After a rather busy morning at the Taj Mahal we still had the rest of the day in Agra. After an awkward breakfast where we were asked how it was going several times between mouthfuls we met back with the guide and headed off. On the way to Agra Fort he said they had a place to show us that wouldn’t take too long. We had specified in the contract with the travel agent that we never wanted to be taken to any markets or other random places that we didn’t already agree to. With some annoyance we proceeded onto a place where they make marble goods with inlaid stone, some thing we had seen a fair bit of at the Taj Mahal.
We got up early again, not quite as bad as the day before, but still early enough. Our guide met us in the lobby of the hotel and we got into the car and headed out. It was a short ride to a big parking lot with lots of other people (westerners) and a bunch of hawkers. We were told we couldn’t take large bags into the Taj, and tripods were banded. I quickly moved all my camera gear from my backpack into my shoulder bag and left the tripod behind. I had already managed to use it once in Singapore, so it wasn’t a complete waste of effort bringing it.
Wake up call was 4:30AM, through some clothes on, zipped bag and left the house. Pretty sure I did all of that with my eyes still shut. Ragesh met us at the school gate and we piled into the taxi for the ride down the mountain to Dehradun and the train to Agra. We were then on our own with no Howard to negotiate for us or speak a local language to locals. The ride down was quiet, not many cars on the road at that hour. We still had the horn at most corners though, just in case. Will not miss that.
Our last day in Mussoorie started with a taxi ride out to a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Happy Valley. It was just Dad and I in the taxi, Mum had a day off to get over a cold. Rigesh took us down through the bazaar and then down the north/east side of the mountain on a road we hadn’t been on before. Near the temple the road was being dug up to it in sewage, so we parked the car and walked.
We got up at a reasonable hour and headed down from the house to the school gate to get a taxi to take us to the top of the hill in Landour. Usually Howard and Jill walk up for church, but they spared us and got a taxi to take us up. Before church we walked around the top of the hill and got another view of the Himalayas, even less clouds than the day before.
Day 11 started at a reasonable hour after breakfast. We had hired a taxi for the day, Mr Singh, to take us down the road to see some sites. We took the road from Mussoorie down to Dhanaulti.
Day 10 was a bit of the rest day. After Lucknow and all the travel the couple of days before we needed it. In the morning we walked back to Mussoorie to order some clothes. Dad was to get some new pants, Mum some tops, and I went to get measured up for a new suit.
Day 9 started early with breakfast and (a much needed for some) pit stop (squat pans only on the over night trains) at Hotel President, Dehradun. After ordering an omelette I found and open wifi access point called Asus. It wasn’t there for very long but I did manage to get some emails down and confirm Australia’s loss in the cricket the night before. The wifi access point seemed to leave the hotel before we did. Still have no idea who it was.
From here we set off up The Mountain with just a short stop for fresh vegetables for the week. We would climb nearly 1700 metres from Dehradun to Mussoorie.
In the past couple of weeks we have been driven around India in a couple of different forms of transport. From rickshaws and tongas to the iconic Ambassador and large vans. We’ve been on multilane highways and toll roads and down tiny windy streets lined with shops. What is impressive is not the number of car accidents every year, which is an astronomical number, and the number of deaths – but the accidents that don’t happen. So far I am yet to see an accident (knock on wood). The number of close calls has been enormous, but somehow at the last moment the bike will always just merge slightly left, or the rickshaw with change direction just enough.
In the morning we decided to walk down to the botanical gardens. It was only a few hundred metres down the road, so how could we get lost? We stepped out of the hotel and all headed left, except Mum who thought it was right. While rickshaw drivers swarmed I waited for a GPS lock to confirm the direction we should have been heading. Left.