First stop, Delhi

Disclaimer – we’re actually in Varanasi now, delayed posting due to long train journey and absent wifi. 

We touched down in Delhi after a smooth flight at around 11.15 India time with a rough total of 7 hours sleep between us (guess who enjoyed most of them)…

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Contrary to the belief of the check-in staff at Heathrow, we whizzed through security on the other side even though we had no further travel booked on our Visas. Bags collected, we headed to the exit and withdrew some Rupees to keep us going (thanks for the advice, whoever said you had to get them when you get there!).

We’d arranged a airport pick-up with our hostel (Backpackers Heaven @ Kuldeep Guesthouse) which I’m very glad we did – firstly because we were knackered and the idea of navigating the public transport with our big bags was a nightmare, and secondly because we simply never would have found it! It’s nicely tucked away down a little back alley of New Delhi which when you’ve got your bearings is fine, but has already caused a fair bit of disorientation.

We had a lot of people practically warn us about what to expect when you get to Delhi, and heard many ‘get out as soon as you cans’, however it’s not been nearly as stressful as either of us were expecting!

Admittedly, the sheer number of people in a small area is crazy and the roads are absolute carnage. ‘How many people can you fit in a rickshaw’ seems to be a popular game amongst drivers, along with ‘only stop driving if there’s a cow’. It’s also incredibly smelly – and whilst some of it’s poo, most of it is an abundance of other aromas from the various spices and burning incense, so not all bad. Same goes for the noise levels – it’s an orchestra of honks, screeches, sales pitches, singing, music and children playing.

And it’s certainly not without its challenges. On the first day it took us over an hour and a half to find the station which was in reality only an 8 minute walk from the hostel. This was not as a result of poor navigation, but we were initially rather too trusting of the people who held conversation with us…

…We’ve now blacklisted the ‘I’m heading to a place that’s near there, I’ll take you’ locals.

It’s also been a bit of a struggle to work out whether we’re paying the right amount of money for things like travel and when it’s right to haggle without insulting anyone. Should we feel guilty about paying 20 Rupees for 4 bananas? Then we remember that’s only about 23p and we probably just made their day by conforming without a fuss.

streets of delhi

Day 2 was much more successful though as we gradually sink into the traveller’s mindset of ‘anything goes’. It’s been far easier to ignore the stares, say no to at least some of the selfies, and identify the ulterior motives of the suspiciously chatty people who walk with you down the street.

After checking out of our hostel, we headed out in the morning to The Red Fort, which is located close to our hostel but in the Old Delhi part of the city. We opted for not buying an audio tour although with hindsight this actually might have been helpful, as the small descriptions/translations of each of the monuments inside were not particularly detailed. However, going to the Red Fort did mean we ticked off a lot of the Lonely Planets recommended sights in a day!

{PHOTOS TO FOLLOW – Wifi not playing ball}

With my knee getting fatter in the heat and excessive walking, we decided to explore the Old Delhi Bazaars and investigate the street food situation. We found a cute little street restaurant (plastic chairs and tables) tucked away amongst the many Sari shops and colourful outlets, where enjoyed our daily intake of ‘Thali’ (a safe vegetable curry/indian tapas option). So far, so good on the toilet front!

Tonight I get my first experience of a sleeper train as a 12 hour journey from Delhi to Varanasi commences at 10.30pm. Supposedly we’ve booked ourselves onto a class that has air conditioning at least but we shall have to see…

Delhi was never going to be the easiest introduction to India but it feels amazing to finally be on our adventure and it was by no means as chaotic as we had expected it to be!

Ed and Jess x

 

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