On arrival in Delhi Bharat is already waiting for us. The first impression is OK and he takes us to Ivory Palace where we can freshen up a bit. The weather is unfavorable: it’s 8 degrees colder than it normally is and it ‘s raining (according to the newspapers the day before today was the second wettest day of the year). We make a tour through old Delhi by car and then we take a rickshaw to the Friday mosque and the red fortress, but gradually we are getting soaked; we visit the MG museum and return to the hotel.
Saturday morning we leave in good spirits to Jhunjhunu but the roads are floaded, we can’t see the holes in the roads and we have to turn the Ambassador; other smaller places that I planned to visit will be hard to reach as well and Bharat suggests another route: the highlights of Rajastan. He doesn’t think it’s safe to go all the way to Varanasi (which I still regret), so eventually we end up in Rishikesh and Haridwar, a reasonable alternative. We’re in the car all day as we drive straight to Pushkar.
On Sunday we take a walk around the lake that has run dry because of dredging – consequently there are few Hindus on the ghats – we stroll around in the bazaars and lounge about at the lake side until evening falls. Monday morning we leave for Jodhpur. En route we pass a big, annual cattle market with hundreds and hundreds of people who want to buy or sell cows; the people are very friendly, they all want to get photographed and we can shoot some nice pictures without anyone asking for money. Very nice. Around 16:00 hours we arrive at the hotel. In the evening Bharat drives us to the city, I buy some shawls, tea and spices. Back in the hotel the men drink a Kingfisher and the day is done.
On Tuesday we visit the red fortress, the little Taj Mahal, in the evening we visit the Bhisnoi village where we get a warm welcome and look for antelope in the wild. On Wednesday we’re off to Ranakpur where we arrive at about 14:00 hours. In the late afternoon Bharat takes us to the Jain temple, but it has closed at 17:00 hours; we will have to come back tomorrow. We make an evening walk, we watch the sun set behind the mountains and go to sleep early.
Thursday morning the two of us take a long walk in the mountains, then we visit the beautiful Jain temple and we take a dive in the swimming pool. At night we drive into the village, we take a walk at a lakeside where we take pictures of water buffalo and shepherds with sheep and goats. Tired but satisfied we drive to the hotel. On Friday we leave for Udaipur. The journey takes approximately 4 hours, but is pleasant; Bharat is in a very good mood; he stops regularly to let us take pictures of shepherds with their flocks of sheep and goats and of wandering nomads. A little after noon we arrive at the hotel overlooking a lake. We visit a beautiful garden and a workshop of artists who create beautiful paintings on old paper, camel bone or silk. That night we watch television for the first time, Slumdog Millionaire is on.
On Saturday we drive to the lake, women are doing their laundry, Hindus are bathing in the lake, we visit the Krisna temple, the City Palace and stroll around the mall. It’s very hot, we take a tuktuk to the hotel. In the evening we have dinner at one of the better restaurants of the area. Sunday we’re driving in the car all day: we’re going to Jaipur, which is about 400 km away. We spend the night in the very neat Ram Jharokha Guesthouse, immaculate, a king size bed and for the first time a shower with hot water.
On Monday we go to the city; it’s very busy because the Muslims are celebrating the Sugar Celebrations. We visit the Nahargath fort on the hill but we skip the Amber fort; it’s very hot, we don’t want to climb all the way to the top and according to Bharat it’s not safe to let an elephant take us there. We visit a factory where shawls and covers etc. are made. We go to the City Palace and we want to go to Jantar Mantar but it has closed. We visit a workshop where beautiful jewelry is made and then we return to the hotel.
Tuesday morning Bharat take us to the city, we go to Jantar Mantar – impressive – pass the Palace of Winds and return to the hotel by tuktuk via the Muslim quarter and the bazaars. It’s still very hot. The oldest employee of the hotel just got his first child and we visit him at his home. We are very welcome, he even got us Kingfisher! We take a lot of pictures of the very proud father and the happy mother with the baby, pictures that we are going to send to them of course. At night we have a pint with Bharat and there is much philosophizing about life.
Wednesday morning we say goodbye to the very friendly staff of the hotel and we leave for Agra. First we visit the monkey temple, then the NP Keoladeo. Because of the extreme heat very few birds show themselves, the monsoon was weak earlier this year, which is why the birds aren’t breeding and it’s too early in the year for migrating birds, but we still get to see some birds and in the end we’re satisfied. It’s still very hot, more than 40 degrees and the poor rickshaw driver toils more than 3 hours through the NP with us, drenched in sweat. Chapeau! We end up in Fatehpur Sikri; first we visit the mosque which is very crowded because of the Sugar Celebrations. Then we go to the ghost town. Meanwhile it has gotten dark and we still have to get to Agra. The driving is very tiring – especially for Bharat off course – but he gets us safely back at the hotel. Quickly we eat something and then we fall right asleep.
Thursday morning we get up really early because we want to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It’s so beautiful, it’s touching! Just perfect! After breakfast we go to the red fort ress, afterwards Bharat takes us to a studio where gemstones are placed in marble as it was done hundreds of years ago. At night we go to a sound and light show in which the story of the Taj Mahal is told; we didn’t really want to go but it was very nice; the Taj was faithfully copied, it weighed 8 tons, they worked on it for 10 years, impressive.
On Friday we drive to Delhi, we arrive late at night and go to sleep. On Saturday we’re back in the car all day, more than 12 hours; we’re sick of it but there’s nothing we can do about it. We arrive in Rishikesh in the dark and we have to look for a place to stay because it’s very touristy and very crowded. The room is very basic, but we’re so tired we’re okay with it. We still have to find a restaurant and then we almost literally crawl into bed.
On Sunday we enjoy the beautiful view in Rishikesh; the Ganges, the colorful figures, the mountains, the ghats, the temples, the shops. It’s very touristy, but the scenery is beautiful. I paddle in the Ganges and we realize that our vacation is almost over. On Monday we leave at 8:00 hours to return to Delhi. En route we stop in Haridwar, I missed the seemingly beautiful ceremony that is being held at night at the Ganges; we leave after an hour because I remember from the other day how many hours of driving lies ahead of us. We arrive at the hotel at 21:30 hours. We pay Bharat, eat something and set the alarm for 2:15 hours because Bharat will bring us to the airport at 3:00 hours.
Our trip to India was an experience we both enjoyed, we liked Ranakpur plus surroundings and Jaipur the best. We should have done the journey from Agra to Delhi to Haridwar by train. Three out of the four last days we spent in the car. Certain distances are better travelled by train or plain, a good thing to know for – who knows – next time. Bharat was very OK, an excellent driver, sociable, punctual, took us to hotels and guesthouses within the established budget.
Rob, I want to thank you for your involvement in the organization of our trip, for your concerns and your interest in how we experienced this journey.
Agnes and Harry