Farewell to India


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July 25th 2008
Published: July 25th 2008
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It is very late in the evening, more like early morning, and I just officially finished my first trek as a guide. It was a really good experience, and now I am almost on my way to Africa, for a very different experience.

But the last few days have been good, I visited the "classics", the Fort in Delhi, the one in Agra, the TAj and Fathepur Sikri. Quite a different experience after a trek in the isolated mountains of LAdakh, but also wonderful.

I always wanted to see the TAj and it is, indeed, lovely. Amazing what a person can do because of woman! IMpressive monument. But it was very hot and sticky and all of us were somewhat struggling with the heat. It doesn't rain much, actually the only rain we had was in Manali for 15 minutes, but it was very intense! I thought it would rain a lot more. And I actually like the fact that there is a lot less tourists during this season.

But INdia will always surprise me. The drive between Agra and Fathepur Sikri was so beautiful. It is a bit more rural and driving through the villages we could see real life in India... The people biking to work, lunchbox in hand, the kids playing in the streets, the cows (again!), the dogs sleeping in the middle of the street despite the dense traffic, the street vendors, the beggars, the rickshaws, the elephants, the camels, etc. It is just so full of life. Everywhere.

Of course close to the monuments it is thick with people trying to sell things. Anklets that started at 500 Rs a pair went down to 15 for 100 Rs. Chess board started at 20 Rs at one site and 200 at the next... Monkeys are climbing on the windows of the mini-bus when we stop... But my absolute favorite was the "professional shoe watcher", at the entrance of a mosque, where we had to take our shoes off, he even had an ID card to prove he was a professional!

And there are many many "guides" that are more than willing to tell us all about the different sites. Oh sorry, they are not guides, just apprentices... But they sure show tenacity! Some are about 10 years old and can already speak a few sentences in many different languages. And they are clever.

Another little story... Our bus driver tried to avoid the lane where he had to pay some tourist fee. The traffic guy decided to move the big metal barrier in front of the bus so we couldn't move forward. We had to back up, in the middle of a huge traffic jam. ANd I mean a real traffic jam. We didn't understand what was going on at first, but it was interesting to watch the discussion between the two men. A "corn vendor" was standing next to the road, cooking his corn on coals. He was watching us trying to figure out what was happening and we wre amiling and he thought it was very funny. It took a while and by the time we drove away, we were waving at our new friend the corn man. Simple little story, but that's what makes India so interesting to me. It is not the beautiful monuments, it is the people.

Sometimes it is sad though, like the man who offered to jump in a pool of very dirty water full of algi for some money. "I do good jump" he said.

Yeah, I will miss India, I will miss smiling at the little surprises that she throws at us all the time. But as they say, "Thank you, come again!". I will.

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