See previous and next. Date: 19th December 2005 Starting in Jaipur, ending to Agra

Horn PleaseSnake BirdOur next journey in India was the road from Jaipur to Agra, we went to a wetland known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. This area was created during the British Raj era, and is a large wetland. There are understandable pressures upon it from local farmers - it represents a large store of water. However, it does bring in tourism. Keoladeo is near a town called Bharatpur.

The area was made as a hunting reserve, and though there are no longer any tiger, there are jackals and bison. In the park there is a big sign detailing the hunting expeditions. The guides can vary in quality, but our guide really knew his stuff, and took real pleasure in the wildlife.

This is my favourite Chipmunk ShotIn the park is a small tearoom serving the ubiquitous masala tea, and the wildlife there was pretty bold, looking for any small crumb dropped by the food. Our guide took us from here to a place he knew there'd likely be a boa constrictor. We found the snake, and it was a pretty impressive animal, but unfortunately for the animal it had been injured, there was a puncture wound and it had started to be attacked by ants. According to our guide when this happens the ants get into the wound and start to eat the snake - not a good way to go.

From Keoladeo it was into Agra. Both Delhi and Jaipur had much to recommend them, but I didn't take a shine to Agra. If it didn't have the Taj Mahal I wouldn't have wanted to stay there for any time, I certainly wouldn't want to spend much longer there than we had to.

The pollution in Agra is quite ovewhelming, and I found it to be much more invasive than Delhi (and that's saying something!).

Dancing BearI took a dislike to Agra from the Uttar Pradesh border, at the border tour guides have to stop to present credentials (each state in India has its own regime of taxes and fees). When we were there a guy came up with his Dancing Bear. The car in front gave them some cash - I gave him a look that could kill, and he didn't even think of performing for us.

We arrived at the ManSingh Palace hotel in Agra. The hotel looked good, but they didn't impress. The check-in took forever, and we took our own bags to our room, getting within a few feet before a bell-hop appeared, sorry, but no thanks.

In the evening we felt a bit rough. For our first time in India we had a bit of diarrhea, a loss of appetite. It was a bit of a concern for the next day, we only had one day in Agra, and that was our one chance to see the Taj Mahal.