Photography tour in Ladakh lead by Cristian Tzecu
I was tempted by photography since 2013 when I bought my Nikon V2 mirrorless, but during more than one year I haven’t learned much, my photos were rather boring. At the beginning of 2014 I saw an announcement about this photography tour and I decided to apply for it. I visited Cristian’s page and I enjoyed his photographs. I also read that he’s been several times in India and this was comforting.
I didn’t knew any of the other participants and I met them on my way to Delhi: Cosmina and Andrei in Otopeni airport, Cristian and Ioana in Moscow airport and Alina next morning in New Delhi. All of them are nice people and we spent good time together in India.
“Shock and awe” at the first contact with India
4:30 in the morning – landed in Delhi airport, booked taxi from inside the airport to make sure we won’t be cheated with the price and went outside to smoke and pick the taxi assigned for us. Still dark outside but shocking hot, police with real guns securing the airport and many many people. Although very early the traffic was intense, many trucks with colourful decorations, our driver asking us if we want drugs, everything different from what I knew and awe erasing the tiredness. More than one hour later we were in the same taxi but parked in front of the tourist office. They were saying the road leading to Pahar Ganj, the backpacker neighborhood were we booked the hostel, is closed due to some muslim festivity. And we had to find something else. Many tourists in despair, feeling lost and cheated. Dawn was coming as we arrived at a hotel recommended by the driver, more expensive but no time to search other, not much energy left. I got in my room, put my camera bag on the table and immediately a cockroach got on top of it. The room smelled bad and the bathroom was dirty and smelly. We turned on the AC and tried to sleep. First impressions as I saw so many people living on the streets, bad smell, dirt, one cow crossing the street, monkeys on the fences, we and others feeling cheated, the dirty hotel were that we will have quite hard life there but we are lucky to have Cristian as our leader because he traveled in India several times before. Also I felt very curious and inspired. Now we were in a photography tour and I realized the subjects for photographs were much better than I imagined.
We tried to book tickets for the train to Taj Mahal ( I imagined myself on the roof with the locals) but they insisted we should take something safer, so they booked a car for us and we decided is a good deals as it wasn’t much more expensive than the train but we also had the chance to stop in other places on our way to India’s number one famous spot. All this being organized we went to eat something and to visit the observatory, Jantar Mantar. Rain came and passed as we photographed the observatory and some of the people there. Entrance fee not expensive but very big difference in price between us and the locals. And that’s the rule all over the places we visited, and seems only fair since they earn so little.
How I started to love India
On our way to Agra, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri , a complex with beautiful architecture filled with so many people, all of them asking us if we want to take a photo together with them. And then I started to love it. Suddenly phones were out and all our subjects for photos were almost fighting to be the ones to make a photo with them. And this was enough for us to feel confident to ask them to let us take a photograph also. Time passed so quickly and we could barely enjoy the architecture but certainly enjoyed beautiful people. They seemed sincerely happy but strangely serious when photographed.
And we moved on, back in the car and .. Taj Mahal we’re coming! Arrived in Agra, checked-in, took a shower and went for a walk. We saw Taj Mahal during blue hour and enjoy dinner on the roof with the same Taj in background.
Morning started early because there was a queue involved, and then we spread for two hours inside the complex. Shoes on, off, covered, uncovered, heat, and many people. The story with the photos repeated and some of the people asked us to pose with them.
I always thought the very famous places are overrated and somehow a cliche´ but, as with Machu Picchu and other famous spots, it was breathtaking. It’s something to see, but also watching the people makes it an even better experience. Taj Mahal wasn’t the main destination of our trip but this was the warming.
In the afternoon we headed back to Delhi, this time heavy rain wetting our baggage from the roof of the car. We bought a cover and the guys got very wet setting it on top of our backpacks. We had some stops on our way, places with souvenirs and food, is a very common thing that a driver makes a deal with these places and gets a percentage if the tourists he brings there buy something.
Back in Delhi we went to a hostel in Pahar Ganj, left backpacks, went for dinner and I finally made a henna tattoo which by the end of the trip disappeared. Next day we flew to Srinagar, but that’s another part of the story…to follow! 🙂