Mother India - Agra to Lucknow PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Saturday, 11 April 2009 11:13
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 Day 40: Thursday 1st November- Agra to Lucknow  

As usual we found our seats on the bus and I then went through my now daily routine: firstly take PDA and folding keyboard out of my day bag, secondly connect two together using bluetooth, three place my leather bum bag round headrest in front of me, four place PDA upright with screening sticking out of the big pocket of bum bag like a little monitor and six place keyboard on little blue cushion and both on my knee. Unfortunately the PDA and keyboard don't always connect for some reason and then I'm left writing one to two thousand words like you would a text. I am finding that this is causing repetitive strain injuries to my thumbs and fingers and my elbows and so I'm trying to avoid having to do it this way.

Today they did connect instantly but the morning running up to this point hadn't gone so well. We were up and about at 7.00am and were driven to the bad restaurant for a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, toast, bananas and an apple I took for later. The same rickshaw was not so happy to take us back trying to get money out of us for what was a free hotel service. As I explained this to the driver I was approached by a small, very dirty, boy hands in prayer wanting money. I had no change so offered him my apple which he took with a smile and crunched as we drove away. Once on the bus after more arguing about the rickshaw cost we sat for 35 minutes waiting to go while Leighton tried to find a map of today's route. I can't believe that we're driving across one of the largest countries in the world using a boy's school atlas turned to the map of India which only shows the main roads. Hardly surprising it took 12 hours to drive 400 kilometres to Agra. Leighton lost his cool a couple of days ago saying the same thing to me. I don't know whose responsibility it is but the company should have made sure we had sufficient maps for all the countries. Instead we waist time asking street corner urchins the way to towns they have probably never heard of, at least not the way we pronounce them with our accents and most certainly never been to. I am not well pleased with this aspect of the trip; very amateurish.

As we eventually headed off 30 minutes late Anne gave me the morning's first bit of gossip. Firstly the party ended about 3.30am and the gang made more noise returning to their beds than my snoring. Their running up down the corridors, screaming and shouting distuebed all the others in the group sleeping with exception of me, thank goodness. It then emerged, this morning that they'd urinated in the garden and on the rooftop area presumably in full view of the Taj Mahal and broken two garden chairs which is the reason why it's now in the public domain. The owner brothers of the hotel and the grotty restaurant who never miss a money making opportunity demanded significant compensation for the damage whilst the culprits, still in their fancy dress pyjamas, lay asleep at the back of the bus. I had wrongly assumed this was the reason for our delay not knowing about the problem with a map to Lucknow.

The best part of the journey was sitting and talking with an improving John. He told me about his prostate operation and how impressed he was with the hospital and staff in Lahore. I think I have written about how he went private and what it cost but I'm not sure because it is so long now since I uploaded anything and it's really hard to check using such a small screen. He'd carried on with the saga explaining how he had been trying to have the operation for the past two years in England. Same old story; had an appointment booked and told them he was going away for two weeks before but would be back for the op. Returned to find it cancelled because they said they couldn't contact him. Given new appointment 3 months later but by then on his way to Oz with us. Anyway he came out of hospital feeling great and returned to our hotel in Lahore and was ably assisted by Bilal's company who arranged flights and transfers to Agra. Unfortunately, he thinks, he got food poisoning in the hotel and spent the day before and the journey in serious discomfort. He arrived very late after being driven from Delhi airport by a taxi driver who it seems also kept stopping to ask corner street urchins the way.

We eventually arrived in the famous town of Lucknow at rush hour and were very quickly bogged down in a sea of rickshaws: literally thousands of them all blowing their horns in unison. The slow progress did, however, allow me to view a brand new poster advertising the latest Royal Enfield motorbike. It must be a very familiar brand name over here looking at the rifles being carried by guards on duty in every store, petrol station and bank. One walked past us in a shopping mall late last night and in his turban and loose fitting garments he looked like something straight from the Northwest Passage. It looked so old I wouldn't want to be near it if it's ever fired.

Found the Hotel Gaamti, named after the river that flows through the city, and although it looked as though it had seen better days it did have the distinction of being the first hotel, at least in India, with other guests. It also had what was supposed to be an English type pub bar. I had yet another bottle of light Kingfisher while Anne went for the very exotic gin and tonic. At least the Kingfisher came instantly and not in stages like Anne's drink. The gin arrived reasonably promptly and then after I explained to the waiter with mime thrown in 'gin' glass firmly raised for him to see and replaced on table, 'tonic' imaginary bottle of tonic held firmly, top removed precisely to hiss sound and then poured into gin with gurgle noise and finely 'lemon' pronounced slowly and cut on table and dropped in glass with splash sound. Five minutes later waiter placed a glass of lime juice cordial on table. After a No! No! No! I calmly pronounced t..o..n..i..c again in my best Sheffield accent he went away again and this time returned with a bottle of bitter lemon and in a reasonably clear voice said 'sorry no tonic water'. We both agreed a bottle of wine would have been easier but at £12 a bottle it was not worth taking the chance especially since we had at last found beer at 80 rupees a bottle. I really enjoyed the bar session and three beers which are over 5% strong.

After some dinner in the hotel restaurant we went for a walk to find the shopping mall not far away to buy a new battery and simcard for my camera. We had to leave the mall as it closed at 10.30pm having purchased three tops for Anne which is far more interesting than looking at boring photography and electrical stores. I had another beer this time in the hotel garden until driven inside by midges. The last thing I remember is watching Anne write some more postcards and a birthday card for Amy and thinking how lucky I am to be here in Lucknow 150 years after the siege and The Indian Mutiny that followed. It was amazing to think that Independence and Partition 60 years ago had had their roots 90 years earlier on the streets outside our bedroom.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 April 2009 20:05