February 24th, 2010 – by: Sads79
View of the city from the fort walls
I was rather rudely awoken by some religious prayer music at about 5am, which I wasn't best pleased about. At least I meant I didn't miss my 8.20am train to Gwalior, and a rather relaxing journey in Sleeper class (INR 132/£1.70/$3) ensued. I got chatting to a lovely chap, Vikram, who was travelling with his sister back to Gwalior from Delhi. The locals are always amazed to hear me say that I am travelling on my own for pleasure (and not studying etc) - 'where is your wife?' they constantly say!! Ha ha, will be a little while before I am married off yet! I was little nervous when we arrived in Gwalior, as my only reason for coming here was to see the One-Day-International (ODI) between South Africa and India, which was in two days time, and I didn't yet have a ticket.
In fact, I wasn't totally sure how I was going to even get one - I'd read on a few websites that the Union Bank usually sells them for games in Gwalior, so I hired a tuk-tuk driver (aka Captain Slow) who could quite possibly have been blind as he seemed to have absolutely no idea where he was going and must've asked for directions about 5 times. Even I knew he was going the wrong way as started to head back out of the city! I suppose I should've taken control and got some early Rickshaw Run practice and driven it myself. Eventually he did find a branch and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as easy as asking 'have you got any tickets for the cricket?' in order to complete my purchase. I went for the cheapest seat (INR 900/£13/$20) and thought that should be ok. The others were up near INR 6000, which I'm pretty sure is more than you'd pay at an England match in England - wow! I was relieved that I'd bagged myself a ticket and started to relax - big mistake.
The majestic fort
I started looking round for accomodation and went to a few places listed in the book. It soon became apparent that everywhere was full because of the cricket - sh*t. Of course, I couldn't reserve in advance because I didn't have a ticket and didn't know I'd definitely be staying. A hired another tuk-tuk drver (aka tout) and he took me round a few he knew (slightly sketchy backstreet places) - and even they were full. I was beginning to think I'd have to find a 'Plan B'. Finally he found 'Tourist Hotel' (they love an obvious name here in India) and thankfully they had rooms - at a price though, INR 600 (£9/$14) for a basic room which didn't even have a hot shower. I tried to negotiate, but the boss was having none of it. He knew there weren't many rooms left in town and stuck to his guns.
Amazing rock sculptures outside the West Gate of the fort
I ate humble pie and gave in. I didn't like it, but at least it meant I could see the match.
Me looking rather unnerved with the Black & decker instrument nearby!
Gwalior, like many Indian cities, doesn't really have a lot to see in terms of sights. So I knew I had a few days to pass, so I choose to catch up on some blogging and reading. I didn't really like not using the time to see things, but for once I was slowing down (something I hardly ever do!). The city does have one outstanding sight, however. Yes, you guessed it, a huge red fort.
The Indian Tourist board must be glad for at least one thing from their oppressed past, in that plenty of occupiers built some outstanding constructions, without which most of the cities would be uneventful (and that's being pretty kind). So the day before the match, I walked from town to the fort. It took a hell of a lot longer than I had expected, as in fact its about 3km long and the entrance is as far away from the city as it could be. I paid the INR 100 foreigner entry fee and strolled around. There weren't many other tourists so it was pretty peaceful and it was amazing to see the condition some of the palaces remained in - Man Singh Palace was beautiful. I walked back down the West Gate side and saw the outstanding rock sculptures which have been tirelessly restored. I ambled back to town, without a map and got myself slightly lost.
My faithful barber Manoj!
I needed a shave anyway, so I stopped off and had the cut-throat treatment again. Not just a shave though, this guy opted for a full face massage - and not any old massage at that. At one point he pulled out what could only be described as a Black-and-Decker sander. I have to say it was not enjoyable in the slightest, but the more I grimaced, the longer he kept it numbingly on my face. I felt like Liza Minelli afterwards, unable to move my face! I paid the INR 130 (£1.80/$3) he wanted and scarpered quick-smart after taking a photo for evidence.
Outside the ground getting my colours done!
I relaxed over the remaining day with lunch at the Indian Coffee House (tasty cheap Thali for INR 75) and caught up on some planning on the internet.
I had to share my footspace with Roland Rat however, which left my typing slightly uneasily I have to say. So the time for waiting had passed, it was cricket time!!
The great Sachin Tendulkar celebrating his 200 not out at Gwalior
I was up like an excited kid on the day of the 2nd ODI between India and South Africa. although I'm a big cricket fan, I'd never seen an international match before, so I was really looking forward to it. Although the start time was 2.30pm, I knew the crowds started to gather early, so I took the advice printed on the ticket and headed down there two hours before.
There were people streaming down the main roads heading to the stadium and I grabbed a huge Indian flag and somehow got roped into having my face painted with the Indian colours - I was all set! Or so i thought....I went to try and get past the first security check and was unceremoniously told that no objects that could be thrown could be taken into the stadium, including my £250 Canon camera - I mean seriously, am I, as a foreigner, really going to throw my prized camera onto a cricket field??? I tried to argue, but it was no use and I had to walk all the way back to the hotel and dump my camera. At the second attempt I did finally get through the bizarrely constructed security cordon. The barrier was constructed from wooden branches and you would've thought they had only been told they needed a barrier half hour before and used anything they could find. Unbelievable! Still, I was in and got to my section. It was packed...I mean asbolutely rammed! I struggled to find the right row and seat and soon realised that this 'seat' was nothing more than a patch of concrete. I had to prise myself in between two fellows to sit down and there was absolutely zero comfort. Great. And still two hours before the match! Needless to say my a*se my numb after about an hour. The atmosphere was awesome, however. every time an Indian player came into the arena, even just to warm up, the crowd went nuts. When Virender Sehweg and Sachin Tendulkar (probably the best player of all time!), it cranked up another notch. I loved every minute and felt part of it, joining in the fun and games. India flew along and I was lucky enough to witness history when Tendulkar became the first player ever to score 200 in an ODI match - a true legend! India's 401-3 was too much for South Africa, who subsided badly, despite a century from Ab de Villiers. despite the discomfort, it was a great day all round and had made the 3 day detour worth it. I really wanted a good nights sleep, but I had a long day of travel ahead of me to get to Pushkar, starting with the 4.50am train to Agra....
Tendulkar flicks one past South African keeper Mark Boucher
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