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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Photos : Agra, Delhi, Amritsar

Click on the photo below to view some of the pictures we took while traveling from Agra up to the Pakistani border :

India - Agra, Delhi, Amritsar

We almost made it to Pakistan

After leaving Khajuraho and a short night train ride, we landed in Agra. This city is quite a milestone in our trip across North India since it is home to the famous Taj Mahal. To enjoy this world class monument before the crowd hits it, we were queuing at the entrance at dawn, which spared us as well the massive heat that starts pounding after 10 am. It was really worth it to be there so early to enjoy the monument at first day light.

On the first two weeks, we have been mainly in important Hinduism areas. Agra and its surroundings gave us a glimpse on the Muslim India and the heritage left by the mughals when ruling the region. Today, 15% of the Indians are Muslim and 80% are Hindu. Even the Islam here seems to have a masala flavour : some of the rituals reminded more what we saw in the Hindu temples than what is done in Morocco, for example.

New Delhi, our next stop, has also many buildings of that era, like the Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb. At our arrival in the country's capital, we shared our breakfast table with a farmer and his two kids that managed with that to accomplish two dreams in one day : ride the subway and meet a foreigner. On our two first weeks in India, the constant touts attention made us switch the paranoid mode on. But little by little, we have also met some genuinely nice and welcoming people that on a train will share their meal with you without any hesitation. I am very often mistaken for an Indian and sometimes I will be addressed in Hindi or even in some local languages like Maharati or Punjabi. Once, when I insisted that I am from a Moroccan origin, I got in return : “ Are you parents Indian immigrants ?”

Even if Delhi was less impressive than Varanasi, we enjoyed this city that offers landmarks from the Mughal era to British colonization times. As in the rest of the country, we noticed in this city some interesting contrasts : busy western fast foods and upscale brand shops versus the traditional bazaars and the ear cleaner doing business as usual with some scary tools.

Even if our veg diet is still on, we took a break to taste the dish of one of my homonyms that is city wide known. His restaurant is serving Mughal cuisine that his forefathers were already cooking for the emperors. “Karim's” is quite famous and a lot of people comes to eat the whole stuffed and roasted goat. As we should have ordered this delicacy 24 hours in advance, we treated ourselves to some chicken and lamb kebab Burrah style (marinated and barbecued). It is was so good that I need to finish this paragraph quickly as my mouth is watering way to much. Looking forward for the next eid-el-kebir.

After Delhi, the train took us to Amritsar, Sikhism holiest city. Even if the Sikhs represent less than 2% of the population, there are very visible thanks to their turban and a solid physical build. We were impressed by the golden temple that sits in the middle of a sacred pond and the 750 Kg that cover its top. Even the fans inside are gold-platted. There is also a kitchen that serves for free more than 60 000 meals daily to the pilgrim that comes from all around the world. It is truly a city within the city.

The other highlight when you visit Amritsar is actually Pakistan. Every day, a very popular border closing ceremony is held by both sides. It is an odd mix of : Military and patriotic songs, kids and ladies dancing on “slum-dog millionaire” music, soldiers taking provocative stands towards the neighboring country and nationalist slogans shouted from each side of the border. There is even a guy whose job is to encourage the audience to shout more and louder than Pakistanis that are asked to do the same against the Indians.

As foreign spectators, during the first minutes of the show, we laughed a bit before remembering the 2008 Mumbai bombings and all the negative comments about Pakistan we heard during this trip. Between these two nuclear super powers, wars have been fought leaving behind thousand of casualties. On the way back, we were wandering how an official ceremony promoting hate toward a neighboring country could be hold on Ghandi's home land.


Photos : Mumbai, Varanasi, Tala, Khajuraho

Click on the following picture to have a look at some photos taken during the first leg of our Indian visit :

India - Mumbai, Varanasi, Tala, Khajuraho

More about India : elusive tigers and Kamasutra

To reach our next destination we jumped on a train, where we found out that Indian people are as tolerant with cockroaches as they are with cows. Hordes of them moved up and down the wagons freely and unscathed under the indifference of our fellow travellers. After getting rid of a few of them we realised the futility of the task and we decided to apply the maxim 'When in Rome, do as Romans do'. After this trip we will have seen it all before : it is not the sight of a rat or cockroaches coming out from the shop where we just bought a packet of biscuits that will make us shudder. As for mosquito-eating geckos, they have become our best friends. As we say in Spain “what does not kill you makes you stronger”.

Since our arrival we have been following mainly a vegetarian diet, partly because restaurants serving meat are scarce, and partly because it is the best way to avoid the Delhi belly. However, Indian vegetarian food is so tasty and varied that finally we do not miss that much the meat. The tea is another treat, it is served with milk and flavoured with different spices and sugar.

The train left us close to Bandhavgarh National Park. As per Lonely Planet, it is one of the places in India where you have most chances to see a tiger in its natural habitat. If you get really lucky, you can even spot a leopard. But in our case, we scored a big zero in cats, even after two safaris. The only thing we saw were a few footprints and, according to our guide, we heard the distress warning call made by a deer when looking a leopard at close range. Luckily, there were plenty of other animals to liven up things : wild boars, foxes, peacocks and even plenty of Bambis. The long drives by jeep also gave us time to meet and discuss with Franck and Marie, a very nice couple from South France who have been working for years for a humanitarian NGO, but that are currently taking a few months off to travel around Asia. It was really interesting to learn from their organisation from somebody involved in field-work.

This leads to mention the hardest aspects of traveling in India, that will shock you even if you have prepared mentally for it : the extreme poverty of an important part of the population and the general lack of cleanliness. It is crazy to think that a country that has got the money and the technology to send missions to the moon and that has produced 3 of the 5 biggest fortunes in the world can keep such levels of misery. If Gandhi is looking at his country from the hereafter, it must really be difficult for him to rest in peace.

Next stop : Khajuraho, known by its spectacular 10th century temples finely engraved, among others, with erotic Kamasutra figures. Everywhere in India you have to put up with touts that lie in wait of potential customers and that prevent you from visiting peacefully. But in this particular town, there are so many and they are so insistent that it is a real nightmare : even Karim, that grew in Morocco and is supposed to be vaccinated against them, lost his calm. But the saddest thing of all is that most children here will approach you to ask you for 'chocolate', 'school pen' and 'rupies'. Even when the mother is present she will not say anything. If I had dared do the same as a kid, my bottom would still be hurting from my the spanking I would have received.

We leave this town with mixed feelings and we head for the Mecca of Indian tourism : Agra and the famous Taj Mahal.