First impressions of Delhi
When I think of Delhi my mind goes to chaos. Maybe I didn’t have the best experience, well I definitely did not… but I can’t envision anyone wanting to go just to visit, Delhi is more the sort of place that you stop at briefly just to get to your next destination.
Full of rubbish, people vomiting and excreting on the street, more homeless people than I could count, young children clinging to babies begging for money, filthy kids lurking at traffic lights waiting to perform tricks and acrobats which was a form of begging I personally had never experienced. I once saw a dead body being carried down a main road, loosely wrapped in old cloth as a poor attempt to cover it.
Once I got over the initial shock, and started to take the city for what it is, a wise man once said: “happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. And with this in mind, I started to appreciate the city more.
Day one in Delhi
When I tell people my experience in Delhi for the three or four days I was there they always laugh, as do I when I tell it, but in reality it was extremely stressful!
So we arrived in Delhi at around 2am (we being my girlfriend and I) and jumped in a taxi straight to our hostel. We were greeted by a particularly sinister-looking man sitting in the dark on a warn out old couch. He was skinny to the point of skeletal, with small dark eyes, wearing a turban and smoking a pipe.
He asked what our plans were on our trip and we told him of our idea to travel around the state of Rajasthan and he said, in a creepy voice more like a whisper, that tomorrow he would direct us to a great travel agency and they would sort the whole thing out. This seemed like a nice gesture although we were vaguely unnerved.
Regardless, the next morning we clambered onto a rickshaw and to the travel agents that he had suggested. I don’t really know how it happened but basically we signed up to this tour which involved a driver for three weeks through Rajasthan, hotels included, the whole shebang. So we paid a deposit and were to leave in a couple of days from our hostel. It all seemed good, we thought the price was fair, the company seemed great. So for the rest of the day we happily explored Delhi, visiting temples, investigating the markets in Old Delhi and consuming all sorts of delicious Indian cuisine!
Later that afternoon however, we met Ashka, a random man on the street who was irritating us trying to offer us a tour to which we said we’d already booked one. But he was relentless in asking us who we had booked with and how much we’d payed because he was convinced his company could arrange it for cheaper. So (mainly to stop him following us) we briefly told him the details, to which he said,
“Oh wow, I know those guys, they are bad men, they will take your money. You pay a lot, you pay too much. I can do that for half price and much better tour!”
Well in hindsight we should have done our research because he was right, but we had already paid the deposit. Ashka promised if we signed up with him that he could get our deposit back, but we would have to leave the hostel because “Turban-Head” (Ashkas’s words) would know if we changed tours and he would be very upset.
At this point we assumed “Turban-Head” (a nick-name that I did not indulge) was the skeletal hostel owner that we had encountered on the first night, who we were already intimidated by and now we had to pack our bags and run away from his hostel!
This was turning into a bit of a nightmare. At this point after meeting Ashka and returning to the hostel, it was about 8pm and dark outside. We grabbed our backpacks and head out, making up some excuse to the man on the desk at the hostel and telling him not to worry that we had already paid for the next three nights ($2 a night we thought we’d let that one slide in light of our hasty escape).
Ashka had told us there would be a rickshaw waiting to take us to a hotel that he had organised on the main street, so we wandered through the alleyways and found our rickshaw, the driver named Raj was an older fellow, he spoke broken English and sort of overly excitable in a somewhat childish way, but he put us at ease though and we had a very enjoyable ride to the new hotel where we would stay for the following three nights before finally leaving Delhi.
At 6am we were woken up by our hotel room telephone ringing. With heavy-eyes I picked up the receiver,
“Hello Steph! It Raj, I am calling you to say that please, you must pack up your things and come downstairs to meet me, I wait downstairs for you now.”
“Raj, its 6am, we’re sleeping and why do we need to pack our things anyway aren’t we staying here for another three nights?”
“Yes, but actually now the plan has changed because actually you must not worry but the man from your hostel, he has found you and we need to leave. Now!”
Quite a traumatic way to start the morning! So frantically we packed our things and schlepped our backpacks down the four flights of stairs and out of the front door to find Raj in his rickshaw waiting out front for us. We clambered in and were on our way to the next hotel, to safety.
This happened every single morning until we left Delhi! Every day we woke up to Raj trying to sound calm but at the same time urgently requesting that we meet him to move again. It was exhausting and exacerbating.
We spent our days with Raj as our tour guide, he was such a character, it was as if we had our own personal body guard and tour guide all wrapped into one cheerful old rick shaw driver! Raj took us to areas of Delhi that tourists do not tend to experience, the back alleys where we saw the beginnings of slums, the locals markets at which we were stared at constantly, but we were safe with Raj, he really made our experience in Delhi.
On the fourth day we had to say goodbye to Raj and finally met our driver (San-gee) and set off on our way to Bikner, the first point of call on our Rajasthan tour. All in all we managed to save about $200 by switching tours and, despite being chased around Delhi for the first few days of the trip, underwent one of the best journeys I’ve ever been on.
I’d love to hear your comments!