Coming to the end of our tour of India, the lazy beaches of the South felt like they had happened in some other lifetime. The chaos of the overcrowded cities had taken their toll and it’s fair to say that we both felt like we needed a holiday.
Just one more Taj Mahal shaped box to tick and then we were moving on to Nepal for some fresh air.
But Delhi wasn’t going to let us leave so soon without partaking in its world renowned number one experience that absolutely nobody anywhere, ever chooses to have on their travel agendas.
I’ve been to the top of the Empire State building and enjoyed a New York pizza slice, climbed the Great Wall in China, won ten dollars on a slot machine in Las Vegas and ridden camels through the desert in Africa so to leave without an aggressive bout of Delhi belly would have just been plain bad manners.
We were two days from the finish line and feeling pretty smug I have to say about making it through the journey without any bugs. I’d heard so many toe curling horror stories before coming on our trip, how everybody and their neighbour knows someone who has been left broken after consuming something suspicious on their travels here.
It’s easy to eat well and enough, while still being extra careful to avoid the textbook red flags. No salad, no ice, no fish, bottled water only, lots of hand sanitiser… you know the drill. And we did well to make it as far as we did.
Just in time for our three hour train journey to Agra, I started feeling pretty horrendous. I thought it was the longest and most uncomfortable journey of my life but this little critter had big plans for me yet. We spent the night at a beautiful homestay a few hundred yards from the Taj Mahal and usually I’d have loved exploring but we arrived at 10am and I spent the entirety of the day fast asleep.
We walked along in the evening to avoid the crowds. Entry cost for Westerners is £12 and tickets can only be bought at an information centre a kilometre up the road from the Taj Mahal, not at the entrance. We only found this out after walking all the way to the gate and being politely turned around to go all the way back, so remember that! There are frustratingly, no signs to tell you this.
There is a free golf buggy style service from the ticket counter for those who don’t feel like walking but it really isn’t that far.
Once inside, we were in complete awe.
It was breathtaking.
To try and comprehend building such an intricate yet formidable, perfectly symmetrical structure all those years ago without any electricity or machinery is just mind blowing.
The sky was all sorts of ice cream colours as the sun set and we wandered around the grounds for a little while.
Lots of people stopped us and asked us to take a picture with them. We got used to this happening a lot because we look different. Two guys came over and wanted a photo with G. They weren’t interested in having me in it (can’t say I blame them given my dreary appearance) so I took one of the three of them and off they went looking rather pleased with themselves.
We left Agra the next morning. By which point I was in a tremendous amount of pain. As in, couldn’t move without feeling as though I had gallons of hot lava descending from the bottom of my rib cage to my thighs kind of pain.
The train was delayed.
Then it came and went from another platform without us noticing. It was hell.
In the end we took a four hour taxi with lots of agony inducing pot holes in the road, all the way back to Delhi. Not exactly a romantic road trip for either of us. I cried for two hours, trouser-less because I couldn’t have anything touching my tummy and thought that I was going in to shock for most of the journey.
It was definitely memorable.
Luckily antibiotics and probiotic pills are as readily available as biryani here so within a few days I was alive again, albeit a stone lighter.
Every cloud, I suppose.