Went via tuk tuk to some shops - think i got ripped off for some deodorant at 400R but haggled down an indian style shirt from 400R to 250R. We have been told to haggle over just about everything and we have even been known to haggle with tuk tuk drivers over 10 or 20 rupees between 3 of us which is nothing but it's all part of the game. Having said that, i had to tip the cycle rickshaw man as it looked like such hard work in the heat. Also bought a nice little shirt for Elliot which some friends from the group are going to take back and post for me. Had chinese food for lunch (lots of the restaurants sell indian, chinese and western food).
The whole group went to the Indiana restaurant in the evening which was more expensive but included music and dancing. Later we had drinks on the roof of the hotel, we couldn't get the usual kingfisher so had to settle for the kingfisher strong (8%).
On the coach journey to Karauli, we saw a lorry on its side in the ditch and another overloaded with it's rear axle snapped, abandoned in the middle of the road. All vehicles are overloaded in India; i've seen a family of 5 on a moped, jeeps with 12 people on top and at least 15 inside and there ate illegal people lorries powered by well pumps (i kid you not). A 2 vehicle collision over here would be a major incident. We arrived at the maharaja's residence which is a little run down now but pretty grand all the same. My room is fairly small but has a large ornate wooden bed at waist height so i decide not to drink too much that night.
I walked along a nearby street and got a haircut for 15R - i wanted it short but i think he misunderstood and thought i said i only wanted a little bit off, oh well, it's tidied me up until i get it shaved in Thailand.
We all sat on 2 camel carts and took a ride through the local farming community to a nearby lake - all the people are really friendly, the kids are fantastic, cute and smiley;
they come running out, waving and shouting 'ta ta' which was a bit confusing but we all just shouted it back. The good thing about this place is that there aren't many tourists, there is no begging, no hawking (people trying to sell you crap), just friendly people.
The kids are happy for you to photograph them and love to see themselves on the digital display. The children are playing in the street, kite fighting, hoops and sticks etc. I guess they are fairly poor but they seem really happy and probably have as much as they need.
There are very few tvs around but Manu pulls out all the stops; a few of us spend the evening watching England lose in the hotel guards hut, a dissapointing result but we'll never forget where we saw it.
Early morning peacock wake up call followed by a walking tour of Karauli old town, this is within the city walls in the opposite direction to where we went yesterday. The lod town is much busier and people are selling stuff from waist high shacks where a man sits in the middle of the floor and can reach all the items from there. The conditions here are a bit more squalid but not too bad and still no begging or hawking. We went to the old city palace which wasn't particularly exciting, it was very hot (about 42 degrees) and quite a lot of walking. After that a few of us split up from the rest of the group and got lost, we ended up miles from the hotel and got a tuk tuk back. I managed an hour in the sun before i jumped into the dirty pool. I dressed up smart for supper as i thought the maharaja might join us but he didn't show up.
Took a coach to Keoladeo bird sanctuary and ate vegi pizza and fries at a service station cafe on the way for 78R, bargain. The bird sanctuary was not too exciting as they are waiting for the monsoon which could arrive any day soon and bring the wildlife with it. We saw a few deer, monkeys, herons and other resident birds which i can't remember but i guess we were just unlucky with our timing. On to Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost town with forts, mosques and palaces perfectly preserved. Our guide, Mr Khan is perhaps the most unusual man i have ever seen and his way of talking had us in stitches but also listening intently as he kept testing us on the things he had said. The architecture encompasses loads of symbolgy from the 4 main religions in order to keep Akbar's 3 wives and 49 girlfriends happy - Mr Kahn made this a very interesting visit. Picked up 9 bites from something (6 of them under my t-shirt) as a momento. We arrived at Mansingh palace in Agra which is a normal hotel but very grand with all mod cons and a pool. Just finished getting ready for our evening meal when it hit me, i thought i just needed the toilet but i had really bad pains in my stomach, felt a bit sick and feint, so i stayed in my room, and never went too far from the toilet! Went to sleep hoping to feel better for our early morning Taj Mahal visit - surely i can't miss that!
0515 woke up feeling better but still not 100% so took toilet paper and plastic bags just in case (thanks Kim!). Luckily my pants remained unscathed as i took in the majestic Taj.
It really is as magnificent as people say and our guide told us a few facts that i never knew; it was built as a tomb for the mughal emporors third wife and took from 1632 to 1654 to build. Where we had been unlucky with our timing for the bird sanctuary we were very lucky here; with it being early in the morning and not yet tourist season there were very few people here. Manu said he had never seen it this quiet. I took loads of photos. We went back to the hotel for a hearty breakfast and my stomach is starting to feel better. We have the rest of the day free so after i finish this i might check out the pool (hope i don't turn the water brown).