After the hustle & bustle of Delhi the idea of travelling around Rajasthan was less than appealing. Especially after the difficulties we experienced while simply trying to obtain train tickets. Everything in India is so convoluted & due to the humongous population extremely difficult to do simple things. Like booking train tickets for example. The trains are so popular the government designate a proportion to foreign tourists. They quickly sell out.
The train station would not sell us tickets for the following day. We were sent to the official government tourist office. Official government tourist office? That rings a bell. We had read about these official offices & warned not to trust them. Purchase tickets from the station is what we had read. The manager of our hotel had advised a fellow traveller the previous day to pay a visit to these offices. Our driver, Raj, he also pleaded with us to go to the office "You can not buy ticket from station" How is that so? Train stations that do not sell tickets? We trusted our better judgement but fell short. Unable to obtain a ticket from the station & Raj, never the one to say I told you so, said "I told you so" We reluctantly went to the tourist office.
Like Hemingway's Old Man & The Sea, battle ensued between fisherman & Marlin. We the Marlin of course. But the school boy hard sale tactics of the travel agent were nothing compared to the skills of the old man. Maybe like the old man he had also gone eighty four days without taking a fish. And the Marlin kept its agility but gained experience & this time was aware of his opponent & his weaknesses. What felt like a contest spread over two days & two nights was condensed into forty minutes, give or take. We left the office with our pockets full, but our patience empty.
Flower temples & Gandhi restored our resolve. We like cities. We like beaches more. Rajahstan is about as far away from a laid back beach look as you can get. Cat re-affirmed something. Our mantra perhaps? "Do what you want & not what you should do". We probably should cram as much travelling around the north of India as we can. But is that what we want? Well, no. I want to relax & drink. The North has little of both. Lets do the Taj & the bird sanctuary (we love birds) then head to the coast.
We headed off to another official government tourist office. This time with a much simpler plan & with a determined outlook. We will get what we want this time. "Train tickets to Agra please. No we do want a bleeding north India rail pass. Yes I will have some tea, black please" All of the Agra trains were fully booked. Without the government designated proportion we would have to wait months. Instead we could travel by train to Agra in four days. Four days? Change plans again? Taxi to Agra? "New express way" we were told "only two hours". The price was three times that of a train but this was surely our best option & the new express way only two hours sounded pleasant.
So the two hour journey turned out to be six hours. Who would have guessed?! How incredibly India!
We arrived in Agra & all was worthwhile. Check out the next blog by Catherine. She has dreamed of visiting the Taj Mahal for seventy two years don't you know x