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Published: February 11th 2018
No specific sight-seeing tour today but a very interesting road trip by taxi.
We were packed and ready by 9.30 so checked out of our very nice hotel, with promises of a 5 star Trip Advisor review and loaded our stuff into the waiting taxi, destination Agra.
Slightly less frenetic on the road in the city than previous days, possibly because it's Saturday. Once away from Jaipur we took the Toll Road. Was assuming this would be something like a motorway but is more reminiscent of the main road south out of Bangkok where it runs as a dual carriageway alongside any local roads and the two frequently converge, which generally causes chaos.
After 200 or more kilometres we are still none the wiser as to the rules of the road apart from it is supposed to be drive on the left.
Should one keep to the left and overtake on the right ? Maybe, but if so, not many, if any of the drivers knew that. Lane usage was a total free-for-all. If there is a free bit of road drive in it and if someone is in the way, honk your horn and push your
way past, as best you can.
We wove from right to left and back again at random and surprisingly, after a while, didn't feel particularly unsafe.
There was hardly a mile along that road where we didn't see someone, doing something or other. Working in the fields and carrying crops home on top of the head. Carting / loading bricks at the roadside brickworks. Mending trucks, changing tyres in the truck lay-byes. Collecting dung and forming by hand into neat patties ready for drying and burning as fuel (lots of that). Shepherding sheep and goats. Taking the cow for a walk along the edge of the road. Stripping off down to pants and showering under a hosepipe. Sitting around in groups, this was a 99% male activity, doing nothing. Sleeping on benches, rickshaws, bicycles, motorbikes. Hanging out the washing on the dusty roadside. Meaninglessly sweeping the road with a broom only for the dust to blow right back again. Selling lots and lots of things from carts, totally open shop fronts, under little dusty stalls. Skillfully chiseling stonework and woodwork. Building buildings but none ever seem to be finished and a lot of those that are are then
left to fall to ruin.
What we didn't see anywhere was any order to anything. Everything seems rather chaotic, as if it could be done much more easily if only someone would sit down and work out a plan first. Of course the one thing India has in abundance is labour so this probably explains what we saw as chaos, in Indian terms this is making good use of resources.
The countryside behind the road became less dry and more green as we went away from Jaipur and nearer to Agra, Really very flat most of the way and when there were hills, these were being eaten away by quarrying for stone and cement. The countryside we drove thought is not scenic but it is exceedingly interesting and we enjoyed the drive
Stopped at a 'craft centre' for a drink / leg-stretch and had a little wander round. Did buy a magnet but avoided the temptation to buy lots of things as have plans for more shopping later.
On our way again, we went through about 4 sets of tolls which each cost 60 rupees and then we were close to Agra and the dual carriageway
deteriorated into a 'row of pot holes' which passed through a 'built up area'. The village we passed through at the point where the road surface had vanished looked as if time had stood still and could have been the same 100+ years ago. Tricky taking photos along here as the taxi was being thrown about trying to avoid the lumps and bumps in the road. Interesting for us though to see the roadside sights as we passed through where most 'dwellings' had at least one cow or goat or sheep or dog or buffalo or hog or horse hanging about outside. Everything so very messy. Wanted to jump out and put all the rubbish in a dustbin and sweep the street but there would be little point as it's so dusty with the state of the road. However of all the people we passed most smiled, and several waved so I hope they are as happy as they looked.
Negotating our way to the hotel in the incredible traffic chaos of the city was a challenge for our driver but he did it in style, past Agra Fort and then on the approach to the Taj Mahal. We
are only a kilometre away at Taj Mahal Resort. The drive took 5 hours, not 4 as expected and cost 5,500 rupees plus tip of course.
We booked in and found ourselves on the basement floor, with no window to the room. I returned to reception and asked for a change so we moved up a floor to reception level. Not much to see from the window but at least I can tell if it's day or night when I look out.
I had a swim in the, now to be expected, icy cold pool but no bar in sight so no early evening beer for Bob and fruit juice for me. We climbed to the hotel viewpoint from where we could see the Taj Mahal. Not too clearly as weather overcast but there magically all the same. Then a stroll along the road which leads to the Taj Mahal (diesel and petrol vehicles prohibited in this area) before dinner on the roof top restaurant. Taken aback that there were no drinks available to go with the meal and for fruit juice, only orange but it appears that most hotels don't have alcohol licence so don't therefore serve
Have booked a taxi for tomorrow to do some sight-seeing around Agra as we have booked tickets for Monday for the Taj Mahal, think it may be busier tomorrow, being Sunday.
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