Delhi: right in amongst it

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Delhi. Oh. Wow.

We pulled into Delhi station, and organise porters to carry our bags for 100 rupees. Those men were amazing, carrying 15-20kgs worth of luggage on their heads plus an extra suitcase by hand. Up a long flight of steps, down a long flight on the other side. I saw similar feats of strength in China, when men carried bags down from the Chongqing pier to the boat docked on the Yangtze below.

We were driven by coach to our hotel, passing slums, office buildings, parks, hotels and residential areas. While there were some piles of rubbish on the road, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Amritsar. And I was pleased to see footpaths. I even saw a couple of people running. The roads were congested with the same kind of traffic as Amritsar, though. The same noisy fight for road space.

We checked into our hotel (The Hans) had a lovely breakfast, and I had time to shower and change my clothes—I felt quite scungy from the overnight train because I had slept in my clothes. Feeling human again, we were ushered onto the Metro to take the subway then autorickshaw to Old Delhi.

Old Delhi. Oh. Wow. So many people, so dusty, so congested, so crazy. So wonderful. It truly is an assault on the senses.

We strolled up to the mosque, a magnificent building constructed of red sandstone and marble, with views over Delhi. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take our cameras in, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the interior. Again, I was surprised that such an oasis of calm existed in the hub bub of Old Delhi. We then strolled through the market for an hour, which was busy with buyers and sellers. We weren’t hassled to buy anything, because, I guess, we weren’t their demographic.

After lunch, the group split, with some of us going off to explore the spice market, others to visit the Red Fort, sans our tour guide. Getting to the spice market was an experience in and of itself, as was getting back to the hotel. We waded through a sea of people and vehicles, and over crumbling footpaths and rubbish, breathing in the dust. Once there after a few false starts, we breathed in the heady aroma of spices: cinnamon, chilli, pepper, fennel, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, which were displayed in open hessian sacks, along with piles of sticky, caramelly dates buzzed by flies, and yellow and red lentils and other pulses and grains.

Some of us bought spice mixtures, some of us didn’t, and after an hour or so, we decided to take the auto back to our hotel. It took us a while to flag one down because it was so, so busy, but when we did, we negotiated a fare of 100 rupees.

It was 100 rupees well spent, because we saw so much of Delhi from our auto. We passed the Red Fort and even stopped at a petrol station so the auto tank could be filled. Autorickshaws are basically built around a two stroke engine, hidden under the driver’s seat. Some are started with a key, others like a lawn mower. They have no suspension, so you feel every bump and pothole that is driven over. The beauty of the auto is that they can weave in and out of tight spaces more easily than a car.

We arrived back at our hotel almost three quarters of an hour after we set out from Old Delhi, but we didn’t mind. And we have our driver much more than 100 rupees for the experience.

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