What a schoolboy mistake not checking for public holidays or festivals when we booked our flight into Delhi from Bangalore. It could have worked out ok but ended up as HOLI Hell instead. Holi is a major Hindu festival with boisterous behaviour and a real “letting down of the hair” for many whose lives are much more staid. It is characterised by the use of colour…and the way it is administered can be festively chaotic….but fun for all.
“Don’t mind, it’s Holi!” (In Hindi Indian Bura na mano, Holi hai.)
Where to get the bus…no issue we thought, check with the information desk. The information we received was that there were no buses running from the terminal due to the start of HOLI which is a national festival and essentially a public holiday…ahhh sh*t.
Trains? Same problem
Driver and car? The only solution was to check with the pre booked taxi stall in the air terminal who informed us that there were no sober drivers to drive to Agra…they did however arrange to taxi us to the main bus station where we were assured we could pick up a bus to Agra no problem.
The pre-booked cab arrangement works pretty well except you do have to assert yourself in the various queues otherwise you will be pushed in on from all quarters.
To the Bus Station old chap…
On this mad, festive holiday the roads were obviously pretty clear due to HOLI which was fortunate since the taxi driver was mental to say the least. He eventually attempted to drop us at what MAY have been a station but there were only homeless people anywhere to be seen…agghhhh…deeper sh*t.
You aint droppin us here!!!
I refused to be dropped here and got a policeman (of sorts!) to confirm where the station actually was and direct the driver to take us there….much shaking of heads and we moved on a little but the same problem …no evidence of buses in operation and a scene akin to the current Zombie movies.
Offers of Help?….mmmm
We were then surrounded by a group of persistent lads offering to drive us to Agra and insisting that there were no buses running. I still was not sure and had the belief that the information from the air terminal counter ought to be most correct.
The price of stupidity
Sadly it became apparent that the lads were in fact correct and the situation then shifted to bartering a price for this impromptu mode of transport. I had no confidence in this potential arrangement but equally there was no other option available either…after much frustrating haggling from an extremely unenviable negotiation stance (I couldn’t exactly just walk away into Delhi wastelands!!) we were forced to accept the price I had managed to reduce to (about double what might be have been expected for this taxi ride) and headed off on the next part of this hell.
And so to the Journey…
We ended up being taken to some very, very, shady areas whilst fuel was purchased and a co driver co-opted…but it was all definitely an experience (interestingly, considering the circumstances, we never felt threatened or intimidated which is such a plus for travelling in India)!!
Don’t mind my Dad
At one point the driver stopped and picked up a random from the side of the road; the random turned out to be his dad…and he travelled for a fair time with us until dropped off somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
30% of Indian cars, trucks, bikes, motorbikes, cows and pedestrians have no lights
The road to Agra is not perfect and with every crossing there was an inhabitation full of revellers wandering or driving randomly and paint being thrown to celebrate the occasion. Everyone was plastered or high in one way or another so with zillions of crossings on the 220km drive I am totally amazed that we killed no one and at the same time survived ourselves.
As light faded and died it became apparent that about 30% of cars, trucks, bikes, motorbikes, cows and pedestrians have no lights making driving interesting to say the least but then as an added extra to make this reality show REALLY interesting…about 20% of cars and motorbikes WITH lights were driving towards us on our carriageway!!
Having been travelling all day we had not eaten nor had the opportunity to pay a decent visit to the bathroom so you can imagine the pain we were experiencing as the rattlebox bumped its way over these shocking roads. You will find NOWHERE to stop for relief on the road other than at the side of the road…be prepared this was a four hour journey!!
Finding our hotel in Agra in pitch dark with non local drivers proved difficult too but at least we had learned from a previous mistake and booked a hotel in advance. Eventually we handed over the extortionate fare (Rs 4200 = about £50 but for 220km not so terribly bad on a bank holiday)and had our baggage lifted into the hotel reception…. we had made it and learned from the mistake….costly mistake for sure but these things happen in India.
And now the positive side
Once in Agra and in our hotel things took a turn for the better when we were able the next day at 6:00 in the morning, get up and visit one of the Wonders of the World…the magnificent Taj Mahal. Evidence of the Holi Festivities was to be seen in the dyed shirts and clothes of the locals and many tourists were also covered in paint. Much of the paint eventually turns pink or purple and many people would have pink hair for weeks. The streets, cars and tuk tuks were splattered with paint which would be present for a long time and probably until the monsoon season begun but best of all, dogs, goats and the ever present cows were all now multicoloured beasts.
The Indians do know how to make the most of their public holidays…perhaps we need to learn from them?
The post title was Holi Hell….yes the journey was hellish in many ways but we have to consider the positive side and think ourselves exceptionally lucky to have even managed an exit from Delhi on this very special Holi Holiday.
Moral of the story:
When travelling in any foreign country ensure you check holidays and festivals prior to making any bookings.