On the ground in New Delhi

Is it a good sign to spend the first 3 hours of your journey on the tarmac in a plane that is being cleared by authorities for lightening strike? Despite that small inconvenience we made all our connections through to Delhi and we arrived mid-morning to be met by our taxi driver from the  Pearl Hotel. His mumbling about our 2 large bike boxes squeezed into his vehicle, and police, came to nothing.

Our hotel is in Paharganj, 3 km from the centre of the city, and very close to the New Delhi Railway Station. For $50 a night, we get air conditioning, a nice deluxe room and a great breakfast. We will make the most of it for the 3 days we are here.

On our first afternoon we managed to book rail tickets the old fashioned way, in person, at the railway station. Take a number please and wait your turn. On-line bookings require a phone and SIM card which we don’t have. We then went walkabout to the city centre and back through narrow busy lanes, acclimatising to the mid 30’s temps, smells and sounds of a big Indian city.

Sunday’s challenge was finding the Parcel Office of the railway station to sort out travelling with a bike, before cruising the very busy local Sunday Market in Old Delhi. it was super crowded with locals doing their weekend shopping of everything and anything. Next stop was the Red Fort, the historical compound of the sultans of Old Delhi. After dinner Alan enjoyed a hair cut, which comes with a complimentary neck and shoulder massage lasting as long as the haircut.

Next day, the street smells, a beggar who looked close to death and then the modern metro underground where we were the worst dressed, served as a reminder of the diverse nature of this city of 16 million. We visited the largest historic mosque in the ancient first city where slaves rose up to be sultans and the first sultaness ruled, throwing down her head scarf and daring to dress as a man in public. the tall Qutb Minar tower dominated the collection of historic stone buildings, some preserved, some in ruins.

Wandering the large parks we were drawn to sitar music which was being filmed. We became groupies following the musicians and film crew to listen to an ancient wind instrument (the Cenai – sp) being played by one of the few musicians who know how, with the backdrop of the tower and parks.

Tomorrow we head for the cooler hills. We have an early start to drop our bikes off at the Parcel Office before our train to Kalka. From there we will bike to Shimla, a hill town popular among the wealthier Indians to escape the heat of the plains.

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