Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Day 217 - Delhi

I hope you all had a good Christmas. The weather has warmed up somewhat, so it has felt even less like the festive season.
My original plan had been to leave Amritsar and cover the 470k in 4 days ending with a 170k ride into Delhi on Christmas Day as there were apparently no hotels on that stretch. In the end I couldn't face the thought of that so I opted to cover it in 3 days, that way they were all roughly the same length and the last day wouldn't seem so daunting. Well, I made it in 3 days and to be honest it was all pretty straight forward as it was a main road bash, so little route finding involved, though I was 45k out of Amritsar before I saw a sign that confirmed I was on the right road. I did ask a few people at a main road in Amritsar if it was the Delhi road, but nobody could understand Delhi, or at least my pronounciation of it. At last it dawned on one of them and they told me which way to go, but I had already decided to trust my compass and go the opposite way to his suggested direction. Thankfully the compass paid dividends again. The route was dead flat the whole way with the only hills being bridges over the railway. There was nothing of touristic interest either, so I was happy to push on each day. I did take "taxi" rides when ever I could though. No, I am not getting soft and scrounging lifts, its just that there are often tactors with large trailers passing and when they are going at a good speed I sprint (as much as I can with a 50kg bike) into their slipstream and get an effortless tow for a while. The ideal speed is 28k with about 31kph being as fast as I can maintain for any period of time, but its all a bit of fun and makes boring kilometres slip by quickly, though it can only really be done on a good surface as hitting unseen potholes at speed donesn't appeal that much. The first night I stopped at Ludhiana which has an elevated road going through the centre, very frustrating when you can see all the hotels, but you no way of getting to them.

On the final day into Delhi I opted for a 7am start, it was cold and the fog was very thick with a visibility of no more than 50m. Going at 20kph on a bike was plenty fast enough and I expected to se plenty of accidents with their terrible driving, but amazingly enough they slowed right down and drove with a little sense, if you exclude those with no lights on at all. Fog lights dont seem to have been invented here as hazard warning lights are the preferred option, not that it's a problem, they don't use them to indicate with anyway. The last 20k into the centre took an age as the traffic was solid. Normally thats not a problem on a bike as you can weave through, but here there are so many bikes that every last gap gets filled and when things get moving again it also takes an age as they all have to unravel themselves from each other. Still, I got here on Christmas Eve, that's the main thing.

I had intended to try and get a Bangladesh visa as soon as possible but I was told that Christmas Day was a holiday so they would be shut, so I had to have a lie in, a liesurely breakfast, then a pootle around New Delhi on the bike, it's a tough life. The masses seemed to converge on India Gate, not that anything seemed to be going on. I had a chat with some soldiers outside the President's Palace and they were the only people to wish me a Happy Christmas. OK, so there is a 2ft Santa in the hotel, but that's as far as their celebrations seem go. And that reminds me, I left a dirty old sock at the end of the bed for Santa and when I got up there was sod all in it, not even an orange, not even a poxy nut! The guy is a fraud.

I am staying in Paharganj area of Delhi, there is a bustle about the place and it has far more life and atmosphere than in New Delhi. You can get any type of food you like, even "Authentic Italian food, with an Indian touch". How can that be authentic then? Today I have been suffering the queues and hassles of the Bangladesh Consulate. After queueing for ages at the visa section I was sent inside and once there I was pretty much alone with a French guy who also wanted a tourist visa. We were both questioned about why we wanted to go there, especially as we didn't know anybody there, so we would have nowhere to stay. The French guy seemed to get more of a grilling than I did and they seemed very reluctant to give us visas, which somewhat contradicted the posters on the wall that said "Visit Bangladesh, before the tourists arrive". Still, mine got sorted and I should be able to pick it up tomorrow, far quicker than I expected. Once back I cut my hair and went to a barber to get the back of my neck shaved. He also did the long bits that I had missed, but at 15p I will think twice before indulging in such luxuries again. It only took him 10 minutes, what is the world coming to? Guess what I have got lined up for the rest of the day. Well having had the stress of a Consulate during the morning, I am going to chill out in front of the television this evening as there are 3 consecutive live Premiership football matches. Actually, I probably wont see any of them as I suspect I will fall asleep.

This will be my last post for about 10 days as I will be on holiday. The bike is going into Hotel storage tomorrow and I will be travelling back to Agra and Jaipur by public transport. I hope to see the New Year in at the Taj Mahal.

8 comments:

aoiffe said...

Perspective is a funny thing - my idea of cycling to Australia is of it being one long holiday, yet you are taking a 10 day holiday. Well have a good time...

aoiffe said...

Oh, and another thing, how could you expect Santa to leave anything at all when even you don't know where you will be sleeping each night.
As for leaving out a dirty sock... Santa has his standards you know, and had arranged to fly your gifts to you by special courier. So Happy Christmas you grumpy old git!

malcolm said...

Happy New Year John.Enjoy your holiday.Malcolm & Clare.

aoiffe said...

Happy New Year to you, may you have a year that remains new every day.

Lorna said...

Happy New Year, John! Hope it will continue to be exciting. Look forward to reading about the holiday:-)

Caff said...

Happy New Year Zibs - hope it has been good to you so far. Well? Did Santa's special courier manage to find you in India? As Aoiffe said Santa has standards maybe he found a "clean" sock amongst your cycle baggage so you may find something there on your return!!
Hope you have had a good break and have enjoyed some fine company - don't suppose you've bumped into Madonna? It seems she is in Jaipur at the moment.

Lorna said...

Just had a chance to catch up with all the photographs of India. They are really wonderful. What an amazing country.

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