Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Blue City of Bundi

Before we travelled to the blue city of Bundi, our tour group went on a safari in Ranthambore National Park to look for the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger.  We piled into a huge jeep and drove off into the Indian countryside.

After an hour of bumping over dirt roads, our guide got a call saying there had been a tiger sighting.  Every jeep in the park drove at top speed and converged at the same spot.  We all waited with baited breath until we heard cries of, "There it is!"  Of course I couldn't see the tiger in the forest, no matter how hard someone tried to point it out to me.  But I did see it when it began to move!  There was a flash of orange and then it was gone.  What an exciting moment!

The tiger's head.  (Photo credit: Sandra Chapman)

The tiger's body.  (Photo credit: Sandra Chapman)

The next day we set off toward Bundi.  But first we made an impromptu stop along the way.

I took this photo out of our bus window.  I noticed a girl sitting on a wall.  Our tour guide noticed her too and instructed the bus driver to pull over to the side of the highway.  We all piled out as our guide ran across the highway to see if we could pay the family a visit.  The answer was an enthusiastic yes!

This smiling face greeted us on the other side of the wall. 

The next thing we knew, all the neighbours came running to get in on the action.

The grandmother invited all thirteen of us into her small living quarters to show us how she made butter.

The neighbours couldn't believe that we all crammed into the house and they had to see it for themselves.

Our tour leader (in blue and white) chatted with the women and children while tea was made.  Two of the girls asked to be taken to Canada with us.

Joe hung out with the men.

All too soon it was time to say good-bye and be on our way to Bundi.

We  arrived at our lovely hotel, dropped our bags and headed out for the afternoon's activities.

We went to see Bundi's step-well.

The steps reminded us of an M.C. Escher print.

Some of the women in our tour group had henna designs applied to their hands.

Gorgeous artistry.

 Then it was off to visit Bundi Palace, an ancient and crumbling castle overlooking the town.

'Peep-holes' were used by the royal women, who were hidden behind stone screens.

Beautiful bougainvillaea graced the palace grounds.

 Ceiling detail.

 One of the many murals in the Bundi palace.

 On our walk back to the hotel, we came across this cow in the middle of traffic.  Vehicles just swerved around it.  (I swear I have seen thousands of cows since arriving in India thirteen days ago!)

It has been a whirlwind of activity this past week.  We have seen and done so much in a very short amount of time.

Next stop, Bijaipur!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Jaipur, the Pink City

After begrudgingly leaving beautiful Fort Madhogarh, we enjoyed a day of bus travel through the Indian countryside, stopping along the way to admire the many sights of Rajasthan.

Jal Mahel, the Water Palace, on Man Sagar Lake.

We stopped at the estate where the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' was filmed.

Having a cuppa on the terrace of 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel".

The 'Intrepid Travels' gang at the Amber Fort.

I offered a silent apology to every elephant I saw for having to live an unnatural life carrying people up and down the hill of the Amber Fort.

After a full day of sight-seeing, we arrived in Jaipur.  We enjoyed two glorious days in the Pink City.

Our digs in Jaipur.

Our guide had friends getting married in Jaipur and invited our tour group to join in the festivities.  We attended two ceremonies over two nights.  These ceremonies were for the groom and his family.

Me and the father of the bride.  Thank goodness I had the foresight to buy a sari in Delhi for this auspicious occasion!

The groom and his youngest brother had to sit for HOURS during the first night's festivities.

The women and men were segregated for most of the first night.  The women danced for each other with such graceful movements.

 Heading out for the second night of wedding festivities.

 The groom and his youngest brother rode a horse out into the street for a procession with the men.

Me and ten of my newest BFFs.

 Early the next morning, I was up at 4:30am and taken out to the country for a hot air balloon ride.  Here they are filling the first balloon up with hot air.

We have lift-off!

Watching the sun rise from a hot air balloon was magical.

My neighbour next to me in the basket offered to take this photo of me.

 Looking straight down.

 As we floated over their heads, farming families came out to wave.

 The beautiful patchwork quilt of farms on the outskirts of Jaipur.

Coming in for a landing.

 One morning we went to a Hindu temple.

 Riding down the busy highway.

 Many families live on the sidewalks of Jaipur.

 Palace of the Wind.

After a busy two days in Jaipur, it was nice to relax in the garden around the fire pit. 

Next stop...Ranthambore National Park to look for the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Taj Mahal and Fort Madhogarh

We have met our Intrepid Travels tour group and they are lovely!  We are 8 Aussies, 2 Brits and us 2 Canucks, plus our Indian guide.  Everyone is friendly and outgoing and helpful.

We took the train from Delhi to Agra.

Of course, the jewel in Agra's crown is the Taj Mahal.  I have seen photos of the Taj Mahal all my life and nothing prepared me for its overwhelming beauty and grandeur.  What a magnificent monument dedicated to love!  I could have sat on a stone bench and stared at it all day long.

Heading out of Delhi, on our way to Agra by train.

The Taj Mahal is massive!

Lovin' the Taj.

After exploring the Taj Mahal for a few hours, we headed to our hotel for the night.  Little did we know we'd be staying in a 17th century fort!  Fort Madhogarh was built in 1620 and was converted into a heritage hotel in 2000.  And the best part?  We had the entire place to ourselves!

Fort Madhogarh, our digs for the night.

Getting ready for lunch in the courtyard.

The 'Intrepid Travels' gang at lunch.

After lunch, we wandered down the hill into the village of Bassi.  Our tour leader told us that the villagers, both young and old, would want their photos taken.  How right she was!  And how much fun I had being with the locals for an hour or two.

 Selfies with the children!

 What a handsome young man.

 A happy group of children coming home from school.


The elders of Bassi.

On our village walkabout, we stopped at a workshop where women wove 'homespun' on ancient looms.  The noise from those looms was deafening!

We stopped in a village tea stall for a delicious cup of masala chai.

After our village walk, we returned to the fort for happy hour.

 While enjoying our drinks on the terrace, we watched the sun set over the village of Bassi.

 We dressed for dinner that night.  Women wore saris and men in turbans.

To keep warm after dinner, we sat around a fire.  It gets chilly in northern India at night!

Our bed.  Sleep tight!

 We woke up the next morning to watch the sun rise over the village of Bassi.

What a spot to eat our breakfast!

I loved our time at the Taj Mahal and Fort Madhogarh.  I especially enjoyed my interactions with the people in the village.  Such warmth, such friendliness, such smiles.

We head to the city of Jaipur next!

I can't believe we've been gone for ten weeks.  Ten down, six to go.