I almost forgot to mention my courageous adventure outward today!
They say no trip is complete without a bit of sightseeing. Far be it for me to argue conventional wisdom. So, today I decided to overcome my trepidation and voyage outside the protective bubble of my hotel.
After much hemming and hawing, I decided to hire a car for 4 hours and visit a couple places I had read about. The car was only INR 1500, or about US$25. Not a bad deal. The driver would take me where I wanted to go, or recommend places, and then wait there for me to go do my tourist duty. Perfect, says I!
I felt much more reassured knowing I wouldn’t have to negotiate a taxi on my own and have to worry constantly that he had just decided to take the money and run, leaving me stranded in the middle if India.
The journey started much the same as it had to date, driver and I barreling down crowded streets avoiding collision with pedestrians and auto rickshaws at the very last instant. But this time, instead of the now-familiar route towards the office, we turned and headed “up-town”.
In a few minutes, Hyderabad underwent a transformation from semi-rural, lets-put-Mike-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere city/slum to bustling, huge city. The building got taller, and the population density increased. Traffic too, if that’s even possible.
The first stop was Golconda Fort. The description read that it was a 400-year old fort built by Muhammed Quli Qutb Shaw, and had some very intriguing architecture. As we approached the fort, the traffic thinned out and we entered a more rural part of town. Then the first gate came into view. Huge! It was what you’d expect from a fortress built by a shaw. We zipped through the entrance, but where I expected to see the innards of a fort was more of the now tightly-packed neighborhood of Golconda. It was actually very fascinating. Lots of older people, cozy streets and what I can only describe as what I had expected suburban, ancient India to look like.
We continued through the winding streets until finally the inner gate appeared. My driver gave me his cell number and walked me up to the ticket window. It was 10 rupees for Indians, 100 rupees for foreigners. I considered for a moment handing the ticket collector 10 rupees, but I don’t think they’d find that amusing at all.
A nice old guy walked up and led me to through the turnstile and out into the forecourt. He started explaining the history and pulling me along. But, I didn’t really want a guide. The plan was to hike to the top of the fort at my own leisurely pace, taking photos along the way. As it turns out, Mohammed had different plans. I vaguely remembered reading about this scheme, and that it is hard to shake a guide once they latch on to you. It’s true, I’m here to tell you. With about half a dozen “No, thank you”‘s, he finally gave up and wandered off. That was tough, I thought, and then turned around and guess what? Another smiling face offering to show me the sites! He even demonstrated clapping under a dome that produces a really neat echo. I tried the same ploy to ditch him, but he was more tenacious. Finally I broke free and headed up the path towards the ruins. This happened at least three more times.
But after climbing away from the entrance area, I was finally left to my own designs and started hiking up the trail towards the top, which I believe was 2000ft above the entrance.
The ruins were spectacular! I am really quite happy I decided to chance coming out rather than mulling around the hotel all day. There were many different style of architecture, several huge groups of school kids and one or two non-indigenous tourists wandering about. At the top I was treated to a fantastic view of the city, and a Hindu temple.
After recording the images for posterity, I turned and worked my way down the maze of ancient (or relatively so) stone steps.
I had planned to visit Hussain Sagar lake, which has a famous statue of Buddha on a small island in the middle, but sadly my driver ended up on the wrong side of the lake where there were no places to park. He did pull over and let me get out and take a couple pics. We ended up on the backside of the statue, so the picture isn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been.
Here are some of the pics…