Perth to Agra
15 Oct – 20th Oct 2016
Okay, so Darren came and collected us, and took us the couple of kays, to the train station. We caught the train to Perth, where we booked a room at Mantra on Murray. We arranged to meet the kids and their partners for a fair well dinner at a Korean restaurant nearby, so after a pre-dinner drink we toddle off to dinner. It was a great night. After a nice lazy morning we booked our first Uber! I hate flying, but it is necessary. So after a few relaxing drinks at The Moon and Sixpence, our Uber came, a very nice Indian man! How appropriate. We got to the airport early, caught up with Gary, who we’d met on our Enfield ride, and checked in. The flight was fine, the 4hrs stop over in Singapore was okay, with more beers and chatting with Gary, before we departed for the final leg.
Darren is happy to be dropping us off, only 2 days till he joins us.
Arrival in Delhi was really easy going, and before we knew it, we were standing on the edge of our adventure. Once you step through the exit gate of the airport, there is no going back in. They literally won’t allow you back in unless you have a ticket and passport. So we paused for a few calming breaths, confirmed with each other that we definitely wanted to do this, and stepped into the unknown. Well, it wasn’t so bad! Not even as busy and chaotic as Bali. Our instructions were to wait for our hotel driver, who may take 30-40minutes. Be patient, they told us! Hmm, well, we were tired and eager, but did the waiting, checking all the signs and drivers. He was a no show! Bugger! Plan B was to get a taxi, but all research had warned us that this could lead us well astray, most likely to a dubious rug supplier (Getting Carpet Bagged), nowhere near our desired hotel. Again a few deep, calming breaths before heading over to the pre-paid taxi stand and securing a ride to our (fingers crossed) hotel.
I can tell you now that very early on a Sunday morning, is a great time to drive in Delhi. The traffic was pretty light, and we were able to see a fair bit without screaming in terror. We were all a tad nervous, when we veered off onto some dodgey little side road, filled with market stalls, people and everything you need. Then down an even smaller, more dodgey looking street, only to park up in front of a really seedy side ally, with what could have been dead bodies, along it. Uh oh, this is the old carpet scam for sure……as we stood rolling our eyes, we all noticed the Tara Palace sign….a huge sigh of relief, and a good tip for the driver and we are here.
This is our hotel alley? Oh dear Ganesh!
We got checked in, tidied up, and met Damien in the dining room, for breakie. We had an omelet, toast, cornflakes and Masala tea(a local Chai variety). Will was not ready for that challenge so had nasty, instant coffee. We then went up to the roof top to orientate ourselves with the sights. Our hotel is in the middle of a triangle made up of The Red Fort, Delhi’s largest Mosque, and Delhi’s largest Sikh temple. So even down on the ground, we should be able to navigate our way home. Now for some sleep, we had very little on our flights.
The sights from our roof top.
Around 12:30, we got sorted and decided to venture out and see just what we’ve got ourselves in for. After a quick chat to Bilah, at reception, we had some very vague instructions for Karim’s. Most popular local eating house. We stood at the end of the ally, on the edge of the street, taking deep breaths, well not too deep, bit risky. Finally, we launched ourselves into the busy street traffic, and managed to get to the other side of it without incident. Man, there were people, cows, dogs, bikes, tuk tuks, donkey and carts, you name it. We headed down the street, which just got busier with sellers of all sorts, and came to a junction we had to cross to continue on to Karim’s. Gees, it was pandemonium, but again we got with a bunch of locals, and just did what they did, to get through. Then down the Meena Bazar, which was just that, Bazaar! It was like the Fremantle Markets, but with traffic as well as a billion people.
Our first venture into the streets of Old Delhi.
As we came out of that into another junction, which we navigated somehow, and took a road past the Jama Masjid, the huge Mosque. Looking for gate one, we wondered how we would know which gate it was……it had a giant sign on it….Gate One….ha ha ha, in English. Okay, so head down the street opposite, and you will see Karim’s. We turned into the street, and right there was a sign pointing down another super narrow, filthy ally. Oh god, the carpet scam, this is definitely it, or we’ll get mugged, or just plain lost. In we go, and find the eating place by the line of people waiting to go in. It was very small, maybe 30 customers would fit. So as a table took their last mouthful, their plates were swooped on, and cleared, the bill paid and them hustled out the door so we could be seated and fed. Slightly intimidating, and scary, but the food was great, and cheap. There is no after dinner chatter at these tables, man, get in, get out! Somehow, we got back to Tara Palace, and settled ourselves on the rooftop, to watch and listen to the happenings below. Holy cow, what a first day.
Finding Karim’s, and our roof top view at night.
Okay, the Tara Palace is not up there in the high star rating, but it is tops for location and helpful staff. The food is also great. At shower time, there is what looks like a proper western shower, a large bucket and little pail a toilet and sink, all in the one room, not separated by anything. The slope of the floor runs away from the drain under the shower, towards the doorway and toilet. Hmmm, how is this going to work? Also, Damien (our tour leader) had warned us about turning on the water, waiting about five minutes, then the water might be a bit warm. Nup! Didn’t happen, but the great Delhi flood happened, and we had to use the only towel supplied, to dam up the run off, so it didn’t flow over the doorway. After Will’s go, I decided I’d just fill the bucket and poor water over myself, whilst stand over the drain, with the pail. It worked a bit.
The bed was hard, but we slept well, and enjoyed a great Indian breakfast, with Will trying his first ever Masala Tea. He drank it, but wasn’t really a huge fan. I loved it. Good start to day 2. Today we walked in the opposite direction, passed all sorts of shops, and people just sitting around, again lots of animals, and the traffic was way, way more chaotic.
The craziness that is Old Delhi, practicing our road crossing, and painted cows.
We walked past the Sikh temple, that was full of colour and happy noise, and then we decided to practice our road crossing skills again. Man, we have so got this! Made it to the middle and bam, there was a rare break in the traffic, which made the last half simple. The sheer volume of people, the noise, and the strong smells, added to the heat, 35C at 9:30am, and we were ready to head back. We didn’t even get to the Spice Market.
Back at the Tara ally, Gary was chilling, watching the mayhem, and told us he’d hired a car and driver to tour the city. He offered us to come, so we did. It was an amazing day. We went to almost all the sites, and luckily, a few were closed because it was Monday. So we just drove by The Red Fort and Mahatmah Ghandi’s memorial was closed due to VVIP guests, but we made it to Humayuns Tomb, Qutb Minar, India Gate, and guess what? Yep, we were taken to the drivers friends shop, to look at textiles, jewellery and other stuff. “Carpet Bagged!”
Somewhere in there, we managed another locals restaurant, frickin awesome food again, and my first Indian toilet. It was actually clean, a squatter, but clean, not smelly, and cost me 20c. Phew, that was lucky.
Ghandi’s memorial, Humayuns tomb, Qutb Minar…..what a day.
The driver took us through New Delhi, and the traffic was insane, totally off the scales. There was a lot of just sitting in the congestion, waiting, or inching forward. While we were trapped there, beggars, of all sorts, and sellers of all ages came past the car, making attempts to get our attention. Most of them were not pushy, or confronting, but there were a couple that really pushed us. It was a very emotional and unusual situation. Gary was willing to give to a couple of them, but both Will and I are just put off by the number of them, Women using babies, small children, it is too much.
Monuments are big in India, and so are Tuk Tuks.
After a pretty quiet night on the roof, for me anyway, all the tour group was in, (at about 11pm), and Damien decided we would head off to Agra a day early. So instead of one more day in Delhi, we spend extra time in Agra. That meant a 6am departure. Bugger.
Loading us up into the bus and car for our run to Agra. Including a Chai/breakie stop.
The bus and car ride was not that interesting, as we were on the fastest route, which was the highway. We stopped for breakfast about 8:30, and arrived into Agra about 10:30am. With extra time here, we were taken on a tour of Agra’s Red Fort, which is the biggest in India. We had a lovely Indian lady tour guide, which is very unusual, as only about 5% of women work in India. She supports her whole family as her father deserted them. She knew everything about the Persian Kings and all the story of the fort, which was very interesting, but it was pretty hot, and we were all a bit shattered. But that did not deter her from dragging us to her cousins Marble shop, and her Uncles trinket shop, where we had to listen to Hindi music played live, and dance along. After that, when asked if we wanted to see the textiles, the whole group responded as one….NO THANK YOU!
Amazing Red Fort of Agra, built by the 5th Persian King to house his 350 wives and others.
While we got Carpet Bagged, Will had Chai with the locals.
Day two in Agra we were again up and in action by 6am. The Taj Mahal. No breakfast, just up and out, to beat the crowds and get the good morning light on the Taj. Well it certainly did not disappoint. What an amazing structure. All for a dead women, as one of her dying promises from her King. Again we had Arzoo, as our guide, and again we got so much information, again we came away exhausted and amazed. It was worth getting there early, the lines and hawkers were so much worse on leaving.
Taj Mahal! Amazing tomb, built by Shah Jahan, for his third wife Mumtaz. “He was the Loving her the most, because she gave him 14 children.” Only seven lived though.
Only electric, or manual machines are allowed around the complex, and no industry within a 50km radius, to minimise pollution which will damage the marble. It is cleaned every two years.
After breakfast, we headed to the school that the tour group support, and met with the teachers and kids. It was a very, very poor area, and so humbling to see these little kids learning, getting at least one meal a day, and so happy.
The area the school was in, was very, very poor, with open sewers and narrow lanes.
The rest of the day, we did our own thing, and got semi-packed, ready for day one of riding. It would be a big day of over 300kms, and we need to be at the bikes by 7am. The nerves are fresh, and the excitement is high. The tour is really starting. Holy crap!
Pigs are the rubbish disposal units, cows have free rein, no one wears helmets, and it is a busy place. Eyes opened a lot more.