5th October 2016
This morning we set off on our way to Fatehpur Sikri.
We ate Breakfast (food is becoming the corner stone of our days. No sooner have we finished one meal than Romi is organising the next) and boarded the coach for what was to become an eventful road trip.
Not quite Thelma and Louise or Easy Rider but not without its moments either.
Our driver seemed to be in a particularly belligerent mood this morning refusing to yield an inch in the testosterone world that is driving in India. Trained at the Harry Potter Night bus school of driving he manages to get our 8 foot bus down a 5 foot road full of on coming traffic without turning the wheel. Awesome.
So we had a few near head on collisions though these are becoming so regular they are almost beyond mention. We hit a rather large Bullock (they look like water Buffalo but seem to live on the main roads. in fact most of the animal husbandry we’ve seen takes place in the town’s where Cows have developed a ‘Bugger You’ attitude and if they decide to sit down in the middle of the road, well you just have to go round them) with the side of the coach and almost ran over a lady who tried to cross without bothering to look for traffic. Her ever vigilant friend grabbed her arm and yanked her to safety like a regular Super Hero.
NB: Ive taken some video which I will put on You tube and link later.
We cruised down dual carriageways at top speed (60 is the limit for any vehicle licensed by the ministry of Tourism) whilst other drivers came toward us at equal speed, oblivious of the fact that they were traveling the wrong way up a Motorway!
N:B Since I wrote this our Coach driver has also turned right and driven against the traffic up a dual carriage way rather than go with the flow, because it was a shorter route.
Our driver constantly poured small sachets of some thing into his mouth whilst he drove, talked on his mobile phone using his right hand and held a bottle of water in his left. All without turning his head. He did though put his seat belt on as we approached a police check point though this Health and Safety glitch was short lived.
We arrived at Fatehpur Sikri and parked the coach in a dusty car park with dozens of other coaches.
Fatehpur Sikri is a small city in northern India, just west of Agra, founded by a 16th-century Mughal emperor. Red sandstone buildings cluster at its center. Buland Darwaza gate is the entrance to Jama Masjid mosque. Nearby is the marble Tomb of Salim Chishti. Diwan-E-Khas hall has a carved central pillar. Jodha Bais Palace is a mix of Hindu and Mughal styles, next to the 5-story Panch Mahal that overlooks the site.
We then had to run the gauntlet of ‘young entrepreneurs’ all wanting to sell us tacky trinkets or get us to visit their shop before getting onto another bus for the 200 meter ride to the main gate.
Apparently these smaller busses are run from LPG and are environmentally more friendly than our bus so, it does less damage to the environment around Fatehpur Sikri which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There’s a perverse irony in this that seems to be missed by Indian Officialdom. Given the state of everything else around the site, the debris, the litter and the poverty, is an LPG bus going to change much?
Once free from the bus which was filled to breaking point with sweaty tourist we were met by out latest guide who regurgitated a whole load of facts and statistics about the history of this place as he showed us from one Palace (Mahal) to another. Delighting in his obvious knowledge and expertise.
My imagination only came alight when he told us that the ‘Swastika’ so reviled in Europe because of its association with Nazism was in fact a Hindu sign and it was engraved into the design of the Main Pillar which in itself represented one religion.
NB: Since then we have seen this sign on buildings and vehicles regularly. I want to know how & why it was adopted by Hitler and used by the Nazi’s?
There was he said, a King who realised ‘With his own eyes’ that his people were fighting over religion. So, as a way of uniting his people he married three wives, one from each of the competing religions (though there was some confusion about how Christianity got involved as this came up from Goa).
Then, to add insult to injury, he invented a fourth religion which he then promoted.
So, if Ive got this right. His solution to religious conflict was to introduce a fourth religion?
The probably explains why were still fighting over religion today.
The tour dragged on for longer than it needed to and I lost interest and wanted to get back on the bus with the air-con long before it was polite to say so.
In fact, any thing would be an anti climax after the Taj.
Retracing our route we were met by our friendly Touts who tried to get us to go to their shop, sell us anything from Jewellery, Fans and all manner of Pens, Wooden Animals and Bindies. Some of our group melted under the sales pressure of these cute kids whose waxed and waned between aggressive & tearful. They continued to promote their wares through the window of the bus with some success before we finally set off on the next part of our Journey.
We stopped at an eatery which we were told is miles from anywhere so everything has to be brought from Agra by road, which means its expensive.
I couldn’t face another meal and settled for Chai the Indian Milky Tea with Cardamon that I am coming to enjoy. The waiters in the restaurant all seems to suffer from the same lapse of memory because they kept forgetting to return with change after people settled their respective bills.
This had Romi running round like a Football agent sorting out our finances.
Another short trip brought us to Chand Baori a Step Well where we marvelled at the number of steps leading down to the water at the bottom.
I bought roasted Peanuts in their shells from a street stall and we looked at yet another shrine.
These shrines obviously revered by their believers often seem to me to be rather unpleasant spaces. The habit of leaving food for the Gods creates an environment loved by flies as the food rots and it looks and smells, to western eyes at least, very un godly. Im not sure Reverent Sue at the C of E in Frampton would approve of leaving a Fish Lot on the Alter?
As we left , it started to rain and that continued for the rest of the day and most of the night.
The last part of our journey took us off road and down a path which really didn’t look sufficient for our Bus though our driver didn’t bat an eye lid.
He cruised on down like it was the M4 dodging Cattle and trucks with consummate ease.
When we arrived at Jamwa Ram Garh Campsite we were completely in awe.
This collection of Glamping tents was tucked behind a small cluster of farm buildings housing a few families and their animals. From the road it looked an unlikely spot for a Glamping site but looks can be deceiving.
Behind some ornate domed building’s that were referred to as Synagogues (Though i could not establish any Jewish connections) there was a fantastic swimming pool with changing rooms and shower,a dinning room equipped with a small Bar and a row of canvass tents that were as luxurious and comfortable as any Hotel so far.
Allocated a Tent we found our suitcases and settled in. Keen to get in the pool, rain or no rain and have a welcomed swim. Clutching a can of Kingfisher (and in Jaki’s case a bottle of India Wine) we stayed submerged until it was time to eat.
Food was again a vegetarian option but it was tasty, well presented and there was loads of it, as with the beer which seemed to keep coming.
It was a pity when tiredness overcame me and I had to slope off to bed rather than stay there for ever, but the morning promised an early morning Cycle Safari and i needed to be at my best.