Location: Agra, not part of the plan
Hotel: Royal Inn Raj Paradise – don’t be fooled by the name. 2 stars*
Bonfire Guest House 4 stars*
* This is my personal rating based on how useful the hotel is. e.g. Royal Inn was crap, they had a noisy generator running for power, linen may or may not have been clean, didn’t speak much English. Bonfire is crappish, but it is cheap, the owner is a young guy who is super friendly and helpful which gives the place bonus stars.
I imagine it happens in other industries, but in hospitals there is a pervasive superstition. If you enter a ward that is quiet, you are not to mention the word quiet as that ensures that it won’t be quiet for much longer.
Similarly I mentioned good omens yesterday – stupid me.
It was a looong 36 or so hours getting to Delhi. Not much sleep and bodily clock completely out of whack.
I had made reservations at two hotels as I know how these things work, last trip on the night I arrived my driver couldn’t find the hotel I had booked even though we were right at the address. I later learned that a hotel entrance might just be a door, I can now add to that knowledge that I don’t know how these things work at all, it can be way more ‘interesting’.
With only hand luggage I was out of the airport in 10 minutes. Nice!
Getting to New Delhi station from the airport was a surprisingly simple mission. There was the usual clutch of auto drivers and I agreed to a R50 fare to the hotel.
Somewhere near it we were blocked by a boom gate, the area is closed. Gate keeper and auto drive converse in Hindi and I understand that we are trying a different route.
Except we weren’t. I ended up at a ‘tourist office’ where I discover there is some festival on, the one where they whip themselves with sharpened somethings – Knives? Chains? Tongues? Who knows, but the area is sealed off.
It seems half of Delhi is shut down and the helpful bloke let’s me call both hotels who confirm I can’t get to them. It is now midnight and I am exhausted.
Helpful bloke suggests the only solution is to get out of Delhi. There are no trains by this time of night and I am exhausted.
After a lot of research, discussion, righteous indignation, thoughts and vacillation I am still too exhausted to think straight and knowing I am being robbed I agree to a driver taking me 200km to Agra. Short of sleeping on the ground at the railway station I can’t come up with anything else.
I was assured, this is a 2.5 hour trip, but that didn’t factor in a driver whose average speed was under 80kph on a 100kph freeway. He drove the whole way with his lights on high beam – no big deal, so did everyone else, it was blinding. I was struggling to stay awake and was freaking out that he was too.
Fortunately most of the time we were going slowly enough to avoid serious injury should he have run off the road or into one of the many trucks with no tail lights.
We arrive at 0400 at an overpriced hotel in a back street off of a back street of Agra. When I left this morning the guy asked if I was coming back and when I said it was unlikely, miraculously the price of a room dropped by 30%. I can only wonder if the 30% surcharge went to the driver.
I am less exhausted now, I have a SIM card, some cash and all the time in the world.
Monday I will go back to the Taj Mahal – like any Wonder of the World you don’t go there on the weekend. Not part of the plan, but I am here, why wouldn’t I?
The other thing I was hoping to do since I am in Agra was visit Sheroes Restaurant but had no idea how to find it.
Walking to find an ATM and phone shop I stumbled on it by chance. But I am not taking this as an omen.