4th Dec - Mohania to Agra
The good thing about not carrying on to Varanasi last evening and staying back in Mohania was that we got adequate rest, but the flip side was that today that additional 60 odd km needed to get covered upto Agra, making this the longest day distance wise in the entire tour (735 km). Target being 5 am to leave, we left at 5.40 am even as the Sun was yet to break out.
We crossed Mughalsarai diversion and hit on to the Vishwasundari Bypass road within an hour. I had driven this road exactly 2 years back but since then the road had lost a lot of its sheen and the surface was worn out in stretches which made the speed slow. Even as we crossed the bridge over the Ganga, we stopped for a while to see and feel the city of Varanasi which could be seen waking up to a lazy Weekend morning one day after Dussehra. I have always been excited about the spirituality of the city and despite my deep wishes to get into it and soak into nostalgia, I had to jerk up the Xylo and continue on my mission.. the mission to reach the highest temple in the World. We sped on some broken tarmac crossing the Ganga bridge keeping to our right the city of Varanasi, boasting to be one of the 2 oldest occupied living cities in the World along with Bethlehem.
By now we were hungry and needed a tea break. We had just about crossed Varanasi on the way towards Allahabad and 30 km on it found a nice Dhaba to stop over. Road surface though not very bad was not smooth and was a little bumpy ride.
Food in the Dhaba was very good. The fluorescent orange mug was supposed to contain drinking water, though we relied on the bottled water.
After a 45 min break we hit the road again and the roads started becoming butter smooth again. Nearing Allahabad it became concrete and the Xylo started flying. Anyone wishing to bypass Allahabad like us, be careful with the notifications here as there are several entry points to the city and you need to keep straight on.
The road on this stretch was full concrete and superb but very badly laid out culverts in between which hit us very badly at points. You really do not realise whats going to hit you till you hit it and at 100 k/hr its a bad jump. Roads otherwise were of the highest standard and we reached Fatehpur in no time.
It was a day after Dusherra and Durga Puja immersions were going on. We came across several such processions and stopped near one of them to capture the blissful mood.
The next major location was Kanpur and I had heard that the highway actually passes through an elevated corridor over the city, which I thought was magnificent given the largeness of the city and the density of its population. True to what I heard it was like passing through the entire city, seeing its buildings, feeling the congestion, hearing the din but never need to stop as you are on a preferred road. Kudos to the establishment for such a corridor.
Just after we descended on Mother Earth (I mean Kanpur ground) from the elevated corridor we were out of the city almost. We found a lot of fruits being sold and pulled over to get some. A particular fruit called Malta drew our attention as this is not available in Kolkata. I had seen it once earlier in Joshimath but had never tasted it. So we got some and it did taste very nice and juicy.
My son was elated at the smell of Malta.
Onwards to Ettawah the roads were good but a little congested with weekend traffic. Stopped before Ettawah for a late lunch.
From here till Agra, the pull of the Taj Mahal made me drive in a daze. Even as we entered Agra, it was 6 pm and the Sun was just making its final appearance for the day.
In the last moment I had searched the net for a decent staying option. The criteria was not very expensive but needed to have a grand view of the Taj. Had found a hotel called Kamal and checked with it that the view from the terrace was amazing. Checked over the phone, could not get an ac room but had an air cooled room and was very much within our budget. So booked it over the phone as it had a parking space too.
Agra as it is, is congested and it was Durga Puja immersion and the whole town was on the streets going along with Ma Durga, We relied on GPS (first time I was using it) to reach our hotel but got lost. Called up the hotel and the owner gave us a live voice instruction as to how to reach and was online till we reached.
The rooms were very clean and was cosy. The owner was a very warm and helpful person, who initially was taken aback seeing a West Bengal registered car. But what was important for me was the view of the Taj. I hit the roof in no time and was not disappointed at 8 in the evening when it was fully dark. Full moon was still 3 days away but the half moon light was enough to light up the Taj for me.The night view at 9 in the night as seen from the terrace.
It was my friend's wife's birthday and she found no better a place than to celebrate it with the Taj in the backdrop. I have been to the Taj before. But just going in as a tourist seeing it and coming back was one thing, but here spending hours with it, having dinner with it, chatting up and lazing with it was altogether a different experience for me and surely made my trip worth it.
Took our Dinner by 11 and were ready to hit the sack by midnight for the next day was the Trans Yamuna Expressway experience awaiting us and a morning waking up with the Taj.
A final moment with me and the Taj before we bid each other Good Night..
The story continues the next day as I have my morning appointment with the Taj over breakfast.. Also it is a day for me the morning by the Yamuna and evening by the Ganges.. morning with the Mughal grandeur of Taj and evening rendezvous with the Hindu spirituality of Ganga Aarti..
More to come...