After a few hours of sleep we stepped out into the Delhi daylight and the full impact of India hit our exhausted eyes.
India is everything you imagine, everything and then some more. Walking along the main bazaar was a complete sensory overload – it is like being smashed in the face with a Michael Palin documentary.
You quite literally walk through smells of cinnamon, urine, incense, garlic, rotten food, spices and petrol. Shouts, car horns, music and squealing children all vie for your attention, whilst you attempt to politely escape stall holders pleas to look at their wares and simultaneously dodge an oncoming cow. There are cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, tuk tuks and bikes everywhere. Crossing the road was the most terrifying and liberating experience: after realising that there is never a break in the traffic, you just have to step out. They actually drive around you….well, just about.
The majority of our time was spent figuring out a route round India that fitted in with the few train tickets left on the almost sold out trains. It didn’t help that we got good and scammed on our first day when our tuk tuk driver took us to a fake tourist information centre – luckily we sniffed a proverbial rat and didn’t part with any rupees. We had a small train related victory when we bought the smallest phone in India so that we could buy train tickets ourselves without the help of the many ‘official’ ticket sellers we met.
We also spent a fair amount of time chatting to curious Indian men, who made us laugh and attempted to lure us into their ‘tourist office’ or what was actually a travel agents. They certainly love English sayings or rhymes and would crack up whilst saying to us: ‘see you later alligator, in a while crocodile’ and someone actually said: ‘lovely jubbly’.
We did manage a day of sightseeing and even braved the metro, which is very clean, fast and had actual air conditioning putting the hot and sweaty (even in November) London Underground to shame. We visited Humayun’s tomb and the Red Fort, which were both absolutely stunning.
Though Delhi was exhausting, stinky and dirty, we loved it almost exclusively for the people. Yes, they might be trying to sell you something, but they are so friendly and genuinely happy that you have come to visit India, that it’s hard not to feel welcome almost immediately.
Early days, I know, but we think we might be falling in love with India.