An offer to ride in a very broken tuk tuk, a feisty tug of war with a badger, and welding fairground planes back together.

Day 153: Agra, India. After breakfast this morning, we headed out to visit Agra Fort – our last historical site visit before we leave India next week.

The fort is a couple of kilometres from our hotel – an easy walk through the town. A gazillion tuk tuk drivers called out along the way to try and get our business “Tuk tuk, sir, madam! Very cheap price, where you going?”.

We laughed when the owner of a tuk tuk that was clearly very broken offered to take us to the fort, in the hope we’d hang about while it was being put together again. It might have been quite a wait.

We got to the fort, bought tickets and joined the reasonably lengthy entrance queue. There was no signage and we only realised closer to the top of the queue that there were in fact two separate lines – one for girls and one for guys. Lil made a quick attempt to climb over the tall barrier but the security guard shouted at her, so she had to push her way back through the crowds to get into the other line.

For anyone who’s read ‘A bit about this blog’ on the web site, we travel with a stuffed badger called Bodger, with a challenge of getting him into one photograph every day. He’s always parked in the bottom of Lil’s backpack, ready for a good photo opportunity.

The security lady who was checking bags at the fort smiled broadly when she saw Bodger, then quickly said “Cannot take into fort” and placed him on a side table, in a clear effort to try and badger-nap him. A feisty tug of war broke out, and Lil managed to wrestle the badger back.

We walked back to the cloak room to leave Lil’s bag there. Before she handed her bag over, we put the badger and other valuables into Jim’s backpack. And funnily enough after going through Jim’s bag, the male security guard made no comment about the badger not being allowed into the fort. Badger-napping nicely averted.

Reviews say Agra Fort is an overlooked wonder, as a lot of people visiting Agra head straight for the Taj Mahal and don’t pay any attention to the fort. It’s billed as being one of the best examples of Mughal architecture, and the only fort where all Rajasthan kings have stayed at some point since 1570.

The fort is impressive and huge, but very run down in parts with much of the fine inlay-work picked out from the marble, and the paintings covered over. There’s been lots of really high quality restoration, especially to the stonework of the structure, but some lovely original features still stand out.

Sadly there’s lots of graffiti on the walls of buildings, despite signs asking people not to do so. It baffles us that anyone thinks it’s a cool thing to do.

To the east side of the standing fort and palaces, there are ruins of an older palace which is said to have housed a harem of 5,000 women, each with their own chamber. The mind boggles on how that all worked. Lil of course had to ask the question “With no social media, how did they all meet each other?”

When we’d finished at the fort, we walked around the perimeter (which was a fair distance), then back to the hotel via a cute little cafe for coffee and pancakes.

Later in the evening, we walked back into town for dinner. We were amused to watch a local welder working on some fairground aeroplanes (without any eye protection, which seems to be the norm here) – let’s hope his welding skills are good.

We had dinner at a small rooftop restaurant with fabulous 360 degree views over the town. A large family in a yard below us was cooking food in monster pots over open fires, which they carried up to their own little rooftop. The only downside of the rooftop was the swarms of mosquitos which gleefully chomped Lil, despite a thick layer of insect repellent.

While we were eating, fireworks started across the town, marking the run-up to Diwali, the most significant Hindu festival which peaks in ten days on 27 October. We’ll miss the main day, but hopefully we’ll see some more pre-festival celebrations before we leave next week.

Then we headed back home, to get a good night’s sleep and brace ourselves for a spot of shopping tomorrow to buy some clothes for our trip back to the UK. Hopefully there will be no more badger-napping attempts at the shopping centre.

More then.

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