The last two days have merged into one messy hot one. We said our goodbyes to my parents at Heathrow on Monday and then spent a couple of hours watching planes take off and waiting to board. Neither of us slept for more than about ten minutes – I don’t know if that was the constant tempting smell of curry (that we weren’t allowed to have, as stupid Expedia had put us both down as special diets – bland vegan – which the air steward could apparently not change.), the excitement of finally being on our way, or the temptation of all of those films. By the time the sun was rising over Afganistan, we had pretty much given up trying and spent the rest of the flight taking photos and trying not to wake our very serious Italian neighbour. One amazing moment was flying over Pakistan, which we had assumed we would not be doing because of the current crisis. I took a photo which hopefully captures just how massive the problem is. The tiny dark patches are land, everything else is water.
It was no time at all until we had landed and gained our first stamps in our passports. Despite all of my concerns after issues with visas and emailing random hotels, we were let straight in and even had our air-conditioned lift from the airport to our home for the next couple of nights in the condensed version of Delhi that is Paharganj. I’ll get to that in a moment… We had a lovely chatty driver who kept calling me Mrs and then asking if I was happy with the car and the service, and when I nodded and said yes it was, he took both hands off the wheel to put them together, showing his appreciation. Despite this the ride was not as scary as I thought it would be, although I certainly couldn’t drive here – I don’t think I’ve ever used my horn on purpose and it seems to be the main form of communication here. A loud beep will say ‘move out of the way’, ‘I’m here’, ‘hello’, ‘please stop talking in the middle of the road’, and lots more that was totally lost on us. He was nice enough and managed to trick Rob’s sleepy brain into giving a tip almost as large as the cost of the ride. Won’t be falling for that one again, although as scams and tricks go, if a $5 loss is all we end up with during our stay in India I think we’ll have got off lightly.
Right, so Paharganj. I knew that there was a lot of construction work going on, and I had even seen pictures and videos which are pretty close to the truth of the matter, the reality of it is something else. Our hotel is a safe little haven away from it, with internet and drinking water (sealed bottles, don’t worry) and super-efficient air-con to boot. It did however take three attempts to properly leave the hostel. First round I apparently had my head down the whole way to the train station and back, second round… well let’s just say we both agreed to head back to Smyle Inn after about five minutes to have a shower and change. Third time lucky. I never quite understood what culture shock was but we are certainly experiencing it, whether or not it is exacerbated by our lack of sleep, I am not sure.
We made it as far at the rooftop Kitchen Cafe under the direction of our new instruction manual, the Lonely Planet India. We had the most pathetic first Indian meal ever of pizza and pasta, but figured that we should start slowly if we want to make the most of the real culinary delights in the slightly more upmarket areas of New Delhi tomorrow.
And that is about it. We are hiring a driver tomorrow to get down to some of the sights of Southern Delhi, and then on Thursday we leave the chaos of Delhi for what we hope will be the slightly calmer streets of Jaipur and Udaipur. Right now we are going to cool off in our room and watch some random Indian tv to try and stay awake long enough to fix any jetlag!
Nic & Rob x
p.s. lots more photos going up on Flickr, just click on the photo link at the top of the page.