India Finale! Bombay, Jaipur, Agra

FROM DELHI — August 8, 2012

The three-day ride from Goa to Bombay along the foothills of the Western Ghats mountain range was an extraordinary feast for the eyes.  The rolling, lush green farmlands were enjoying the frequent monsoon rains and riding in the rains became a particular treat.  Just as the heat started to become unpleasant, it seemed another downpour would come out of nowhere to cool me off.  Rather than seek shelter, it was quite refreshing to keep riding, get soaked to the skin, and continue on.  Then, just as I was drying out and feeling the heat again, another downpour showed up and repeated the process.  It was exhilarating!

After checking into my hotel in Bombay, I wandered on foot through the historic Colaba district at the far southern end of the Bombay peninsula.  This is the site of the iconic Gateway to India arch as well as the astonishing Taj Mahal Hotel, built just before World War I.  Here are a few photos from that area:



The Elephanta Caves are a series of seven Hindu temples carved into the hillside on the island of Elephanta, about eight miles offshore from Bombay.  They are believed to date from the 5th to the 8th centuries and were used for Hindu worship until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.  Here are some photos from inside and outside the caves:



Jainism is an interesting religion in India, with a comparatively small number of followers (6 million) within the country.  They stress non-violence, vegetarianism, meditation and pacifism and their iconography and ceremonies border on the eccentric, at least from a contemporary Western view.  They are also disporportionately prosperous in India and one Hindu cab-driver indelicately referred to them as “our Buddhist Jews.”  Here are some photos from inside their colorful temple:



The ride from Bombay to Jaipur was, and there’s no way to sugar-coat this, a five-day grind through the hot, gritty towns and featureless deserst of Rajasthan.  The reward was Jaipur itself, the former seat of the Rajput dynasty in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The sheer number of spectacular forts and castles is amazing.  Here are some scenes from the Amber Fort, the City Palace and other ancient structures of Jaipur:



What can you say about the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most recognizable landmark in the world?  It is every thing you anticipate, perhaps more.  This was my last destination in India before returning to Delhi to dispose of my motorcycle and head back to the US.  It was certainly a breathtaking way to end the trip.  Here are a few photos of the Taj Mahal, including a couple of “jump shots” of some enthusiastic travellers: