It is interesting coming back to a place that is so full of energy and chaos. The last time I was in India I was 21 years old climbing trees and getting lost with and armed guard and a good friend. I'm a little older now but still full of the curiosity I had in early twenties. I try not to repeat myself but I came back for a couple of reasons. Charlie has never seen the Taj Mahal as well as it has been on his bucket list to ride bikes over the highest motorable pass in the world Khardung La. I'm not going to lie seeing the Taj Mahal a second time was just as awesome as the first time only better... Mainly because the first time I had heat stroke and barely knew what was going on around me. The other reason is the tea. Oh man do I love Indian tea. I don't really drink tea in the states, anyone who has been around me for a couple of hours knows if you touch my coffee I'll take your hands, but in India there is only on drink for me and that is tea.
We did the first couple of days with a guide just to get our feet wet. We decided to tackle the markets in old Delhi. We did a 3 hour dime tour through a couple of temples and into the spice market. I am someone who absolutely loves to cook so going to this area was pretty exciting to all of my senses. The sound of the horns, the bright colors in contrast to the filthy streets provided some pretty impressive visual dynamic, the trickle of sweat down my neck to remind me of where we are on the globe, the taste of the tea, fried bread and curry, and of course the spices lighting up your sinuses like a magical wild fire. There is so much going on at once that you truly are overwhelmed. You can see people bathing in the street, cows mixed with brand new cars all on the same stretch and once you think you've seen it all something else completely random is around the next bend. Even if I were a good writer explaining in words all that is India would be near impossible.
The next day a hired car took us to Agra. Interesting enough their cars are starting to be governed at 80 KMH (about 40 mph to us on the other side of the pond). India is doing this to try to prevent there immense amount of traffic deaths as well as to try to curb their huge pollution problem. I mean with 1.35 Billion people how could there not be a pollution problem. Do the math that is 5x our population in an area that is 1/3 the size. Combine the population density with the "flow" of traffic and holy moly all you can say is incredible India. Any who, although the drive was mind numbly slow we arrived to Agra in about 4 hours. Our diver picked up our guide, on the side of the road, outside the Taj Mahal and in we went. This area is a pollution free zone so an electric shuttle brings you the monument. Females join their queue while the men joined theirs in order to be searched by the same gender, this throw me a little bit at first, but it is done out of respect.
Pass through the exterior arch and there she stands alone against the sky, the last building on earth. The Taj Mahal is a radiant jewel who earns her place as one of the 7 wonders of the world. She never looks real even as your feet glide across the marble and into the tomb. With millions of gems laid into the marble, the intricate floral carvings and the beautiful words of the Korin surrounding the walking paths. There is a lot of geometric visual illusions that make the Taj an amazing work of architectural artistry. The tomb is as incredible as the exterior, with shades carved from single sheets of marble. Every piece of the Taj Mahal was hand crafted prior to being placed on the exterior in a tongue and groove fashion. So what you are looking at is a thick, intricate marble veneer. I will say the only thing that took away from the experience is India people don't really wait in line and by that they push past, around and through you. To say there is a lot of people here is an understatement, everyone is hot and they just want to get where they are going. Once through to the other side you walk out to a view of the river, the fort, and are treated by the powerful mid-day sun glaring on all the marble. As we walked back to the shuttle I was overcome with the feeling of passing out. This place is cursed for me is all I could think haha. But with sheer will I made it out unscathed and upright.
We did a few other touristy things and made our way to the hotel to meet the people we would be spending the next few weeks with. It's a big deal to find out if 6 strangers will mesh well to spend that much time together on the road and we were about to find out our fate!