It’s been but a day and we’ve already seen so much of the chaos and beauty the country has to offer. cows and crowds, dogs and dirt, businessmen and lepers, friendly strangers and relentless touts. Delhi is hard, no doubt about it, and knowing that we’re only staying here a couple days before moving on to Varanasi, and the eclipse in the early morning hours of my birthday, we’re close to the railway station in a neighborhood called Pahar Ganj, which is not the most scenic or natural place. to put it mildly. It’s crowded, dirty, and by any reasonable standards, quite nasty indeed. of course i still love it, and Heather, my gopi, is amazed by it. but i do look forward to what’s coming next.
We arranged our travel for the next 3 weeks. Generally, we’re going to wing it, travel on our own, but for a number of reasons we decided to start the trip in a slightly more structured way. We’re going to Varanasi on the 4:45 Poorva Express train (a 13 hour overnight trip), staying there through the eclipse (with a side trip to Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first public talk and a Buddhist pilgrimage spot), and then taking a train to Agra and the Taj Mahal. From there we visit Mathura/Vrindavin, the birthplace of Krishna, and then we head into the desert.
The deserts of Rajasthan are beautiful, desolate and romantic, and we’re going deeper into it than I’ve ever been. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer. The pink city, the blue city, the white city, beautiful cities in the desert rise like oases. In Jaipur I will deliver to my sweet gopi her first elephant; we’ll ride one up to Amber Fort above the pink city of Jaipur, and deeper into the desert we will spend one night on a camel safari, eating and sleeping under the stars in the desert.
We’re treating these next 3 weeks as honeymoon, the places we’ll be staying in will be a little nicer than usual, our time more planned than usual. But the “golden triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Varanasi can be difficult to travel through, with touts and salesmen everywhere, with rooms difficult to book without paying the commission for one of these touts, with more hassles than in the rest of the country. So we pre-arranged everything and won’t have to worry about that stuff. After, we’ll travel on the cheap again, but for a while we are going to treat ourselves.