Days in India: 6
Number of near deaths on the road: 473948901
Dead bodies: 2
Weddings crashed: 1
Bollywood films: 1
Dinners with a king: 1
“A tourist does not know where they have been. A traveller does not know where they are going”
Well, this quotation may be true in most cases, but in India we find it hard to believe that anybody really knows where they are going. This country has so far been a treasure trove of exciting discoveries and unexpected surprises. When you tell your friends and family you are heading to India, everyone has some kind of story to tell… a friend of a friend, a bad experience, something to look out for or perhaps a place you must visit. But in the world’s biggest democracy, you honestly cannot make assumptions until you get here – it is so different from what you might expect.
We started in Delhi and the pollution was forecast as ‘severe’. When we checked what this actually meant… it means that it was 11x the level of pollution considered safe. You could actually feel the pollution in your lungs and mouth, and it made us really appreciate the air we have at home in Tasmania.
We have never seen such dense traffic or heard so many horns in our life; so arriving off the plane straight into peak hour was a bit of a shock! This chaotic metropolis is home to almost the equivalent population of Australia, all trying to hustle and survive. As we ventured through the streets of Delhi we saw slums, incredible temples, majestic forts and all-important cricket stadiums, each playing a unique role in the texture of society.
Although rip-offs are aplenty in the Indian capital and the entrepreneurial populace sure know how to make a buck from tourists. Entrance prices to sites are around 25x more expensive than for locals, and tourist trap restaurants will set you back around 10x the price of a street feed. The taxi we hired for the day wasn’t impressed that we didn’t buy a carpet from his brother’s cousin’s shop so dropped us at an expensive restaurant telling us he would pick us up, and then never came back so we had to walk home… good.
We had to catch a 5:30 train out to the rural towns of Rajasthan, and despite the early hour the New Delhi train station was inevitably packed. We zoomed through the countryside and saw goats, desert and farmers… but only the ones within 100m because of the pollution. Six hours later we arrived in Kisangarh which our guide described as a “village” despite the 250000 inhabitants!
We then hopped in a minibus to go out to Tordi Garh and the driver inevitably got lost and the 2 hour journey dragged out to 4 hours proving why Indian Standard Time is also known as Indian Stretchable Time. We casually were freaking out as the driver spent more time honking than in silence as we wove in and out of traffic within centimetres of vehicles/cows and almost dying 17248932 times. Seriously. As we internally screamed, the guide was happily telling us that most people in India don’t have licenses and the ones that do probably didn’t pass any tests but just paid the instructor – exactly what we wanted to hear! The saying goes that for driving in India you need “good brakes, a good horn and good luck”, well that’s for sure. Although we nearly ran over half the population of Tasmania, the driver made extra sure not to run over any of the docile holy cows that crossed the middle of the highways, even dodging to avoid running over their dung.
After (finally) arriving in Tordi Garh we jumped in a jeep and headed to the dunes to watch the sunset and spot antelopes. Back at the hotel we chowed into a massive curry dinner which satisfied our hunger from the huge 12 hour journey. Then all of a sudden the King of Tordi Garh casually rocked up to welcome us to his town. We chatted and got to ask him lots of questions and then he disappeared, leaving us to think he had left. But then he came back. With a canon, 1 shotgun, 1 rifle, 1 musket and 6 14th century swords. Very safe and not dodgy at all mum, I promise.
The king is a figurehead for Tordi Garh which is a beautiful rural village with the friendliest people and plenty of cows. We wandered through the village and saw daily life: men getting their beards shaved on the side of the road, adorable waving children heading to school, and crowded buses narrowly avoiding collisions with pimped out tinselled tractors.
As we sat one night on the balcony we heard fireworks, and in India where there are fireworks, there is a wedding to crash. And when planning a wedding it is expected that locals will attend and it is not unusual to bring plus 3s, so we were definitely invited! The huge group passed through the tiny streets with decorated horses, pumping music, dance circles and gorgeous lamps – it was one of the most exciting experiences of our life.
Jaipur is the city of kings and we have been absolutely enchanted by it. As we drove into the city, passing funeral processions of dead bodies, camels on the highway and more traffic, we could sense the huge amount of culture in the city. The pink washed walls of the gated old town inspire a sense of wonder, and as we explored the various palaces and forts, these feelings only grew stronger.
After a rickshaw ride through the town at sunset, we went to grab some lassis and then off to the theatre for some Bollywood. Although we hardly understood anything in the movie (despite it being in Hinglish), the colours and dancing was enough to keep us entertained!
India has been a mixture of culture, chaos and colour so far and we cannot wait to explore further. We have been so amazed by what we have discovered here, and it is a country of such humour as people push the boundaries of what is considered safe in Australia.