Monday, 10 January 2011
On the way to Gulmarg, Delhi & The Taj Mahal
Arriving in Delhi after not such a good start at christchurch airport with emirates trying to charge excess backage of $800NZD. Normally I get away with the ski & mountaineering gear. Often throwing in that it's safety gear to get the sympathy vote and talking my way around things ;-) I guess in the past 18 months the airline industry has really tightened its belt and is gaining extra revenue from where ever it can! But what about a fat tax? Is it time for that? Overweight people having to cash up in lieu of luggage? Long are the days gone that you can expect a sporting allowance.
So the best option is to air freight my ski bag, with time on my hands, not having my first client for skiing up in Gulmarg, Kashmir until 10th of January it may make it in time - this is however good old India.
A cost of 460 bucks but I'm happy to take the hit and it means the 50 new sunstone gulmarg t-shirts will get over there.
Arriving late in the evening to cold Delhi I take a prepaid taxi (390 rupees) into main bazaar where all the cheap backpacker accommodation is situated, and it's conveniently placed in between the city metro and New Delhi station. I awake to NYE day and head to Metrpolis (founded 1928) this is one of the more celubrius eateries with great food and service. A few beers and who turns up but Aussie snowboarder Neil from Gulmarg - his cohort Kiwi Tim soon joins us after flying in from Bangkok and we plan dinner and beers! A good night ensue with more beers at club India and the guys head in as they're booked on an early flight the next morning. I continue on and hook up with some lovely Irish girls, some dancing with the locals and the night is done - welcome 2011!
So by tracking my freight I can see it's making its way to Delhi via Sydney and Singapore which should give me enough time to shoot down to Agra - and finally see the magnificent Taj Mahal, a trip I've been saving for a 'filler' that has presented itself.
I arrive by train, 7 hrs not 3 and am glad I am reading the superb 'girl with the dragon tattoo' and have some quality tunes on hand. We arrive around dusk and a quick tuk tuk to near the west gate and I'm at Shanti Guesthouse. In truth Agra is a shit hole and really only deserves 1.5 to 2 days of your time! The Taj Mahal really is mind blowing, an architectural marble (see what I did there) and they're right when
they say it is one of the greatest structures produced known to man.
The symmetry and detailed craftsmanship at such a scale is quite mind boggling and the camera gets a good work out! I'm picked up by a 9 year old boy who starts directing me around taking shots with my camera to great effect. He's got all the shots and as I'm traveling solo it's worth the 50 rupes I reward him for his 10 mins maybe not the 200 he further asks for, but as they say if you don't ask you don't get and I'm sure he's done over many gullible tourists in the past.
I take a tuk tuk and check out the remaining sites - Agra Fort, baby taj mahal, gardens opposite the taj and Akbar's tomb. I'm glad to see the back of Agra but not the Taj. Check out Joney's restaurant for good eats especially the Malai Kofta!
Back to Delhi and I do a movie at Connaught place (taking 1 stop, 8 rupees, metro from main bazaar) followed by a legendary Kathi Kebab at Nizam's around the corner. The next day it's lunch with Mike, a yank I met in Gulmarg in my first season who works in development as a Project Manager. Mike is now based in Delhi working for Real Medicine Foundation, as the programme seems to be up and running he continues to try and win more funding. Previous to this was 9 months spent in the field, with director Catlin recruiting 90 local workers taking 400 interviews to put the structure & process in place. Real Medicine provides treatment and medicine for needy, poor villagers in surrounding Madhya Pradesh region. They look to improve and help health processes in conjunction with the Indian government programmes. Check out: www.realmedicinefoundation.org
Further delays on my ski bag, oh well I have so much stuff 2 trips isn't going to be a bad thing - the 50 sunstone tees will ALL make it to Gulmarg!