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Published: December 19th 2008
19 Nov - our first experience of an Indian train journey! It's v busy and smelly at Delhi train station but thankfully train is only delayed 30 mins. Quite comfortable and staff are friendly bringing endless supply of chai (sweet, milky, Indian tea). Travelling most of the day but it goes quickly with Liam for company. Ranthambore is the real rural India. Nice hotel where we chill out and have a tasty buffet dinner. Do some stargazing, lying on the roof after dinner. Wonderful clear sky, peaceful and great company 😊
20 Nov - we have our first tiger game drive. Different experience and landscape to the African gamedrives but we still need to be up REALLY early and there's more shoogling about on track roads in a jeep. We don't see any tigers and are all disappointed. However, we see lots of other wildlife including samba deer, owlets, monkeys and various...BIRDS. Explore the village in the afternoon, great street scenes of cows wandering the streets, camel carts and colourful locals. We have another game drive in the afternoon but STILL no tigers, only lots of cheeky monkeys. After dinner (which included some local Indian music and dance with audience
participation) I stay up drinking and chatting with Liam (Old Monk Rum and coke becomes our drink of choice), bit of a late night, head to bed about 2.30am!!
21 Nov - another early morning train drive. Bhupindra's niece is getting married and in true Indian wedding style there are various parts to the celebration. He leaves us to attend this and Liam is appointed deputy tour leader. Train is delayed over an hour this time. It's cold and damp waiting on the platform at 7am and tired and grumpy due to lack of sleep. Eventually the train arrives though and we find seats, Bhupindra joins us several stations down the line as planned.
We're due to visit Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary this afternoon, so tired I'm thinking of giving it a miss as not excited at the prospect of looking for birds all afternoon. However, I go and it turns out to be an excellent afternoon. Amazing marshland scenery with birds of all types - big, small, colourful including kingfisher, egret, type of heron which looks like a flasher (!) and many others. We walk round part of the Sanctuary and take a rickshaw for the rest.
We have a great driver and have a good laugh.
Quick change back at the hotel then a two hour drive to the village for Bhupindra's niece's wedding. He asked at the start of the trip if we would be interested in attending this and we all jumped at the chance. What a great chance to experience and Indian wedding, in India, first hand! An amazing insight into Indian culture and definitely not part of the usual GAP itinerary.
Preparation seems to take longer than the event itself. All of the girls have henna painted on their hands and then we're dressed in sarees. We then head downstairs to watch the groom arriving on horseback - it's total mayhem with a scrum of guests outside the venue. There are numerous wedding venues in India's towns and cities. They're really just large community centres. Guests come from far and wide and therefore there are lots of small rooms for people to change, kids to sleep, etc. An Indian wedding is a loud, noisy, colourful and busy affair! We're allowed to take part in the blessing of the groom and then have the wedding meal, a large buffet with spicier
food than the hotels provide, v tasty. We then head upstairs to see the groom. In the hall, there are two...what can only be described as David and Victoria Beckham type thrones. The groom is awaiting his bride, looking miserable and on his mobile. It is an arranged marriage and the bride and groom haven't met prior to the wedding celebrations so that could explain why they're not smiling - just look at the photos below...
Despite the glum faces, the hall is a massive array of colour with all the females in bright coloured sarees. It's all a bit of an anti-climax, no dancing or music but we each go on to the stage and congratulate the bride and give our present of 101 ruppees, a lucky wedding gift.
We leave the wedding about 1am. It's still in full swing, loads of people still milling around and interested in the white guests! Some people are crashed out in the rooms, others are still chatting excitedly and once outside there are more people as well as dogs and pigs wandering the streets, what an experience. We then have an adrenalin filled bus journey home, Indian style. We have
several near death experiences where we almost crash into the car or lorry in front and dodgy overtaking. Liam and I are petrified and cling onto each other for what seems an extremely long two hours of our lives. Arrive back at the hotel about 3am complete nervous wrecks but glad to be alive.
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