Our flight from Sydney to Bangkok was great, with each of us having our own personal entertainment system for movies and playing each other in video games. Bangkok proved that 5 hours in even one of the biggest airports can become quite tiring. Finally, we boarded the plane to Delhi, all of us completely exhausted, but excited at the same time.
Arriving in Delhi was somewhat overwhelming with all of our senses working overtime! The air (even in the airport) was thick with smog and there were people absolutely everywhere. Luckily, our baggage arrived rather quickly and we made it outside to the horns blasting and police yelling at people parked illegally through a megaphone! Arriving at our hotel we were happy to see a quiet street with our hotel being well-equipped with marble floors and beds!!
Thus far, there had been no incidents except for one member of our group who couldn't figure out what the page numbers on her passport stood for (??!!). This all changed the next morning though...
Waking up around 9am, we set off for breakfast. As we left the hotel lobby, our quiet street from the night before had turned into a bustling market place like you'd only see in movies, with a cow or two wandering around and tuk tuks pulling up every minute with a "great deal" for us.
After breakfast, with some being adventurous enough to go for traditional Indian dishes while others settled for toast with jam, we embarked on our first exploration of Delhi.
We drove through New Delhi, admiring architectural features such as India Gate, then went to check out the Red Fort.
It was big. It was beautiful. It was like stepping back into another world! Shortly after, we hired a young boy who was on the streets selling books to take us for a walk through Chandi Chowk, the main market place in Old Delhi.
The hustle and bustle was amazing with wares as diverse as sequins and bricks available on every corner. Almost as if it were a secret alley, we turned onto a beautifully kept and deserted stretch of buildings and found ourselves visiting an intricately decorated temple. It was so quiet and peaceful and felt surreal after the hustle and bustle only moments before just metres away!
We then went back to the hotel just in time to freshen up before dinner, which was a magnificent Indian feast of Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan bread!
Then, the adventures really began!
We boarded our little bus that was to transfer us to our "Overnight Sleeper Bus" which was a vague term nobody could really define for us. Would the seats recline? Would the seats be comfortable?
We were all very excited when we pulled up and saw that we were actually getting a bus with seats underneath and beds, yes BEDS! on top!! We felt like rockstars on tour!! But then, the engine started.
If you've ever seen Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you might recall the express bus that picks Harry up at the very beginning. What is shown in the movie is rather tame in comparison with what we experienced. It was all very safe, with two drivers who rotated throughout our 16 hour journey to Manali, but when you are sleeping, every move the bus makes goes right through your whole body! I remember as kid always wanting to go on a ride that never stops -last night my wish came true! We can all feel the motion of the bus today still!
Of course, with such a long trip, we had to frequently stop for toilet breaks. Public toilets are hard to come by in India, and those we have found, are best to be avoided! To cut a long story short, our group learned a very important lesson - always wear a head torch when relieving oneself in the dark!! I'm sure you'll hear more about that story later!
Arriving in Manali in the foothills of the Himalayas was like crossing the border into another country. The population is mainly Tibetan and the scenic landscape with mountains reaching up to the heavens, capped with snow in the distance seem so removed from the chaos of Delhi.
So basically, everyone is well. The food is fantastic. Our hotels have been fabulous. We've had a few adventures but everyone has come through just fine, and tomorrow we start our trek!
This means we will be out of internet range for around 10 days, but we'll keep you informed after that!
Miss Shanny on behalf of India Team B.
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