The flight from Ahmedabad was uneventful, we managed to meet my parents at the airport before they boarded their flight to London. It was an emotional reunion even though we’d only been apart for two days, the fact we wouldn’t see each other for almost four months was hanging thickly in the air.
They were full of concern over my downturn in health, I’m not going to lie, the attention was just what I needed. I feel very sorry for myself when I’m sick and as great as Lee can be, he has a practical approach, where I crave a softer, maternal approach – sympathy and cuddles.
Delhi ended up being a write off for me, I climbed into bed as soon as we got into our suite – a welcomed complimentary upgrade – and slept while the boys went out for pizza. I knew I was more than a little unwell when I failed to feel warm despite having many blankets on me and my joints ached like I’d run a marathon. So, I called the doctor who came to examine me and diagnosed me with a chest infection and stomach infection and prescribed me two lots of antibiotics along with SEVEN other medicines! Strangely he told me not to take rehydration fluids as the salt ratio wasn’t right for me. Stupidly, I trusted him and gradually went from bad to worse.
In the meantime, Lee and Ethan walked around Connaught Place looking for food and fending off locals who kept wanting to touch Ethan and have photos with him. Ethan attracts a lot of attention everywhere we take him, it’s equal parts fascinating, flattering and frustrating. He is a sweet boy and will generally say hello to everyone, liking to shake hands and cuddle people but when he is tired or hot or trying to eat his meal, I can’t help being the protective lioness and moving them along.
The next day we were met by our driver and an interesting looking car, comfortable enough but set up in a way that meant poor Lee had to take the front passenger seat – not the best place considering our driver liked eating onions and garlic and didn’t wash or change clothes often enough……
Ethan was pretty good through all the car journeys, most of them were around 4 hours long, a few were longer, he mostly slept and looked out of the window or chatted with us. For all other times there was the trusted iPad. I found the car journeys tough, I had an awful cough, dry and hacking and with no food in my tummy, I was very weak and being on the road was making me nauseous.
On our way to the Taj Mahal, we got an insight into the kind of driver we’d ended up with – he pushed us into accepting a guide, one that I had listened to him making arrangements with on the phone. No matter how much we said we didn’t want a guide, we just wanted to be in and out of there due to my health, he used emotional fear to persuade us. He played on us having Ethan with us and it being a Sunday, it would be busier and we would end up surrounded by crowds. He assured us the guide would keep us safe then explained that we should pay the guide 300 rupees and give him (driver) 500 rupees privately because the guide wasn’t supposed to know the full price…..very dodgy!
We reluctantly agreed and were met by a nice enough man, but surprise surprise, no crowds, no mobs and when people tried to take photos with Ethan, the guide did nothing to intervene. Paying a disproportionate amount more for a “foreign” ticket meant not queuing for the various entrances, saving us hours.
We agreed that the Taj Mahal was a nice to see, tick it off the list type of place, not one to spend longer than an hour in and definitely not worth seeing the inside where they keep replica tombs.
The next day we left for The Umaid Lake Palace Hotel, it was very much a stop gap to break up a 7 hour drive but turned out to be one of the nicer places on this route. A former palace, the hotel and grounds are imposing and they grow their own veg and rear their own animals and fish – all of which is used to make the meals for the guests. Our arrival was met by a man playing a huge drum and us being showered by flower petals as we walked in.
The staff were incredible and took an immediate liking to Ethan, they took us on a lengthy tour of the grounds where Ethan played with a newborn calf and picked veg which they kept aside and cooked for us that evening.
The room we stayed in wasn’t great and it wasn’t the easiest night’s sleep but I’m glad we went. We also visited a Step-well nearby – “Chand Baori” which was incredible, it was made in 800 A.D and consists of 3,500 narrow steps over 13 stories. It extends approximately 100 ft into the ground making it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. It was hard to believe mankind made something so precise so many years ago.
Then it was off to Ranthambore Tiger Safari, the highlight of our trip! We had an evening safari booked and needed to reach the ticket office by 1pm to collect our passes. Feeling no better, I decided to call the Delhi doctor again who advised changing antiobiotics or heading to the hospital for their advice. Unable to swallow any more pills on an empty stomach, I chose the latter and got dropped off at a hospital close to the safari while Lee and Ethan continued without me.
As a foreigner, I was charged a 500 Rupee consultation fee (around £6) which bumped me to the front of the line. I had mixed feelings about this, there were around 30 people ahead of me in the stuffy waiting room, some with small kids and it felt wrong to be pushing ahead just because I could afford to pay more than them.
Nonetheless, selfishness won over and I went ahead to the front of the queue. I was diagnosed with food poisoning and an upper respiratory infection and advised to have fluids and an oxygen tank plus intravenous antibiotics. It meant being admitted for a few hours but I was happy to do that, and they opened up a wing for me, gave me a private en-suite room and three-on-one care.
The down-side of this great care was the attention it attracted, other staff members kept coming into the room to take a look at me, some of them trying to decipher the doctor’s notes, with one lady walking straight up to me to ask what was wrong with me! I felt embarrassed to say I was there with a dodgy stomach lol
Treatment over, I headed to the hotel and straight to the bedroom to get some rest before the boys came back. I’m glad I did, the room took my breath away, it was seriously special. Firstly, it was huge, secondly it had a bath the size of a plunge pool and a shower area the size of most bathrooms, thirdly, it had a beautiful four-poster bed and lastly, it had a fireplace! You may not think you need a fireplace in India, but the evenings in their winter can get very cold, and necessary or not, there’s just something about having a fireplace next to a bed.
Just as I finished exploring, the boys returned from their uneventful safari and we went to bed (after Ethan had a swim in the bath) with our fingers crossed for a tiger sighting at the morning safari.