Published: May 31st 2011May 31st 2011
The Power Grid of Mayhem
Old Delhi district at it's most advanced!
Namaste! Updating this travel blog is proving to be difficult so I am resorting to 'desperate' measures...
Right now I am in an air-conditioned tent. We can't go outside for more than half an hour because it is simply too hot - and only 10 am in the morning!
There is sooo much to tell and here I am tapping it all into my phone because whilst I can access wifi at reception, there is no computer for me to log onto.
On Saturday afternoon I met my tour group in Delhi. We are a small group of six girls plus our tour guide. Two kiwis - myself and Briar, a Norwegian - the beautiful Livelin who we call Tink; a Brit - Michelle, who I can (and have) chattered away to for hours; and two Americans - Aisha from New York, and Clara who lives in South Korea, loud but entertaining. Our tour guide, and solo male companion, is Neetu - he's great, very funny (at least he likes to think so), and completely comfortable with being surrounded by a bunch of women.
Anyway we kicked off with a walking tour of Old Delhi which was
completely overwhelming. Here, the power lines are jumbled masses of tangled cords, the streets are jammed full of people with things to do, and the maze of alleys full of stalls and colours is epic. There are men walking down the street balancing at least a tonne of goods in sacks on there heads, or pulling carts piled with produce as if they were the oxen. And there is food EVERYWHERE. Neetu had to keep warning us where not to eat because it's too risky. Despite this I swear I tasted the best samosa ever.
So what about the smell... Delhi smells like India. And not in a bad way. Much better than I remember Mumbai 10 years ago. Delhi smells like heat... and people... and dust... just the smell has a lot more life in it than anything at home.
We visited a Sikh temple also, it was fascinating hearing the facilitator fervently explain the purpose of his beliefs with us. He was honest and truly sincere in trying to break down stereotypes that many people have about this religion. It was refreshing. The temple itself prides itself on the education of its followers and support for
the community. They feed 3 meals a day to more than 5000 people. Quite humbling.
Dinner was at a really nice restaurant. I LOVE Indian food. And even though I'm not eating meat I swear I'm gaining weight. Slowly working my way through every kind of meal... yum.
Sunday morning we caught the Taj Express for Agra at 7am, arriving at 11am. This is where the heat hit us and it was staggering. The hotel we stayed in had several of their staff faint before the day was through. It was about 46degrees. The original intention was to go straight to the Taj Mahal but we opted to wait until early the next morning - I will forever be grateful for that stroke of luck, but more detail on that later.
We saw the Agra Fort at 4.30pm. Still very hot but bearable. Agra Fort is massive. The building was instigated by Shah Jahan, the greatest Mughal ruler, and took 95 years (3 generations) to complete. As with almost any ancient structure in India there is an associated love story, about how the emporer met his 3rd wife and out if his devotion built the Taj Mahal on the other side of the river to remember her when she died. He intended to build himself a similar tomb but was imprisoned by his youngest son before this could be accomplished. In his imprisonment he spent his time gazing on the Taj Mahal from the window of his suite in the fort, in an effort to be closer to his wife.
The hotel we stayed in (Hotel Sheela) was 2 star - instead of air conditioning there was 'water coolers', which did the job well enough. Of course we spent the night slapping ourselves for fear of creepy crawlies that could be seen traversing the rooms in the middle of the night.
Which brings me to the Taj itself. We were at the gate by 5am yesterday (Monday) morning. The first ones there. As a result we saw the Taj in all its glory without the hundreds of tourists to spoil the view and photos. Also enhanced by a complementary sunrise.
I was actually surprised by how impressed I was with the Taj considering I have seen it before. The fact is, any photo pales compared to the real thing and memories fade. It is truly beautiful.
From Agra we caught train 4 hours to Jhansi. All in all uneventful, although Michelle and I had a seriously good conversation running for most of the trip (the contents of which will remain unwritten) and Neetu could not understand how we could talk so much. The truth is, if any guy was listening they would be an expert in understanding woman by the end - and we told him so.
We got to Orchha, which is 45 minutes by TukTuk out of Jhansi, by 3pm... it was stifling. Orchha is considered a "small" village of 10,000 to 15,000 people. It's known to tourists for its old temples and palaces but little else. The tents here really are quaint - like desert tents with tiled floors and rugs, but there is no such thing as a cold shower as the water is very warm even in the middle of the night. I'm sharing with Tink here, we are both just draped on our beds getting some respite from our tour of the palaces thus morning.
The palaces in Orchha have there own love stories. One tells of a prince who fell in love with a dancer who was below his caste and station. She lived in a nearby palace and in order to rendezvous with her he needed to get to her palace without being seen. So he dug a tunnel... with his own hands, for 3 years, just to see her.
These buildings age as far as the early 16th century and were built by the Hindu kings.
And so here we are... most of us sleeping. Our days are largely planned around the heat. We get up at about 4am (if we can bribe someone to open a site that early) and see the sites throughout sunrise before having breakfast and winding down at 10am - at which point its more girl talk and food... definitely food. From 4pm its back up and about... and then more food for dinner.
Unfortunately we won't get a respite from the heat until Kathmandu - the end of this tour. Next stops from here are... overnight train tomorrow to our kick off on the river Ganges. One night in tents on the river side, no air con this time! Then two nights in Varanasi also no air con! So it seems the small luxuries stop here... bring it on :-)
P.S. obviously uploading photos is a pain. I've started taking a few on my phone to give you a taste but I have yet to figure out how to load them up... xx Shay.
N.B. It's 5pm now... temperatures outside have hit about 50degrees so we haven't gone anywhere... I believe we will be playing games over drinks inside tonight!