Published: December 9th 2008December 4th 2008
We finally left Nepal without a hitch and it was sad to say goodbye to such a great country, but we were really excited about the move to India. How simple the trip to India was to be, an International flight from Kathmandu to Delhi (we then had to retrieve our luggage) and then move to the domestic terminal for the internal flight to Mumbai. We had 1 and 1/2 hours to get from one terminal to the other at Delhi, ample time, or so we thought but in reality the shuttle bus could not move any slower and we missed our connection by 1/2 an hour. Fortunately for us the flights were hourly and we just got moved onto another flight. Gary was on edge for the whole of the very long bus journey between terminals but was suitably relieved when we finally arrived at our hotel Mumbai. Can we just state at this point that we left Mumbai 7 days before the tragic events of Nov 2008 and our thoughts go out to those innocent parties involved.
Mumbai was a great experience for us and not as expected, i.e.we thought that as it would be so busy and noisy
that we would not enjoy it. Quite the opposite, we strolled around the place taking in the architecture, the key sights (the Taj hotel included) and had a really good time. Although we did not watch a Bollywood movie we did go to the cinema, which was not exactly full or had modern facilities. In fact, it brought back memories of the old UK cinema seats where you get a numb arse after about 20 minutes and then spent the rest of the film fidgeting to be comfortable.
We met our new group of travellers on our final night in Mumbai and to Gary's surprise he was not the oldest, but to his horror he was the only male out of 10. His fears that the only conversation for the next two weeks would be around fashion, shopping and menstrual cycles were fully justified.
An early start was to be our first encounter on Indian trains and it went very smoothly until one of the group (female) screamed so hard, at the sight of a mouse, that she got complaints from the locals. This 7 hour journey to Aurangabad was pretty uneventful (and the train food surprisingly tasty) until we
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Aurangabad fort area
arrived at our hotel. Being on a cheap trip we expected to stay in basic hotels, but this one was particularly bad especially on the cleanliness front (sheets, towels, rooms and the restaurant were all filthy). We, as a group thought things have got to get better than this. Don't worry they did !!!
The order for the next 3 days was caves (Ellora, Aurangabad and Ajanta) and temples (too many to mention). At the end of this burst of tourist activity the whole group had had enough of the bloody caves with temples in, no matter how spectacular they are. We knew there would be more to come.
The next big bit of tourism was at the holy island of Omkareshwar where we were staying at a resort hotel (sounds posh) and we overlooked the river and dam. On reflection the resort hotel title was stretching it a bit, but it was the best in the area. (We could tell as an upmarket Dutch tour stayed at the same place). The weather was hot, very hot for us Brits even though it was a cold part of the year so we kept the physical activity down to a minimum
although we were the only 2 apart from the tour leader to hike up the 300 or so steps to a huge statue of Shiva. It was well worth the views and the monkey fights at the top.
We met up with two other group members after a fantastic banana lassi and went to the bathing ghats to rest our weary feet. How lucky we were to be approached by an elderly man who just wanted to say hello. We were all in a line bathing our feet when he worked his way along the line. He touched the first girl on the head. The second girl got an embrace. Gary was third in line and got an embrace and a kiss on both cheeks and Carolyn was only one step from being sexually assaulted. Gary was so disappointed he wasn't at the end of the line. Of course the real reason for the touching was not a blessing but to extract some money from us for food as he was very hungry. From the size of him he looked like he hadn't missed a meal for 10 years.
Next stop Mandu, 5 hours by private car was to take
us to another vast area of temples, fantastic views and great weather. In addition there was the English Wine Store that sold beer and spirits, but no wine. Very weird, but at least Gary could have a couple of cold beers as he had been seriously depleted in the alcohol stakes. We hired bikes and took our lives in our hands by cycling on the Indian roads. The threat of serious damage caused by lorries cars and cows kept us hyper vigilant. Brakes, of course, were optional on these death traps we were riding, but we survived and actually enjoyed the exercise.
We had an overnight stopover in Bhopal and then it was off to Sanchi to see some spectacular ancient Buddhist temples which again was very good and well worth the uphill hike in the high temperatures. Another day trip on the train followed but we were not in the posh AC seats that we had before, but instead we were in the sleeper cars that convert into seats during the day. When we got to our seats they were still beds with locals draped across them having a lie in. In our best Hindi we got them moved.
When getting on Indian trains they do not give you a lot of time to board, it started to move whilst we still had 3 people with large rucksacks on the platform. Fortunately they do not really speed away and we managed to get on after shouting to others to move along the train. This lower class of seating arrangement allowed us to be fair game for the full selection of hawkers and food sellers. They seemed to be disappointed that none of us wanted to buy a miniature rattle, piano or ludo set. That aside the Chai salesman did OK with us as you can't beat a lovely cup of chai. The train took us to Jhansi where we picked up our transport to Orchha. Situated on the Betwa river it was to be our resting place for the next two nights. The hotel was on a hill which gave us spectacular views of the palace and surrounding area. This was a rural location and the numbers of cows outnumbered the humans on the streets at night. Due to the election process the whole area was "dry" and Gary once again had to succumb to non alcoholic beverages in
the evenings. Another disappointment for Gary was that we had a room that had neither a western toilet or a television. He was gutted that he could not watch the the 5th one day international (cricket) between India and England. In hindsight England lost again so he would have been more upset if he had seen it. Orchha was a great place to explore on foot and we made the most of the good weather. The rural location and the friendly locals made the place extremely pleasant the only downside was that a local politician was murdered which pretty much closed the centre of town for shopping. Gary was once again disappointed that he could not buy some more sarees or shoulder bags.
An overnight train took us to Delhi for the end of this part of the India experience. Old Delhi was pretty much out of bounds for tourists due to the troubles in Mumbai so we only went to India gate , the Lodi gardens and the Birla Temple and that was that. The smog and noise over a two day period was about as much as we could cope with, so we were really pleased to say
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Taken during the bike ride in Mandu
goodbye to the old group and meet another new group and get on an overnight train to Jaisalmer.
There are more photos below