Delhi to Agra 4th November 2004

Thank you Paul for taking us to the airport so early in the morning.

The flight was OK with no problems and we arrived on time in Delhi at 11pm (Indian time).

Going through immigration was ok, but it took ages for our bikes to turn up. As we had pre-booked a hotel with free transport from the airport we kept a careful lookout for someone holding up a sign saying "David and Joan" we found him but then waited half an hour for our car.

Both bikes went in eventually and we were on our way at about 20-mph through dense lorry traffic at one in the morning. Eventually, after signing in we flopped into bed in our very smart hotel room complete with remote controlled aircon and 60-channel TV, but no hot water!

Woke up at 11am India time (7.30am UK) and put bikes together before walking around Delhi dodging all the Rickshaw touts trying to give us a lift. Weather is dry and warm - not too hot because of the pollution. We wouldn't recommend Delhi for sightseeing, as what we saw of it was dusty, dirty, smelly and generally unappealing. The plan was to cycle out of Delhi towards Agra, but not on the main road south as there would be too much traffic. It took us two hours to find the right road as much of the time we were reduced to walking through dense traffic going in all directions at once. The traffic eventually eased about 20 miles out but returned every time we went through a town. At a town called Balandshar we found a hotel which was new and still being built. The room was basic but clean and the owner prepared us a very good meal in the evening and breakfast in the morning. All this for 600 rupees - about 7 pounds.

Back on our bikes, we cycled south along reasonable roads but were still being forced off the road every time buses and trucks came along. There is no rule of the road here - it is every man for himself. If buses or lorries want to overtake, they do, without any thought for what is coming the other way. We saw one bus and one truck that day on their sides. Pedestrians wander anywhere without looking and Rickshaws do the same. Bikes behave just like pedestrians. There is occasional bit of dual carriageway, but this is treated as two separate roads with traffic going any direction on each. We are getting used to it! Somehow, it all seems to work.

Aligarh is a dusty, smelly crowded town and we randomly chose a hotel from three unappealing choices. The room was large and old with a window overlooking the crowded street. What we haven't mentioned is that on the road, we often passed groups of hundreds of heavy lorries parked up as if there was a transport cafe around and wondered why these large juggernaughts never seemed to be on our road. Was there another road? No! They travel at night as the towns are so crowded that they would never get through. We found this out as we tried to sleep through the incessant noise of heavy traffic constantly hooting together with the din of the huge generator outside our window. We probably got only four hours sleep that night and vowed to be a bit wiser when choosing a hotel next time.

On towards Agra, the countryside became more open but for the towns which slowed us down to walking pace all the way through. Nearly all the road signs are in Hindi which makes it rather difficult, but the tested method of asking three different people "which way to..." has worked so far. Our room in Agra was basic again, but quiet. The owner also has a restaurant nearby which served good Indian food and we saw only Indians eating there. In fact, we have seen hardly any European tourists on the streets at all - only encased in posh, white, air-conditioned coaches.

The Taj-Maha. We can't visit India without seeing it although it cost us two days living expenses to get in. But, well worth it.


Dave and Joan Wooldridge