We were meet by Raman and Shalindra our representative and tour guide for our trip from Quo Vadis Travel. They with my travel agent, Dori Peterson from Cadence Travel helped make our entire trip seamless.
An ancient Hindu monument.
We were advised several times to watch your step but never look down. There would too many things you would miss if you were constantly worried about what you were stepping on. Walking through the ancient streets of Chandni Chowk gave us our first glimpse of the chaotic wonderment that we would be getting used to over the next few weeks.
"It is a dark time, the sun is coming, soon it will be light time, this is a very auspicious hour."
If you have ever seen the movie or read the book The Kite Runner you would smile at the dozen upon dozens of little boys scattered along the rooftops, ghats (steps leading to the water) and back streets flying their kites and actually trying to cut the strings of other boys kites with their own.
The streets are narrow, dark and crowded. The ground is covered with broken concrete, cow dung, piles of garbage, open baby diapers, mystery fluids and dogs with tiny puppies every 10 feet. You walk with your head on a constant swivel because there is so much beauty above the ground if you choose to see it.
I actually had the wind knocked out of me once because while looking up into a window I walked straight into the horn of a water buffalo. They don't give way.
At times they have dozens of funeral pyres burning at once.
In India, driving is an experience that will have your eyes bugging out of your head. There don't seem to be any rules except for "Don't crash!" The traffic lines are just for decoration. Honking is a way of letting everyone know you're next to them because people do not use side or rear view mirrors. Signaling is nonexistent. No need to stop when you want to merge into traffic, you just melt in with traffic and if you're in a real hurry just drive on the wrong side of the road, if you honk, people will move out of your way. Oh and make sure to go around all the cows, buffalo, dogs, camels, goats, and pedestrians wandering aimlessly in the streets. It all seems to work somehow.
After an exceptionally stressful, running late drive to catch a night train, we needed to make sure we could sleep on a train. Below is the remedy.
I won't mention the bathroom situation. Well... let me just say that if a train is crossing over a bridge, nobody will dare be under the bridge at the time of crossing for fear of being "rained" upon.
There are very few tigers left in the wild and viewing one is a very fortunate event. We did get to see one briefly but when we did it was with dozens of other jeeps and several of what I like to call super jeeps. Giant jeeps that hold 25 people. Once a tiger was spotted absolute craziness started. Our guides started yelling and screaming. Drivers we driving recklessly, positioning for a better spot on a narrow dirt road. Super jeeps were backing up into the backs of our tiny jeep without a clue they were hitting us. Tourists were standing up in the jeeps trying to get a better viewing. It was all super disappointing and upsetting. These were supposed to be professional guides and trackers. Not even a little.
On a brighter note, we stayed at the beautiful Khem Villas. A three-night oasis surrounded by nature and the sounds of birds.
I loved how our guide yelled at dozens of tourists to "Get out of the way!!!!" so that we could get this shot of the beautiful peacock door.
We still have contact with him years after this trip.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the slums but the images are now permanent in our minds.
The tour was more than "look at how they live" but "look at what they have done with what they have." It's an actual functioning city with a hospital, fire department, police department, post offices and schools.
Walking through the dark narrow back streets in the residential section gave me an enormous appreciation for what can be accomplished with so little.
When we arrived at the airport we were meet by a new representative letting us know that there was a small problem. All the public workers started a 48-hour strike that morning. Driving was not an option. He had his tire punctured and car attacked on the way to pick us up. Our hotel was a two-hour drive away. Staying at the airport for two days looked like a reality for our future. Then our guy who looked like Bruno said if we were willing to risk it he would try to get us to our hotel that was two hours away. Why not!!! For the first hour, we drove on the roads as the only car for as far as the eye could see. After the crazy crowded streets, we were used to this was exceptionally strange. Finally, we can upon a roadblock with dozens of young Indians rushing up to the car and we found ourselves in a scene from Argo. Men beating on the car and angrily screaming at our driver while he calmly spoke with them pleading his case of trying to get these nice tourists to their destination. This being the case was probably the only reason we got through. I don't think they want any negative press from foreigners. So with a few more angry words and an angry pounding of the hood we were allowed to pass.
After that..... all was good!
We stayed at Old Harbour Hotel.
Mike meeting some of his Indian Police peeps.
He's right of course. Even though getting home from such faraway destinations is grueling (43 hours from leaving our last hotel to walking into our front door without ever once being supine) it allows the memories of the trip to set in permanently. Changing you in a way that was unknown to you before you left. The bonds and experiences you make with the friends you share travel with are forever. It becomes like an addictive drug. Always making you wanting more.