anna takes a group of ladies on a tour ( by bus, not bike!) to encompass the Holi Festival! This is the festival where everyone throws coloured chalk- it is one of the biggest celebrations in India! And we will get to experience it in full colour!

I've roped in a couple of friends, Christine Blayney and Judy Tam for the adventure.....and perhaps at times so they can keep me grounded!

Strangely, I am ever so excited about Inida, the assault on my senses, the colours, scenery, temples, crowds and people.

First stop is Delhi.....a city with a population of 13 million people, just slightly larger than Geraldton!

We are traveling to Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bhenswara and Udaipur!

Keep tuned, and hopefully I will be posting some amazing photos!

Posted by Jochester71 17:04 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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