Saturday, August 12, 2017

Abhaneri: Some Surprisingly Astonishing Travel Experiences

Sometimes the greatest travel experiences are ones that come as a surprise.

On Gate 1's 9-Day Golden Triangle of India tour from Delhi to Jaipur to Agra, a stop in the village of Abhaneri--between the latter two cities--was only highlighted in the Day 6 itinerary details.

I think it's safe to assume it didn't much factor into anyone's reasons for taking this tour; certainly not a primary one.

As I am writing this, we are back on the bus heading from Abhaneri to Agra, and if not tonight, by early tomorrow morning I shall see the Taj Mahal.

More than any other specific sightseeing location, the Taj is the foremost reason for my traveling to India.

But as some may recall, in the days before booking my trip, I learned that the Taj Mahal is undergoing cleaning and conservation, and part of it will be covered by scaffolding.

I initially expected more of Taj--including its dome--to be obscured than it appears will be the case, but I truly wondered if I should postpone the trip until pristine pictures of this great wonder could be had.

I decided that aside from complete closure of the Taj, any other worst case scenario didn't justify delaying the trip to who knows when.

Much of my reasoning is that it would be silly to put off two weeks of phenomenal sights and experiences for a couple hours of seeing some metal, even if upon the sublime Taj Mahal.

And while seeing Delhi and highlights of Jaipur were fantastic, the past 3-1/2 hours alone have validated my thinking.

There could be thunderstorms tomorrow and I still won't rue having taken this trip.

And though the Chand Baori step well in Abhaneri is one of the coolest sights I've ever seen, remnants of a nearby temple date back a millennium and our tour group just had a delicious and unique lunch at an eco-resort in Abhaneri, even more phenomenal was seeing the smiles of relatively impoverished village schoolchildren.

The school is actually underwritten by Gate 1, whose founder grew up nearby,  so it's assumed the kids were long indoctrinated to American tourists stopping by and photographing them.

But I really loved interacting with the kids, and I can't help but believe the feeling was mutual.

Using a trick I hit on years back, likely in photographing my niece and nephews, whenever I would take pictures of the kids I would then show them the photo on the screen or my camera or iPhone.

This made them giggle exuberantly and clamor for me to take more pictures. Several kids also asked me--and other group members as well--to write my name in their notebooks.

At one point it felt like I was a Broadway star being being beseeched for autographs at the Stage Door.

Truly heartwarming.

I can't wait to see the Taj Mahal, and take photos I will likely treasure for the rest of my life.

But quite remarkably I doubt they'll wind up my favorites from this trip.

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