02.04.2012 - 05.04.2012 40 °C
As we sat watching the sun set over the Taj Mahal sipping our delicious vanilla milkshakes we realized that we were about to embark on a 3 day long journey from Agra to Wakefield so, although we stopped in several places along the way we thought it would make most sense to write about them all together. We said goodbye to the friendly staff at the Agra guest house and got a rickshaw to Agra Fort station. Our train was an hour late but we found a nice South American guy to talk to while we waited. We had a pleasant chat with him although Ffion scared him by telling him his planned route would take him into a malaria zone; something he hadn’t come prepared for! Our train journey in the dark from Agra to Jaipur was fairly uneventful and we arrived more than an hour late. Fortunately the free pick up the hotel had offered us was still waiting for us so we had a hassle-free way of getting from the train to our very comfortable bedroom.
Around 8 hours later it was time to check out and we wished we’d been able to book a room in this hotel on our first trip to Jaipur as the room was spacious, sparklingly clean and beautifully decorated. The hotel and the driver from our ‘free’ pick up the night before were very keen for us to use their services to do a tour of the city but instead we went on a short walk to get some travellers' cheques changed, had a leisurely breakfast and checked our emails before heading back to the station for leg 2 of the journey. When we found we were sharing our compartment with a young family with a 3 year old boy and a 3 month old baby we thought we were in for a noisy day and a bad night's sleep but Indian children somehow don’t behave like British children; they’re often very placid and don’t seem to get bored on long journeys. These children were particularly well behaved and all of the adults in the compartment enjoyed watching the little boy’s delight at learning how to drink his carton of mango juice using a straw! We also had some interesting conversations with the father about his family in Rajasthan, his home in Mumbai and his hatred for Salman Rushdie (“he talks a lot of sh*t about my prophet”). We had a fairly comfortable night's sleep on our final Indian train journey and woke up on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Our first task upon arrival in Mumbai was to get to Victoria Terminus Station from Mumbai Central (we went by cab to avoid the ‘super dense crush’ you get on rush hour trains), get changed and deposit our bags at the left luggage facility. Our second task was to find breakfast. Feeling that we knew the area fairly well by then we headed for Leopold’s Café in Kolaba and were shocked at how high the prices were compared to everywhere we’d been between then and our first visit. We then did a bit of souvenir shopping at the stalls along the road and then walked up to the Oval Maiden to see where Mumbaikars (Mumbai residents) play cricket. Ffion was surprised at how official it all was – instead of the communal park she was expecting the area was divided into about 6 pitches with players in whites and proper umpires at each game. Patrick, who had read the guide book, wasn’t surprised but was still impressed at how seriously Mumbaikars take their cricket and at how many people were spending their lunch break watching the games. We caught a glimpse of the Wankhede cricket stadium nearby but couldn’t get very close as it was closed. We then went to the Museum of Modern Art that we had visited on our first day in India. We remembered that it had a nice café and also that the exhibitions changed every few weeks so we were able to enjoy it for a second time. We whiled away the rest of the day with shopping, using the internet, eating, drinking and revisiting the Gateway to India. Tired, hot and hungry we slowly made our way to the train station to pick up our bags and then got a taxi to the airport. We spent our last rupees on expensive airport food and explored the expensive airport shops comparing their prices with what we’d paid for the same items on the street just a few hours earlier. We boarded the plane on time but its take off was delayed by almost an hour which meant more time to watch films but longer to wait until we were fed and could go to sleep.
The next morning we were woken up at 5am (UK time), around 7 hours after takeoff, for a strange breakfast of spicy egg and potato before landing. We’d heard that there was a possibility of being held up in Heathrow because of a shortage of customs staff but we sailed through and were on the tube to King’s Cross in no time. We thoroughly enjoyed our ‘Irish breakfast’ at O’Neill's across the road from King’s Cross, especially the sausage and bacon as we hadn’t eaten pork for at least 7 weeks. The train ride from King's Cross to Wakefield Kirkgate seemed amazingly smooth and short and before we knew it we were in Patrick’s dad’s car on the way back to a warm cozy house, roast chicken dinner, tasty white wine and a comfy bed.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip as much as we’ve enjoyed doing it. We’ll try and upload some photos shortly so you can actually see some of the things we’ve been writing about. We’ve had some great experiences, met some lovely people, seen some beautiful places and have had a lot of laughs along the way. We won’t be keeping this blog up now that we’re back in the UK but perhaps we’ll write again next time we’re away so watch this space! Bye for now and thanks for reading, Ffion and Patrick x