5th Oct - Agra to Haridwar
Won't spend too many words. The Taj Mahal is something which leaves people speechless, and for me the excitement to go to the Hotel roof to have the first glimpse of it basking in the morning rays was just too strong. Got up, at 6 am, picked up the lens and here it is...
Just went to the other side of the roof to check on the Xylo in the hotel parking lot. It was in que for a wash
The monkey was also enjoying the grand view of the Taj, but surely was not as excited as us, because for it its the daily view.
The hotel of ours is located at the South Gate of the Taj which can be seen in the photos. But unfortunately the entrance to the Taj is through the West Gate and so it was not as near as we had originally thought. Also we found that at that morning, the Taj was teeming with people already and it was not a very pleasant sight. So we decided that the view from the roof top was all that we would have in this trip, and reserve the entry to the Taj for a future trip, when we exclusively do this circuit. Surely Agra along with other attractions like Fatehpur Sikri and the Agra fort demands a separate tour.
But before leaving we all had our final fling with one of the seven Wonders of The World..
An early morning start was effectively ruled out last evening as we knew it will take time for us to get over and done with the admiration of the Taj. So the target was 8 am and I ultimately ended up behind the wheel at around 8.30. Today was almost 430 km to Haridwar, the first 200 km of which was to be the famed Taj Express way and the Xylo was itching to have a crack at it.
Getting out of the town was not as difficult as getting in the previous night was. The lanes and by lanes and then crossed the Yamuna keeping the Agra fort on the left. And then suddenly the Express way.
My first take on the Yamuna Express way was amazing, but then the Highways across the country have been so developed nowadays that this appeared just about better than the others. But it was a full 8 lane highway but traffic was far and few. Decorated with vegetation, roads and dividers clearly marked well and boldly. The toll for the entire stretch was Rs 320/-. Towards the end the Buddh International Formula 1 circuit came along side the expressway.
But somehow driving the 200 km stretch was somewhat boring also for drivers like us who are constantly used to traffic creeping up in front, behind and alongside us. To top it all it was a 100 km/hr speed limit road and was told that speed guns are trained at me all the time from all angles. But I swear I was being regularly overtaken even as I was seeing my speedo showing me driving at 100 k/hr. So at what speed were the others driving?
The exit was at Greater Noida and from then on via Ghaziabad on to the Meerut highway took hell of a time where we fully depended on the GPS. It did not fail us but at times we did take some wrong directions and ended up in the most busiest part of Ghaziabad. This entire stretch of getting out of Ghaziabad took us an hour.
The roads from here to Meerut via Modinagar, Mohan nagar were congested and mostly single carriageway road. So the going got slow and specially after the Taj Express way this was a shock. Nearing Meerut and exiting it through the bypass, roads turned to be very good but then nearing Roorkee and onwards to Haridwar roads again turned bad. To top it all there were plenty of diversions. The oncoming traffic from Haridwar was very heavy as it was the end of the extended Dushera weekend and we moved at snail's pace at times.
Haridwar was reached around 5.30 pm and we decided that before checking into the hotel will straight away hit the Har- Ki- Pauri Ghat for the evening Aarti and then move on as we would have missed the Aarti otherwise.
I have seen the Aarti many times before and should I say day by day it is getting disappointing. Firstly those blue clothed protecters of the Ghat constantly nag you for donations, then they keep on "allotting" places to the crowd as per their whims and fancies. The crowd is also swelling day by day and to top it all the main Aarti is too short for just 15 minutes. We reached late so the "box office" seats were all gone. Managed to take some photos fighting others for space, but the devotion was somewhat missing in the air..
Left for the hotel at around 7.30. It was a friend of my friend who owned the hotel and was on the highway to Rishikesh. Had an early dinner and packed up for the next day.
The next day was to be the Xylo's first feel of the Gahrwal Himalayas.. the abode of the Gods.
The Story continues..