In May 2008 I went to India to travel the area known as the Golden Triangle (New Delhi, Jaipur in Rajasthan and Agra) to do some sightseeing, go to IPL Twenty 20 Cricket matches and to take a side trip to Ranthambore National Park to see Bengal Tigers. I have kept my travel emails from that trip, so I thought it might be fun to repost them here and add a few photos. This blog is Part 3 and the final leg of that journey (Agra and Ranthambore).
May 24th, 2008
I arrived home to Melbourne early this morning – it was about 40 degrees celsius (104F) in New Delhi when I left, but in the early hours of the morning – about 5am in Melbourne as I walked outside of the airport it was only 2 degrees (36F)!!! A refreshing change from the last couple of weeks, but I was wearing a t-shirt, so it was quite brisk!!
Well the last few days were very busy and went quickly.
My first day in Agra I went to the impressive Agra Fort – a massive fort, palace and temple complex built with red marble walls and red and white marble buildings inside. Rhesus monkeys were inside some of the more remote parts of the fort. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool at my hotel (an absolute oasis of refuge from beggars, touts and the world outside) – nice setting under palm trees with lots of eagles flying above and striped back squirrels running about.
Early the next morning it was off to the Taj Mahal – now this is a beautiful place. Amazing workmanship has kept this together through all types of weather, war and pollution (they have been working to reduce this the last few years – still a very dirty city outside the gardens etc). It is a truly impressive site and well worth the visit. It was an overcast day, but luckily the sun came out for a few minutes – so I was able to get some nice bright pics.
The Taj Mahal was built entirely of white marble by the Mughal Shah Jahan, the Muslim ruler of India (who died in 1666) in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal which was completed in 1648. It is surrounded by gardens and other palatial buildings.
I also visited the “Baby Taj” – Itmad-ud-Daula’s Tomb (the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal) which is located on the Yamuna river in Agra and was built between 1622 and 1628. It is regarded as a draft building for the Taj Mahal.
From Agra I went by car (with a driver – too crazy here for me to drive) to Ranthambore National Park (Bengal Tiger country). This took almost 6 hours to get to – terrible roads – with all the usual traffic: cars, buses, trucks, bikes, motor bikes, rikshaws, auto-rikshaws, wagons, camels, donkeys, cows, pigs, dogs!!! Plus these trucks that almost appeared to be driven by steam engine!
There was an amazing amount of accidents along the way – mostly caused by sleeping truck drivers – one truck crashed into a house, another rolled with giant steel pipes all over the road, some went off into ravines, one was burnt out, a crushed car, plus lots of dead animals from donkeys down all just left in the middle of the road, unfortunately saw one human in a body bag (strangely there was no damaged vehicle nearby – just police – don’t know what happened). The roads are being upgraded to multi-lane, but this will take years apparently – as such some sections are finished, but this doesn’t stop idiots driving on any side of the road they like (going in any direction)!! Oh and with all the buses and trucks etc they are severely overloaded – people crammed inside and on top of anything and everything – truck loads bulging over the trays etc! It’s a crazy place – I had a great driver though (Sontash) – very alert and a nice guy.
The next day I noticed a number of European tourists all bandaged up, cuts on their faces etc. Apparently a local bus had rolled – luckily only injuring a lot of people – no deaths. Anyway the Indian driver claimed some German tourists on board were eating food on paper plates – a plate flew off and landed on his face, losing vision he ran of the road and rolled the bus i.e. the idiot fell asleep and this was the best story he came up with!! I heard this from my driver who was staying in the same hotel as the bus driver and he listened into the police questioning him.
I stayed at a place called the Tiger Den Resort – very close to the park. I went to Ranthambore National Park 4 times, once with Sontash my driver to climb up to the 10th century fort and temples – big Hindu celebration up there – impressive views and interesting sights – lots of temples, monkeys, lizards and birds (including surprisingly wild Peacocks – which it turns out happens to be the national bird of India).
Lots of friendly locals at the temple wanted me to take a photo of them – got a couple of group shots (they just wanted to see themselves on the camera). People here are fascinated by white skin – I have been asked to be in so many photos, and in rural areas like this they just stare (intensely) or want to talk to you, shake your hand (sometimes it is a bit much, but they mean well).
The next 3 trips were various game drives – saw many Deer (Sambar, Chital), Blue Bull, Crocodiles, birds, Eagles, a massive python, monitor lizards, wild pigs and Bengal Tigers!!! Saw 2 on the first day, sadly none on the last. The first was a fair way off and quickly hid in the long grass (managed to get a couple of photos), the second was much closer but in thick scrub – those stripes are great camouflage (this was in a deep forest track)! Another group from the resort were extremely lucky – they saw 3 up really close out in the open (damn them – lucky buggers). In retrospect I would love to have spent at least a day more here – so nice to be out in the forest etc away from the noise, pollution and sheer number of people (If I ever go back to India – most of my time will be spent in the national parks).
Some of the days here it was upwards of 47 degrees celsius (116F)….very very hot! Its amazing how easily you adjust to such warm temperatures (a good hat, sunscreen and plenty of water are a must though).
From Ranthambore it was a 3.5 hour drive back to Jaipur (couple of hours here) then a 5 hour train trip to New Delhi (all in all the trains in India are pretty good, as long as you pay a little extra for a better travel class!). Flew out via Singapore the next morning.
Because I had not eaten meat for the entire trip (one or two viewings of the butcher shops there soon put me off any thoughts of eating it there – hanging out in the open – heat, flies and pollution – no thanks) – I gorged myself sick at Singapore airport on a massive Double Whopper burger with cheese and bacon – I haven’t eaten a burger in years – but it was the best I had ever had under this circumstance – made a pig of myself but it was great!! Oh the food in India was really nice by the way – I was careful what I ate and where and never really had any major problems. But there is only so much Indian food you can eat when you are not from there – so looking forward to enjoying the variety of foods we have here at home!