'Hai Ram'! Gandhi's last words - Oh God!

Trip Start Dec 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 03, 2013

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The not your everyday journey begins...............

Monday 17th December day 9
Art, Culture, Architecture and Philosophy!
We now head towards the Northwest to khajuraho in the state of Madhya Pradesh but at the moment the highway is blocked at a place called Satna. There has been a sickening major accident up ahead where 25 people are dead, a collision between a minibus, truck and jeep. It is utter chaos, hundreds of Indians rubbernecking, plus all the manpower of the local cement works plant running down the highway hopefully to help. While sitting here, I have decided to start a travel blog as communications in this area are either non-existent or murderously slow.
Dragoman is great, there are 19 of us plus 2 crew. we are a mix of Swede, Canada, UK, Irish, Kiwi and Aussie plus a stunted little indian chicken called Flappy that our driver Amanda inherited on her travels.
We left Kathmandu last Monday 10th Dec. and drove to Chitwan National park in South Nepal 160 kms from the Indian border. We all went on walking and elephant safaris over the next 2 days absorbing the atmosphere and trying to spot Rhinos and Tigers. The only time we came close to a tiger was by the riverbank where we saw these giant paw prints.  We got lucky later on in the day when we came extremely close to a couple of Rhinos when on the Elephant safari
Joke:- What do you get when you cross a Rhino and a Elephant?
Ellifiknow............ ha ha

Wed 12th day 4
We cross the border and enter India in the state of Utter Pradesh. I can only describe the experience as Jaw dropping, Incredibly noisy, Intense, overwhelmingly complex, visually stimulating, awesome and confronting - poverty, squalor and the harshness of life, dog eating dog, widespread rubbish, polluted air, rural, villages, towns and cities alike. Most days I love it but on occasion I dislike it very much. No-one felt like camping this night so we upgraded to a hotel at Gorkaphur where we could have almost been in the Hotel Marigold. No sheet, towels, soap or toilet paper but the food was great.

Thurs 13th day 5
We start early to Varanassi. We buy food off the street, guavas, mandarins, samosas and pakoras. We watch life through the windows of the bus as we pass by in 'Josh' (name of our bus) e.g. kids play badminton, women and men with their crops, animals, the making of eiderdowns and furniture by hand, public bathing and not to mention the slaughtering of goats and chickens. We drive in a atmosphere of pollution - fog, mist and smoke.
Tony tries to buy a bottle of soft drink - he gets a roll of "soft" toilet paper!

Fri 14th Dec
'Varanassi' The Holy City aka the city of poo
" Hello Uncle" (tony) can you give me 10 rupees, if you don't I will cry and throw myself down on my sword and die. An all too common chant from the pitiful beggar children who live down on the ghats by the banks of the Ganges.
We walked down to the Ganges at 6am to see the 84 ghats and experience the experience by boat and in the mist. Bells ringing and clanging, incense, laundry washing of clothes, bathing, swimming, worshiping, defecating, urinating, silk ,saris and singing and of course cremation. We all lit candles and sent them down the Ganges to cleanse our sins and hope for success. At the same time amongst this cacophony of noise and activity there was also a sense of serenity and surrealism.
We then visited a few temples and a silk factory risking our lives amongst the traffic in tuk tuks driven by good humored madmen. We all ended our day eating pizza in a Mediterranean style cafe overlooking the Ganges where we also bought a couple of books, The White Tiger and Shantaram.

Sat 15th & Sun 16th
We drive for 13hrs to Bandhavgarh Nat. Park where we camped for 2 days at the White Tiger forest lodge. We spent our time here swimming in the freezing pool, drinking beer and eating curries as well as going on a jeep safari on which we actually saw a huge male tiger laying down amongst the bamboo only about 10m away from the track. We saw him again later as he crossed the track to go down to a waterhole totally oblivious to us. It was an OMG experience especially when he roared. His name was blue eyes, 15yrs of age. We also saw jackals, a fleeting leopard which I missed as I was asleep, yes, one can only take in so much plus some beautiful white spotted dear, monkeys and peacocks.
We've had no access to any communication for 7 days now, not even our phones work with Indian SIM cards. We are going to buy one in Agra. Ok, am up to date, hopefully we will get wifi again soon.
Still held up, Amanda and Ben decide to turn around and find another route. Looks like a game of 500 is about to be played, Aussie girls versus a kiwi and a Canadian.

Tuesday 18th day 9
We finally arrive at our accommodation the Ken River Lodge which was off the main road in rather a beautiful isolated area. It could've been Africa. We visit Khajuraho and the erotic temples 10C AD. The Kuma Sutra was quite explicit depicting 84 different poses. Lakshmana Temple is dedicated to Vishnu and lord Shiva. The Temples are magnificent, made from sandstone and iron pins, no concrete. -   Dragoman gets it first flat tyre.

We'd 19th day 11
We drive 400kms over 12hrs and the most atrocious road we have ever been on. Most of us were carsick by time we arrived at Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.
We left the hotel early in Tuk Tuks to arrive at the Taj to catch the sunrise but already there were hundreds of people already there in a Que.. One for men and one for women. We all got searched and x-rayed. My pocket knife was nearly confiscated and I had to promise with all my heart not to use it..... The Taj was magnificently stunning and had to keep pinching myself (and Tony) to make sure we were really there.
"You come in my shop, buy my shop". After a rooftop breakfast at the home of the lead Tuk Tuk driver we went to a marble inlaid workshop where we saw craftsmen working on exquisite pieces of work.

Friday 21st Dec day 13
We head to Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, home to over 6 million people. On the way we visit a place called Fatehpur Sikri a deserted city from the Mogul Empire. It was pretty amazing. The Muslim temples are so interesting with their Arabesque and geometrical designs and such a contrast to the Hindu Temples.
Jaipur is great, wider bitumen roads and less public shitting and urinating and most of all less dust. The traffic is crazy, these sacred but starved cows wander the streets with certain immunity. The Indian never gets angry - Tolerance said Gandhi - to get angry is to surrender but one wishes they would stop tooting their bloody horns!

Sat 23rd Dec day 14
Jaipur "Pink City"
We are staying in a 'Real' Palace! in the centre of the city, the Hotel Bissau Palace - from the Mogul Raj eras. Our room is decorated with beautiful paintings of elephants and Camels plus a collection of muskets and daggers mounted on the wall. Breakfast here is called - the morning refresher and lunch is called - the afternoon crunch.
We visit the awesome Palace of the Winds, the City Palace where the present ruler of Rajasthan still lives and the impressive old Jantar Mantar Observatory. We finally had some free time this afternoon wondering through the busy fruit,veg,spice and clothes markets. Some of the girls get mobbed by naughty little boys grabbing at certain strategic areas and Tony gets a wallop on the head by some lightening fast child hoping to get his cap. We go out for dinner and say goodbye to the young Aussie girls. Great curries and smoky tandoori food in this region.

Sunday 23rd December day 15 (I think)
Delhi The Capitol of India
We leave Jaipur, Rajasthan, land of the Kings to drive North - West,  back into the state of Utter Pradesh. We visit the spectacular Amber Fort on the way, the ancient Capitol 8 centuries ago.
Tanya, Molly and Joel have decorated the truck with Xmas decorations, it looks grand. Tanya even managed to buy a small Xmas tree which sits proudly at the front of the bus. Flappy our Indie chick is getting a Santa hat made. We may have to superglue it onto her head (just joking) Tanya has attached a little ribbon
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