I have now been in India for a bit over a week. The travel over and the first week was pretty horrendous. My flight was delayed in Sydney for about 6 hours. Then I had to wait about 12 hours in Mumbai for a new connecting flight to Delhi. When I finally arrived in Delhi at about midday it must have been over 48 hours travelling with little sleep.
And oh what a shock on arrival. The heat was so intense, about 42 degrees celcius with 80%+ humidity. My taxi dropped me off somewhere which was apparently ‘near’ my hotel but I had no idea where it was. Stuck in this dirty street which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, masses of people started approaching me saying “Hello Sir, come this way”. “Do you need hotel?”, “Where can I take you?”, “Let me show you the way”. I tried to ignore most of them but asked a couple of questions, “Where is the train station?” (to get my bearings). They proceeded to tell me it was ‘this way’ and started to lead me down weird back alleys. Everyone just tried to take advantage of you, it was so intense.
Finally I managed to get to my hotel after so many troubles. A pretty dingy hotel but at least I had air conditioning and could finally sleep. The first few days were pretty nice – I saw some nice parks, temples, tombs and met a Swami that a friend knows in Delhi.
Then the dreaded Delhi belly struck. I think it must have been from some water that I stupidly drank at a rather nice Hare Krishna restaurant. The next four days were horrific. I have never spent so much time on a toilet that is for sure! And the fever, body aches, head aches, nausea. I couldn’t eat and basically stayed in my dirty, lightless and smelly hotel room for about 4 days. Not a nice experience!
I finally managed to leave Delhi a couple days ago and am now in Rishikesh in the foothills of the Himalayas on the Ganges River. I am staying in an ashram which has river frontage and beautiful gardens. Every night there is aarti (prayers and chanting) on the riverbank with about 1000 people, all chanting and dipping themselves in the Holy Ganges River. There is a massive 15 foot stature of Shiva meditating perched on a platform above the river. The sun sets in the hills behind him throughout aarti.
And India, what a culture shock. So so so many people. And the noise. Every driver uses their horn at least twice every five seconds. And lanes are rather arbitrary. A three lane road is in fact fits about six lanes of vehicles. And really, you can drive on the other side of the road when ever the need arises. Just drive straight at the oncoming traffic and wait for them to give way. But it all seems to move in such a chaotic, but ultimately ‘ordered’ fashion. Although everyone is hooting at each other constantly they never seem angry, quite happily chatting to each other at the lights (only moments after slamming on the horn for five seconds straight). One auto-rickshaw said that the way we drive in Australia was so BORING. Well, a trip in a taxi becomes like a ride in an entertainment park in India. Rather fun when you don’t have to be in control yourself! I sure wouldn’t want to drive myself though.
Now cows. One cannot walk for more than 10 metres without running into a cow. Bulls, calves, cows, buffalo, every kind of cow imaginable. And major highways are of no concern to the cows. You can be driving along a four lane highway and there in the middle of the road sits a cow, with the traffic courteously weaving around it. Cows walk down malls, across arching bridges high above the river. No one pays them the slightest attention, except perhaps to give them a light pat on the head.
It also seems that I will soon be featuring in hundreds of family photo albums throughout India. Everyday at least 20 people say hello to me, ask me where I am from, tell me how good Australia is at cricket, then proceed to ask me to pose in a photo for them. I shake their hands, and off they go. They are all so friendly!
I leave on Sunday for a 10 day trek in the Himalayas (we trek up to about 5000 metres high apparently). I am so glad that my sickness is passing and I am slowly feeling normal again and ready for the trek.