There are not many days you wake up in your life and get ready for a drive to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Filled with excitement, a bit of anxiety and jet lag, we were greeted by our driver, Mulkgrag, with his sweet smile and we were off to Agra, the homeland to the Taj Mahal! And so I bring to you our second adventure in India…The Road to Agra.
As we headed out of Delhi, which arguably took one full hour alone, every single one of my five senses were heightened…already. And it was only 8:30 in the bloody morning. The smells of fire smoke and spices and smog and onions (I am convinced that each morning Mulkrag would have onion curry for breakfast). The sounds of car horns and truck horns, which each have their own distinct voice. Albeit every two seconds, the car is a friendly ‘meep meep’ like the road runner. Conversely, the truck horns were a high pitched ‘weee oohhh weeee ohhhh’ that would wake anyone out of a dead sleep. The taste of granola bars, bottled water, cheez its and Wrigley’s spearmint gum. The touch of the sun blazing in from outside and the agitation of my head hitting the head rest over and over as we trekked in our stick-shift Toyota on unpaved, bumpy roads. And finally, the sights. I will caveat the remainder of this blog by stating there is no way any human being, regardless of their creative writing skills or intellect, could communicate the sights that are on the road between Delhi and Agra. And as to hold true to my proclamation, I am not going to pridefully write a 3-page blog attempting to try to communicate. Instead, I will humble myself and give you some bullets and visuals to tell the story.
On one road and for the majority of the drive, it was VERY normal to have the following modes of transportation:
- A camel pulling people
- A camel riding solo
- A person riding a camel
- Cars with at least a family of eight
- Beautiful Indian women dressed in vibrantly colored sari’s, carrying anything from branches to water to bricks on their heads
- A shepherd with his flock of 30-40 sheep
- Trucks, big and small
- Men and women pulling wheelbarrows
- No cars with American passengers. Oh wait, I mean, no American passengers at all besides Rick and me
- Beggars, straying from car to car for spare rupees
- Pigs snarfing down the garbage that clothed the streets
- Motorcycles…sometimes with one man driving, sometimes with a man driving 3-4 people, including infants, toddlers and the elderly
- Tractors with a few men carrying anything from garbage to hay to food
- Point 17 above plus 4-5 teenage locals riding on top of the tractor
- Cows. So many skinny cows.
- Infants being cradled by their mothers walking barefoot
You see, the mere brainpower and energy it takes to simply watch the road at anywhere from 20-70 mph while praying to God to not get killed in a car accident (or kill anyone…or any animal for that matter), took 90% of my daily mental and emotional capacity. Fortunately, we ended up pulling over at a halfway-to-the-Taj rest stop, presumably because our driver thought we would have to go the bathroom and vomit from our car sickness. This rest area was a highlight of the trip…see below. The monkey was trying to steal stuff out of my purse and as it was happening, I was laughing, the crazy guy with the monkey was telling the monkey what to do and Rick was scolding me to zip my purse. It was awesome.
And then, the roadsides. The roadsides both to my right and to my left. The sights there were impossible to avoid which meant I wasn’t looking straight ahead which meant between the roadside sights, the smell of onions, the loud truck horns and my head hitting the head rest, I was car sick. And still jet-lagged. And emotional as I embraced the world around me. It was tough. And I want to call Trip Advisor and the dang travel book I have to have them correct their estimated travel times. From Delhi to Agra, it’s 200 kilometers. Driving with points 1-20 above, swerving, stopping, honking and accelerating, we averaged about 30-40 kilometers per hour which translates to over a 5-hour drive. Sweet.
Upon arriving near the entrance to the Taj Mahal, all of the sudden Mulkrag pulls over, stops the car and let’s a dude on the street in the front seat of our car. Fortunately, this dude spoke English and said he was a friend of Mulkrag’s and would be our tour guide. Um, okay. Slowly we are learning to just go with the flow and trust our dear driver. The tour guide, allegedly Mr. Agra (as in a male beauty pageant winner), directs Mulkrag to the entrance and we hop out of the car and minutes later, there I am, riding a camel to the Taj Mahal.
Suddenly, the car sickness dwindles, my sad emotions dissipate and a few minutes later, my mind is consumed with the beautiful, breathtaking white symmetrical “crown palace”, otherwise known as the Taj Mahal. The history, the architecture, the detailed jeweled work, the fact it was built in the 1631 and took 22 years to construct was enough to bring a person to tears. Enough writing…see below for yourself 🙂
Here’s the deal. When people say going to India is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they aren’t joking. And having spent 2 weeks there, I would say the drive to Agra was just that…a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One that now that it is passed me and I can look back and laugh, I would recommend it. If you would have asked me that day or that night, I would have given you an affirmative no way 🙂