22.11.2011 - 26.11.2011 28 °C
Our first experience of a sleeper train… lets just say it was interesting to say the least. In a compartment of 6, I was on the top bunk, Lee on the middle – he could just about reach that one bless him. How to describe the train… well according to our fellow travellers it was the worst they had seen, luckily for us it sounds as though we had the worst first and so couldn’t be disappointed with nothing to compare it to! I felt a bit like a caged chicken as from my bunk all I could see were bars (not the type I’d like to be in that serve alcohol I might add). It was very noisy, with people talking, laughing, children playing and screaming, our bunch playing UNO very loudly, and people on either side of my bunk snoring, loudly. On went the eye mask and ear plugs, and off to the land of nod I went too, though I don’t snore, well I’ve never witnessed the fact that I do so that’s enough proof for me. The toilets were also a treat, only Indian style and you didn’t need to flush as everything just trickled (or landed) straight on the tracks via the waste pipe, Mmm. Trains also seem to run on their own timetable, you know it will turn up, at some point that day, though you need to wait on the platform for hours until it does! Dad, I think I’ve found the ideal place for you!
On arrival in Agra, our first port of call was the Taj Mahal. What can I say – breathtaking. Everything we had hoped it would be and more. Amid all of the hustle and bustle there and frantic photo taking, we had to take just a few moments out to admire the sheer beauty of this building. It was a little foggy due to it being winter, but this just added to the majestic picture in front of us.
I’ve already got an understanding of the luxury that is clean clothes. My knuckles are skinned from hand washing, and for once I don’t think I actually brought enough clothes – that’s a first!
After living on curry and rice for lunch and dinner for 6 consecutive days, I feel the need to admit that we as a group found ourselves in Pizza Hut. We never even go there in the UK that’s the crazy thing! After stuffing our faces with the first load of non-spicy food in almost a week, we then went next door to Costa (Jen you will be proud!) and I got a gorgeous hot chocolate and a big chunky chocolate muffin – back to curry today though as I feel guilty.
Next port of call was Orcha – a beautiful village on a river – such a contrast to the crazy cities we have seen so far. We were staying in a beautiful hotel, though had ‘luxury’ tents out the back – with the most beautiful building in the back drop. We went for a wander around the local market and talked with the locals. After me being the wimp that I am, I was pretty cautious walking near the cows wandering the streets, Lee learnt his lesson about getting too close when one decided to head butt him! After a few too many beers, rum and vodka, the group all woke up with hangovers. This was soon helped when we took part in a cookery demonstration at a local woman’s house. She taught us how to make chai, various different curries, pilau rice, chapatti, raita and guava chutney – great experience and we ate the food she had prepared for lunch – gorgeous! Very much looking forward to making it when we get home, though I’m sure it won’t be quite the same without her touch. After the cookery, I had my first experience of henna, most of the girls did, and got a different design on their hand.
Off to Varanasi we went, on another sleep train – this time we had the luxury of air con, a blanket and a pillow – I actually got more sleep than I have in some of the hotel rooms! Lee found the opposite and instead watched a very stimulating film – Kung Fu Panda! Seeing the Ganges in Varanasi was quite interesting, with locals bathing in the water, shaving their heads, cremations taking place and ashes being swept into the river. We took a boat ride to see the evening ceremony, and then a sunrise boat ride the next morning to see the sunrise which was beautiful. People were praying to the Sun, and many locals doing their laundry, mainly beating the living daylights out of their clothes with a whopping great stick! They were certainly doing a better job than me with our hand washing, that’s for sure.
That brings our tour of India to a close. There is such a contrast between the manic cities and the quiet villages here, seeing the poverty, culture & local life has been truly eye opening. Further travel into central and southern India beckons in the future, though Nepal is next on the list for this trip