We checked out of the hotel and got our luggage out the front and the door man asked for our driver’s name. “Praveen”, he went over to the desk and picked up a phone, which was connected to a really REALLY loud megaphone pointed at the car park. There were about 10 cars and drivers waiting for their passengers. “Something something Praveen something something” and one of the cars started moving.
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.
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.