Tuesday, January, 5th, 2016
Although I wasn’t really asleep to begin with, the Call of Prayer was our wake-up call for the morning. After packing up and eating breakfast, we waited for Manoj to return. He was going to take us to the private school he worked for to introduce us to school life in India. The children were adorable, and Trevor got scolded by one of the teachers for encouraging them to do cartwheels with him. She didn’t want them to get their uniforms dirty. After a few high fives, we waved goodbye to the children and drove out of town.
We had a little fender bender along the way. I wasn’t paying enough attention to notice who struck who, but the side mirror of our truck collided with a tractor hauling straw. Some of the broken mirror and straw blew into the open windows of the truck, but besides one of our crew receiving a tiny scratch on his nose, no one else was harmed in the incident. Our driver felt terrible, but accidents happen. The farmer wanted to be compensated, for what exactly, I’m not sure. His tractor wasn’t damaged, and he only lost a small amount of straw. I suppose he was just jumping at the opportunity to get some money out of tourists. I hate to say it, but it’s a common practice throughout most of India since many are living in poverty.
After cleaning up the truck, replacing the mirror, and giving a few hugs to our driver who felt beyond remorseful, we continued down the road to a bustling town where we grabbed lunch. I found a vendor serving Pani Puri, an Indian dish one of my former co-workers insisted I try if I got the opportunity. It was delicious! We also found another vendor who had a mashed potato dish with a sweet and spicy sauce on top.
As we returned to the truck, we got bombarded with locals who were trying to get photos with us. The Aussies were right behind us, and being two blonde-haired ladies, they got even more smothered than we did. It was hysterical how much Amelia was loving all the attention. I think Trevor was jealous.
The crowd got bigger and bigger, and was beginning to get a little overwhelming. Everyone managed to fight through the crowd to get on the truck, but then they were trying to open the door and get a look inside. We eventually managed to pull off without running anyone over!
We passed by peacocks and castles before arriving at “Hotel Sparkle” in Agra. Most of our crew was tired, but we joined a local named Ali, and some of the others to check out the “Baby Taj” and catch the sunset. The “Baby Taj” is the nickname given to the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah. Before leaving the hotel, Trevor and Nick convinced one of the rickshaw drivers to grab everyone beer since he’d get the local price. Our rickshaw driver was very proud of his new ride which he playfully called his “BMW,” and he was quite the admirer of Nick’s long blonde hair.
The architecture of the “Baby Taj” was beautiful! We watched some monkeys walking along the fence and people playing along the river. A spunky kid saw us above him and ran to us, asking us to take his picture, then promptly asking for 10 rupees. His hustle made us laugh, but we denied his request.
After wandering around the tomb, we returned to our rickshaw to head to the river across from the world famous Taj Mahal to watch the sun go down. We would explore the monument up close tomorrow, but it was cool to see a different perspective of it. Even with the scaffolding along some of the columns, it was still gorgeous.
We drank our beers while watching the sunset, then I gave a few rupees to an old, blind man who was trying to sell magnets before we left. He wasn’t being pushy like most vendors, and clearly could use them more than I could.
We had a few drinks with Nick and Jules back at the hotel, then carried our bag of beer with us to go on a little adventure. I was pretty hungry and wanted to eat dinner with the others, but I was curious to see where we were heading off to so late in the evening. They were grabbing the Taj Mahal tickets, then heading out with Ali to get a sneak peak of the jewelry place that we would be visiting the next day.
We admired the jewelry on display before heading downstairs to view their textiles. Screens lifted up “James Bond- style” as Trevor put it, to display their more precious pieces of work, some which took many years to create. I was plenty drunk by the time we returned to the hotel.
We laughed, feasted and drank some more before forcing ourselves off to bed to start the next day right.
Jump Back to Part 11: The Erotic Temple, Wasps & Asparagus Farts
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety