Our trip started taking a crucial turn as Voukefalas didn’t sound good and we had to get out of India in ten days. Although we both managed to keep calm, our concern was obvious as we started our drive out of Jaipur and towards the capital, New Delhi.
Before our arrival in New Delhi and as we suspected that the part for Voukefalas wouldn’t exist in India, we had contacted our support crew Zamanakos Services back home and thanks to Kimon, we already had a part stand by for shipping with the next courier to New Delhi.
The plan was set and as soon as we arrived, we headed to the central authorized Honda Service of India. Our contact was directly to the Service Manager. After doing a test, he confirmed that the strange sound was indeed from the CV joint. We had to wait for 30 minutes only to get the bad news that the HRV is not available in India and so there were no parts in stock.
We decided to give the OK on taking Voukefalas apart. While we were discussing the details for the delivery of the part from Greece, the head mechanic came into the room with some great news. “The CV joint seemed fine to me. This isn’t your problem” he said. The next suspect, the gear box, was even worse for us. To cut the story short, after a really detailed check we found the suspect. It was a rock. Yes, you read correctly. A ROCK had decided to take a ride with Voukefalas and had gone to hide between the central axle. So each time we were pushing to start, the rock was banging on the axle making the metal sound that was freaking us out. Unbelievable!!! We almost kissed every single person in the place out of joy. We thanked everyone for their wonderful help and moved on. Where? To the place I had promised to take Rochelle from the beginning of the trip, the Taj-Mahal.
Leaving New Delhi behind without paying a visit to any of the many attractions was a decision that we had to take as time was getting shorter and Agra was a must see. The magical allure of the Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra and despite the hype, it’s every bit as good as you’ve heard. But as we found out, the Taj is not a stand-alone attraction. The legacy of the Mughal Empire has left a magnificent fort and a liberal sprinkling of fascinating tombs and mausoleums. The downside: the always existing garbage and dirt together with the hordes of rickshaws, touts, unofficial guides and souvenir vendors, whose persistence can be infuriating at times.
Agra sits on a large bend in the holy Yamuna River that now looks so polluted to even pass by. The fort and the Taj, 2 km apart, both overlook the river on different parts of the bend. Every year, tourists numbering more than twice the population of Agra pass through Taj gates to catch an once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of what is widely considered the most beautiful building in the world. We have to admit that very few leave disappointed. Worth mentioning here is that the Taj was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. The construction of the Taj began the following year. The whole complex was not completed until 1653. Not long after it was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in Agra Fort where, for the rest of his days, he could only look out at his creation through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried alongside Mumtaz. The Taj was designated a World Heritage Site in 1983 and looks as immaculate today as when it was first constructed.
With the Taj Mahal overshadowing it, one can easily forget that Agra has one of the finest Mughal forts in India. It’s a massive red-sandstone fort that was constructed by Emperor Akbar in 1565. Further additions were made by Shah Jahan using his favorite building material – white marble. The fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace, and as I have already mentioned, later it became his gilded prison. It contains a maze of buildings, transforming it as a city within a city, though many of the structures are now destroyed. Today, much of the fort is used by the military and so it’s off limits to the general public. After our visit to other smaller sights the Agra visit was completed.
As our last stop in India we picked the holy city of Varanasi, also known at various times in history as Kashi (City of Life). It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited cities and is regarded as one of Hinduism’s holy cities. Pilgrims come to the ghats (steps leading to the water) lining the River Ganges to wash away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters or to cremate their loved ones. It’s a particular place to die as the liberation from the cycle of birth and death is believed to happen here. This makes Varanasi the beating heart of the Hindu universe.
As most visitors agree, Varanasi s not for the faint-hearted. The most intimate rituals of life and death take place here in public, and the sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats – not to mention the almost constant attention from touts are overwhelming. The Varanasi experience is unique, powerful and moving, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river will live long in your memory. We both agreed that the site as a whole can be shocking and disturbing to a certain point. With that said though, we still believe that someone must see it as part of the India experience. Come prepared to see things that definitely make your stomach turn.
Worth mentioning here is our last experience from India, the road towards the Nepal-India border. It took us 12 hours of drive to get through 400 km. The worst kilometers we had come across had to be our last impression so much so that at the last 5 km I lost my temper and drove like a maniac sounding Voukefalas horn and screaming to humans and cows that dared to step in my way. Now that we think about it, it makes us laugh but in that specific moment it was a logical reaction after two months of suppressing my anger in the roads of India.
Through our two-month stay we found out that India is not built for international tourism. The plethora of its unique and impressive sights makes it a tourist destination. So if you’re heading this way brace yourself. You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colorful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth. India takes no prisoners. But if you’re ready for it, this may just turn out to be your favorite country. As for us, we tried to forget all the bad things and rolled Voukefalas into Nepal.