Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

I’ve just come from the Taj Mahal. Natraj, Dragos, Sankid and myself made the chaotic journey by road from New Delhi in Sankid’s car. The Taj Mahal was good but the personal highlight of the trip so far was staying at the coffee plantation in Chikmagalur.

Dragos and I flew IndiGo Airlines from Bangalore to Delhi on Friday whilst Natraj took Kingfisher. On Saturday Sankid very kindly drove us around the city, showing us the Red Fort, mosque, tombs, Indian Parliament, etc, before we went for a much needed massage.

The touts, the noise and pollution haven’t been too bad and nobody has got ‘Delhi Belly’ yet. India’s colour and vibrancy are legendary and have kept their status up.

Tomorrow Dragos and I plan to hit Rajasthan. I have shot hundreds of photos and look forward to posting the best ones upon return to Australia.

Hi From Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India

UPDATE (2009/12/27): Photos added

With Natraj, Sunalia and Dragos in a Bangalore Bar

I have just had an amazing 24 hours staying with Dragos and Natraj at Natraj’s cousin’s mystical, mountainous, monsoonal and completely fantastic coffee and pepper plantation. 30 minutes drive along a rough and windy road from the nearest town, the quiet and cleanliness of this place was a great contrast to Bangalore’s madness.

Ripe Chikmagalur coffee beans from Natraj’s cousin’s coffee plantation

Looking across the valley from the coffee plantation in the mountains outside Chikmagalur, Karnataka State. Rice paddies are visible at the valley base.

Along with coffee and pepper, rice, ginger, betel nut, guava, banana and chico grow in this tropical and lush paradise. Natraj assures me his plantation 3 hours drive away is even better. I would so love to spend a week there relaxing, swimming in the pool, tasting the local produce and hiking through the forests and mountains, trying to catch a glimpse of the glorious peacock.

Some locals near a hut producing jaggery (out of shot) in the Karnataka countryside. The man in the check shirt is eating sugarcane and sugarcane fibres cover the ground.

Everything about India so far has been very special and memorable. Yesterday we attended the engagement of another of Natraj’s cousins. The relationship was arranged and the fiancée and fiancé had only met each other twice prior to this day. The ladies wore beautiful saris and the Hindu priest performed traditional rituals.

Bangalore engagement: Natraj’s cousin seated and wearing a garland with the presiding Hindu priest to his left surrounded by offerings to the deities.

Bangalore engagement: The elaborately presented fiancée with henna tattoos on her arms, a garland, gold jewellery and many bracelets

During the exhaustive drive between Bangalore and Chikmagalur we visited Gomateshwara, an ancient statue created by the Jains and India’s largest monolith.

Gomateshwara, on top of a hill in the town of Shravanabelagola

Tonight we’re travelling to Bangalore on an overnight bus before flying north to Delhi tomorrow morning.

I have taken many photos and will upload the best ones although this may not occur until after I return home to Perth.