I got up nice and early to enjoy my final day in Delhi. The pollution had begun to get quite restricting. It was visible for most of the day and you could consider yourself quite fortunate to catch a glimpse of some blue sky throughout the day.
The pollution got so bad that Delhi made international headlines and I was getting messages from people at home asking how it was. The article advised people to stay indoors to protect their health and lungs. Unfortunately by the time we read the article we had been out all day!
We walked over to the Red Fort. I had been quite looking forward to visiting the fort as I had heard some really great things about it. The fort has a really impressive and imposing exterior and has a fascinating history, however all the history around the fort had been learnt from self studying. Having opted to not buy the audio guide we just wandered around the fort looking at some nice buildings. There was no signage or explanations as to what anything was so I still have no idea what anything we saw was! A bit of a disappointment. If you find yourself going id advise getting the guide as it may enhance your experience.
We had planned to go to both Humayums Tomb and Akshardham however time dictated we opted to do just one. Id heard some amazing things about Akshardham so it got the win.
A group of 7 of us hopped into to Tuk Tuks and made our way there. Unfortunately they don’t allow any photography there so I wasn’t able to get the obligatory monument selfie. Which I think was both a blessing and a curse. Akshardham is an active Hindu complex so the lac of cameras and poses added to the spirituality of the place. It was quite refreshing to see things with my eyes and not through the lens of a camera.
That being said, the complex is absolutely stunning. A garden filled with rows of bronze statues and a huge temple covered in the most intricately carved designs. Every square inch of the building seems of have a majestic carving on it. Ever wall is covered in symbols, script and pictures. It was breath-taking and by far the most beautiful thing id seen in India to date.
Inside the temple are some huge golden statues and more carvings. As well as some holy relics, including some old hair and toe nails belonging to Lord Swaminarayan, to whom the temple is dedicated. It was quite bizarre seeing people pay homage to the cuttings of a person, no matter how holy they were. We still paid our respects.
I can’t claim the below photos as my own but hopefully they give an idea of the beauty and intricacy of this building.
The next morning was an early start for my private car to Agra and tour of the Taj Mahal. Having mistakenly spent so much money for the privilege of this trip I was determined to make the most of the day.
Driving out of Delhi was a relief. Id enjoyed my time there a lot and met some wonderful and interesting people but I think a week is long enough there. The place is just exhausting, the sheer business of it, mixed with the constant vigilance for scammers and pollution makes it a mentally draining place to go.
The drive to Agra was uneventful, clear traffic with the driver only occasionally opening his door on the motorway to spit out his chewing tobacco dribble. Even on an empty motorway with 3 lanes the guy was unable to be in a lane!
My literary skills really can’t quite explain Indian roads! Imagine the m25 at gridlock, then add a lot of pedestrians. Throw in a load of motorbikes and Tuk Tuks. Now imagine all those little gaps between cars at a standstill, add more cars into those spaces. Still with me? Now instead of the uniform straight line of a British traffic jam, imagine all those cars fighting to get into the smallest of gaps, regardless of where in the road they are. I’m yet to see an Indian driver checking their mirrors, instead they rely on the other cars vying for the gap to beep their horn.
Ok so we have the m25 at standstill, cars and bikes literally all over the road, people wandering through the gaps trying to avoid the traffic. Now add in some dogs, pigs, monkey, horses and cows into the mix. On top of that you’ve also got other cars and bikes driving on the wrong side of the road trying to weave through the oncoming traffic.
The image you have still doesn’t truly explain the carnage of Delhi’s roads.
I got to Agra and immediately went to the Taj, I had my own private tour guide thanks to the Delhi scam from a few days before. In-between shouting at other tourists and talking loudly on his phone in Hindi my guide showed me around the stunning Taj Mahal.
I was surprised it wasn’t as busy as I had expected, I managed to get some fantastic photos of this iconic building and really enjoyed it. I had been warned by other travellers that the smog often gave you poor visibility at the Taj but I was blessed and had clear sky’s.
Due to the pollution in Agra it has started to stain the marble the surround the outside of the Taj so unfortunately one of the towns had scaffolding around it to clean it. This didn’t take anything away from the building.
It is so iconic I was in awe and had a moment of realisation that I was actually in India looking at one the worlds most famous buildings.
In my previous blog I explained about being ripped off in Delhi for 3 train rides. I paid an extortionate amount of money to do very little, I was determined to give the company no more money, no matter what. So when my guide demanded a tip I told him I had no money but he had my thanks and appreciation. He near demanded my driver take me to the ATM to withdraw some. He hadn’t been the best guide but had been pleasant enough, but he became quite nasty at the end.
I understand it wasn’t these guys who ripped me off but I felt it was a matter of principle. My driver tried to tell me it was compulsory to tip drivers, I tried to explain that usually I would but having paid £200 for what should have cost £20 I just couldn’t.
I’m not sure I was very popular with him.
I spent the rest of my time in Agra doing some much-needed R&R and getting ready to head over to Pushkar. I met 2 guys from Delhi in Agra and they decided to come along to Pushkar. They managed to book onto the same train as me (despite the scammers telling me it was fully booked 1 week previously) They had got a bus to Agra for 200R (£2) and the train to Pushkar for the same. I’m not bitter, honest.
On the plus side I think I had a nicer train ride than them, I had a cushioned seat in an air-conditioned carriage. They had a plastic chair in an overcrowded carriage that lacked windows.
On arrival at Pushkar I patiently waited for my prearranged taxi (from the rip off guys in Delhi) surprise surprise it didn’t turn up. I phoned up the Delhi people and was assured it was on its way. Next thing I know I get a phone call from a random hotel trying to arrange a pick up. I rang back the Delhi people and very firmly told them to send me my taxi to my pre agreed hostel and to stop messing me around and trying to get more money out of me (they would have got commission from me staying at this other hotel) I was assured there had been a misunderstanding and an hour later my taxi arrived and took me to my hostel.
I met my friends from Agra at the hostel and another friend I had made in Delhi and explored Pushkar. My initial thought on Pushkar are great. Its quieter than Delhi. The Bazaar is on wider roads so not as cramped. I think it’s a lot more geared towards tourists so perhaps not quite as authentic as the others.
Tomorrow the plan is to go for a hike to visit a Baba who lives on potato’s and weed. If that’s not incentive to read the next blog post then I font know what is.