Have to say it feels a lot longer than 12 days, not in a bad way. It is just that everything you do in India needs careful planning and execution, just crossing the road here, for example, is a major event. So this makes for tiring days and you quickly lose perception of how time is passing.
3 Cities, 2 overnight train journeys and now 3 days into an 11 day trip around Rajasthan with a car and driver.
Our hotel in Varanasi was the Indian equivalent of ‘Faulty Towers.’ The owner/head chef was a right grumpy old git, food was good but served with sneer. Varanasi was definitely worth the effort to experience, but we were glad to be getting away on the third day. Even though we were heading for another night train, I’ve found it hardest to sleep on the trains. I think that maybe it’s because I’ve half an eye open checking on our bags. We chain them to the bunks, but you know what it’s like check and double check. Have heard some real quality snoring of the highest order, funny Charlotte doesn’t snore like that at home normally(Joking! Joking!).
Arriving in Agra was a little challenging, got off at a different station than we planned and there was no official pre-paid rickshaw booth that we had expected. This is when you are most at mercy to commission touting rickshaw wallahs. We got besieged and headed outside to give ourselves time to take stock. We collected our thoughts and went for it with the 2 that least dodgy looking (This is a bit like grabbing a Cactus to find the bluntest needle!). True to form one suddenly needs petrol, while my driver shows me a book with recommendations about another hotel. Whilst telling me how dirty/bad/closed our choice is. We don’t take any bull off them and head for our choice, arriving we do get shown higher priced rooms than we had expected, but it is good and clean.
Walking upstairs to the rooftop restaurant was ‘cool as you like.’ It has a clear view right across to the Taj Mahal which is no more than a half mile away. We order a couple of drinks, and sit like the other few people there, staring at the view.
Booking the car and driver for Rajasthan is an interesting challenge, every agent has the best deal to offer. Not like everyone else, better driver, no hassle’s, go where you like, etc. We plumped for one option having made it clear on our terms. The driver picks us on schedule and we head off to first overnight stop of Jaipur, it soon becomes apparent that we will need to be on our toes. The lunch stop is clearly drivers backhander haunt, and we get stung for a more expensive the usual meal, won’t let that happen again. The ‘recommended’ hotel, as Charlotte has mentioned, was not acceptable so we passed on that. The guide waiting with our driver in our car, when he came to pick us up in the morning, showed that they will keep looking for an opportunity to make the extra cash.
I’ve come close a couple of times to losing my cool with the relentless touting of wares, but we try to remember they are only trying to a living. Sometimes it’s really hard to smile and say a polite ‘No. thanks!’ It does make the peace, when you find it, all the more enjoyable.
We head off to Pushkar later today and a bit less pollution.