After a hectic day seeing the sights of Jaipur we ended up back at the hotel and went for walk to unwind. We passed a tailors and we called in to see if they had any cotton trousers for Ian. They offered to make us some and have them ready by 9pm so we chose the material and true to their word they were made in a couple of hours and fitted perfectly. While we were waiting we wandered round and came across a small festival where they were giving out fruit, ice-cream and rotis. We became the instant attraction as all the kids milled around us thrusting drinks and ice creams into our hands. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.
The next morning we headed off to Agra starting off with a visit to a famous lassi shop. Lassi is a yoghurt based drink which is served in terracotta cups that are thrown in a big skip, melted down and remade. I had the sweet one and Ian had the savoury – they were delicious.
We then set off for Agra about 250kms away. On the way we passed lot of small huts which Biju explained were made of cow dung. They have a heavy rainfall in winter in Rajasthan and the wood for their fires gets too wet to use, so they build these cow dung huts and store bricks of dung inside which they use as a heat source. It made the landscape reminiscent of the Middle East.
After a few hours we arrived in Agra which is not nearly as beautiful as Jaipur and seemed to be very busy and crowded. We went to see the Agra Fort, another gorgeous architectural marvel of red sand stone and marble. It took 4000 workers and 8 years to build this walled city and is only 2.5 kms from the Taj Mahal. The views across to the Taj Mahal are breathtaking and it was from here that we got our first glimpse of her.
We spent a while here and then went and saw another view of the Taj Mahal for sunset. We passed through all the areas that the hawkers live and it was a stark reminder of the haves and the have nots. These families live in tents or on the steets selling cheap imitations of the Taj Mahal or fridge magnets or various other cheap trinkets while we all traipse in paying $20 for the privilege. With over 35,000 visitors a day – yes a DAY .. it seems sad that some of this money doesn’t filter down to some basics for the local population like housing, running water, electricity or schools.
That evening we went for a walk looking to buy some cotton trousers for Ian. We found a shop that said they could make some by 9pm which sounded perfect so we went to find some dinner before returning to pick them up. Dinner consisted of some lassi, some ice cream and a roti all courtesy of a festival that was on whereby they give out food and sweets to everyone. Everyone seemed so excited that we were there and they hung around us smiling and shaking our hands. It was a fun evening and true to their word, Ian’s pants were ready and waiting at 9pm.
The next day we were up at the crack of dawn – actually earlier, as we were off to see the Taj Mahal for sunrise. We walked the kilometre or so to the entry and then there she was. She is quite simply the most beautiful building I have ever see. Nuffsed…..
We went inside and saw the tomb built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. Our guide told us she died in childbirth giving birth to her 16th child but I can’t seem to verify that anywhere – a little joke for the tourists maybe….
We stayed for an hour or so and then wandered back to find Biju. We had a long drive ahead to Delhi to catch our afternoon flight back to Cochin.
We arrived in Delhi in good time as it was Easter Monday and a public holiday which kept the roads clearer than usual, so we grabbed the chance to take a rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi. They work hard these guys bicycling their way through the streets with tourists in their carts. Not surprisingly they are all very skinny! We watched the kids going to school, the mothers buying their daily food, the cooking stalls cooking up their delicious patties and breads and the guys delivering their goods on their heads – just a typical day in the markets.
Eventually our tour was over and we set off for the airport. It had been a great week but we were looking forward to getting back to Indian Summer.
We need to now prep her for the next leg to the Maldives and Chagos. We have heard that the Maldives have very poor provisioning and even their eggs are imported from India so we are going to have to provision for two months from here. The fresh fruit and green veg will only last for about 3-4 days but some of veg should last a lot longer so I am going to stock up on beetroot, cabbage, pumpkin, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots etc. I am also going to freeze some other veg but we will be relying on fish and rice etc for much of the time I think.
I went to Lulu’s, their big hyper market which sells nearly everything and bought most of the bulk foods. Meats, crackers, pulses, soft drinks, milk powder (for yoghurt making) and other dried goods. The veg, bread, milk and egg shop will be done the day we leave from the local markets and I will also stock up on nuts, chips, dried fruit, spices and rice from the markets as they are much cheaper and have no packaging. The boat is now groaning under the weight but with my new pantry at least we are not climbing over boxes anymore. We are waiting for our new table with cupboard underneath it to arrive and the stainless steel frame for the new solar panels, and then we should be able to leave – most likely in about a week or so.
We waved goodbye to Mathew and Jill on Rock and Roll Star who we came through Malaysia with – they are heading into the Red Sea so we will hopefully catch up with them in the Med.
Cochin marina has been a very good stay for us. It is a small marina with only 36 berths but there were never more than half a dozen of us at a time so it was very quiet. We have found the staff to be lovely and helpful. It is not nearly as run down as we were led to believe and has some great facilities like a swimming pool and bar and restaurant. The water is not potable, and you do need either an über or a 5 min walk to the local jetty to get the ferry across the water but then you are right in the heart of Cochin with the markets and local shops just a few hundred yards away. The main problem is that they are not used to cruisers so they have little understanding of what we need, with a lot of explanations and a bucketload of patience you can find what you need. We managed to get stainless steel work and carpentry down. Other cruisers got their galvanising work done and we got our gas bottles refilled so all in all it has been a great stop. The main benefit has been the security which is excellent, enabling us to leave the boat for some time. There are boats here which have been left for months with their owners overseas and there was a boat who left a couple of days ago that has been here for 2 years. It has been extremely hot though – The hottest season is from May to August. Our air conditioner has been running 24 hours a day and only just seems to cope. Being right on the river is amusing as all day and evening the local tourist boats come by and we are the local tourist attraction with cameras snapping away and kids waving. They come way too close for comfort though and if you are on the outside finger you cop a wake but as yet no damage.
Next stop: Maldives and Chagos.