Wildlife & Nature
My family trip to North India
Our trip to India really started for me and for my daughter on the afternoon of the first day when we boarded bicycle rickshaws from outside the Friday Mosque to tour around Old Delhi.
Weaving in and out of the many pedestrians that thronged the streets and hoping that our ‘driver’ was careful enough not to run over any ones feet we were thrust into that colourful chaotic world that you so often read about or glimpse from a television programme or film. Rickshaw jams slowed the pace every now and again and people from the oncoming rickshaw traffic exchanged shy smiles or waves with myself and my 12 year old daughter, who seemed to be taking it all in her stride despite the jet lag!
From chaos to calm as our next stop that day was the Raj Ghat to see the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial. The beautiful green park where the black marble memorial slab sits allowed a pleasant half hour wandering around watching the sun sink behind the horizon before we headed back to our hotel via Parliament House and the India Gate, which glowed like a lighted beacon in the Delhi dusk. Though we only had a quick 15min stop to take photo’s, the hawkers were out in force and our group spent the remainder of the journey back to the hotel laughing and swapping stories about how much we had paid the hawkers for their not very good quality goods. You live and learn!
Arriving in Agra the next day we were given a traditional Indian welcome with fresh Marigold garlands and a cold drink, this was to become a regular feature with nearly all of the hotels we stayed in. The kids in our group quickly discovered the swimming pool and had time for a swim before lunch. My daughter couldn’t get over the fact that the hotel gardens also came equipped with its own resident monkey.
Mid afternoon we headed out to the Agra Fort, our local guide brought the fort to life with his historical knowledge and amusing anecdotes about the fort. From the parapets on the top we were able to catch our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal glistening in the distance across the Jamuna River. I hadn’t expected the Taj Mahal to be surrounded by so much greenery!
Visiting the Taj Mahal the next day you can see why it called one of the eight wonders of the world. It was stunning full stop! I am not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes, much to my family’s amusement! After loads and loads of picture taking and some information from the local guide we had some free time to explore on our own.
An Indian family from Calcutta on holiday themselves asked to have their picture taken with us. I think it had more to do with my daughter because of her long dark hair and very pale skin than anything else. A couple of Indian ladies had said as much while we were in Delhi! Maybe I could have obtained a few good marriage proposals for my daughter if I had tried hard enough!!!
The next day and one chilly train journey later (the A/C in Indian trains works very well!) saw as being met by a canter (a type of open topped safari vehicle) and being transferred to our hotel just outside of Ranthambore National Park.
The grounds of our hotel, as the monsoon had recently finished, were awash with flowers and the swimming pool looked very inviting. On our first game drive into the park we were lucky enough to spot a Tiger on a distant hillside, however that was to be our only sighting of our two game drives, but we were not too bothered as there were other wildlife and birds to see especially by the numerous lakes where we were allowed to stretch our legs for a while.
The next morning, before we left Ranthambore for Jaipur we had a chance to visit a local school near to the entrance of the park, the kids certainly seemed pleased to see us, especially as our tour leader Junaid had purchased on our behalf fruit and Indian sweets to share out with everyone. Though the school did not have much and the classrooms were cramped and dark, the kids dedication to their education was very apparent. These were the lucky ones, as there were plenty of children of all ages hanging around outside the school entrance who obviously did not go to school.
In Jaipur, the fabled pink city of Rajasthan, our Indian heritage hotel for the next couple of days was reminiscent of an era when Maharajas built elaborate palaces and filled them with objects d’art and paintings. The reception rooms were interesting to say the least! The City palace had some stunning painted gates, with one of my favourite being the summer gate with all it’s paintings of peacocks. Jantar Mantar the 18th century astronomical observatory, just across the road from the city palace, was impressive too. (Not that I understood everything about it!)
After our two nights spent in Jaipur it was onward to the Amber Fort and our much anticipated elephant ride up to the fort itself. It certainly lived up to our expectations. Set up on a hill side the views from the fort were magnificent. The elephants looked well cared for and our elephant driver assured me that he loved his elephant like a son! Standing on the parapets of the fort and looking down onto these majestic animals passing through the huge main gate of the fort is something I will remember for along time!
In peaceful rural Shekhawati we saw some of the many painted Havelis that dot the region and the Haveli museum was really interesting along with the displays of wedding finery and turbans from around India. My husband even got the chance to try on a turban and would probably still be there chatting with the guide if he had the chance!
Our last stop en-route to Delhi and our journey home saw us being met by the hotel proprietor of a converted fort who would have looked more at home in Texas. He was quite a character in his shades and Stetson and certainly enjoyed mingling with the guests. Our room for the night had the biggest bed I have ever seen. A family of four would have fitted quite comfortably. While our daughter frolicked in the hotel swimming pool with the other kids in our group, myself and my husband explored a bit. The little town of Surajgarth was relatively traffic free and very pleasant to walk around and to get a bit lost. A small boy, for a few rupees, lead us back to the familiar and to a daughter who hadn’t even noticed we were gone!
One member of our group, Nigel, as we left swopped an old camera for one of the hotel workers turbans. I don’t think his wife was too pleased at transporting a used sweaty turban back to the U.K, but Nigel and the hotel worker were certainly pleased with the exchange!
We spent our last meal together sampling thallis and other South Indian food in a Delhi restaurant with Junaid, our tour leader and reflecting back over the last ten days of our holiday. We had certainly packed in a lot for the short time that we had been in India and the kids had certainly enjoyed it. Days spent sightseeing with a few hours thrown in here and there for swimming in the hotel pools was certainly a good mix. The weather (Oct) had been perfect, balmy but not too hot and Junaid our tour leader was a born organiser and a wealth of information. As well as the cultural and historical aspects of India and its people, Junaid also gave us a very good insight into India’s chaotic transport system, which never ceased to amaze us!
This has been my second trip to India and I certainly don’t feel I have seen enough yet!