Our last day in India! It was going to be a good day, with a couple of stops on the drive out of Jaipur: the Water Palace and the Amir Fort. Unfortunately, whatever we do today will be overshadowed by CNN’s US Presidential election coverage and the unbelievable possibility that Donald Trump could win the election.
When Kamal picked us up, I said to him that it was a bad day and he agreed. Even here in India it’s not good news.
I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that, when we enter through the hotel gates, the guards check for bombs using a mirror under the car and also check under the hood and in the trunk. When we went into the hotel, we had to put our bags through a scanner and walk through a metal detector.
Our first stop this morning was to fill up at an ordinary gas station along a main street. Ordinary, that is, except for the large fenced in area between the pumps and the street where there’s what I’ll call a ‘rat city’. There was a cement platform where someone, let’s say it’s the ‘rat city caretaker’ spreads seeds and puts out pots of water. Just below that platform, maybe down a foot or so, the rats were scurrying around in the dirt and rocks, digging holes, dirt flying, disappearing and reappearing from the holes and from under the cement platform. If there were that many in this visible place, one can only imagine what it’s like under the city. Dass suggested that I give this photo a blue tint and title it ‘Rat-City in Blue’. He has a very strange mind!
The strange thing is that it really wasn’t disturbing. If anything, it was sort fascinating. When we were talking about the number of dogs around earlier, I had said to Dass, “I wonder why they don’t do anything about it?”. He said that since Indian people are non-violent, they don’t believe in killing any of God’s creations. That goes for the rats as well. He explained that the Jains (a religion), sweeping the ground in front of them so that they don’t step on any creatures. They also wear face masks so that they don’t breathe in any bugs. Once again, something we can’t relate to, but it’s part of the deep Indian culture.
The stop at the Water Palace was a quick one along the side of the street. We had to cross 4 lanes of traffic to get there, but no big deal. The traffic wasn’t so heavy yet, but regardless of where we were on the street, any type of vehicle honked their horn to let us know they were coming. We got a few quick shots and got back to the car unscathed.
Not too far down the road, we stopped for a tour of the Amer Fort, or Amer Palace, which rises up a hill over the town of Amer, about 11 km from Jaipur and overlooks Maota Lake. Dating back to the 1600’s, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Normally there would have been an admission charge, but something strange is going on with India’s currency today: all Rs 500 and 1,000 notes are being taken out of circulation as of today, because of counterfeiting. All ATM’s and banks are closed. It’s a good thing I got to an ATM yesterday so I’d have cash to give Kamal his tip today.
So free entrance to the fort. A good thing too, since we’re both running short of cash. This turned out to be a great photographic stop. We saw elephants for the first time. They were going up and down the stone ‘road’ carrying people to the entrance. We walked, which gave us lots of chances to get photos of the elephants up close and personal.
We spent about an hour wandering around, but because there was no entrance fee, the locals were out in droves. We could easily have stayed longer, but went back down to the car.
Did I mention that cows are everywhere? Even eating the pigeon seed!
With approximately 275 km’s to go to the Delhi airport, we had a few hours ahead of us. We stopped for a ‘thali’ lunch at the Gangaur Midway restaurant, another popular stop on the highway for tourist groups. I’ve actually come to enjoy thali.
One thing I’ve noticed the past couple of days on the highway is that India really moves by truck. By that I mean that there are one helluva lot of transport trucks on the highway. The horn honking is as bad out on the highway as it is in the cities too. For the most part, drivers don’t signal when changing lanes and most trucks and other vehicles have signs painted on the back saying “Please Honk”, “Honk Horn” or “Blow Horn”. Some say, “Use Dipper at Night” – ‘dipper’ being ‘dimmer’. Honking horns and using the dippers tells a driver that you’re passing. Honking also seems to mean ‘get the hell out of the way, I’m coming through’ and the same message goes for dogs, goats, cows and buffalos too.
We have found that, in crowded places, like when touring a palace, Indian people walk the way they drive….they bob and weave. There’s no such thing as an orderly line to get through a door. They bob and weave to get into an open space at the first opportunity.
It’s now 4:20 and we’ve arrived in Delhi. The traffic is absolutely crazy!!! It may take us until midnight to get to the airport!
Two things we saw on the road today:
- A large flock of sheep. This was the first time we’ve seen sheep.
- A motorcycle with 2 people towing another motorcycle with 2 people on it….by a chain!
So, as we were driving yesterday, I was thinking about what I would say if someone asked me what comes to mind when I think of India. There are many things:
- People – the numbers and the friendliness
- Holy men
- Noise, especially the horn honking
- Smells….good and bad
- Orange hair on men
- Tuk tuks
- Poverty and squalor
- Dust and smog
- Shopkeepers persistently trying to get us into their shops
- Sidewalk barbers
- Overloaded vehicles
I’m sure I could come up with more, but the horns and sirens are too loud to think!
If I was asked for one word to describe India and the trip, it would be ‘incredible’!
We arrived at the airport about 5:30. The Delhi traffic is unbelievable!! We gave Kamal a healthy tip of Rs 10,000, about $200, which he was very grateful for. We’ll definitely ask for him if/when we go ahead with a tour next year. He sure knows his way around every city we went to, he was agreeable to anything we wanted to do and he was always on time to pick us up. All-in-all he did a good job.
Checking in at the airport is quite interesting here. In order to get in the door, you have to show your passport and a ticket. Once you’re in, if you leave, you can’t enter again. Dass’ Indian ‘mother’ and 2 ‘sisters’ came to the airport to see him before leaving. They didn’t have a ticket, so they weren’t able to come into the airport; however, they convinced the guard at entrance #3 to let them into the vestibule between the outer and inner doors to talk to us.
Since our flight wasn’t until 12:45 AM and check-in didn’t start until 8:45, we had quite a bit of time to kill. Once checked in, we had to go through Immigration, which is also unusual, and then security. We found the Star Alliance Gold lounge, which is where we’re now cooling our heels, having some dinner and drinks. We now have an hour before we have to board. Our flight arrives Toronto at 5:00 AM. Jill, Dass’ wife, is picking him up and I’m riding home in the Classic Limo van.
Will we put together a photography tour here next year? A few days into this trip, we both thought we likely wouldn’t; however, now that we’re at the other end of it, we’re thinking we will. We’ll let it sink in for a week or so and then get together to compare notes as to how to move forward – what cities we’d include in a tour, how long a tour would be, how long in each place, accommodations, etc..
It really has been a fantastic trip. The cultural differences can be hard to get our Canadian heads around, but they have to be accepted. For me, I think it’s easier to do that when I have a camera up to my face. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, the people are wonderful. There is always so much activity going on that it’s hard to know which way to point a camera….the photo opportunities are endless. Dass and I have had a couple of trips together and have done several art shows jointly over the past couple of years. We’re comfortable with our working relationship and confident that we could put together a very successful photo tour.
Time to board. More photos to come real soon! Thanks very much for following our trip.