Friday, December 10, 2010

The Taj Mahal and Hawks

It's been a whirlwind last week to be honest. I'm in Hazaribagh now, which is where I'll be living for the next year, but I'll talk about that in my next post when I've (hopefully) moved into my own place. For now, I'm going to talk about the last week.

I know I like to tend to live like this normally anyway, but even for me this has been a bit manic! After a few days of very basic training in Delhi (I say training, that's overstating it a bit – we got told how we would be paid, where to avoid in India due to political unrest and I got a 15 minute briefing on my placement, which told me nothing I didn't really already know – i.e. not a lot!), we were up at the crack of dawn for a 4hr bus drive to the Taj Mahal.

Now, I am generally a bit sceptical of visiting places like the Taj Mahal. You know the places I mean – the massive tourist attractions that you just have to see while you're in the country. Normally they're tourist traps and always kind of underwhelm me. The first part of our tour made me think we were in for more of the same – we visited the a tomb just outside of the Taj. Our guide said a lot of people avoid it. To be honest, I can kind of understand why. It wasn't rubbish, but wasn't exactly breathtaking either.

So, on to the Taj itself. I have to say, it's absolutely gorgeous. Forget the photos, forget what you think you know about it – it's stunning. The gardens are immaculate and all lend to the overall air of the place, but your eyes are just continually drawn to that building...

I hadn't realised how white it was. I mean, I've seen pictures, obviously, but somehow seeing it in person that shocked me more than anything else. Obviously the architecture is both technically impressive and beautiful, but that whiteness is what will stick with me. Well worth the trip – if you come to India and don't visit it's a missed opportunity in my opinion.

Oh, and on a side note, apparently the day we visited was the same day Nicholas Sarkozy decided to pop in. He was supposed to be there on the Sunday (day after) but went early, so they turfed everyone out. And I do mean everyone! Luckily we'd obviously already left, but if I'd gone there intending to photograph the sunset I'd have been pretty pissed!

Sunday was a quiet day in Delhi. I took a trip to Sardarjang's Tomb, which happened to be near my hotel. Now before everyone gets bored thinking this blog will detail every single tomb/temple/cafe I visit over the next year, I'm only talking about this one because of one thing – the hawk!

I'd walked around the temple (meh!) and was about to leave when I decided to go and see one of the other gates on the South side. Having reached it I was just telling myself what a waste of time it was when all hell broke loose in a tree about 20m away. These birds were going absolutely insane! Suddenly, out of the tree flew this hawk and soared off to another tree a bit further away. Camera in hand I started chasing it across the gardens. I got about halfway there, camera trained on where I thought it was in the tree, when all of a sudden it swept out of the tree....straight at me!

Now, I had my camera in all the right modes – auto-focus, shutter burst, etc. but unfortunately I obviously still need a bit of practice as they're not as good as they could be, but hey-ho – I still like it...hope you do too! I was going to load a few pics onto Flickr of the Taj as well, but the link isn't very fast here!

I was going to talk about my first impressions of Hazaribagh, but I think I'll leave that to the next update. That and the train journey ;-)

Phir mileNge (see you later)

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