Before we left, we did as much research as we could about what to expect upon arriving here. We knew that it was going to be hot, people would approach us trying to sell us things/talk, and that we would have to be careful when eating. Although I still think that preparation is important, we are learning the most through experience, by learning the hard way in some cases.
We arrived in Delhi on Wednesday evening and grabbed a prepaid taxi to our guesthouse. We read alot about how to avoid being scammed on the taxi and we were fine – our driver was nice and friendly. However, the driving here reminds me of a video game. Cars, autorickshaws, cycle rickshaws, lots of people, vendors with carts, cows, and dogs all occupy a spot on the road. The lanes are somewhere between a rule anand a suggestion and I decided early on that I would avoid looking straight ahead and just trust our driver. Our hotel was very nice – Hotel Cottage Yes Please in Pajarganj. We got a room with AC – it also had a TV, fridge, comfy bed. A perfect place to recover from the long flight.
On our first full day in Delhi we set out to buy our train tickets to Haridwar. Immediately upon leaving the hotel we we were surrounded by drivers wanting to take us places. We were going to walk since the station looked close on our map. A man came walking beside us, asked us where we were going. The train station we said. “Oh, this way,” he says. We followed him all the way (as later realized) to Connaught Place to a travel agency. We walked in, got a free map, and left. At this point, we needed a driver, since we didn’t know where we were going. We asked our driver to take us to the New Delhi Train station, so we could buy our rail tickets. We read a lot about getting train tix ahead of time — the International Tourist Bureau is what we needed to find. We left the autorickshaw, and were told by 5 different people that it had moved to the N block of Connaught Place. We walked inside, couldn’t find it. Frustrating. We asked our driver to take us back to CP to Nblock to the rail office. When we got there, we were taken to another travel agency. We asked for 2 tickets to Haridwar. He told us they were sold out and there were none available, no days. Only tour packages available. Ugh. At this point, we asked our driver to take us back to our hotel. On the way he got stuck in some rubble. Brandon helped push him through it… and we got back safe, but hungry and drained from the heat. This is a quick overview.. but basically imagine us two walking around and getting approached by people all the time.
Day 1 was the most challenging. We refreshed, rethought our strategy. We took a stroll around Paharganj that evening and didn’t interact with anyone we didn’t want to. It was hard. No thank you, then we moved on. When we didn’t know where we were going we kept walking as if we knew and talked strategy. And, what was hardest for me, is I decided to let Brandon take the lead. It didn’t help us earlier in the day when we didn’t agree on what to do. I only interjected when necessary.
This worked much better for day 2. We read up the first night on buying train tix again and realized our driver took us to the wrong rail station. We memorized the map from our hotel to the front of the station. And we got up and left before 8am so we could beat the crowds. This worked. We got our train tix (yes, they were available), then spent the rest of the day poking around Connaught Place, Janpath Rd, hit the FabIndia, and of course, eating and hydrating ourselves. We met some really interesting people, including an exporter in a coffeeshop, a retired Ayurvedic doctor in CP, and a kid studying english and sanskrit. We saw a cow dressed in what looked like a cow sari. And a man dressed up in costume (Mughal?) in full gallop on a horse through traffic. Funny things? A few “hey mr tall guy” and a lot of people who come up to us and ask if we are german.
Yesterday, energized by our 2nd day, we got up early for our 6:50am train on the Shatabdi Express to Haridwar. No problem finding the train, uneventful smooth ride. We met a woman from New Zealand who had been traveling for 5 months. At Haridwar, we decided to catch the next train to Rishikesh, leaving in less than an hour. We bought our tickets (cheap, 8 Rupees… 45 rupees = $1) and waited. And waited. We asked multiple people what platform our train would be on… no one knew, others says track 3, track 5. We listened for announcements. I left my pack with Brandon and looked and ran into my first monkeys. After waiting for 1.5 hrs, we gave up. We left the station to grab the bus. Brandon wrote down detailed directions (we’ve already learned to do this, since we when ask people we haven’t had good luck with the answers). We couldn’t find it. We decided to take a vikram — a big autorickshaw that jams lots of people in. Like the Guatemalan colectivo. Then there was some kind of argument in Hindi and most of the passengers left. We sat there waiting to leave and realized the bus company was across the street (we walked by it multiple times). We got off, asked about the bus. They told us the bus was 2 km down the road. We decided to take the vikram. Loaded onto another, with 10+ people. Finally made it to Rishikesh.
It’s so much calmer here. Still hot, over 100. But its nice to not have to deal with auto traffic. We are staying in the Swargashram part of town, across the foot bridge. There are scooters and motorcycles here, but no cars. Yay.
More later. And I will upload photos when I get a chance. I didn’t take any in Delhi. But I’ll take some here.