Boy it is flat around here!
We left Jaipur for Bharatpur and the bird sanctuary. The route was a busyish road and once again lots of roadworks. They are making it dual carriageway and bits are finished, but traffic seems to go in both directions on both carriageways, very confusing. We chose the smoothest road, but every now and then we notice that everybody has gone back to using it correctly and we are in fact cycling down the outside lane in the wrong direction. On one occasion we did that for 7km, but nobody bats an eyelid as there seem to be few rules of the road. We passed big groups of about 50 camels, probably heading back from the camel fair, where we saw none. Between the towns it is very rural and cow poo is used for fuel and left out to dry, pancakes as Judith calls them, poocakes as I call them. There are also alot of monkeys, they seem to be picking things out of the fields and must be a real nucance. We needed to break the journey up, but had to go a little bit further than we wanted to to find the worst hotel I have stayed in. The shower was useless. If you waved your arm under it for long enough you could just about feel it getting wet. The promised hot water was very cold. The restuarant was terrible, in fact they took our order and went of into the village and bought it off the streets. We could have done that for about a tenth of the price. The naan was so small I was convinced it was a chapati and refused to pay for it.
We were glad to leave the following morning, but the ride to Bharatpur was uninspiring. We booked in at a nice little Guest House with a nice lawn and garden, so much better than the previous night.
We then visited the bird sanctuary, it was a bit like the camel fair with no camels as it was a sanctuary with no birds. They visit the wetlands here each year, but with two very poor monsoons there is precious little here. We did see a few birds (photo), but not many. We also saw turtles, deer, antelope and alot of jackals.
We then rode to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri, that was really good, but really busy. It is a deserted palace built in about 1550 and very much intact and well maintained. There are wonderful building carved inside and out, large courtyards (photo), one with a pool, and a five story building, each supported by a decreasing number of columns, 84 at the bottom. Next door to the palace is a mosque that is still in use, but boy do you get a lot of hassle there. Everybody wants to sell you something or offer a service, postcards, jewelry, wooden games, guides, people to look after your shoes to name a few. As we were going out a different way we carried out shoes and Andre was stopped from going into the tombs as he was carrying them. He wasnt best pleased especially as the man stopping he was spitting on the floor, so it is ok to spit in the tomb, but you cant carry your shoes. Spitting here seems to be a national problem, most people chew a red tobacco and spit long squirts of spit out, its disgusting and I fully expect to get a direct hit from a passing bus at some stage. But it is not just saved for outside. Inside some buildings you see the lower part of the wall covered in the red stuff dribbling down the walls. Going to the toilet anywhere also is a problem. Today was passed a man peeing outside of a toilet block and clearly he wasnt the only one. Inside it looked quite clean.
So we have arrived in Agra and have a room in a quiet hotel with a shady garden on a street where traffic was barrred. We stopped outside the Taj Mahal to get out bearings but were moved on by aggitated guards, then I remembered that a little over a week ago there were bombs in three towns in the state of Uttar Predesh, the same state we are in now, killing about 9 people. They had all been bike bombs and judging from the amount of baggage we are carrying we had the potential to do even worse, well it would do if everybody pees outside.
We have met another couple of cyclists from Holland at the hotel. They have been here for a month as Sonia has had a trapped nerve and couldnt even walk for 2 weeks. It is impossible to walk about the town without constant hassle, but it is nowhere near as bad as when I was last here.
Last night it rained for the first time in months, not that we saw it, though yesterday was overcast and threatening all day and dropped to a wintry 22 degrees, but thankfully it is warmer today. How do you all survive at home, its winter there you know.
I have managed to loose 3 things since Dubai. I left my mits at the port, a pair of underpants in Udaipur, the worst of it was that I had just washed them, and last night I discovered that I left my head torch in the grotty hotel of a couple of nights back. It has really pissed me off and I am not sure why. May be it is because I know I will not get another one out here and I need it to camp as the nights are long, but may be it is because my daily outgoings are very low here and in contrast it now seems even more expensive. But dont worry, I will get over it