We have been looking forward to a trip to Africa for a long time and we were fortunate to back up the African tour with a short tour of India. So, lions in Africa, tigers in India.... can't wait!
  • Day38

    Final day in India

    October 30, 2019 in India ⋅ ☁️ 29 °C

    We are returning to Delhi from Jaipur for our return flights home but stopping halfway overnight to stay at Patan Mahal in a rural past of India. We arrived in the village of Patan where we had to transfer from the bus to camel cart (Or you could walk) for the few hundred metres to the hotel. We were accompanied by all the kids in Patan - felt a bit like we were in a zoo being watched by the locals.

    Built in the late 1700's, this palace has been turned into a heritage hotel and while it certainly is not modern, it is very spacious. We have a room on the top floor (3rd floor, no lifts, steep ramps) and is bigger than some 2 bed apartments I've seen.

    Had a walking tour of the village and as we walked out the gate, excited children's voices said "here they come". I don't think many tour groups come through here so we are a novelty to the town. As a group, donations of supplies (pens etc.) are given to the school.

    Our final night in India we were treated to a gala dinner with a display of Indian dancing and music. Another buffet meal - I think we are buffeted out by now. Packed or bags and prepared for the long flight home. So it's Goodbye India!
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  • Day36

    Jaipur - The pink city

    October 28, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We had a couple of days in Jaipur with sightseeing only in the mornings and then we had the rest of the day to ourselves which was very nice.

    Jaipur is much nicer than Delhi - less population, less busy, less dirty (a little), and it looks nice because all the buildings in the centre are painted pink and white. Actually it is not pink, more terracotta, it got labelled pink by the papers after British royalty visited and the name stuck.

    In brief we visited over the two days:

    The city palace - several courtyards and galleries such as the textile gallery with clothing from various Maharaja's etc; the armoury; miniature art gallery with intricate paintings and the banquet hall with portraits of all the Maharaja's through the centuries. No photos permitted inside the galleries.

    Jantar Mantar- an astrological/astronomical observatory and sundial that was accurate to within 20 seconds. It also tracked the planets but more in an astrological sense rather than an astronomical sense. Astrology is very important to Hindus. Date and time of birth is very important when making decisions or what attributes you may have. Apparently I am a traveller (Well duh!), and Brad is a prince. He could have told us anything.

    Palace of the Winds - photo stop only. Beautiful building where royal ladies could overlook the crowds without being seen.

    Amber Fort - yet another fort with similar features to the other forts we have visited. We travelled up by jeeps but the other option was elephants. They are only used for a few hours in the morning for maximum of 4 trips. Owning an elephant is like owning a Rolls Royce here as they are used at weddings and parades etc. We are told they are very well looked after.

    Sunken palace? - actually don't know what it was called, photo stop only. Looked nice.
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  • Day35

    Happy Diwali day

    October 27, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We left Ranthambore for Jaipur on their festival Diwali, the Hindu equivalent of Christmas. Our guide organised for us to join in the Diwali celebrations by driving through the city in open top jeeps (Or Mahindra's) to experience the lights, the noise, the crowds and fireworks. We have never seen anything like it before. Thousands of people riding bikes, tuk tuk, etc. all laughing and smiling. I think we were a bit of a novelty - a group of white faces in amongst a sea of Indian faces. It was a lot of fun.

    Back at the hotel we were treated to a fireworks display from our hotel room that went on for hours, well after midnight. Apparently the air quality in Delhi was downgraded from poor to hazardous after all the Diwali celebrations.
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  • Day34

    In search of tigers

    October 26, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    After leaving Agra we travelled to Fatehpur Sikri, a 16th century down which was supposed to be the capital however it was abandoned after only 14 years because the water supply ran out. It remains preserved as it was 400 years ago.

    We then caught another train to Ranthambore to stay at a former hunting lodge where the Maharaja's used to stay. It was very nice - very colonial. Here we were going on morning and afternoon safari drives on the lookout for tigers in the wild.

    Ranthambore National Park is quite lush with lakes, ruins of temples?, a large rocky escarpment with an old fort perched along the top. However, our quest to find a tiger was unsuccessful. Saw various deer, birds and crocs but the tiger proved elusive. Having said that, half the group (We were split into 2 and sent to different sections of the park) did come across a tiger, so they were lucky. The safari drives were not nearly as professional as those we did in Africa.

    (In the photos of wildlife I cannot remember many of the names)
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  • Day32

    Iconic India

    October 24, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Of course, when talking about visiting India, the first thing to come to mind is the Taj Mahal- today was the day!

    As this was a rail journey tour, we left Delhi on the Gatimaan Express, a high speed train that got us to Agra in less than 2 hours - by road it probably would have taken 4 hours. Efficient - yes! Luxury - no! Pulled down the tray table and thought eww! However, it was comfortable and we had arrived at our hotel in Agra before noon.

    As our rooms were not ready, we toured the other renowned building in Agra - The Agra Fort. Built in the 16th century it was a residence to emperors of the Mughal dynasty until the mid 1600's. Later, Shah Jahan was under "house arrest" in the fort (by his own son - this was how transfer of power was done at this time) and he was able to gaze upon his tribute to his late wife, the Taj Mahal which was only a couple of km away. Today, the fort is a World UNESCO site, made of red sandstone and marble and contains many separate courtyards, rooms and garden areas.

    Later in the day we visited the Taj Mahal at sunset. It really is a magnificent building and we were not disappointed. It is larger than what I thought, all marble with elaborate carvings and other decorations made with inlaid semi-precious stone. Inside the mausoleum was highly ornate however no photos allowed. Brad managed to get a fairly good photo of the reflection in the pool - an iconic shot.
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  • Day31

    Delhi sightseeing - like a tourist

    October 23, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    After our eat like a local tour we decided to spend the next day taking it easy within the confines of the hotel. Our India tour doesn't officially start until the evening when we meet the tour group then of full swing on Wednesday morning with a sightseeing tour of Delhi.

    First stop was a mosque but no photos taken taken because they charge for use of a camera. As far as mosques go it was not particularly decorative. After that we had a rickshaw ride around the Chandni Chowk market area. Organised chaos. Moved on from there to visit the memorial of Mahatma Ghandi, drove past India Gate and a look around the Parliament complex - lovely buildings made from red and white sandstone.

    Lunch was held at a silk rug factory. Plied us with food and drink, demonstrated how the rugs were made and then proceeded to convince us that we needed to buy one. Very expensive and probably worth it as they are completely hand knotted- takes a family of four around 2 years to make a large rug. Cost would be around $25,000USD. Fortunately, the designs were too traditional for my liking but I believe 2 members of the group did buy a rug each (probably more in the $2000 range)

    After lunch and rug sales we visited Humayun's tomb. This mausoleum built in 1560's is a precurser to the Taj Mahal and you can see that in the symmetry and domes. Final stop was Qutab Minar, an ornate 72m tall minaret . Beats me how they make these things. Finally the drive back to the hotel should have only taken about an hour, however India is currently in Dwali season (sort of the Hindu equivalent of Christmas) and the roads were absolutely gridlocked. Two and a half hours later we finally arrived back after hitting all the major tourist hotspots in Delhi.
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  • Day29

    Eat Like a Local

    October 21, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    We had a day to fill in and had booked a local tour with hotel pick up to explore the Chandni Chowk market area/ try street food.

    It was an experience! First the driver who picked us up barely spoke a word of English and we thought he was our guide. This is going to be good...NOT!! It took almost an hour to arrive at the starting point and we realised this was not our guide, merely the driver and we were relieved to find our guide was a rather bubbly young Indian man (named Anil I think) with a passion for food. That tour group was comprised of 9 people, including 7 Australians.

    First we caught the metro - you pass through screening when entering public places - ladies one side, gents the other. Then started walking through the narrow market alleyways to our first food stop . It was actually upstairs like a small basic restaurant where we sampled 2 dishes. I cannot remember the name but they tasted ok. We moved on, pushing past throngs of people and really putting me out of my comfort zone.

    Next stop and 2 more dishes, a samosa and a sweet fried pastry, eaten while standing in the middle of the alley. By this time Brad was feeling a bit dubious about the food as it really wasn't mating his health inspector eyes approval. By the 3rd stop which was 140yr old establishment famous for its fried bread type of dish, Brad declined any more food, especially after seeing one guy washing up in the drain, another sneeze into his hands and then continue kneading the dough... It was all too much for him.

    There was a quiet alleyway which had remnants of original Delhi architecture, quite old and it was a bit of a peaceful haven amongst all the chaos. Another stop for a lassi (yoghurt drink) and some sort of rice dessert. Then our guide wanted to show us a view from the top of the market place. So off we trot through the spice market where the smells were overwhelming. Everybody was coughing and sneezing, even the people who work in it every day. Up three or four flights of stairs, no lights, step and maybe a handrail if you are lucky. Finally, out on the rooftop to see the setting sun over Delhi and the views over the market and a nearby mosque.

    The return to the starting point required more bustling through people, walking for about half an hour, back on the metro, the drive back to the hotel through the incredible Delhi traffic. This tour was an assault on the senses, the sights, the smells, the noise, the push and shove and even a taste of authentic Indian food. We were exhausted when we arrived home. It was really quite interesting though.
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  • Day28

    Out of Africa...Into India

    October 20, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We stayed an extra day in Nairobi, same hotel but this time with views over the national park - perfect! Saturday was spent waiting around at the hotel as our flight was not until nearly 11pm. Arrived at the airport around 5pm - big mistake - unlike Brisbane airport, if you arrive early there is always a place to relax and a food court and shopping area while waiting for the check in to open. Not at Nairobi though. They were reluctant to even let us into the terminal building. Anyway, a five hour flight to Dubai, and other five hours wait in Dubai, then three and a half hours flight to Delhi and we have arrived in India.

    Airport to hotel almost an hour but the traffic here is unlike anything we have seen before. There are line markings but they are largely ignored. Everyone toots their horn, not in anger, more an announcement of "hey, I'm on the road". It is utter chaos but eventually we arrived at our sanctuary for the next 4 nights - The Maidens Hotel. This heritage hotel from India's colonial past is very peaceful, very polite and attentive staff. The rooms, while certainly not modern, are large with a separate dressing/luggage storage room. There is even the local newspaper hanging from the doorknob each morning. Such peace and tranquility compared to the outside world.
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  • Day27

    Birds of Africa

    October 19, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Not to mention the beautiful birds in Africa, from the lilac breasted roller, kingfishers and bee eaters, to the secretary bird and a multitude of herons and egrets. There are many not so pretty birds too like the vultures and marabou work. This post is for the ones I haven't posted before. I'm a bit vague with the names and some are probably incorrect.Read more

  • Day25

    Final safari drive

    October 17, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    So we come to the end of safari drives in Africa - what more could we possibly see? As it turns out there were a couple more things that we had not already seen, mainly to do with lions.

    We came across a small pride of lions and we got photos of a mother and her 2 cubs firstly taking a drink and then the cubs suckling.

    Later we came upon a larger pride who had had full bellies from a topi (type of antelope) they had killed. One young lion was still having a go at the carcass and when he left the vultures came in to finish off the pickings. Such is the circle of life.

    There were large crocodiles resting in the mud of the river with pods of hippos just metres away. Not to mention the birds of Africa which I'll make a separate post.

    We flew out of Masa Mara in what was basically a taxi plane. Picked us up, took off, landed again after 10 minutes, then did another pick up before making the 40 minute flight to Nairobi. Brad and I are staying the night in Nairobi, another couple are returning to Australia, while the rest of the group (6 people) are doing another 5 days in Tanzania. We fly to India tomorrow to pick up another tour for 12 days.

    Africa has been wonderful. We saw much more than I expected. Although we will probably not return, I can understand the fascination that people have with Africa that keeps wanting them to come back.
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