Well as David says, we’ve been slack updating this recently and we have yet to tell you all about our exciting trip on the Sun Kosi which I promise we’ll do soon! But we’ve not given up on the travelling just because we’ve got back to England. One of the things that we wanted to do on our return was explore our nearer surroundings, and we had the perfect excuse this weekend since we were celebrating five years of being together.
Well, Sharon and I have returned home and begun the process of reintergrating back in to the community. The weather isn't helping – I think I've worked out where my warm clothing is, but it's not accessable right now… We've been a bit slack with the blog updates recently and have posted no photos since New Zealand. I'll get photos and blogs up asap, and for those facebook friends, I'll post some on there too. I'll also let you know what exciting stuff you can expect from this site in the next few months too.
In Agra we had two completely different cultural experiences. Firstly we went to the Taj Mahal, which lived up to expectations – it is a truly beautiful monument. Second, we went to see a Bollywood film, Race, at a cinema in Agra. It was hilarious and surprisingly easy to follow given the over the top acting and the English dialogue every so often. It's telling how many times the songs from the film have been played on our transport; we knew them all!
Delhi is exhausting, our tour group unanimously decided. Sharon and I headed to the Red Fort (which wasn't as cool as the one in Agra) and then wandered to the Craft Museum via the Friday Mosque (Asia's largest). The mosque looked big but was otherwise unimpressive from the outside, however the Craft Museum was great. It reminded me of the British Museum, but devoted entirely to Indian artifacts. It had a full size replica Indian village, showing the varying building styles across the country. In the courtyard were crafty locals demonstrating their skills, but lacking the hard sell other street vendors excell at. The main section of the museum were the exhibits covering hundreds of years of India history, from the life life dolls they made as souveniers for the British working with the East India Company to the elaborate wooden statues and textiles.
While hunting for an auto-rickshaw to take us to the hotel, we saw a long line of them waiting and doing nothing. We approached several drivers, most of whom looked blankly at us and didn't seem to understand. It confused us that they weren't all vying for our business as normal, but we persisted and convinced one driver that he wanted to offer us a ride. Only when he pushed his rickshaw around the corner did we realise that the queue was for fuel…
Two more days of craziness and then we're back to the English madness that most of you call real life!
Our trip into India began with a few days in the rather crazy city of Varanasi followed by a seemingly tranquil stay in Orcha.
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world and is one of the most holy for Hindus with its location on the banks of the Ganges. It was described by our tour leader as a place where you could see real India because people don't put on a show here and I think that is certainly true. The ghats by the river see all sorts of activity from bathing, washing clothes and burning the dead – often more close to each than the western mind can comprehend. We saw an evening parayer ceremony which involved lots of bells and bright colours, and we went out on a boat to participate in a flower ceremony, where we floated 251 candles in petals on the water, making a wish with each one. The effect was simply stunning.
We had another boat trip which was slightly longer as we spent two days sailing/rowing down the Ganges and got to see Gangetic dolphins! I thought these were quite a rarity to the point of almost being mythical, but apparently their numbers have increased over the last 2 or 3 years and we saw several escape the water for air. Having seen the water, I'm not surprised they're blind.
A 15 hour train and 45 minute autorickshaw journey brought us to Orcha – a city with more 16th century palaces, temples and various ruins than you could imagine for such a tiny town. We explored several of these magnificent sights, enjoyed a cookery demostration and saw a factory where villagers were making paper from cotton. Orcha is definitely somewhere I'd recommend people visit, the history was incredible and the comparative peace and quiet wonderful. We stayed at a lovely place in air conditioned tents where we did have several visits from geckos who helped keep the mossies under control, and there was even a swimming pool! – a luxury much appreciated when its 35degrees. Photos will be put up at some point as I don't think I can describe the beauty of the buildings effectively.
Sadly the majority of the group didn't get to fully appreciate the area, since illness struck. The most likely candidate seems to be the hummus that they ate as part of a packed lunch on the train. However there was no way to keep it cold and several hours of hot weather have led to a couple of days of misery for some. Three of us haven't been affected and are hoping that this will remain the case! Since David and I ordered food from a different place, we're hoping it was the hummus.
We've arrived in Agra and will see the Taj Mahal soon, then head to Delhi tomoroow. Its not long now at all till we'll be approaching the chaos that is Heathrow and we will be home.