After a short but lovely nights sleep in the very comfy bed, we woke to the sounds of Delhi stirring from its semi-sleep, as despite a lull in the noise overnight, this city never completely shuts down.
The air is hazy but the sun is creeping through & there are a multitude of birds flying past the balcony, including pigeons, crowd, parrots & I even spotted a large bird of prey cruising between the concrete highrises.
After a breakfast of rice, dahl, omelette, toast & mango juice we decided to head off for a walk in the opposite direction to last night. We were aware we had one hour before our driver came to pick us up at 10am to take us to Agra & were confident that we would be back in time as all we would do is walk straight for half an hour & then turn round and come back the same way. Easy!
If I'm honest, this walk had to be one of the most intense & exciting travel experiences of my life. We manoeuvred around the cars, pushbikes, motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars and cows like old pros & although I still wasn't brave enough to take my canon out, I captured these on the iPhone & although the images don't portray just how chaotic it got by 9.30am, I hope they give you a bit of an idea of the surreality of the whole experience!
Our new found confidence quickly evaporated when we realised that it was nearly 10am & we hadn't a bloody clue where we were! The 'justwalkinastraightline' theory has apparently backfired due to a couple of roundabouts so there we were, standing on the side of the road desperately consulting Google Maps & looking like the lost tourists that we were (the very thing we wanted to avoid!) At this point the reappearance of the very politely insistent tuk tuk driver who has driven by us 3 times, not being able to understand why we would want actually want to walk, would have been a welcome sight but still determined to navigate ourselves back, Google came up trumps & we were soon back on the right road, & heading for the hotel.
As it had been arranged that Mr Singh would collect us from the hotel at 10am we were understandably concerned that being half an hour late may have caused a disruption but after some confusion on whether or not he was actually waiting for us, we discovered that we'd actually walked past him on our hurried way back in to the hotel and that he was waiting outside.
A portly man; Mr Singh wore a turban and although of quite a serious demeanour, he was very polite and professional & as soon as our baggage was in & we'd paid him the required half payment, we were off!
To say that he is an excellent driver is an understatement & in fact, I dare anyone to find better drivers than the Indians generally, purely based on the fact that a 4 lane road can become a 6 lane road with undertaking, weaving, pavement riding etc & nobody appears to actually hit anyone. The dented cars obviously contradict this theory but all I can go on is my experience of the last 2 days where despite the mental honking, not one car, man, woman, child, cow or dog appeared to be harmed in anyway!
The open road
It probably took about an hour and a half before we were finally out of the chaos & stink of Delhi & on the open toll roads towards Agra & this is when I properly fell in love with India. The lush fields with the people going about their business, be it picking the crops, herding goats, cycling to or from the field or just chatting or playing is my idea of photography heaven & although most of todays blog has been taken through the car window as we were on a main road, on Sunday when we leave Agra & return to Delhi Mr Singh is taking us the old road back so I will have lots of chances of photographing this array of beauty & colour that is India & its people :)
We stopped for lunch at a services and this girl & man were doing a musical dancing act.
After nearly 3 hours of driving through beautiful open land that didn't smell like a sewer, it was time to head into the city of Agra which apparently apart from the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort & a couple of other attractions is not the most pleasant city to visit & we'd been especially warned not to go out alone at night. In the daytime it was fascinating though :)
Although we've planned to visit the Taj Mahal tomorrow, Mr Singh thought we may like to go and view it from the garden across the river behind, so of course we did!
Some other residents of the gardens
Final drive through Agra today
Mr Singh dropped us at the Coral Tree Homestay at around 6pm making us promise to be outside at 8am tomorrow for our visit proper to the Taj Mahal, although if I'm honest, this will be a slight anticlimax now we've already laid eyes on it but I'm still looking forward to seeing the iconic view known by most & getting close up to it :)
Had dinner here at the Homestay and it was lovely, then we went and sat in the beautiful garden, a genuine oasis in a desert of grime & stench!
Unfortunately later, to let the place down a bit, the shower ran cold after a minute so which was a real shame as the room is also quite cold & the floor is marble tiles (great in an Indian Summer in July!!) so we're now in bed with 10 blankets!
As we've had no wifi in India apart from at our accommodation I've had to do the last 2 blogs at night so although they could be longer within more photos I really am too tired but I do have to say that Mr Singh is a legend, he has got us safely around 2 major Indian cities today with no hassle, he's as cool as a cucumber under pressure & he's funny in his own unique way! Would highly recommend India Private Driver and specifically Satvinder Singh http://indiaprivatedriver.com/
until tomorrow, nite x