27th July - 6th August Kathmandu, Delhi, Agra, Jailpur
27/07/2012 - 06/08/2012
After a restful few days we headed back to the chaotic life in Kathmandu, we decided to fly back as the journey was so long by the rickety cramped bus. In Kathmamdu we were met by Progress who took us to 'New Nepal Disabled Association' an orphanage he supports. There were only boys as the girls and a selection of boys had been sent to live in a hostel due to sponsorship , they gave us such a warm welcome, were so well mannered and polite. Their family situations ranged from deceased parents to not having enough money to disabled parents. The ages ranged between 5-11 and we were shown their dormitories where each room had a captain to limit squabbles and fights. There were 2-3 boys per single bed and 4 beds per room with little or no storage, there was a basic kitchen and a playground with basketball stands but the nets were missing. We were allowed to see who lived in what dorms and were sung to by the children, we were sorry we hadn't time to collect toys for them as we had come straight from the airport. Back at Hotel Encounter we reflected on the boys' situation and discussed ways we could support the childrens' home. Progress returned to give us more information about the set up and we explained how we could possibly link them with Qatar Leadership Academy.
We met Britney and Richelle for dinner in a Mexican restaurant and chatted about our next moves.
Delhi was our next stop so we left Kathmandu on Monday 30th July. Delhi was busy with stalls and sellers paying so much attention to us, offering puppets, bells, wooden carvings, everything you can think of. We wanted to see real Delhi so took a rickshaw to I N A market in hope for some local foods and products. After passing the textile stalls and following the winding, rubble filled path we ended up at the back of the market where food was sold. The smell was incredible and not in a good way, all the food stalls were live stock and carcasses - cages of chickens with the best one tied to the top; dried, streaky whole chickens due to the length of time they had been left out on the stand they looked plastic; butchers hacking up carcasses; goats heads, intestines, genitals, hooves and racks of ribs. Swarms of flies filled the alleyway like something from C18th London. There was an open sewer running down in an inset in the paving slabs but no one seemed to be bothered by the stench that choked Tommy and I. At the end of the alleyway there was guys sat with a pile of goats legs from below the knee and their job amongst the flies was to pull the hair off the legs so they could be sold. We were flabagasted - never having seen anything or smelt anything like that before but the stalls were busy and the meat and livestock was selling.
We meandered back through the textiles and brick a brack to the road and cleaner air, well the smell had improved slightly - that wasn't what we had expected! We thought we would have more luck in Connaught Square but it was more like the Indian equivalent of Oxford Street, with KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, but we took the option of a Indian self service restaurant which seemed popular with the locals and looked clean. Cafe India had been recommended for dinner so we climbed to the roof top restaurant and looked over the hustle and bustle of the evening crowds.
New Dehli train station was jammed packed with no clear direction of which platforms the trains were running from but we found ours on number 3, the train was about a mile long! We booked into 2a for our 5 hour journey, this included 6 beds per section and 65 beds per carriage. The train ran with the carriage doors left open and the tenders jumping on and off between stops offering tea, coffee and nibbles. The electricity connection wasn't great so we ended up at a standstill for over an hour.
After a night in Maya hotel we strolled to the Taj Mahal, unfortunately it was cloudy so didn't go for sunrise. Impressive and vast is a way to describe the marble building enhanced by its clear background, no one seemed to being paying attention to the rules and were snapping away inside the building.
Our next stop was Jaipur but after the calamity of the trains we decided to hire a driver, it was very pleasant with air con and comfy seats. 5 hours later we arrived and found our guesthouse. We met Ali purely by luck who was not an insistent Tuk Tuk driver, he spoke excellent English and helped us find a nice restaurant and bar - we decided to use him for our tour the next day. The tour included the pink city, water temple, the amber fort, monkey temple, a local village and an elephant house inside the local village. The elephant house was shocking at first as the elephants were chained and held in a large barn, their skin was losing pigmentation leaving them with a spotty appearance. We were allowed to touch them and walk between them - they are such massive animals! We went for lunch to decide what to do as we weren't keen on riding them around the village and expected a larger area where they weren't chained. We decided to go back and feed them something I never dreamed I would do, we were welcomed in and fed them wraps of sugar cane, they are so gentle - gentle giants! It was amazing just being near them, the owner showed us how he gets on by pulling her ears forward and walking up her trunk while she lifts you, to dismount he gave a command and she lifted her right leg for him to slide and climb down whilst holding her ear for balance and stability. Tommy then took the challenge and very professionally balanced until she took his weight and climbed, climbing over the head wasn't as elegant with his bum in the air as he clung on but the climb he made look easy. Now my turn, I became slightly more anxious when I had her ears as my shorter arms meant I was pressed against her trunk and it was difficult to get a grip with my foot, after 3 attempts I decided to stop annoying her as she was the largest elephant there at around 12ft and the only one not chained so had to give in and let Tommy win!! It was so peaceful being so near to the animals, we both left with huge grins but we wanted more, Ali said he would take us to the elephant village, the next day, past Amber Fort to see where they house many more elephants. We pulled into a walled enclosure which was huge, the pens were all grey stone with corrugated roofs and chains, each elephant had its own driver who cared for them. There were over 100 pens and a huge lake for them to use to cool and wash, the option given to us was 5000Rs (£65) per person for painting the elephant, riding it and bathing it in the pool - we didn't want to do that, we wanted to help the workers look after them but the staff weren't as welcoming. We visited the lake and watched as 6 elephants were in heaven as they lay in water and were scrubbed. We just sat and watched what the job of the drivers entailed and relaxed in the close environment. There was a male elephant who was cooling in the water who did not want to leave the water when his driver tried to command... so ... He didn't! He tried to throw his driver off his back into the water, wriggling and dunking but the guy scrambled around clinging on. He then went and sulked in the corner of the pool whilst his driver rested, they tried for over an hour to get him out of the water but he refused to leave - it was quite comical with the driver shouting and swearing in Indian, but it was a really hot day we didn't blame him for not getting out!
Next port of call to round up our trip...Mumbai and Goa!