Paul & Tracey's Travels
4th Feb 2012 - Delhi,Rajasthan & Agra,India
East to Uttar Pradesh and Agra
Our driver (Prem) who was arranged by our travel company was waiting for us as we left the hotel with our luggage ready for the 5 hour drive east to Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. I was also re-united with my iPad charger sent on from the hotel in Jodhpur, so assuming that I can get WiFi at the hotel in the evening, I will be able to upload photos again.
Agra (also known as Akbarabad) sits on the banks of the River Yamuna which also runs through Delhi a further 200km further North. It has a population of getting on for 2 million. It has the same semi arid climate of Jodhpur and Jaipur. While reading about Agra on Wikipedia, I came across this advice : Caution: When you enter from Jaipur / Bharatpur side, beware of robber in uniform (State police / RTO) at the entry point of Agra City. They will chase you and threaten you for no fault of yours. By doing these they will loot big amount of money from you and make you uncomfortable !! Mmmmmmm........
Road trip east
The start of the journey was through the now familiar streets of old Jaipur, and it seems as the the city would never end as we fought our way through the usual maelstrom, and past the dirty dusty communities of the poor at the side of the roads. Eventually we joined the national highway N11- a two lane divided dual carriage way. The divided bit is significant - this means that you only have to deal with the traffic going in the same direction as you, or that was what I thought. Actually we quite often came across trucks, bikes and carts going in the opposite direction to us, on a dual carriageway. Occasionally there would also be sheep or goats crossing the road.
Every so often we would pass a toll gate and have to pay a few Rupees to enter the next stretch of road. I was disappointed not to see a fee for camels as we saw quite a few, however as they are not legally allowed to use the road, there is no charge ! Amusingly, there is a long list of exemptions for paying the tolls, including bikes, carts, and the President of India....and the vice president, and any car carrying a dignitary.
Camels and Saris
Once on the open road, the traffic comprises mostly of bikes, buses, assorted local carts, camels, livestock, pedestrians, and trucks, who are not allowed in the inner city areas without paying high charges. There are actually very few cars.
I love seeing the women at the side of the road in their spotless brightly coloured saris. Some will be walking carrying a bundle of something on their heads, others working in the fields, some working on the road, either helping the men, or cleaning/painting. The men on the other hand can be seen in their scruffy clothes, sitting at the side of the road chatting, or peeing, or arguing. We saw a lot of people using a water pump to gather water or wash themselves.
Half way to Agra, we stopped at the Gangour Motel for some coffee and a snack, before pressing on. Shortly after crossing the state border from Rajasthan into Uttar Pradesh, we turned off the main road to visit the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. This is a national monument. It was built in the 1500's taking 15 years, then was abandoned after 14 years due to problems with maintaining a good water supply
The irony is that it is anything but deserted now, with thousands of little shops outside to lure the tourists, and locals everywhere wanting to be your guide for a few rupees. Once inside, and away from the hassle of the local tradesmen, it is quite and calm and much like some of the other forts and palaces we have visited over the last few days, but no less awe inspiring for that.
Arrival in Agra and a first sight of the Taj Mahal
Finally back to the car for the final 40 km to Agra. As we approached it was clear that this city was not a whole lot different in terms of traffic volumes and poverty as other places we have seen, however the buzz of life in these places is still amazing to behold. We are staying in the Gateway Hotel, and the view out of our window is amazing. We can plainly see the Taj Mahal over the rooftops of this part of the city - apparently it Is 3km away but it looks closer.
On entry to the hotel we had a Bindi applied - this is the red decorative dot applied to the forehead which amongst other things is thought to protect against demons and bad spirits. After our long drive we stayed in the hotel for the evening.
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