And yet again, an early rise: about 3:00 AM. The plan was for a shower but wouldn’t you know, no hot water….India!
We met Kamal downstairs at 5:50 and drove to the east gate of the Taj Mahal. We lined up to pay our Rs 1,000 ($20) entry fee, which also bought us a bottle of water and covers for our shoes….you can’t wear shoes in the Taj. We took a ‘battery bus’ to the Taj, packed in like sardines. Once there, we lined up with all of the other folks who also thought they’d get up early and be here before anyone else showed up. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long before the gates opened at 6:30, right about sunrise. Everyone had to go through a security scanner as well as a hand pat-down, then we were free to wander around the grounds.
What a place!!! As Dass said while we were walking around, “Imagine, a man built this for his wife centuries ago, buried her here and since then millions of people (likely billions) have walked through here.”
One guy who said he did not work there and was not a guide, took it upon himself to show us where to get good shots. He showed us the best place for water reflections and for the sunrise. The sun was a big orange ball, so it was great. The only problem is that there are so many people, so it’s tough to get a shot without people in them. Regardless, we managed to get some; I did ask a few people to move a bit. Of course, our non-guide wanted money when he was done.
Our original plan was to take our tripods and I was going to bring my small camera bag, with a 2nd camera and a few lenses. While we were in the parking lot, someone told us that tripods weren’t allowed nor could you take bags in, so we left them in the car, with Kamal. That wasn’t big deal, but my extra batteries were also in my camera bag. I considered going back to the car for one, but didn’t bother. The battery died about 1/ 2 hour before we were finished. I got most of the shots I wanted, so no big deal. We left at 8:30 to return to the hotel.
After breakfast and showers, we loaded up the car and, right after we got shots of the hotel doorman, we left for the trip to Ranthambhore.
We had some time to make one of 2 stops: the Agra Fort or the Keoladeo National Park, a wildlife sanctuary. We opted for the sanctuary about 60 km away. When we got there, we pad the Rs 500 entry fee. Indian people pay Rs 20, so I told the guy that we’re Indian. He told us, “OK, new price today….Indian people pay Rs 1,000. Of course we were inundated by guides, naturalists and rickshaw drivers, but we just wanted to walk around.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a bust. We saw a couple of parrots, but they were mostly hidden by trees and flew away, a small Iguana/lizzard, a dove and a couple of pea hens (female peacocks). The most exciting thing was getting photos of the very elusive, and endangered, ‘Indian Red-Toed Shoo”. There were 2, but one ran off before I could get the shot! They’re very skittish!
On we drove! I’m typing this as we’re driving – yes, I can type and look out the window at the same time – and it just occurred to me that I should include some things I’m seeing along the road (also missed photo ops, but I’ve taken some video):
- A jeep with I don’t know how many people inside, but at least 6 on the roof….have seen that a few times.
- A mother boar/pig and about 6 piglets.
- Cows, cows, cows, including 2 cows with necklaces!
- A family on a motorcycle with the father’s hand on a very young child’s chest and steering with the other, another child behind him and the mother riding sidesaddle on the back
- Many women carrying loads on their heads….water jugs, big bags of what is likely rice or flour….look, no hands!!
- 3 camels on the street. On the way to Pushkar?
- People herding goats along the road.
- And we just had to stop for a couple of cows crossing the road
I asked Kamal if he’s ever hit a cow on the road. Yes! I asked if it’s serious and if he got charged. Yes, you are charged, but I couldn’t catch what he told me what the charge or fine was.
We drove through some great towns and I shot some video as we drove slowly through the roadside markets. Unfortunately, the files are too big to post here.
We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant that’s popular for tourist buses. We each ordered a sampler of various things – tahli – all good. I would have liked to have eaten the tomatoes, but didn’t want to take that chance, just in case it had been washed with the local water.
We arrived in Ranthambore and checked into the Raj Palace Hotel about 5:00 PM. Our room is very large, quite nice and clean. This place is a step up from the others we’ve been in. We went to a ‘show’ out in the garden that started at 7:00. There were 3 guys playing ‘classical’ Indian music and dancing. We were hoping to get some photos, but the musicians were backlit, so there fronts were in total shade. There was a bar out there as well and I actually had a beer. It was a large bottle and I left half of it. For my first drink in over 4 years (other than a glass of champagne on our 24 anniversary….we count them in months), I should have saved it for some good wine. Kingfisher beer is not the best I’ve had, in fact I like PC non-alcohol beer better!
Back in the room, the internet had quit – they must shut it off overnight – so it was lights out about 9:20.