Saturday, October 24, 2015

Getting to Agra and the Taj Mahal

OK, before we talk about our time in Agra I have to comment on the car ride we took from Dharamsala to New Delhi. We were supposed to fly on Wednesday October 14th, but due to bad weather the flight was canceled so we ended up renting a car and a driver. Our taxi driver who took us to the airport said the drive was a 10-11 hour drive but our driver who took us to New Delhi said 9 hours. That should have been a clue to how the ride was going to go. Highway 1 is a small narrow mountain road until it gets close to New Delhi. Holy Molly driving in India is completely crazy. It is basically jungle rules. It is the art of the car horn and at night the horn and the dimmer switch. It is constant horn beeping. They beep the horn and it means I am behind you so look out I am coming around you. There is absolutely no lane discipline. It is British driving rules so the driver is on the right side of the car. 

I was sitting directly behind the driver so I saw all the oncoming traffic. Sara had the more scenic side with a view of the countryside. I can’t count the number of times I thought we were going to be killed in a head on collision. They sometimes have a white line in the middle of the road but I never saw any yellow no pass lines.  We saw a number of trucks and vehicles with no tail lights at night and even the occasional bus or truck going the wrong direction on the highway. All in all, without question it was the scariest car ride I have ever been on. I will have to say our driver was very good but the drive was like being in a NASCAR race or a scene from the Fast and Furious movie.  I looked over at Sara who was napping and tried, but just couldn’t do it.  Sara said her approach was to look out of the widow to the dark countryside; clearly it wasn’t as scary on her side where the imminent head on collisions were hidden.

We arrived in New Delhi around midnight, and our previously arranged driver was waiting for us at a gas station for the hand off.  The push to get to Agra was we really wanted to see the Taj Mahal, and the only day we had was Thursday (Oct 15th) as the Taj is closed on Fridays.  So Gian who was our driver for the next two days drove us the 3-4 hours to Agra. This experience was quite different, as the new expressway was almost empty.  We did notice after a while our Gian was starting to weave a bit, could have been sleepy, so we started talking to him to ensure we arrived alive!

We finally arrived at out hotel at 4am, and slept until around 11am!  The afternoon of Thursday Oct 15th we visited the Taj Mahal. Very very impressive, and we were glad we made the effort to visit. We spent about 3 hours wandering the large complex taking pictures and enjoying the peace.  There were a lot of people visiting, but not many tourists. A lot of Indian people wanted their photos taken with us, our guide explained it was because they had never seen a foreigner before and woudl go back to their village with a photo of us.  We enjoyed a nice dinner and chatted to the couple next to us who were from Portsmouth England, Sara’s home town.

Friday (Oct 16th) we got up early and visited Agra Fort, a huge red fortress complex with some magnificent white palaces inside.  The architecture was amazing.  It was a really hot day again so after spending a few hours we went back to the hotel for a lunch and to prepare for our overnight train to Varanasi.

Click here for a slide show of the Taj Mahal and Agra

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