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Thursday, 12 March 2009


9th-12th March

Leg 1 – Delhi to Agra
Distance - 219kms
Time – 7 Hours
Average Speed -31.3km/h
Road – 4 lane highway

The journey went without major hiccup. We negotiated our way out of the city and through the chaos of the road south to Agra. The sun was baking hot and beating down on our backs – not a problem for two sun lovers but the bike thought otherwise, cutting out several times before grinding to a complete halt (conveniently…or not) just outside a Royal Enfield garage. Ady just wanted to let the bike cool but before we knew it, ten or twelve guys crowded round, eager to help, wielding spanners etc. They couldn’t do anything useful but we felt obliged to hand them a few rupees for their trouble. This could get expensive! Five minutes later and we were on the road again, crawling along with the rickshaws and the bicycles, lest the engine overheated again! (It turns out the mixture screw on the carburettor was too far out which is what caused the poor running!)

After arriving at Agra, home to India’s world famous Taj Mahal. It took another stressful hour to find the guesthouse we wanted; most of the streets in Agra, as in most Indian towns or cities just don’t seem to have street names! The Tourist Rest House was a good choice and the gated property and peaceful candlelit garden was just what we needed to escape the chaos of the streets.

An early start was in order as we hoped to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, before the hoards of Delhi day trippers spoilt the view. When we arrived at the West gate (a tip is to arrive at the East gate, we realised afterwards) there were already crowds of people around the ticket box – passengers it seemed from the overnight train from Delhi. There were separate, lengthy queues forming at the security gates for men and women and we prepared ourselves for a wait. Then from out of nowhere an authoritative western woman appeared, closely followed by a line of what must be her tour group; expensively dressed European ladies. She pushed her way down the line and they all followed, with Sam in subtle pursuit. Before long there were whispers of “western women can push to the front”. So it seemed was the case for western men as Ady was also through security in record time. Normally we’d have felt bad for queue jumping but at a massively inflated foreigner price – 750 rupees versus 20 for Indian nationals we felt at least we’d got our monies worth!

One of the wonders of the world, Agra’s magnificent white marble Taj Mahal stands like a bulbous beacon, drawing tourists like moths to a wondrous flame. Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this sublime Mughal mausoleum is India’s most ogled icon. The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child in 1631. The death of Mumtaz left the emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned grey virtually overnight. Construction of the Taj began in the same year and was not completed until around 1653. Not long after it was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprison in Agra fort where, for the rest of his days, he could only gaze out at his creation through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here alongside Mumtaz.

Predictably, we took all the usual photos of the Taj. You can choose to view them or not, we won’t be offended either way! Without wanting to cause embarrassment to any of our readers (and as such we’ll mention no names!) we had a laugh over how a friend of ours told a story about her untimely attack of Delhi Belly while visiting the Taj. Unable to make it across the lengthy ornamental gardens to the only public toilets, she had to duck behind a neatly manicured bush and hope nobody was looking!

After the excitement of the Taj Mahal and the early start we collapsed back into bed, with full intention of visiting Agra Fort that afternoon. I don’t think we saw sunlight again that day and only crawled out of bed for dinner at a nearby restaurant. The following day was Holi, a Hindu festival to celebrate the commencement of spring. The previous soakings Sam had received in Delhi were apparently linked to this event, even though the culprits were at least week too early in their enthusiasm. On the day itself, the water gets mixed with powdered paint and a massive paint fight starts and often, in the excitement the powder is thrown alone. As some of the few tourists staying in Agra we knew we were easy targets and would get completely obliterated if we left the hotel. The manager also advised us to stay indoors for the morning and so, ashamedly, we did. We’ve since regretted this massively and only wished we’d thought to buy a fetching boilersuit (as the locals do), or at least some old rags beforehand. If ever you’re in India at the end Feb/start March, check out when Holi is and go join the fun…and please, retaliate on our behalf!

Ady decided the give the bike a once over before the next leg of the journey, following the problems on the trip from Delhi. Having cleaned 4 years of dirt and grit from inside the carburettor, the bike was running much better. Let’s hope it survives the next leg!

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