Highlights of India

I’m afraid I may have given the impression, from the tone of the blog, that I didn’t like India very much. That’s not true. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

  • Eating fresh, ripe guavas straight off the trees while picking fruit with Ashpak and Chacha, two of the workers on Bobby’s organic farm in the hills south of Nainital.
  • Being chased by a charging elephant across a bridge on the road to Haridwar, and escaping by motorbike.
  • In Mussoorie: riding the winding road up into the mountains to get there, the thukpa and butter tea at Kalsang Friends Corner restaurant and watching the human-powered ferris wheel.
  • Drinking coffee and discussing politics with Neha, my couchsurfing contact, and Harpal, the elderly Sikh I’d just shared a taxi with, in Dehradun.
  • Beers and Punjabi takeaway with Goldie in Chandigarh.
  • Coming back to Chandigarh after the accident, and visiting the Rock Garden, and the Mughal Gardens in Pinjore, with Goldie.
  • Staying with Goldie’s family in Dhuri, in the middle of rural Punjab.
  • French traveller Alain’s dismissive opinion of Amritsar: “I sink ze temple is not so clean also, unh?”
  • Studying the Jantar Mantars and working out what all the different bits do.
  • Getting a couple of hours’ respite from my bowels, just long enough to visit the Taj Mahal.
  • The honest taxi driver in Agra who openly admitted that if he took us to a shop and we had a look, even if we didn’t buy anything, they’d give him 100 rupees.
  • Setting off 2000 bangers and assorted other fireworks in the street for Diwali.
  • The moment when, after a fraught and uncertain journey, the autorickshaw emerged from a wasteland track onto the Tomb of Sultan Ghari.
  • Spotting the white rat at the Karni Mata Temple, Deshnok, near Bikaner.
  • The ‘walking pick-up’ from Jodhpur railway station by the staff of Govind Hotel, and the view from the ramparts of Meherangarh Fort.
  • Seeing my college friend Jo in Pushkar, and coincidentally arriving in time for the start of the annual camel fair.
  • Exploring Udaipur with fellow couchsurfers Agnieszka, Arne and Lise, especially the champagne at Jag Mandir, and the Dharohar dance show.
  • The epic scale of Kumbhalgarh Fort – and I don’t use the word ‘epic’ lightly.
  • Staying in Bombay with Upen and Bruno, being shown around trendy Bandra and feasting on cheese, bread and wine.
  • Coming face to face with ancient rock paintings at Bhimbetka.
  • Many adventures in Khajuraho:
    • the erotic, and non-erotic, sculptures of the Western Group of Temples at dawn.
    • meeting Lauren and friends again.
    • our inadvisable quest to find Lalguan Mahadev temple, guided by village children.
    • a dish served by Yogi Guesthouse described only as ‘potato cheese egg’, which turned out to be one of the most delicious, shameless, fried combinations of grease and stodge that I’ve experienced outside of Bavaria.
    • our afternoon excursion to the reservoir, cool beers and great conversation, and an incredible dinner of spiced aubergine mush with chapattis, cooked on an open fire.
  • Getting my own back on a scamming taxi driver in Orchha.
  • Swapping Army stories with SK in Gwalior.
  • Touring the family fief around Sultanpur with Jitendra, and seeing the daily realities of agriculture and industry in small-town Uttar Pradesh.
  • Teaming up with John and Sandy to explore Varanasi, and long debates over the ethics of tipping and various hypothetical dilemmas.
  • Discussing India, past and present, with my superb host Alex, in Lucknow, over dinner in the top-floor restaurant of the Clarks Hotel.
  • The guided tour of La Martinière College in Lucknow.
  • Lots of chai, everywhere.

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