– ODO- 11062 – 11125km
– Location- 19 Highway Agra -> Dehli, Utter Pradesh, India
– Weather- 13-21 rain in the morning
Last night I arrived in Agra very early. Around 2 pm. The sky was heavy and grey as I crossed the river looking for a spot to take a photo with my bike outside the Taj Mahal as I’d seen in the Adventure Cycling Handbook. Unfortunately now the gardens on both sides of the river and cordoned off and as I hunted for another spot to take a photograph I was surrounded by adults and children begging for money.
I picked a hostel and cycled the 8km back across the river to leave my bike and kit safe. My aim was to head out and get to the Taj before sunset at 6 pm. I had two hours. Quickly depositing my kit I used Ola to hail a rickshaw. The driver started to head towards the entrance gate. Around one corner we came across some police directing traffic. He pulled over and said that the entrance is closed now. We have to go around the back. 300 rupees later he’d taken me back to where I tried to take my photo an hour ago. From there I could see hundreds of people inside. I should have known. I’ve been told similar stories by several other travellers I’ve met along the way. The kicker was when he asked for another 50 rupees at the end.
I got up at 5:30 the next morning and hailed another rickshaw. This guy took me a long and slow route around the silent roads of Agra. A 3-minute journey taking 10 minutes. And deposited me by an “official tour guide” who I dodged. I paid for my ticket (50 rupees for Indians, 1,300 rupees for foreigners) and picked up my overshoes and ducked into the gate through the security.
As soon as I stepped into the gardens a light mist light up in the first rays of the sun. On the red sandstone side buildings, I stared at intricate white roots of splitting and joining in a geometric pattern on a half dome. As I entered the garden as one of the first few of the day this image that I’ve seen so many times on postcards, tv and cheap fridge magnets can’t do this magnificence justice. The white sphere and columns and intricately patterned. The white stone glows even on the first lights of the day as it appears to float in the mist. All I could do was sit and stare for the first minutes. Yesterday was forgotten. The monument is so real.