Heading back to the sunshine.....

Trip Start Nov 27, 2012
Trip End Feb 24, 2013

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Where I stayed
Mollys Nest, Mandrem Beach

Flag of India  , Goa,
Saturday, January 26, 2013

Amristar was our last stop on the two week group tour with Intrepid Travel.    It has been an amazing couple of weeks and we are definitely pleased we booked in with a group as trying to negotiate this mountainous part of Northern India on our own would have been a nightmare.   We were also fortunate enough to be with a really good group of people which added to the enjoyment.

From Amristar we headed back to Delhi on an overnight train.  We were booked on the communal 3 tier sleeper carriages which was a real experience.   Our carriage contained a group of 70 from a wedding who were on their way from the bride celebrations in Amristar to the groom celebration in Delhi. 

Getting in to the berths was a bit of a challenge and there was little room for a big western woman to move around (no comments please!). I was on the top bunk which required real dexterity to access.

Back in Delhi we planned to stay a few days and make a day trip to Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal.   We had been told by so many people that we really must visit as it was amazing and we were not disappointed.

We have seen so many wonderful places on our travels and were beginning to feel a bit templed and palaced out.  However, the Taj definitely did not disappoint.  As we walked through the main entrance it appeared like a mystical palace in the air and I felt tears come to my eyes as its breath taking beauty.  It was difficult to believe that it was real, the size of it was overwhelming.    Once you get up close and see the detail in the marble it is even more amazing and even with thousands of tourists crawling all over it like ants it does not detract from the experience.  It was definitely worth delaying our return to the sunshine to see it.

After our various sagas over previous train journeys we were delighted to have a guaranteed reserved seat for the train journey from Delhi to Goa and to have transferred from to the Goa Express which left at 1503 and arrived at 0540.    However, when Terry was checking documents a few days before he noticed that we left on 23rd Jan and arrived on 25th – so not the super fast overnight I had imagined, actually a 39 hour epic journey with two nights on the train.   We made a quick trip to the book shop to stock up on reading material.

Like everything else in India, the train journey had many surprises.  Our lower and upper berth sleepers faced another two and we met Sunil who was in his 60's, married to a lady from Singapore and was travelling to Goa to holiday with a friend (no mention of where the wife was).  Sunil was from Delhi and had a matchmaking business (very interesting).  On the other bunk was Duhil who was 24 years of age and had his own business as a 'super’ wholesaler of car accessories (mainly music systems) and was travelling back to Pune from a business trip to Delhi.  Duhil was a true representative of the new middle class, he had two degrees – Electrical Engineering and Commerce – and had travelled widely around India as a child as his father had been in the army.  We had fascinating conversations around so many topics, including his new found spiritualism and how he was a follower of Lord Shiva.   We also discussed politics and whether there was a hope of a non-corrupt government in the near future.  To this his response was a huge NO.   He explained that most modern Indian’s avoided paying taxes as they did not want to line the pockets of corrupt politicians.   He was also very open about how he got his driving licence.    Having passed the written test (you can’t get round this but it is very easy), you go to the test centre where you hook up with a tout.  You pay the tout the going rate and he, for the purposes of being seen to do the right thing, will ask you to get in the testers car and just drive around the corner.   Irrespective of how you drive this short distance you get a driving license.  Could explain the high death rates on Indian roads.

An old gentleman came to sit on our seats with us, even though this was an area reserved for four people.  He looked rather dishevelled and asked Dhuil if he could sleep for a while on his upper bunk.  As he was getting off the train before 2100 Duhil had no problem with this, even the modern youth will show respect to their elders here.   After sleeping for an hour or two the gentleman then came and sat on the seat next to us, lent across and picked up Terry’s book which is a travelogue about India.   This sharing of things is quite normal in India and we have got used to people picking up our things if we put them down or leaning over your papers as you read them.    After sitting mute for about 3 hours the elderly gentleman turned to Terry and asked him.  "What is the meaning of enjoyment?"  We gave a quick explanation thinking he was struggling with an English word in the book.  Nodding his head in the way of someone quite wise he then asked, “Is enjoyment extrovert or introvert?”       This lead to a very interesting debate about the nature of happiness and the gentleman said he had been listening with interest to our conversation and wanted to explore this with us briefly before he left the train.   Before he left us we also had a discussion around spiritualism, cosmic energy and how all actions have consequences.    Hey, beats talking about the weather.  Only in India!

We are now back in Goa and on the beautiful Mandrem Beach in a gorgeous little beach cottage to chill for five days.   We are now on the countdown to leaving India on 4th February and heading down to Australia.  

What’s in the News:    The depth of the corruption in this country is difficult to fathom.   It was recently reported that the new intake of Delhi teachers were asked to sit a test to confirm their ability to teach and 99% failed the test.    Today it is reported that an ex Chief Minister and his son are being sent down for 10 years for corruption.  The allegation against them is that over 3,200 junior basic trained teachers were illegally recruited in 2000 because they greased the palms of the minister.  The corruption has inevitably led to falling standard in state schools where is it known that on an average day 1 in 3 teachers in state schools will be absent.  

Amazing advert spotted in the papers : 

“I can transform your child”

Sanjeer Datta, Personality Transformation System. 

For kids, teenagers and college students.
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Michael Batey on

Much enjoying the travelogue . It's keeping us going through the misery of a British winter.
Take care - hopefully the bush fires have died down in Aus !
M & N

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