We landed at the Agra military airport very late in the afternoon yesterday, so our buses entered the madness of Friday evening rush hour in India. The driving here is beyond any pre-conception – you can drive anywhere there’s an opening! Tractors, horses, bicycles, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, buses, trucks and cars vie for every sliver of open road. As our guide explained, to drive in India you need a good horn, good brakes and good luck.
To our great relief, the Oberoi Amarvilas is a quiet oasis in the almost overwhelming cacophony of the Taj Mahal festival. It’s consistently rated in the top 10 hotels in the world and we could readily see why. The rooms are beautifully appointed and, squinting hard in the darkness, we could just make out the silhouette of the Taj Mahal from our hotel room.
Mr. GeoK and Oldest GeoKid rose early this morning, for a sunrise photo shoot at the Taj Mahal. They enjoyed more success here than they did at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. After the sun was fully up, and going off Oldest GeoKid’s best recollection, they tried to find GC1A91Y – Taj, the only possibility we had to earn a “found it” log during our tour’s stop in India.
It’s a good thing they came back to the east gate at about 8:30, where Mrs. GeoK and Youngest GeoKid were just going through the admission process. It was our first experience with separate security lines for women and men. Since it’s Sunday and the end of the Taj Mahal festival, the crowds were larger than usual. Our guide expected that admissions would be closed for a while this afternoon, due to over-crowding. In fact, the site was closed for about 4 hours yesterday, on account of a private visit by a sheik.
We took some “fun” photos of the Taj Mahal, but one of the highlights of our visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site was finding the geocache – our first (and only) in India! Hurray! Since GPS units are not permitted within the grounds, like many before us we relied on the straightforward hint. It turned out that Oldest GeoKid didn’t remember either part of the hint correctly, so it’s a good thing Mrs. GeoK double-checked GSAK this morning.
After lunch, we elected to tour the Agra Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide was very good, moving us efficiently through the site while pausing frequently for the photography buffs in the group. Afterwards, the marble factory demonstration was fascinating, providing a glimpse of the techniques and patience required to construct the Taj Mahal over a period of 22 years. Several couples on the tour succumbed to the lure of owning a significant reminder of our visit to Agra and can expect their new marble-topped tables to be delivered in two or three months.
As for us, adding India to our geocaching map of the world is sufficient. Next stop…Tanzania, where we’ll split into pairs and head in different directions.