Holy Cow it’s early ! We left at 545 a.m. for the Taj Mahal. Still dark out. We wanted to get there for the sunrise, even though the smog in Agra is almost as bad as Delhi. I think seeing the sunrise might be a little too optimistic for us today.
We had to walk down a long boulevard (for lack of a better word), a wide brick walkway. We then stopped at the ticket booths so Amit could get our tickets and our paper booties to put over our shoes. The paper booties are required later on when we actually enter the Taj Mahal.
The people………….so many people. Amit told me the Taj Mahal gets between 7-8 million visitors a year. That is a lot of people. When we went to Mount Rushmore last year, they told us they get 20,000 people a day, which is unbelievable. That adds up to 7 million people, give or take. Our neighbour Lorne sent Clint a BBC newspaper article on the Taj Mahal.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/twilight_of_the_taj It’s a good article and well worth a read. Sad what is going on with the Taj Mahal.
View looking back from the top platform of the Taj Mahal
It seems surreal to be here. You read about these places when you are a kid and never imagine that one day you would be standing in front of the Taj Mahal. The smog surrounding it gives it an eerie, otherworldly feeling, vice having a negative impact on the view. There is a mosque to the left and a guest house to the right, both in the same design. It’s difficult to describe.
On the way out (and in for that matter) on the boulevard were all kinds of dogs and monkeys and birds…………So cute
We were there a couple of hours and then back to the hotel for breakfast. By the way, all the breakfast buffets we have had on this entire trip were a mix of Continental and Indian. You could have an omelet for breakfast with tater tots and toast alongside a mixture of rice and a curry dish. Below is leaving our hotel and Amit on our bus talking to us !
On our bus for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Chambal Safari Lodge. Short drive and that was a welcome change.
Some photos on the way to the Taj this morning and then to Chambal Safari Lodge.
We stopped on the way at a small store to get some treats ! And I made a friend……….sort of……….
When we got to Chambal Safari Lodge, we had to park in the parking lot and then walk through an entrance on a path to the Lodge itself. This is a spectacularly beautiful spot.
They had tables set up outside alongside an outdoor buffet all set up. We were a little surprised considering we had just eaten a huge breakfast about 2 hours prior. But we all manned up and sat down and ate more food. We sure didn’t need it though, I can foresee a “no dinner” night for Clint and I. They had a variety of dishes starting with soup. I did not care for the soup but the food was tasty. I have to say, even though we don’t always know what we are eating, the food is all terrific, the whole trip. We just order whatever off the menus and hope for the best ! This lunch as all planned out for us though.
This is a beautiful spot. I believe the white buildings that house the dining room and buffet area and reception used to be stables years and years before. This was a large estate. There are pretty flowers all over the buildings and a variety of birds flying here and there. It’s odd to see parakeets flying around on their own ! We also saw them at the Taj Mahal in the gardens. I have only seen them in pet shops until now.
We were taken to our rooms down a path through the woods. The rooms are small individual buildings. Step up onto a patio and there is a building to the right and to the left. Paul and John were beside us and the others were just down from our rooms. I was concerned about the doors to the rooms. I have never seen doors like this before. Huge wooden, thick doors with a length of chain (thick chain) and the biggest padlock I have ever seen to lock the doors.
When we entered the room, we noticed bars on the windows and the door to the balcony was also a double door with many bolts. Are they keeping us in? Or something out? The rooms are rustic yet clean and well maintained. I like it. The power is iffy and the water situation is iffy but I still like it. We unpacked a bit and admired the rooms and then off we went to explore the grounds. All the while my mind was thinking, what’s coming to get us tonight?
The fellow that works here, or maybe owns it, I didn’t figure that out……….anyways, he took us on a walking tour of the property. He knew exactly where all the wildlife was located; he showed us owls, fruit bats, peacocks and other birds. We saw antelope, monkeys and a mongoose and the property is quite something. I have never seen a mongoose before but this guy was fast. We could not get any photos, he was there and then he wasn’t .
It was still early so we wanted to see the area; Amit took us to the Village of 101 Temples The fellow who took us on a tour of the property went with us, I believe his name is Taj and he went with us as a guide.
This village is called Bateshwar on the banks of the Yamuna river. This stop was not on our itinerary which is probably a bonus of a small travel group………. as well as our propensity for asking for things over and over and Amit giving in to us just to shut us up lol. We were all “what are we doing now”, “Can we go someplace” , “What’s happening?” Oh my God , we were funny.
We walked all around the town and climbed some stairs to go to a rooftop to see the temples along the river. Beautiful spot. Just breathtaking.
When we went down by the temples, some of us purchased an offering and went into one of the temples to give our offering to Lord Shiva. It was a piece of material with different small gifts on top that we had to put onto the God Statue when we went inside. Oh yeah, did I mention we had to take our shoes off? Thankfully I had socks on, the ground was truly yucky. When we came out, a Hindu priest put a red and yellow string around our wrists and also a red/yellow dot between our eyebrows. Both men and women receive this and I believe it is worn after prayers or a special religious occasion. I was reading that this mark is called tilaka in Hinduism.
We went into another building with tons of bells hanging from the ceiling and there was another temple that I did not go into. You could not wear socks and I wasn’t taking mine off. Some of our group, including my husband did and were able to go into the temple. I was happy taking photos of the bells. Clint took the three photos of the Statues in the temple that I did not go into.
We left the temple area and walked through a bazaar. So many animals everywhere… lots of monkeys and pigs all over the place.
We walked through the town and we ended up at the other end heading on a dirt track to where the Animal Festival was set up.
So many tents and booths, animals, people….just incredible. This is the second largest Animal Festival in the country. Mostly they trade/sell horses but also donkeys and camels. This is held annually in conjunction with their religious festival.
We headed back to our bus after this and headed back to the Lodge.
On another note, Amit is the greatest guide, I don’t know how he puts up with us ! Nancy told him he must feel like he is herding cats. I don’t think he quite understood that but I’m sure he did feel like a kindergarten teacher corralling a bunch of kids. He probably wondered about us with our constant “Look it’s a camel ! (or dog, or elephant, or horse)” or “where’s the bathroom” or “are we there yet” or “how many aircraft carriers does India have” or any number of inane comments that were made/asked by our group! I think Anne asked me on about the fifth day if I thought he was aggravated by us and I said “yup I think he was aggravated by us about 11 a.m. on the first day” lol And as you can see below, this was us………. lol
He was the best, very patient and so smart. I can’t believe that he has all of India’s history in his head, we were very impressed. So thanks Amit if you are reading this ! We truly enjoyed your company, your stories, your information, your support and kindness.
I was still not feeling well so we hit our room when we got back to the lodge, it was about 730. We read for a while and then sleep time. The others, most of them, went for dinner and then sat around a campfire for a bit. It was a strange night for me, I could not sleep as I kept hearing the jackals and peacocks and I know there was something trying to get in. I could hear the door being pulled on, we believe it was the monkeys. I was a bit nervous and I don’t know why. I mean we do back country camping in Canada and there are always bears and moose wandering through our site and around the area and I’m in a tiny little nylon tent. But I guess being in a different country and not being used to their animals and the sounds at night is what is making me nervous.
OR I’m just a pussy…………….I can see some of my friends nodding their heads in agreement. (Clint’s nodding too…………)