Monday Oct 10, 2005 - day 11 - OAT camp to Agra - Kathy: 128 photos, Bob: 131 photos

            Today was a lot of travel time.  We left the OAT camp

early and boarded the jeeps that would take us to the tour bus.  On our way into the camp yesterday, we saw a small island fortress at the far end of the lake.  The jeep had gone by too fast for us to get a photo, so we hoped that we could get one on the way back.  So before boarding the jeep, I asked Sujay the word for “stop.”  He said something like, “Rooko.”  (I’m not sure of the spelling.)  When the jeep driver got close to the fortress, I started saying, “Rooko, rooko, rooko!”  The driver stopped and we happily took our photo of the fortress.

(Go is something like “Cha-low” pronounced “Cello”.)

            We made our way back to the bus and drove through the bumpy roads until we found the national highway again.

            Our next stop was to be an ancient Hindu temple.  At one point, we turned off the main road and headed down a very small road that led to the temple.  Halfway to the town, we encountered a large camel cart that had a broken wheel.

The camel was resting happily in the shade,

the broken wheel was off the cart, and the owner was gone.  There wasn’t enough room for the bus to pass.  There was no chance of fixing the cart; so a new wheel would have to be brought in from the town.  Our driver and guide went outside to investigate.

            On both sides of the cart were trees.  On the far side of the trees were very soft fields that had recently been plowed.  The cart was piled high with very heavy wood, the weight of which probably caused the wheel to break.  The cart was sitting on a car jack and the wheel was off.  Without the wheel, there was no way of moving it out of our way either.  There was no chance of us passing this cart.

            Children from the farms came running to see the big tour bus and the broken cart.

After scratching their heads for a long time, Sujay talked to a guy who was headed for town.  He sent for someone–anyone–who had a cart with a large back end.  The truck arrived and we piled into the back of the cart and off we went to the temple.

Now I know why the middle name of OAT is Adventure.

            The temple was beautiful.  I love old temples.  We took a lot of photos



and spent some time there.  After we left the temple, I saw a weird looking bird and took its photo.

Then we walked across the street to where they had one of these huge walk-down wells.

It was huge and deep well, the purpose of which was to hold water like a cistern.  All around the well, there were hundreds of steps leading down, so that no matter how full or how empty the well was, people could climb down the steps to fetch water.  It was very cool.  These were the famous step-wells of Rajasthan.

            The well had a palace/apartment for the king on one side so the king could watch his subjects.

            After that site, we piled back into the cart and headed back to the bus.  The broken cart was still there, and our bus had somehow found a way to turn around.  Back on the bus, we continued our journey to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.

            Along the way, we saw more reminders of how crazy the driving is here.

To break up the trip, we stopped at a few places.  For example, one of the towns specialized in cutting and shaping marble.  We saw how they turn and cut the raw marble to make their table tops and such.  I wondered if this was where our hotel got its mattresses.

            Next, we saw a fort called “Fatehpur Sikri.”

It was a cool place and we took lots of photos.


Gee, I hope these photos turn out good.  My theory is: outnumber the odds.  In other words, since Kathy and I are both packing digital, taking photos doesn’t cost us anything but hard disk space on the computer.  Therefore, the more photos we take, the better our odds at having a few turn out good.

            Eventually, by sunset, we made our way to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.  We are staying at a very luxurious hotel called the Jaypee Palace Hotel.  This place is enormous, with a huge business center, shopping area, dining hall, and so forth.  Very big and elegant inside.  The outside grounds are also beautiful, with lovely gardens, massive reflecting pools and decorative fountains.

            This is in very sharp contrast to the scenery outside the hotel.  The streets are dirty, with large piles of trash on the sides of the road.  At one place, we saw a garbage pile so big that three cows were sleeping in it!  There is a lot of pollution everywhere, and lots of dirty people outside.  Sujay told us that the Taj Mahal has attracted lots of tourists, and the tourists have attracted lots of pickpockets, petty thieves, pollution and many other problems.  I guess we’ll get to experience that tomorrow.

            All I know is that Kathy and I both felt huge pangs of longing for the peace and serenity of the countryside we had left today.

            As we pulled into the hotel, I noticed a MacDonalds restaurant nearby!  This is absurdity itself, I thought, since seventy percent of Indians are vegetarians and the rest consider cows to be sacred.  So who’s going to order a Big Mac?  I had to ask Sujay.  He told us that the restaurant is owned by the MacDonalds corporation, but inside you will find only Indian fast food, not burgers of any kind.  Like fast food Matar Paneer and Murgh Makhani.  What a concept!  Too bad we don’t have these in the States.  But how do the Indian people feel about MacDonalds corporation, a global giant slaughtering and feeding cows to millions of people every day?  It’s a question I dared not ask. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not some kind of tree hugging vegan-vegetarian militant animal rights activist.  As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed to admit that I am a confirmed carnivore.  My mother and father taught me from a little boy to love meat: steaks, hamburgers, ham, sausage.  And what good would a big slab of lasagna or a taco—God’s most perfect food—be without meat?  I’m sorry, but I’m a carnivore.  But still I wonder how any people embrace a corporation so diametrically opposed to their value system.

            I guess I’ll leave it at that and go to bed.