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Rail Tours- a whirlwind adventure in India

India, land of kaleidoscopic dreams, where the magical is commonplace and anything can happen. From the monochrome landscapes of winter London I journeyed forth on a 12 day rail adventure.

You know that bit in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s house lands and the world turns techno-colour? Well, it was a little bit like that. An explosion of colours, sounds and scents reawakened my weary winter spirt. Rail tours transport you along the yellow brick rail-road to the Indian equivalent of the Emerald City, that incredulous labour of love that is the Taj Mahal.

The India rail network is well maintained and our carriages were fit for royalty. It was a relief to be able to journey straight into the heart of Mumbai and Delhi without getting caught in the crazy traffic. Our journey took us on a zigzag route through northern India’s most spectacular landscapes including the deserted Moghul city of Fatehpur Sikri and the Pink City of Jaipur.

City – We began in Delhi, which is a city of extremes. A visit to India is as much about the people as the landscape, and day-to-day life is vibrant and fascinating. There is also a pull in the city between the traditional and the contemporary, with faith and religion managing to coexist in harmony along with big business and extreme class division. Old Delhi and the Red Fort are the most inspiring sights, along with the Raj Ghat memorial to Ghandi.

Architecture – The Taj Mahal is surely one of the most incredible sights anyone can hope to see in their lifetime. A true labour of love, the otherworldly white marble facade is built from stones that were transported over 200 miles by a fleet of 1000 elephants. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, the Taj must be the most romantic gift ever given. Nearby in Agra is the magnificent Mughal Fort, also not to be missed, which was the centre of Mughal administration and rule.

Wildlife – Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, tigers anyway. In Ranthambore National Park we were whisked away by experienced game keepers for a chance to spot these magnificent predators in action. We did catch a flash of feline scarpering across the landscape, which was good enough for me.

Countryside – Udaipur is the city of lakes, and one of the most beautiful locations in India. Grand palaces line the shores of Lake Pichola, the white marble facade of City Palace reflecting perfectly in the placid water. Possibly the most humbling stop off on the trip was out visit to the Ellora Caves, reached after a scenic drive through the Indian countryside. These caves conceal monasteries and temples which are cut straight into the basalt cliff. Beautiful stonework demonstrate scenes and themes from both Buddhist and Hindu culture.

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