Contrary to what you might think, sometimes the ‘getting there’ can be the most exciting part of a journey through India! On a recent trip with Greaves Tours, the modes of transportation experienced while visiting the famed Golden Triangle were taken beyond the expected planes, buses, trains, and cars.
There were no “Do we have to sit here any longer?” inquiries while bumping and dodging through the crowded markets of Old Delhi on the back of bicycle rickshaws. There were no “Are we there yet?” complaints as our procession of camel-drawn carts made their way through the parched, rutted desert outside of Jaipur when our bus had no road to continue further. These were special experiences in and of themselves which were not to be missed or rushed!
I’m not going to tell you that it isn’t a bit smelly or dusty when making your way from the Oberoi Armarvilas to the entrance of the Taj Mahal by horse-drawn carriage, but I couldn’t imagine a better way to arrive. Although the enormity and beauty of this architectural wonder is the purpose of this stop on most India itineraries, I was pleasantly surprised that the short journey on the road to the Taj was equally as memorable.
A few days later, one of the greatest transports I have ever experienced awaited in the desert outside of Jaipur … an evening safari on the back of an elephant! When we arrived, the sun was setting, and the elephants loomed over us at the entrance of Dera Amer Elephant Camp. They greeted us with beautifully painted faces and trunks, and we treated them with bananas and hugs. Once atop our new friends, our safari continued through a dark, hillside forest, our path lit only by the moon and stars. We considered what animals might be watching from a short distance as we trudged, the pedestals we sat on lurching back and forth with each monstrous, elephant step. Halfway through the trek, we could hear the faint beat of drums. Coming to a small clearing, we could now see the roof of a crumbling building alight with lanterns where musicians played and a server stood ready to hand us a glass of wine as we sauntered by. Pure contentment is easy to achieve when sipping wine and listening to night sounds, all while towering on an elephant.
Leaving the desert behind, we arrived in Udaipur, the ‘Venice of India,’ where boats proved to be a necessity. Each time we came and went from the opulent, lakeside Leela Palace, we had the privilege of enjoying a private, relaxing lake cruise. At night, the lights of the city palace and surrounding hotels and residences twinkled off of the lake creating picture perfect views in every direction, especially from the water. One evening we were surprised with a pre-dinner cruise aboard the historical Taj Lake Palace barge on which we had drinks, appetizers, and enjoyed a private performance complete with dancers, musicians, and fire! There was definitely something romantic about smoothly gliding across the waters of Lake Pichola whether day or night.
Thank goodness for all of the skilled drivers we encountered in each destination, but especially those in Jodhpur! As we drove toward our city-central hotel, the streets narrowed and became impossible for our bus to navigate the tight turns. Coming to a stop, we got out, and boarded tuk-tuks, i.e. motorcycle rickshaws. At ‘interesting’ speeds, we continued the rest of the way, darting and weaving in and out of cars, pedestrians, cows, and goats! Again, each time we needed to come and go from our hotel, we climbed into our tuk-tuks and watched our surroundings fly by. As an adrenaline junkie, this was exactly my cup of Rooibos tea!
When looking back on our journey, I realize that we were not just being moved from place to place. Our spirits were also being moved as we experienced the various, unique modes of transportation that carried us. Seeing India’s cities and countryside from these vehicles and vantage points, immersed us into the local surroundings and culture, and helped us appreciate not only the amazing destinations, but also the ‘getting there.’