A big day in Delhi. We met some nice travellers over breakfast, then, after some consideration about where to head next (none of the trip was planned in advance), we headed for the New Delhi Train Station to get train tickets to Shimla in the north. As it can only get colder, going north straight away seems a good idea. Also it’s nice not to follow the hordes south to Agra and the Taj Mahal.
It was raining (I’m writing from Wednesday morning, on the train). We got a rickshaw to the station and joined the queue upstairs in the International Tourist ticket office, a game of musical chairs we shared with travellers from all around the world. We moved our bums up the ‘V’ of seats for about an hour and a half, finally reaching the counter to quite quickly and easily get our tickets for the 6am Himalayan Express for about 20 US dollars. Luckily, I’d got some US bills.
(We’ve stopped at a station now; a man brought around little foil trays of an unidentifiable vegetarian snack and bread, and plastic thermoses of hot chai tea.)
Back on the street, we got an auto rickshaw into Old Delhi to the Red Fort. If we thought the area around Connaught Circus was grotty, we were very wrong; the streets we drove headlong through were unbelievable, and even busier. We breathed endless lungfuls of carbon monoxide. Luckily the rain made the pollution a bit more bearable – I can’t imagine what it is like in the summer!
The walls of the Red Fort were huge – and RED – and after paying 3 Rs each to get in, we walked past the tourist stalls and into the compound. With a lot of imagination you can picture how beautiful it must have once been, with lush gardens and the sound of trickling water across white marble, thronged with beautifully costumed strollers, the inlaid silver roofs glittering in the sun. It’s a pale shadow now however, though the (once) white marble work of the pavilions is beautiful. Packs of young men hung about and K was continually and obviously ogled. It’s was difficult to take the camera out to take pictures.
The weather was getting worse but we took a rickshaw to the Jamil Masjid, a huge mosque nearby. I got my first real scary feeling of ‘stranger in a strange land’ walking past the incredibly grotty stalls clustered outside the gates and up the wide stairs, receiving baleful stairs from the locals. The mosque looked huge and amazing but we felt it was the wrong time to leave our shoes and go poking through it in bare feet. It was raining, wet, muddy and time to get out of Old Delhi.
We took an auto rickshaw back to Connaught Circus and spent some time wandering around this area – more up-market but still interesting, with the occasional very western shop standing out ridiculously.
Back to the hotel about 5pm, a brief break in the small front yard with a drink, then back to Connaught Circus and a place called Café 100 for an Indian buffet. Quite good food, though we are both filling up very quickly lately. We were absolutely exhausted when we got back to the hotel again. Paid the bill and packed for our early start.