24th January 2010
I’m settling down now for my 4th night in Dehli & thought I should make a start on a letter home. Hopefully my handwriting will be legible enough. I will try to be neat.
I left England on the 20th, and should have landed the same day, but I arrived in Amsterdam to learn my connection was delayed by 11 hours. At first I was alarmed, but then I realised it gave me an afternoon in Amsterdam, which was unexpected but fun.
I finally landed in Delhi midmorning. I reached the hotel without problem & then tried to find water and money. That was a little stressful, as I kept being followed by touts, suggesting I visit the “official” tourist office. I ignored one, who finally told me I was rude & should go back to my own country. Once I’d found water and rupees, I felt a lot happier. I visited a bookshop in Connaught Place, where I had a calming browse. I also picked up some books to replace those I’d read on the flight. One of the things I’ve been enjoying is having time to read.
Once money & water were sorted out, everything seemed less daunting. I found a cafe that did coffee & cake near the Metro, which is great to visit on the way back from an outing. I’m feeling a little settled now – I’m so glad that I finally got myself organised & booked this trip.
One of the most remarkable things about Delhi is the traffic. It sounds cacophonous, but it’s actually quite well organised. The roads don’t seem to have lanes, so drivers use their horns to announce their presence to other road users. People don’t try predicting other driver’s actions, like at home, but keep a careful watch on what is happening. For the first few minutes I was alarmed at driving in Delhi, but realised there were very few dented cars – so I just relax and trust the driver. The narrow streets are busy, with cars, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, and even elephants, but the drivers are less aggressive than many of the cyclists on Brighton seafront.
I’ve spent the first four days walking around the city. I’ve walked through many different areas, enjoying the contrast between different districts. Walking around New Delhi is fairly peaceful compared to the markets & tourist attractions. I have been taking auto-rickshaws, although I’m usually ripped off – it’s quite a strange imitation, when someone cheats you for 10p on a 60p journey. You know you’ve been overcharged, and it’s easy to forget how small the sums involved are. My favourite transport method is the Metro – it’s cheap and mostly peaceful. At rush-hour it is properly packed though – I missed a stop once because I couldn’t move from where I was stood.
I’ve not done many tourist sites yet – I’ll be back in Delhi later in the trip. My favourite site so far was the Jantar-Muntar, a series of astronomical instruments the size of buildings. They’re well worth googling. It was amazing to wander through these monuments, figuring out how they worked. There are five such sites in India, & I’ll be near two of the others later in my trip.
I’ve also been running a few times, but the pollution is bard on my tender lungs. My target time in the marathon is going to be upped, I fear, as I’ve not been able to manage any significant distance.
The runs themselves have been magical though. The last two days I’ve taken auto-rickshaws to Lodi Gardens before dawn. The city looks different again in the early hours. Then 4 miles or so around the park, whose tombs look stunning as they emerge from the mist.
I’m staying in Delhi a few more days before an overnight train ride to Udaipur. So far I’m loving the trip. Delhi may be frantic, but I’ve not spoken to anyone British for days, which is quite relaxing. Being without a mobile is good, although I sometimes think it’s vibrating in my pocket – a technological phantom limb.
I will write more after I reach Udaipur.
[I will try to scan better quality images, but for the sake of speed added these for the present. Ed.]