After overwhelming support from my family, relatives and friends, I left home to embark on a trip into the unknown. My trip should see me travel through India, Nepal, Tibet, South-East Asia and Australia. By no means a final itinerary but a loose reflection of what I hope to see and experience over the next year.
I left Belfast on Thursday 25th February 2010 on a flight to Delhi connecting at London Heathrow. In expectance of an 8 1/2hr flight I paid a little extra to get extra leg room. Do I need to explain my reasoning on that one? Didn’t think so… This proved to be a good decision as I sat beside a Banbridge man working for the BBC called Alan. He was travelling to Delhi to cover a world Hockey tournament. We chatted quite a lot about travelling and we exchanged ideas about my trip, drawing from some of Alan’s previous travelling experiences. At this stage I feel extremely ‘green’ but in no doubt that I have made the right decision on setting of on my travels.
On arrival to Delhi International Airport, I exited through the arrival lounge to meet a prearranged taxi to bring
me to Nirvana, my first hostel. Unfortunately our courier had a convenient mechanical fault, later contradicted by the Nirvana boss as being caused by a different reason. (My first of many scams in Delhi!). Standing out like a sore thumb funny enough, but not alone, I approached an equally perplexed girl, called Rosie, who ironically had the same problem as I. She too was awaiting a Nirvana collection. We were both accompanied by a third fellow, Rahaul, also in the same boat. Together we paid for a taxi and set of in search of our hostel. Ironically Rosie, from England was both staying at the same hostel as me but also setting of on my first trip from Delhi to Kathmandu, Nepal the following day.
Sweat, bad smells and serious deprivation mixed in with the craziest taxi driver I have ever experienced ensured an unforgettable taxi journey. Our taxi had no handbrake, no indicators, no seatbelts, no air conditioning, but it did have a massive horn!!!! Beep, Beep, Beep, Beeeeeeeeeeepppppppp was the order of the day, as we held on for dear life, ducting and weaving through the masses of traffic of all sorts, bikes, motorbikes, cars, rickshaws, buses,
Rebecca, Rosie and Me
Mad Rickshaw trip back to meet Travel Group
diggers, even the random cow or two (who seemed to get right of way, by the way). There were times when I struggled to catch a breath in the thick dusty, smoggy polluted air. I was told to expect a big culture shock, but I now understand, attempting to explain my arrival in Delhi, that words can’t describe it!!!
We arrived to a very friendly reception staff in the weirdest little hostel in the middle of quite a poor suburb of Delhi. Our dorms were grand, not very clean but adequate isn’t that the word! To be honest I don’t care about things like that on this trip. The hostel provided free dinner and breakfast. It was great because I still haven’t plucked up the courage to try the food along the street, it looks seriously dangerous. I think we will stick to restaurants, as everything is so cheap. Before dinner we went for a walk, I immediately became an instant celebrity. Picture it, Eoin from Slaughtneil walking down a seriously overcrowded suburb in Delhi, six foot sixish, white skin (soon to be tan) and green as hell. Let’s just say I didn’t blend in very well. I practically had the whole street staring at me, it was really weird but I just smiled back and they generally reciprocated. Although I probably wasn’t very safe where I was, I felt safe! People were in your face but not aggressive. We had a well deserved rice dinner and retired for my first sleep away. (Didn’t sleep much, but WHO CARES!)
The following morning we got our breakfast and dropped of our luggage at the hotel where our tour was due to begin. A Canadian girl at our hostel tagged along to find accommodation for a night or two. Our hotel was very good but a little expensive for our new friend. We decided to get a rickshaw to the Official Tourist Office. Unfortunately, all the rickshaw drivers are corrupt and took us falsely to the wrong tourist offices. They receive commission on such ventures. We wasted a lot of time and got very hungry in the process. What did we have, as our first meal in India? Curry, Tikka Masala?? No, we ate in McDonalds, how cultured are we. To make up for it, I had beautiful butter chicken with garlic naan later that evening.
After my McChicken sandwich meal, we just had a stroll around Delhi. It’s such a disorganised place, I don’t know where we went but it was nice soaking up the culture. On our way back to meet up with our tour for the first time we got attacked! Aghhh, not really. Unbeknown to us, we had arrived in India at the eve of huge festival called ‘Holi’. The festival of Holi is a Hindu festival. I’ll not detail it, you can check it out, but the major interest of the holiday is the sharing of coloured paint powder. We noticed random people had paint over their face and hair and wondered where they got their colours from. We were soon to find out!!! Just in the distance a huge crowd of men covered from head to toe in all the colours of the rainbow approached. They spotted us and stampeded towards us. It was quite strange, scary actually, but we stood our ground and awaited there initiation. If you can see by the pictures, they didn’t hold back. They pay a little more attention on the ladies, slipping a hand where they shouldn’t at times.
Surprisingly, after the initial response of worrying about our clothes, we quickly embraced the compliment of the Holi markings. With just half an hour to get back to the tour we jumped in a rickshaw and had an extremely rough trip back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel alive, everyone was waiting but they laughed at our colourful faces and we soon got to know each other and prepared to set of on our trip to Kathmandu.
I hope to write about my trip through India in my next blog. If you have any suggestions or questions, I hope to address them in the next blog.
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