7th Dec to 10th Dec 2016
Delhi to Agra to Delhi, and Home
No rest for the wicked, as we’re up at 5.30am, packed our small bags, ate our last “American” breakfast at Tara Palace, and taxi to the train station. We’ve left our two bags of motorbike gear, at our Delhi home, don’t need to lug it around Agra. New Delhi train station is way closer, but our Gatiman Express train, leaves from Nizamuddin, in South Delhi. It was near the airport, and huge. A bit daunting, our first unassisted train journey in India. Getting the tickets was hard enough. But, it was pretty straight forward. Platform 5, was on our tickets, and there was a train waiting and loading. Our carriage was C2, hmmm, not there…..is this the right train? We asked some locals, who told us it was going to Jaipur…Whoah, lucky we didn’t get on that one. They told us platform 4, just as a train rolled in, with Gatiman Express on it, and C2, rolled past us. On we hop, find our seats, and proceed to chill. 1hr and 40mins, too easy.
Waiting in the foggy morning, and hopping on our luxury train……..
But the fog/smog, was so thick, the train went at half the usual speed, and it ended up taking about 3hrs. Not really a problem, they fed us, gave us water and Chai, and we enjoyed what views we could see. Another angle on the villages, and a bit shocking.
Through the fog, we can see another shocking side of things.
Naim, from Nevermind Adventures (worlds fastest Indian), met us at the train station, and his friend Babblu, became our personal tour guide/Tuk Tuk driver. It was freezing! I was super surprised! It felt like just yesterday, that we first got to Agra, and it was warm and nice. 14C, and still foggy. Naim was rugged up, including beanie, and I need something warm to put on. I did not expect cold, and I had not packed warm clothes…..bum!
Back in Agra, and where is the lovely heat?
It was decided, by the Indian contingent, that we would check into our hotel, then Naim (who is also a barber) would “fix Will’s face”….they were shocked by his Adventure Beard! It was getting a bit wayward. We enjoyed a few Chai, and good mixed discussions (Hindi and broken English). Both these guys are self taught in English, and do amazingly, learning just from us tourists with dodgey accents. We are going to work harder at our language skills.
Getting Will’s face fixed, and massaged.
Time for a good carpet bagging, as I was dying from the cold, and Babblu took us to a nice Textile place so I could drop some cash. It was time, I was due, I have not bought much in India, and I was in need, so I bought two Pashminas, of the highest quality. Best of all, they took our credit card, so we could save our endangered Ghandi’s. The Indian boys had been telling us the problems they have been facing. ATM limit is still 2000IR each day, and going into the bank, there is a weekly limit of 24,000IR. That is a lot for the majority of families, but for Naim, who runs a school for orphans and seriously poor kids, needs more. What’s more, the banks don’t have enough cash, and he has to try everyday, which means lines and wasting half a day. Ugh! Nightmare.
On the way to Babblu’s, we had to stop and get Gas. That was an interesting experience too.
After our carpet bagging, Babblu took us to his family home, and we met his wife, kids and sisters. Their home was very, very small, with two families and their elderly parents, living in the three rooms. They each (family) have a room, with one big bed for the adults and children to all sleep together. Then they have two small kitchen rooms, and an open area to hang out in. This area has no roof. What do they do during the rainy season? They build a temporary roof, from wooden poles and tarps. Tough! Babblu has lived here with his parents and brothers, his whole life, and they have done all the work themselves. They are saving to build another floor on top, which they will do themselves too. It was a very emotional afternoon, seeing how the average, everyday, Indian people live. They were so giving and open, the kids were gorgeous, happy and interested in our journey.
In the evening, Naim and his family hosted us. His wife cooked food for us, which we ate sitting on the family bed. Again we enjoyed great discussions about India, it’s politics, people, health, and how we (Will and I, or anyone who wants to) can help with their progress. Naim’s father came and sat with us too, and shared some history and philosophy. They are Muslim, Babblu and his family are Hindu, and some of their friends are Christian. “We are all brothers!” They said, they accept everybody. We have seen it throughout India.
A very, emotional, but fantastic day. These people are amazing. It is such a privilege to be involved in their country and lives. We went to sleep to the sounds of Hindi Pop and fireworks…..it is wedding season…..bloody hell they know how to celebrate!
The next morning, we had breaky before Babblu picked us up and took us back to Naim’s and the school. The school is below their home. We had Chai with Naim, sitting around a little silver dish, with a small, smouldering fire in it. We talked about how we would like to help support the school, as they struggle to fund for clothes, food and supplies. Nevermind Adventures are a major supporter, employing Naim, bringing other people to the school and also giving a big percentage of their profits. Naim uses all his money to keep the school going. I couldn’t help but ask about the “cow patties” they used for the fire. We’d seen carts loaded with them, people carrying bags of them, and they all seemed the same size and shape, not just random droppings. I asked if they were just cow poop, or did they mix something else? Naim looked at me seriously, “Buffalo Shit, it is Buffalo shit!” He stated very seriously. Ha ha ha, I know they are shit, (I didn’t realise cow patties was not a universal term). Keeps the mozzies away, at least.
Look how happy they are……just a bit cold and in need of new warm clothes.
We visited with the kids, and they took great pride in showing off their English and counting skills. They were happy, and very interested in talking to me and telling me their names. After the school, we had no choice but to find an ATM with cash. We only had enough cash to get back to Delhi, so we searched all the corners of Agra. Two currency exchanges, who wanted to either charge us 50% in fees, or give us old currency, one department store who would give cash out after 1pm, and about 13 ATM’s later, we found two with big lines. Divide and conquer! Babblu coached us, and told us to just go to the front and talk to someone in the line. “You are tourists, they’ll let you go first!” What, no way, we’ll get bashed, smashed, abused? Also, the ladies have their own line (which is really short, not many ladies do the banking), so I was the Guinea pig and took my place behind the only other lady in our line. It wasn’t long before the shotgun wielding security guard, pointed to me and demanded I go in before everybody else. I suggested the other lady, but he insisted I come in. I did, and used my first card. 2000 Ghandi’s. I asked if I could use another card, I didn’t want to be too greedy, he said yes. Another 2000, as quick as I could. I squeezed out again, and stepped into the street to find the guys. I spotted the other ATM, our Tuk Tuk, and headed over. Babblu explained Will was inside already, and that I should head for the short lady line. “But don’t talk to Will when he comes out, pretend you don’t know each other.” Right, off I go. One lady, then me, and Will is coming out straight for me. Shit, look away, don’t talk, ignore me! He didn’t even see me, he was so busy trying not to piss off the people he’d pushed in front of. Phew! All up, we got 10,500, enough to pay Babblu for his couple of days, give some to the school, and get us back to Delhi. What a mission!
Every single kid wanted to show me their lovely art work. And I wanted to see Naim’s new baby goats, born this morning………cute,cute,cute!
Last adventure for the trip, was a ride to the Sloth Bear Sanctuary. These Bears had been poached when they were Cubs, and trained as dancing bears to make money. Poor little things. It is illegal now, and this group rescue and look after them. It was a bit sad, but at least the government are paying the trainers for their bears and trying to help fix this old problem. After our last Dabar lunch, we headed back through the crazy traffic. Wedding season! Bloody hell! Wedding paraphernalia, being pushed down the roads, causing traffic congestion and blockages. It was some crazy shit! Our last mad Tuk Tuk ride…..Babblu did really well. Police everywhere, trying to control the intersections with pool noodle batons, just shouting at everyone to just go away…it was hilarious…..and exhausting. We had an early night.
To take photo’s of the bears, 1000IR, not paying, so only 1 cheeky pic. Our last lunch stop, and we think Tuk-Tuks would go super well around Fremantle.
These sights will always cause me to shake my head in disbelief…….lots of fun.
Our last morning in Agra, was a lazy lie in, breakfast, then relaxing coffee with the Indian crew at a real coffee place. Viresh, from our Nevermind Adventure, popped in to say hello, as he had just returned from their “Last Frontier” tour in Nagaland (in the North East). It looked amazing too, but you just can’t see it all in one go. So we had a couple of the best coffees we’d tasted in India, before hoping in our taxi and doing a quick “see ya later”. I hate good-byes, just get it done. It was an uneventful drive back to our Delhi home, The Hotel Tara Palace. One stop for a drink and a few snacks, then into Delhi, and bam!, we’re here. Our last chat to the great guys who have looked after us super well, Chhabi and Dilip, who cooked our last Indian dinner, got us our last Kingfisher Beers, and we were early to bed, ready for our big trip home.
Saturday morning, we are up at 5am, in the taxi by 5.30am, and having the worst Taxi ride we’ve had in India EVER! This driver had very little english, and we are sure his eye sight was well diminished, especially in the dark. At one point,Will reckons he was about to force him to pull over, and take over the driving as he was taking the “Rat runs” (totally unnecessary at this hour on a Saturday) and going super slow. The only thing that could have made it worse, was for him to have actually crashed. But we made it safe, and on time. This time, getting into the airport was not a problem, we had actual paperwork (Thank you Lyndall from Travel Managers) and we knew the drill. We got through with only minor annoyance, with heaps of time to have some breakfast, and find our gate. The flight to Singapore was effortless and as comfortable as Economy can be, and we both got a bit of sleep, watched movies and were totally shocked at how clean and organised Singapore now seemed. We’ve been here before, and thought it was clean and nice, but now, after India, it felt a bit OCD! Our hour and a bit went quickly, and before we knew it we were on the last leg to Perth. Again, straight forward flight, getting through Perth Airport is a piece of cake, and Nephew Nicholas, and his Dad (brother John) were there to collect us. Thank you so much! We arrived at our little house in Mandurah to find an eski with Bacon, Eggs, Milk and bread, oh and a cold beer for Will, left by my lovely Mum. It was after 2am, we were exhausted, but we sat in our lounge and just thought about what we have done.
Hope we can take off in this fog………..but we are ready to come home.
We could not have had such an amazing experience without many people who have helped us along the way. Darren Griffin who suggested Nevermind Adventures, those guys for opening us up to India and giving us the confidence to go it alone, Lalli Singh who had full belief that we would bring his bikes back safely, the many amazing Indian people helping us along the way, Tara Palace crew, Naim, Babblu, our family for thinking we are mad but sticking with us, and looking after our stuff while we are away. I can tell you all, that you should not be scared to visit India. It is amazing, shocking and wonderful. Thanks everyone for following and encouraging with your comments. It is fabulous! Merry Christmas everyone. See ya next year!