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Published: April 2nd 2014
Usually when I sit down to write these blogs I am never stuck for words, but this time is different. I really have spent a lot of time thinking about what I would write about our experiences in Incredible India. What could I possibly say that could describe what we have seen while there.
I personally have experienced some very strong emotions during this part of our trip , some happy times and unfortunately, some very sad times. We had been told that we would say 'wow' when we turned one corner and, 'yuck' when we turned the next, and I think that pretty much describes it all for us.
We have certainly seen some of India's beauty and, I think also some of it's ugliness. The contrasts are unbelievable, from the splendor of the Taj, to the absolute sadness of the slums, where people live their lives under the cover of plastic, using the train tracks as their toilet. From the sweet smell of the poppy fields and beautiful gardens of the palaces, to the stench of the third class train carriages as they pull into the stations, from extreme wealth to extreme poverty, from the
beautiful colours of the ladies saris and goat herders turbans to the grey sands of the Thar Desert, from the spicy curries, to the sweet desserts, the little bit of India that we have seen really is, a land of contrasts.
Usually most of our travel in the past has involved buses and trains etc.. but for this leg of our journey we had decided on using a motorcycle and, had booked ourselves a three week Rajasthan Tour on a Royal Enfield 500cc Bullet. A trip which involved 2700 km of some pretty out there riding conditions and, Dean did extremely well to get us both around unscathed and back to Delhi in one piece.
India, we now know has no road rules and it seems that if it is more convenient for you to drive on the wrong side of the road, then who are we to question that? The road is shared by camels, horses, cows, goats, pigs, dogs, the most amazing trucks that have music speakers on the outside of the vehicle tearing up the road to the sound of music, buses, overloaded grain carts, cars, people and of course, crazy
tourists on motorcycles!
We did see some beautiful things along the way, the day we were at the Taj, the sky was blue and it really is a wonder of the world. We both also enjoyed seeing the many working elephants at the Amber fort, and the many wonderful and varied forts and palaces along the way and one day were extremely lucky to see thousands of Mongolian Blue Crane's take flight as a helicopter gunship flew overhead. But for me it really was about the people. The children who just seem to appear from nowhere as soon as you stop the bike, some just very inquisitive about the bikes, and the strange people riding them, and others, very shy, quietly asking for any shampoo that you may of nicked from the last hotel, very sadly they are usually filthy dirty with no shoes - poor little mites, and of course who could forget the old men, with their sun weathered faces, who I'm sure could tell a thousand stories.
Interestingly between them, Indians worship 330 million gods, one for just about anything you could think of. We saw devotees going about their daily
business, one guy walking along completely naked on his way to somewhere to do his thing, and ladies all dressed in white walking miles along a very lonely road with everything covered including a face mask, just in case they shallow an insect, as their religion requires them to be strict vegetarians. A guy crawling along the road going who knows where. We even stopped at a shrine for a Royal Enfield Motorcycle which apparently starts it's self on the anniversary of its owner losing his life when he wrapped it around a tree - not sure about that one, especially as we were riding the same type of bike!
Another day, we were fortune enough to stop at a very remote desert village, it seemed like one large extended family lived there in their mud and thatch cottages with a dry communal well as the central meeting place. There seemed to be lots of kids and young women there, and through the help of a lady traveling with us (Shamim), who could speak Hindi, we managed to learn that the men go away to work, that all the water is trucked in and has to be
paid for, and what seemed to be a rarity, twins lived there, whom the whole female population seemed very proud of.
Whilst there,we were invited into a small mud hut where a small baby boy had been born five days earlier. This poor little boy was wrapped in a cloth and dusty blanket, and was lying on the dirt floor, surrounded by flies, and his young mum sat next to him with a look of total helplessness in her eyes, how very very sad.
Since that visit, I have seen a TV ad running on Indian television for Johnson and Johnson baby lotion, with the white walls, gentle breezes blowing the curtains, a very content plump baby and a smiling mum, and immediately I think of that poor little mite on the dirt floor, I didn't think he will ever enjoy white walls and gentle breezes -what a country of contrasts, and again, how very sad.
One evening over dinner our tour guide asked us " Why would I live anywhere else in the world when I live like a King in India"? In hindsight there are so many things that I should
of said, but this came from a man who also told us on day one of our tour that he belonged to the highest caste, even though he also assured us that the caste system is no longer used, go figure!
I'm sorry but, one has to wonder about a country that spends over $1 billion a year on a space program and it's children live in poverty.
Having said all of that, we did enjoy our bike trip, even through we had very sore bottoms at the end of it all. But it seemed that India just had one more thing to throw at us. After the tour, we headed back to Delhi to catch a train to Barielly, which would get us near to the Nepalese boarder for our crossing the next day. As we waited on the New Delhi train station along with the many other thousands, we were both guessing how long in length the train was possibly going to be with so many people waiting.
Well when the train pulled up, with about twenty five or so carriages, there was a rush of people, like nothing you have
ever seen, all pushing to get to their carriage and seat, be it hard or soft. Through all the pushing we did managed to get to our carriage, but unfortunately got on the wrong end, and so had a mob of people coming towards us along the aisle, as we nearly got to our seats, Dean realised that he had been pick-pocketed.
He dropped his pack on the nearest seat and headed back in the direction that we had come from. Just then he saw an old man on his way out of the carriage, Dean stopped him and asked what he had in his pockets, and would you believe it, the old boy handed over Dean's wallet! He told Dean that he had just found it on the floor of the carriage, and to please forgive him. I am extremely pleased to said that Dean didn't hit him, but just took the wallet back, and not so politely told the old guy where to go. Do you know, if it wasn't for the credit cards etc in the wallet, we would have been happy for him to have the $5.00 that was in there, but you
have to wonder how many other wallets that he has found on the floor of a train carriage.
That train journey proved to be one of our most memorable to date. After we eventually got to some seats ( ours were by this time were taken, and the lady sitting in mine refused to move) we were told by a young man, that those things happen all the time " it's India" he said, and shrugged his shoulders!
Well just as we settled down, took a deep breath and prepared ourselves for our six hour trip, we saw something move, and you wouldn't believe it we had quite a large mouse family living in the carriage. At one stage a little one was sitting on my footrest, looking straight at me, while his mates were having running races up the aisle, the Indians found it quite funny that we were surprised that there was even one mouse on the train. I looked at the young man again, and again he shrugged his shoulders, and said "it's India" -can you believe that? We just looked at each other and smiled! And then just to add
the icing to the cake, the ceiling of the carriage collapsed behind us - the cause, water from the toilet - nice. Needless to say we were very happy when we reached Barielly.
You may ask, did we enjoy India? Our answer: we don't know yet. Would we go back? Our answer: we don't know that either, but for the time being, we are both happy to say goodbye,
The journey continues.............
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