, ,

It’s only been a few days since I left you in Jaipur, but so much seems to have happened.

We left Jaipur and headed to Agra. Six hours later we arrived at a very small buggy room and consequentially I was to be proven lucky to have malarials. With over thirty bites I looked like I might gave got measles. Still that’s life in hot countries!

Firstly, saw me the Taj Mahal. For all those who have been living in a box at the bottom if the sea this is the most famous monument in India! It was constructed by a widowed husband who promised to honour his wife with the most amazing mausoleum known to the world. I’m this he succeeded, building the most spectacular building I have witnessed. It’s symmetry is matchless, so much so they built a mosque on the other side, even though it’s entrance faces the wrong way so no one can worship in there, just to keep it even.

Constructed in white marble it is quite simply beautiful. Although simple inside the carvings are exquisite and the workmanship is top notch.

Something I didn’t know was that the widower who wanted it constructed also wanted to build a black Taq Mahal to be buried in nearby, identical but in black… That would have been amazing!

Before The Taq we went to the Agra fort first, saw some monkeys and got our first glimpse of the Taq.

With Agra done, we got a six hour train journey from the station. Indian trains are a bit colourful and are full of smells and dirt. The toilets are very French and the train unremarkable. This was fine though and didn’t really prepare our group for the sleeper train to come. Having been on some if the transiberian I had some inkling, but was to find out it was worse than I thought.

We got off at Orchha. This has a wealth if palaces temples and markets desperately trying to see you touristy crap. Jo made a pinky promise with a little girl and we had to go back the next day so she could be sold some crap. Crafty ones these Indians.

The hotel had a pool and a barman who delivered to said pool. This was a good thing. We saw a ceremony at the temple and visited the palaces. Then there was an optional cookery lesson. Not really interested in this I organised a deep tissue massage for myself. I shortly found myself with a young Indian chap in a small room. He indicated I should remove my top and trousers. Quickly find and I was ready. Then he told me to take off my boxers. I was a little uncomfortable with this but thought, new experiences and all that, so I stood in my full glory in front if said Indian. I still had my socks on, which he didn’t tell me to take off. Feeling a bit of a nit I took these off too. We looked at each other for twenty seconds and then unsure how to proceed I nodded at the bed. ‘Do you, ah, should I?’ He nodded and we quickly got down to business.

It was a good massage on my back, with a surprising amount if attention paid to my buttocks. Still stiff upper lip and all that, no complaints from me.

It turned out I was lucky. One if our female members got an hour long. It was a female masseur and the same thing repeated, except after thirty minutes she had to turn around. Then she had a boob massage. This was apparently a bit awkward, but when in India….

Sadly all things come to an end and so we said goodbye to Orchha any got the night train.

For those of you unfamiliar with the train each train section has 50 bunks. It’s then divided into sections with three beds on one side, three on the other and two in the corridor with room to squeeze through. It wax an hour late, a good start, because if a cow on the track. There are a lot of cows and it is heavily fined to hit them, so that was that.

The train station smelt like an open latrine and at 11pm all we wanted to do was sleep, we got on and found our beds. The whole group was spread across the train. Locals all around us and a very busy embarkment meant that Jo and I room a while to find out beds. In the corridor. By the door. These beds are roughly the same length as me, minus three inches and are like little coffins with curtains to pull across. All night I had people walk past, catch my curtain, and then I would have to close it again or I would be sleeping in the corridor. I slept in my clothes in snatches if ten minutes a piece. Certainly an experience!

The toilets were again rudimentary so I avoided using them and put a cork in it.

We got out the train, dishevelled and tired and got a tuk tuk to our taxi. Running the continual gambit of beggars and crazy drivers (believe it of not you do get used to it. Stonefly avoided eye contact and walking into heavy traffic become natural ). You also get used to the smell of refuse and spices, dust, petrol and at this location burning bodies.

We had reached Varanasi and the Ganges, sacred river of the Hindus and a place where they cremate their dead.

Getting in we napped and then we Went and saw some dead bodies being cremated. I think Unless you’ve been there you won’t know how weird it is. Women and children aren’t allowed at the six hour funereal as they might cry and ruin it. Instead only men get to smell campfires if camphor wood slowly cremating corpses (say that ten times fast).

We laid some lights in the water, saw some more ceremonies and then went for dinner. After dinner we had a lot if rum until past one in the morning. Due to get up at 5 for a sunrise trip on the river we settled down for a three hour nap, to get ready for more corpses.