Local Color Captivates Us Again!
Trip Start Apr 24, 2011
13Trip End May 13, 2011
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We started this morning with a drive to Fatehpur Sikri Village, a royal town established by the third emperor of the Mughal dynasty in the 16th century. This place is a red sandstone masterpiece and, when we arrived, we were the only ones there, quite a switch from yesterday's visit to the Taj Mahal. Our hope was to develop this visit into a walk. We'd noticed a women walking over the ridge to our right as we walked into the village. She was carrying a massive load of something, probably straw, on her head, and we surmised that wherever she was headed might be someplace interesting to explore on a walk.
After our site visit, we made plans to rendezvous with Girish, our guide, in about an hour, and set out exploring outside the official village site. We saw a red stone pathway leading down onto the plains that looked promising. By following it backwards, we found where it connected with one of the exits from the Fatehpur Sikri Village.
The path we found wound around behind the official site and took us through some magically evocative ruins visitors don't see by staying inside the walls. At the bottom of the hill, we passed through a fence and entered a local village - one of those places time seems to have forgotten. We couldn't even spot a satellite dish atop any of the roofs, but we did get our first up close and personal views of the cow dung sheds we've been seeing throughout the countryside for the past two days, sheds used, appropriately enough, to store cow patties.
Cow patties are a primary source of fuel for cooking fires. Gauging by the amount of cow dung shed and cow patties laid out to sun bake, it is nothing short of astounding how prolific these highly regarded cows and water buffalo are.
The village offered lots of traditional-lifestyle "wows", and we got more than our fair share of attention from a troupe of young boys that were determined to make us their primary source of entertainment for the morning. We did find our way out of the village and up over the ridge seen earlier. We even rendezvoused with Girish on time, satisfied that we have found a worthy, way-off-the-beaten-track WAI experience to share next time we return.
The balance of the day was spent getting the Ranthamborn National Park - tomorrow is our day to visit the nature preserve. With stops, the drive took us 6 hours, but all 360 minutes were packed with nose-pressed-to-the-window sights. I really can't begin to describe the color. India is not yet acclimated to the concept of a divided highway, or traffic that all goes in the same direction. Buses and tractors continually motored toward us on the wrong side of the median. Girish tried to explain the foreignness of the concept from the farmer's point of view, and that drivers simply want to get where they are going the most direct way. For all of time and eternity, transport in India simply wound it's way from point A to B in as close to a straight line as the obstacles allowed. Common sense reigned; a set of traffic rules were ridiculous! Using prescribed exits from a limited access highway is simply not sensible or effiicent. To a western mindset, the result of this approach to traffic is either nail-biting or hilarious.
Our Sikh driver, Mr. Sighn manages just fine. Navigating traffic is a complex dance Indians start to learn from birth. But the varying types of vehicles, the massive loads piled high on those vehicles, the people perched high on the roofs of buses, the camels, horses, oxen hitched to carts, unnumerable tractors pulling every imaginable and many unimaginable loads, in all directions at the same time while people and cows and dogs and pigs wander into the melee with a nonchalant air of confidence and place; it really is breathtaking!
I could not capture it for you, but here are a few photographs to maybe give you a flavor. Shooting from inside a moving car is a challenge. Like I said, Robert and I are threatening to scrap the schedule, find a chair under a shade tree, and just enjoy the passing parade of color.
Not a very profound post - we are also learning lots from Girish, but I'll save the history and philosophy for another day.