Comming towards the end of my sabatical, I’d just returned from an amazing trip to Namibia.
So what next…
Well, Nikki and I like to get a way at Christmas (although usualy places close to home like Cyprus or Malta). India looked a good fit, but its somewhere I’d been before and Nikki hadnt.
But with a bit of tweaking, I could create a trip that would suit us both.
I found a trip called Mughal Highlights with the adventure travel company Explore. It looked a perfect fit.
On my previous trip, I’d travelled west to east from Delhi to Varanasi (and ultimately Kathmandu).
I found a trip with loads of new things to see, yet lots of must see sights for Nikki.
Delhi and Agra would be duplicated from my original trip, but I saw almost nothing of Delhi the first time and Agra, and the Taj Mahal are always worth a 2nd visit.
Packed and ready to go, with my “new” sandals (which, due to it being winter I never got to wear), Tilly hat, first aid kit and emergency repair kit. Last but not least, the ubiqitous chocolate limes.
Off all the trips I’ve been on, the flying expirience was the worst by far, due to a series of what I can only call bad luck.
We arrive at the excelent Manchester airport at 5am. Drop our bags and then we can get some coffee and nice breakfast. But whats this, theres a problem with the “machines” we have to stand up and queue for an hour and 40 mins.
The delay means we have to rush through to get our plane. Some nugget in security has tried to bring an iron through security which holds things up further.
We get to the plane, which is delayed. On landing in France, we run to get our flight to Delhi, desperate not to miss it. Then once on the plane, the pilot keeps us on the ground for 2.5 hours to give other people a chance.
Ok, so at least now were on our way to India.
We land, have the farcial thing of some sort of annoying paper imigration form (that could have been issued with our visa. We have to find all sorts of details, find something to lean on and write it out (and its midnight and were exausted).
Then some sort of amatuer security thing with finger prints. Which meant from Landing it took nearly 3 hours to get out of the airport.
Which meant that the transfer we’d booked had already left and we had to get a taxi. The taxi drive gave us some rubbish about a big tip to feed his family. I threw the money at him and went into our hotel.
Oh, did I mention I had a really bad cold ?
No matter, we’ve arrived. A hot shower, comfortable bed and some sleep.
In the morning, we had some breakfast and then decided to go out exploring (the tour didnt officialy start until late afternoon and sitting around isnt for me).
New neighourhoods are sprouting up all the time in India. In this case, the New Friends colony, split into areas like zone G where we were staying.
On our orientation walk, we come across this sign.
Later, our tour begins and first thing is our guide Abi. I won’t bore you with the details, but simply put, he was an amzing guide.
An early introduction to the contrasts of India.
We travel on the underground, and I see the woman only carriages I’d heard about.
The platform and carriage are bright, in good working order and spotlessly clean.
We ascend into the old town.
You can see the difference, it was filthy and squalid.
The best way to see this part of the town, is by cyclo.
Abi pointed out that the technology boom in India was great, but getting hold of a good electrician was still a challenge (as you can see from the high quality electrical work in this picture).
The Jama Masjid mosque.
You can see a lot of smog in the background, but the building itself was spectacular.
I had to pay a bit to borrow some flip flops (and pay someone to keep an eye on my shoes).
Nikki had to wear this sort of dressing gown thing.
Walking from the mosque, we pass the famous Red Fort.
A Mughal fort, befitting a tour called Mughal highlights. A world heritage site, the Prime Minister hoists a flag here every year on indipendence day.
And then onto our air conditioned bus.
The Airforce building has aeroplanes mounted outside.
I imagine it’s so people can find it more easily and if they arrive at the wrong place and find tanks, they know theyre in the wrong place.
The Qutb complex.
<say something historic about it>
Quwwat-ul-islam arch. All thats left of the building constructed in 1193 and in the background the Qutb Minar tower.
Driving around once it goes dark, we get to see the Governement building from a distance and The India gate, a momorial to 70,000 Indian soldiers who died in the first world war.
We finish off the evening with a few beers and a delicious curry.
It was the most expensive meal we ate on the whole trip and cost about a tenner.
I guessed it would be expensive, as it was above a Lexus dealership.
The next day we do a quick visit to Hamayans tomb.
Another Mughal building, it was spectacular to look at, I just wish there had been some sunshine.
Like the Taj Mahal, it was symetricaly perfect.
And then were off on our way to Agra.
We passed these 2 people sat on the top of a truck, with a quilt over them to fend of the cold.
They were really friendly and waved at us.
Get cleaned up in our hotel, then its out to see the Taj Mahal.
I’d seen it before, but just like last time, I was left speachless.
In the evening we eat some Thali food and are entertained by musicians.
The following day, up bright and early and were off to see the Agra fort.
I was really looking forward to this. Thing is, the Taj is amazing, but all you can really do is look at it.
This thing is A FORT and I’m basicaly a boy in a mans body.
Inside, were introduced to a local guide and expert who talks us through the various parts of the fort and their history.
Half of the fort is closed off, as it’s still used by the Indian army (Parachute Brigade), even to this day.
Diwan – I Kas, the hall of private audience. Originaly used by Akbar and great and later by several of his descendents.
The Throne of Jahangir. Made from Belgian marble.
When the “British” attacked, they fired a canonball, which hit the throne, bounced off and made a hole in the wall nearby.
Shah Jahan Mosque.
The battlements of the fort, showing high walls, a moat and a gap between the outer in and inner walls where Tigers roamed.
And were off on the road again.