We're getting married!!!!!!
So it's been a crazy few months and my resolution has gone out the window - apologies. But you can't be angry because we're getting married!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It all started in India.
After swinging out of Singapore we arrived in Delhi, thankful we had made the last minute purchase of two matching blue billabong jumpers. The temperature in Delhi was a chillin' 10 degrees and fog filled the air. I had read many scary encounters of arrival at Delhi airport complete with mob scenes and harassment but thanks to some preplanning we walked safely into the arms of our extremely friendly escort ready to whisk us away to Sunstar Heights hotel. The half an hour drive into Delhi from the airport was a real eye opener. We thought we had been well prepared for the third-worldness of the country I had always wanted to visit. But nothing, I mean nothing, can prepare you for a small 7 year old girl knocking at your window holding a smaller girl in her arms. But we were under strict orders from our interprid tour under NO circumstances were we to give items/money/food to the beggars as part of our responsible travel - which would confuse me most of our trip.
When we arrived at the hotel we were warmly welcomed by the minions. A large collective of bellboys/doormen/receptionists/waiters/etc who for a hotel serving roughly thirty rooms was from first impression rather excessive. We learnt through our trip to India that this was in fact fairly common and that each individual had his own role and responsibility within the organisation and running of India. Which led to most of our budget disappearing into the tipping jar! For example, at this hotel, simply ordering our breakfast required 6 boys - one to take the order, one to take the money, one to organise the change, one to give us the change, one to deliver the breakfast and one to collect the breakfast tray - and each requires their own tip. But, believe it or not - it works and is extremely efficient.
Our first point of call as independent travellers was to suss out our local area. We headed out into the cold and after about 100m returned to the hotel. It wasn't the cold that turned us around it was the constant questioning of our needs. Well, the constant questioning of Jarratts needs. Hilarious for me, not so for Jarratt, was that all the questions whilst in the past had been sprayed at both of us were landing squarely at Jarratt - fed up he about faced and headed back to the hotel. There we organised a location for lunch as well as a car to take us to the Indira Gandhi Memorial and India Gate. That night we met with our tour group and learnt the in's and out's of IST (Indian stretchable time), the mentality "Don't worry, eat curry" and our rather blunt and to the point tour guide Anuj. That night we celebrated with our new friends and fell happily into bed - excited for our 15 day tour ahead!
The next morning after breakfast we headed to the train for another eye opening experience. Within India men and women ride in separate carriages - Anuj had already decided I would be the best person to be in charge of the ladies and from this point on I became Tour Leader 2. Once aboard the train we headed for Old Delhi, where we wandered the alleys, visited India's largest mosque and had our first glass of chai, chai, chai. After our orientation tour we wandered down to the Red Fort, which unfortunately was shut. So we made a quick decision to head to Humayun's Tomb, the precursor to the Taj Mahal, by autorickshaw -very interesting! After hard negotiation, we managed to swindle a pretty fantastic deal and quickly dove in. We were followed in toe by other members of our tour group, who unlike Jarratt, Jain and I needed to pack 4 into there autorickshaw. This would not have flown in Australia as they laid like sardines in the rickshaw that dodged between trucks/buses/anything on wheels - except cows. You see they are holy in India and large trucks even swerve to miss them - NUTSO!
Anyways... we arrived safely at Humayun's Tomb and were overwhelmed - the sight was amazing! We sent about an hour exploring before we autorickshawed our way to connaught place for a late thali lunch. That night we boarded our first overnight train.... words can't describe. One of our tour friends arose the next morning and asked "have you been to the toilet?" to which I replied "Not yet, why?" and she said "I now understand levitation .... it is necessary!" - I think that wraps up the whole experience.
The next morning was spent walking along the ghats, the colour, the movement, the activity and life was just magical! We wandered from the centre of town down to Manikarnika Ghat, the main burning ghat and the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. We spent a few moments at the ghat but were overwhelmed by the sight, smells and sounds. Prior to burning the corpse is wrapped in cloth and dunked in the ganges 3 times. It is then stacked onto logs of wood, which are weighed on giant scales so the price of the cremation can be calculated - some families are too poor to afford enough wood and so not the entire body is cremated. At our visit there were about 16 cremation piles with thousands watching on. Its a surreal sight and one that leaves you contemplating life. That afternoon I visited a palm reader who gave some insight into my future. Some of the predictions I can remember is that I will have 3 children opportunities, I will travel alot in my life, I can have any man I wanted (despite only wanting the one - Matt Cooper :)), I have a wonderful, beautiful energy and that my life will be one of great pleasure and purpose. When I asked about money I was told I'd never have alot but I'd have enough - Jarratt was less than impressed.
Life on the ghats
Lotus Candle Ceremony - wish away!
Mulgandha Kuti Vihar in Sarnath
Men's line into the Tibetan University to see the Dalai Lama.
Following our breakfast the next morning we travelled through the old city of Jaipur and were tickled pink! We stopped briefly at the beautiful Hawa Mahal before travelling out to the Amber Fort. Despite our best efforts, Anuj crushed our hopes of riding a painted elephant to the top of the fort as it did not fit with intrepid's responsible traveller policy. Instead we had to settle for quick snaps of the incredible creatures as they slowly wandered past. Unfortunately, a lot of the fort information was lost in translation (as I found understanding our guide difficult), but it was interesting looking around the maharaja's apartments and the zenana (women's quarters). Most memorable was the secret passageways between the zenana for the maharaja's discreet nocturnal visits. I think it was at this point Jarratt started referring to me as a concubine - which he found deeply amusing! That afternoon, left to our own devices we headed into city palace for a look around the royal stomping ground and a failed shopping expedition! That night we busted some moves a nightclub and rode home dangerously perched in an autorickshaw - sorry mum!
Amber Fort's beautiful painted elephants.
Friendly Locals in the village around the fort