DAY 4 & 5: Corbett Park to Delhi to Agra
by Riad Mahmood
Day four was spent partly travelling - Corbett Park to Delhi. The afternoon was spent visiting Qutab Minar and Dilli Haat.
The Qutab is always a wonderful experience. It was the first time for some, the second for some, and more for others. I enjoy the viewing options the monument offers its visitors and also the open spaces to just sit and soak in the architecture. The workmanship is somewhat unique and interesting and worth researching. The children enjoyed walking around and were really engaged by the guide who was talking us through the tour. They enjoyed his ways and his humour as he held nothing back and took great pride in what he did. They looked at some of the tombs and the Alai Minar which looked like a less fortunate endeavour.
From the Qutab we went to the famous Dilli Haat. It's a great time to be in Delhi and the weather is ideal for visitors. I'm sure most of you have been there and I need not elaborate. The children took this opportunity very seriously and did some extremely thoughtful shopping. The experience was close to their hearts because they were buying things for their families. This is one phase when children are so innocent about what they buy and truly cherish the experience. Some of them bought small little mementoes for almost every family member and a few even purchased gifts for their friends on the trip. It is an age to enjoy and remember.
Our drive from Delhi to Agra, approximately 220 KMs took around five hours. We got to see yet another state within a few days’ time. Agra feels like an old city full of small to medium sized businesses. There are lots of shoe factories and other manufacturing units in and around Agra and of course the thousands of tourists that throng there to visit the Taj Mahal. Last night we stayed at Faridabad which is in Haryana but close to Delhi, and according to our tour guide, better located when it comes to getting out of Delhi to go to Agra. It is a busy highway and has lots of tourist vehicles plying on the roads.
It is a common sight to see tourist buses with foreigners and other school children going to Agra. There are lots of stop-by restaurants and other options on the way. En route is the Formula One track Buddh which excites all race enthusiasts.
On the way we saw some messages on the WhatsApp group chat and realised a few parents seemed a tad bit worried. Well I can understand such worries but I think that the suspense is worth enduring considering you have entrusted your children with us and our responsibility stretches far beyond the need to give frequent updates. This entire exercise is all about a faith and we will for sure keep you posted should the need arise. I am emphasizing this sentiment as this article will be read by parents over time and our aim is more about conveying experiences and the thinking behind the excursion. Having said this, I do understand your concerns.
Children once again found ways of keeping themselves entertained through the journey. Yesterday's journey had some card games, some singing and lots of banter. Normally on trips like this we naturally end up sitting on the same seat for most of the week. I wonder why this happens. The Delhi and NCR highways and expressways are well constructed. They are so heavily utilised and you have to make sure you get out on time or else you are stuck in the maddening traffic.
Our travel unit consists of a tour guide Mr Raja Ram Mali, his assistant Motiji, two drivers, Ajit and Manish, and their assistants Birender and Suresh. The drivers and their assistants have everything they need on the bus, cooking equipment, sleep gear and clothing. They keep the buses spick and span and do so with great pride. Every evening the assistants clean and wash the buses, then assist the drivers in cooking their meals. They are happy campers and enjoy each other’s company in the evenings. They greet us with cheery faces every morning and do a stellar job getting us safely from state to state. I would say they clock thousands of miles a week and know every nook and corner in the Northern sector.
Yamuna Expressway, Noida to Agra, is impressive. The air feels crisp and clean with lots of stop areas for the exits and make for some great motoring. It leads to Aligarh, Mathura and then into Agra. It takes you to Sports City and the International Circuit Buddh, India's first Formula One track. The lap record is held by Sebastian Vettel at 1:27.249 in 2011. When I informed the children we were passing the track they leapt up to take notice.
For you bike lovers, my friend Prithvi Rao has had the pleasure of experiencing this track on his motorcycle. His riding skills helped him to achieve some impressive lap timings on it. He has made two visits to this track; the first time he rode an Aprilia Tuono V1000 R which was a V Twin cylinder bike and did a lap time of 2 min 25 seconds. The following year he rode the all new Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC and did an improved lap time of 2 min 15 seconds. He plans to head back for a third time soon so anyone interested can always join in.
After lunch and check in at the hotel we headed to the Taj Mahal at 2 pm.
The children were excited and were chatting in groups in the battery run shuttles that take you there. They were exchanging notes on what they knew and taking in from others what they didn't. When we got there many of them expressed their admiration for the monument. A quick fire photo session at the entrance and then onto see the insides of this wonder. Tourists and guides thronged the lines that take you in. The view on the right of course was the Yamuna River. The river was peaceful and quiet. It's been like this every time I have visited.
We spent a while sitting around the sides of the Taj and near by the lawns. Many of the children felt this was worth the effort and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. They had lots of questions and listened intently to the guide. It was a nice day and everyone is looking forward to some much needed rest.