I am not the adventurous types. When something new happens, I let others take the plunge, see how it goes, then I deliberate a lot and sometimes, try gingerly. But at times, the slowest animals find themselves ahead of the herd.
And in those mysterious ways, we found ourselves on the newly opened Yamuna Expressway, also known as the Taj Expressway. We had heard that it was 165 kms long with just three entry ways and toll booths, rest is just a long six lane civilian race course. At least, that’s what other drivers thought of it.
Long before we entered the expressway, we could feel the excitement. People were driving with their windows down, heads out and throats set at high decibels. Many stopped and took photos. In fact, families were stopping and clicking all along the highway.
There were farmlands on both sides, green with paddy, and grass by the roadside, it was not exactly picturesque. May be, it was the weather. Everything looks good when there are clouds in the sky. And, I must say, the weather was just awesome.
If you are coming from Delhi, you will soon see the Buddh International Circuit. I was never too excited about this and have nothing to say, I didn’t even stop on our way back to take closer and better pictures.
And then it rained. People in many parts of the world hate the rains where it ruins the day for them. But here, we call it manna from heaven. Clouds cheer us up. Rains drive us out of our homes into the communal shower. Our theme parks have rain dance sections and the most romantic Bollywood songs have rain as a theme. So, you get the picture. We were not weirdoes who were happy to see the rain.
There were public conveniences and restaurants at every toll booth. The toilets were open and the eateries were not. Huh! But we went during the trial runs, may be, they were still deciding on the menu. You should be able to find some food when you go.
Update: The restaurants are up and running now. Though, they have a long way to run before they can be called restaurants. These are very dirty pit stops with average food. May be, the sandwiches are the best bet but nothing much to look forward to. You want to have good food on the expressway, pack your own.
A blog post is not complete without a few random pictures. So, here they go.
I know we all love stories that end happily. But this one ends with the truth. My wife forbid me to mention it, but it was such an important part of the drive that it will be unfair to leave it out. The number of roadkills on the expressway is simply stunning. May be, the animals were not used to vehicles, that too at such high speeds. Every few hundred meters there were long streaks of blood on the road. In some cases, the carcasses were still there. We spotted dogs, birds, reptiles, squirrels… there was a dead zoo on the road.
How did we manage to kill so many animals, may be they were invisible, my wife wondered.
Now, what happened after we left the expressway and entered the city is a completely different story. Agra is an old city, the widest of the roads in the city are two lanes on which you will find the biggest SUVs filled with tourists, carts, horses, cycles, tuk tuks and lots and lots of pedestrian traffic.
I had gone during the first few days of the Yamuna Expressway. In the initial excitement, more than ninety thousand vehicles entered Agra in three days. The traffic system collapsed and people were stranded for hours. Angry and frustrated, I forgot to take pictures. I am sure all the drivers deserved a gallantry award for those hours in the war, but I have no proof now.
Anyways, I finally reached my destination in time for the Iftar. As you can see, the spread makes up for the pain preceding it.
The best part of the trip was I could see all the famous Agra monuments from my in-law’s rooftop – The Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Jama Masjid and Idmat-ud-Daula.
These pictures were taken with my phone, so they are not very clear. But that’s not the way I saw it. This view was served with tea and breakfast on the rooftop. I guess you will have to come with me to see it the way Agra residents see it.