Thankfully the 200km to Delhi was less eventful than the previous 200km. We arrived at around 1pm to find the hotel Airport Inn at the north of the city on google maps did not exist. We were lucky though because in its place was a Toyota service garage headed by a Naresh Kumar. When he heard there were two foreigners outside hopelessly lost he came out to meet us and take us in for a cup of tea. We chatted for a while and discovered he had spent some time in Scotland which explained the strange accent. After about 10 minutes we had confirmed the directions to our second choice accommodation and were refreshed enough to go there. Great service indeed.
Manju Ka Tilla is a small Tibetan exile community on the outskirts of Delhi. Happily there was space to put the bikes outside under cover in a small side street where they were left alone and the hotel was a very reasonable 575rs a night (about 8 quid). The staff were very friendly and welcoming, as was everyone in the community, meaning we wanted to visit Tibet itself sometime (though maybe its not the same there?). Hopefully it will be nice like this in Nepal, I also made the resolution that I needed to learn a bit more about the Buddhist culture.
We spent a day seeing Cannaught Place in thee centre of Delhi. We travelled in by Metro, which was superbly clean,modern and well maintained. Unfortunately the queuing system here seems to be the same as Dublin in that there is no queuing system. The train stops for 30 seconds which only adds more urgency to the experience. Cannaught place itself was a central round garden surrounded by plush white façade buildings. We shopped for books and had a beef free McDonalds. It was quite peaceful and completely in contrast to what we had expected.
That night we went to the cinema and missed some communications from Tom who had already picked up Hanna and was staying with a friend called Lavline. We had already got back to the hotel when we got it all ironed out and discovered we should head back out again to his house on the other side of Delhi. We did not arrive until late but were welcomed with BBQ‘d chicken and plenty of beer. We stayed in the large house which was surrounded by plush quiet gardens overnight. Not at all what we expected to find in Delhi. Hana had hired a 500cc Enfield Bullet to do some touring.
When we got back to the hotel we discovered Els and Merijn had arrived. I thought they had got our text message with the coordinates but it was pure chance. It also turned out that our Aircel sim was now roaming because we had left the area it was bought in so calls were not so cheap anymore and the international calling card would not work either. The mobile phone market here seems to be a real mess.
The following day we headed out together to see Akshardam Hindu temple, opened only 5 years ago. We took the underground Metro and I was feeling like we had finally figured out how it all worked. Then at one station my wallet was stolen. Pick-pocketed as we got onto a train out of a Velcro pocket on my leg. The train was busy and I was not sure if it happened as we got on or by one of the passengers. We cancelled the credit card as everything else in the wallet was expired cards and a copied driving license. The police came to make a report and took us to the station. As I suspected the wallet was found although emptied of cash (even the couple of rupee coins) but containing everything else. Presumably the thief would not want to be caught with the evidence. At this point the police were keen not to continue with the report, presumably to keep their crime figures low. As we waited for the wallet to be returned they asked questions about the kind of stuff we eat at home and what we thought of the country compared to Pakistan (they seemed pretty patriotic). They seemed concerned about our safety on the roads and almost gleefully described the driving conditions. I couldn’t help but wonder if they should be doing something about it since they are the police after all.
Over the next couple of days we saw some more of Delhi, including the old city, the fort, red mosque and Jain temple. We were not used to paying entry fees for such things anymore but it seemed to be the norm here. We each remarked we were perhaps travel weary and could not appreciate it as much now although we went up the minaret at the red mosque and had a great (if smoggy) view of the city. That night we had a Christmas dinner at a posh restaurant back on Cannaught place. The atmosphere was a little strange with a crazy frog Christmas CD on repeat and masked Santa Claus handing out sweets but the food was excellent and we had a good night.
The next couple of days were spent lazing around and doing very little. I started to come down with some sort of cold and felt weak just walking out to get my hair cut. We planned to leave the next morning but just didn’t manage to so we had another easy day and I caught up on the blog. Perhaps tomorrow we‘ll head to Agra, city of the famed Taj Mahal…