The trip from Varanasi to Agra started well with an 8:30 a.m. departure, leaving the cobblestone streets and moving onto a highway, much like an interstate in the U.S. except for the herds of cows occasionally in the middle of the road.
I continued landscape gazing as we drove on. We passed at least a dozen brick kilns with loads of bricks stacked around in the fields. That certainly explained all the brick structures one sees in every village.
The day began to go wrong about midday when the air conditioning in the car went out. It was in the high 90s outside. It took more than an hour to find a mechanic who worked on air conditioning, a young Muslim man in a crocheted white skull cap.
Restored to coolness, we resumed our travels until just about 30 minutes outside of Agra. There, traffic came to a complete halt in the pouring rain. We sat in the stifling heat for more than an hour, waiting, we eventually discovered, for an ambulance to arrive for a wreck up ahead. I won’t share the details of the wreck because it’s a sad story.
Eventually traffic began to move at about 10:00 p.m., and we spend a half hour trying to find the hotel. We reach the West Gate to the Taj Mahal where our hotel is located at about 11:00. Finally, we learn this hotel is also not accessible by car, so we walk down an alley, past an obnoxious man guarding the entrance, and wearily find our rooms.
Ganesh, were you there?
Images: Photos courtesy of Richard Furlough.