While in Delhi, we had the task of figuring out how we were going to travel to Agra and onward through the state of Rajasthan. After much research, we decided that our best bet as a family of four, was to hire a car and driver for 20 days of road travel. This seems like such a luxury (and it is!), but driving in India is completely insane, and the $42 a day price is quite reasonable when comparing to arduous bus rides and infrequent train travel for four passengers.
Our way to Agra was only the beginning of a long car journey filled with swerving, decelerating and accelerating to the incessant soundtrack of car honking. After over 4 hours of road travel and only 3 overturned truck sightings, we made a pitstop at Akbar’s Mausoleum at Sikandra, another grand sandstone and marble complex featuring Mughal architecture. It also featured, and a lovely, vast green park full of deer and a troop of monkeys.
Once we reached Agra, we ended up stuck at a 5 way intersection, which had a center cupola to house an official travel “conductor’ whose job it is to direct traffic. Unfortunately for him and us, some VIP was traveling through the city, and the roads had to be evacuated to create a seamless path. This meant that we were halted for over 20 minutes, as the roads dammed up in anticipation of eventual release. when we were finally free to cross the street, a vehicular flood erupted, and the police officers and traffic conductor were almost futile against the pressure. It probably took another ten minutes to inch our way through the mayhem, avoiding near misses with motor scooters, pedestrians and cows.
That night, we teased ourselves with a poor sunset view of the Taj Mahal, made less magnificent due to the smoky, smoggy air and the swarms of mosquitos that were literally pinging against our cheeks as we speed-walked through a park. Unless the weather is perfect, I cannot commend the sunset viewpoint from across the river, but the early rise to see the grand Taj Mahal in the cooler morning hours, with ‘less’ travelers, is well worth it. Both Dan and I felt a sense of accomplishment to finally be viewing this architectural masterpiece in person, a pristine white and translucent marble homage to love lost and mourned. The symmetry brings a sense of balance and peace to the surrounds, despite the teeming crowds. We had a guide for the day, who seemed to feel that his highest priority was to insure that we had multiple staged family photos, with Agra’s gems as our backdrop. So, please forgive the ridiculous number of family mantelpieces below.
Our next stop was the Agra Fort, which protected the actual palace home where the King and Queen once lived. it might be blasphemous to say, but this place impressed and interested us even more than the magnificent Taj, which says a lot. I can’t really explain all that we learned about the various palace rooms and multiple moats and gates to barricade royalty in safety, but hope that the images will be example enough of the beauty.