Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week 11

Mon. June 11    Agra
Miles 20
After a hell of a night, I was up at 5.30, made tea and then collapsed again. Went to the Taj and took the photos we wanted. The girls arrived so we dozed in the shade until they had finished, then back to the hotel to monopolise the pool until about 6.30, with sundry breaks for iced drinks. It is a long time since I swam as much as that. Just the job. Went to the Kwality restaurant and had a slap-up feed. After the meal we took ourselves back to the Taj. The moonlight was not bad, but not as good as the night before.
Weather hot morning, cooler afternoon

Tues. June 12    Agra
Miles 11
Called at the hospital to see how Jackie was and met Mrs Roy from Calcutta. She is giving us a letter to her brother-in-law who is in shipping in Calcutta.
This could be very handy as we have all abandoned our original plan which involved travelling the length of India to Colombo (Ceylon) and catching a boat to Fremantle, on the entirely reasonable grounds that there were no boats to be had. Everybody said we would have a much better chance in Calcutta.
Had iced drinks and mangoes, and then went to see a girl called Maureen who is married to an Indian doctor and has lived here for 4 years now.
Afterwards went to the hotel swimming pool - again! They have changed the water and you can now see your hand more than 6 inches under the surface.
Later, walked around the bazaars for an hour or so and got ourselves adopted by a young Indian student who made sure that we were not robbed. Actually, we are now quite good at not getting robbed.
In the evening we called on Maureen again and met her husband. They are a charming couple. Had quite a heavy shower of rain this afternoon, which cooled things down a bit. Had a Shahi Korma in a restaurant today.
Weather - hot morning but cooler afternoon.

Wed. June 13    Agra to somewhere
Miles 52
Spent the morning paying a last visit to the Taj Mahal.
From there we went to Laurie’s Hotel, and met Dennis and Ian; 2 Australian boys coming from England in a land rover. So there were now 3 untidy, filthy-dirty vehicles cluttering up the hotel car park today! They have really been very tolerant of us.
A man asked us over to his room for a beer where we met a large, florid American and an Indian dancer - all queers. Made our getaway and had lunch at the hotel, then spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. Went back and met the girls. Got lost leaving town and finally motored out on the Cawnpore road.
Dereck dropped his bombshell today. He will leave us in Calcutta and hitch-hike home to make an honest woman out of Paul Wellings’ girlfriend on the entirely understandable grounds that he had made her pregnant just before we left U.K. He has agreed to pay his share of the shipping costs for the land rover.
Weather - hot and sticky.
Thurs. June 14    Somewhere to Fatehpur
Miles 216
Off to an early start and on the road to Cawnpore. The girls were having a difference of opinion again, Sally trouble! So we left them and motored on.
Just before Cawnpore we found an elephant with 2 people on board. They were very friendly. After sundry photos, cigarettes and a ride for a couple of miles up the road, we bade them farewell. 
Figure 3.11: Elly Fant
Stopped in Cawnpore for a very good mutton curry. Drove to Fatehpur and found the dak bungalow. As there was no chowkidar, we cooked up outside. Jackie and Dulcie arrived minus Sally. She has taken her bags and gone off in a huff. Silly bitch!
Weather - cooler today. 

Fri. June 15    Fatehpur to Benares
Miles 186
Got away to a late start after mucking about with the Rover and taking Mr Panjey’s photo. 
Figure 3.12: Mr Panjay

Drove to Allahabad and, after the usual amount of messing about, found a teashop. Had tea and then drove off towards Benares and found another elephant.
Got the 2 girls aboard and the man demanded baksheesh to let them down again. We pretended that we were not going to pay and the girls were getting quite worried.
Arrived in Benares and found a dak bungalow of sorts, right in the middle of town but there is nothing else. Met two Swiss boys who have come down through Afghanistan
Weather - hot and sticky.
Figure 3.13: Grand trunk road

Sat. June 16    Benares to W. of Sasaram
Miles 75
Slept late and then went down to the bazaar with our guide, one Ernest Kelly, who left Ireland at the age of 7 and remembered nothing at all of any other home than the slums of Benares. He was worth his weight in gold in saving our money for us.
We took a boat upriver past the burning ghats and took it in turns to distract the boatman in order to get photos. The taking of which was forbidden. 

Figure 3.14: Benares

Figure 3.15: Burning Ghats
Went ashore to look at a Nepalese temple were there were said to be some very interesting carvings of “Man with woman”.
I would have loved to get our guide’s commentary on tape. “Here we have one woman with two men, and this one is showing two women with one man, here is a very fat lady with bamboo pole” We only just managed to keep a straight face.
After this little interlude we wandered around the bazaars for a couple of hours. Bought an exotic carving set.
Saw the monkey temple and the Golden temple, then tried to gain access to a very attractive swimming pool ― no go.
Drove out on the road to Calcutta and stopped for a swim just over the big bridge over the Ganges. After a lot of fuss about the riverbank being strewn with small bits of human bone, I was the only one to actually go into the water.
Drove on nearly to Sasaram and got organised in the dak bungalow. Afterwards sat and talked with two Indian doctors.
Had a go at betel nut chewing ― arrgh!

Holy city to Hindus. The boat trip on the Ganges was very interesting. Hindus believe that a man who dies on the Benares side of the river goes to heaven. Die on the other side and you go to the other place. Saw them burning bodies. The ashes are then scattered on the river.
In practice, as soon as the mourners have left, the fire is quickly extinguished to conserve wood, and the partially burned bodies are simply tossed in the river. The monkey temple, or Burgha Temple, is named for Burgha, the second wife of Siva, god of love. Lots of monkey muck. The bazaar we had been wandering around in is called the Ladies Bazaar.
Weather- HOT.
Figure 3.17: Burgha Temple
Sun. June17    W. of Sasaram to Aurangabad
Miles 55
Drove to Sasaram and paid a visit to the tomb of somebody or other, not very impressive after the Taj. Got to Dehri-on-Sone to find that we had to wait until evening to cross the Sone by the only method available: by rail!
The road bridge had been washed away so the system was to drive onto a flat deck rail wagon, trundle across the Rail Bridge and then drive off on the other side. The train would not go until all the wagons were full. 

Figure 3.18: Dehri -On - Sone
Found a terrific rest house and got organised, brewing tea and showering. Left at 4 P.M. and drove to the station, where we waited. Eventually boarded the train, crossed the river and drove to Aurangabad, then quickly found the rest house. Had a visit from an Indian boy who spoke very good English. He informs us that this is “Hottest place in all India.”
Weather – hot.