After a couple of weeks in the UK to catch up with my parents, the next stop of our adventure is India.
It has been 10years since we were last in Delhi, and wow has it changed. Compared to ten years ago and even more to our first visit 22 years ago, New Delhi is becoming much more organised and orderly. Yes its still one of the most crazy cities on the planet and I still love it! For me it is that crazy mix of chaos, with booming Asian metropolis, spiritual history and of course the British colonial legacy.
After landing we headed to the Imperial Hotel. Using my frequent flyer miles we decided to rough it at one of the loveliest luxury hotels in the world.
For dinner, we met up with some ex MCI colleagues Nitin and Lalit who took us out for a super Delhi feast in a lovely old colonian restaurant.
Next day we braved the Delhi traffic, the terrible pollution and the 35 degree C’ heat and cycled to the New Delhi Railway Station. Cycling in Delhi is one of the most extreme adventure sports in the world and totally fun. It’s exhilarating playing the game of bluff and pushiness to cross lanes and roads.
We are masochists – and so decided to get a train to Chandigarh and then a bus to Manali the next day (instead of flying). I love traveling on Indian trains. But it can be rather stressful, especially if you are traveling with bicycles.
To take a bike on a train, you have to first buy your ticket (now its fairly easy online), then go to the parcel office behind the station and book in your bike; then you need to find your train and its parcel carriage and put your bike in it, before finding your seat.
The problem or rather the adventure started when hardly no one spoke English at the parcel office. Eventually with the help of a drunk coolie we managed to fill out all the forms, pay the fees and book our bikes on the train. Then against the clock we cycled along and across the 15 platforms, weaving and swerving against the swarm of people to reach our train in the nick of time. However, i had forgotten to check something! There was no parcel carriage on this train oh dear!
By now poor Janet was about to faint with the stress and the heat. So I decided to leave her and go searching for a new train. But first i had to cancel the parcel and obtain a refund, then buy a new ticket, then go and book the bike in at the parcel office again. This does not sounds so bad until you see the scrum like crowds fighting for service at each of the ticket counters and offices.
At one point I started to lose it and was at the point of calling the whole thing off and heading back to the Imperial hotel. However I decided it was a test of character; so I took a few deep breaths, tightened my rucksack and dived to the front of the crowd. Now really against the clock, I managed to complete the arrangements and cycle back across 15 platforms, find the train, load the bikes, buy some lunch and get on the train – and crash into our seats. Relief!
Welcome to India. I love it!