Friday, January 07, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour – 29 December 2010

Shortly after leaving Agra we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, another Mughal palace built in 1569, that was only occupied for 16 years. Akbar met a holy man here who predicted he would have a son, which he duly did and so he moved his capital here along with 60000 people from Agra. He was a bit of a radical in that he had a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian as his three main wives, He had a goodly number of others, as well as concubines; but for these three favourite wives he built a house each, in the palace complex.

Although he was very enlightened with regard to religious tolerance, he had one peculiar fascination; he liked to to watch people die in front of him so he had a raised stone in the courtyard upon which his favourite elephant would crush the unfortunate victim's head underfoot.
After this stop, today's programme was to be a fairly boring trip to Jaipur but the reality was far from that. About a hour before our scheduled lunch stop we pulled to the side of the dual carriageway in a small village in the middle of nowhere.

We were told that a local farming caste protest group had barricaded the main highway and that we were thus going to take a detour to our designated lunch break stop. All we needed was a guide to escort us along the detour and that he would be with us in about 5 minutes. Five became 30 without any escort appearing but we did provide great amusement for the local kids who came to stare and wave at the foreigners in their midst.

Eventually the driver decided to simply go against the flow of obviously detoured traffic that was coming the other way out off the side road that we were waiting by, a simple and obvious decision that could have been taken much earlier. So, in convoy with some other buses that had joined us and about a dozen cars, we set off down the back road. Whilst it was nominally sealed all the way it was more suited to 4x4 vehicles for significant stretches, It was also not well suited to pass oncoming buses but our driver always managed to squeeze past.

The upside was a fantastic, unscheduled tour through rural India and the locals were obviously as unaccustomed to us as we were to them as they turned out in significant numbers all along the route to cheer and wave as we passed. At one village we saw a number of tractors towing trailers jam-packed with locals and discovered that it was their intention to blockade the detour as well, They graciously allowed our convoy through before completing their plan. A couple of kilometres further on there was a small fire in the middle of road which the bus simply drove over, Whether it was part of the protest or not was not clear.

Having finally met our escort we eventually made it back to the main road and the lunch place but wondered at the end of the meal, why we had bothered, the place, the food and the service all being less than inspiring. After lunch we once again left the main road, this time at an official police detour to venture north around the second protest barricade. Once again it was a wonderful tour through villages and rural towns where life is very much lived on the street, and sights that we would never have seen otherwise. Clearly this extra time taken rather upset the programme for the day but the additional optional-extra scheduled for the evening was one that we had already decided to forgo anyway so no great loss for us.

The hotel for the night was described as 'heritage' with all rooms different. We were welcomed with a hot towel & a coke – interesting mix, and a power outage! The entry room looked fascinating with old family black and white portraits, but we were blown away when shown to our room – really a suite of rooms with marble floors throughout, and about twice the size of our London apartment. Unlike the Clarks Shiraz in Agra, which tried to look like quality, this was the real thing in a rural type of way. Castle Kanota Hotel is down a rural side road in the township of Kanota. The rural setting meant we all had to dine there and because it was a set menu we did not have to decide what we would eat, Fortunately it was all quite delicious.

1 comment:

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