Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Delhi Part One

This weekend was Quarter Break which brought with it a four-day weekend. Hooray! I spent those four days down in Delhi and have much to report so I’ll break it into several blogs to prevent eye strain.

First things first: traveling in India. It sucks. Let’s just get that out in the open right now. Getting around this place is not designed for the frail or the impatient because it takes many hours to get anywhere and is often a bumpy ride. Delhi is about 250 kilometers from Mussoorie (or about 150 miles). In the States that would take, what, maybe 3 hours? Here it takes 6 hours by train and almost 8 by car. On the way down, Joanna and I went by train and on the way up we went the car route. As we shall see shortly, the correct decision was the first one: Train Travel.

The train to Delhi is called the Shatabdi Express and operates once daily. Everyone takes the Shatabdi so it’s often packed with students, staff, families, etc. The train actually leaves from Dehra Duhn so no matter what you have to take a taxi down the mountain. The trip takes about 45 minutes and gives new meaning to the phrase “vomit-inducing.” Not quite literally. There was no puking in the car, but several of us in the taxi looked (and felt) like it might be a good idea. The roads are super windy, the taxis have very bad shocks, and no air conditioning. Bleah.

But once we got to Dehra Dun things perked up. At first glance, the train left a little to be desired (blue vinyl chair covers and a faint smell of urine in the air) but the seats were actually quite comfy and there was plenty of leg-room. Luggage space is severely limited but we were traveling light so didn’t have to engage in any hand-to-hand combat to procure a spot for our bags. Because this is India, we got tea on our trip down and it was quite cute. It came in a little package labeled “tea kit” and contained one tea bag, a small packet of sugar, and an individually-sized creamer. We each got our own little hot water pitcher as well. Very refined.

As a side note about the train trip: You know you have finally mastered the delicate and ancient art of the squat pee when you accomplish this feat on a moving train in an India bathroom that consists of a pair of metallic footprints on either side of a hole opening directly onto the tracks racing by below. I am the Queen.

Anyhoo, we arrived safely in Delhi and had a grand time, to be detailed in forthcoming posts. On the way back up, Joanna’s friend and our host for the weekend, Karishma, agreed to drive us back to Mussoorie so she could visit friends up here. This seemed like a fantastic idea. And in some ways it was. We got to stop when we wanted and we had room for our considerably-enlarged luggage.

The downside was that Karishma drives a Gypsy. It’s sort of like a cross between a pickup truck and an SUV. There are two bucket seats in the cab and a padded bench in the enclosed “bed” in the back. That’s where yours truly spent most of the trip. Indian cars in general are not known for their great suspension. And Indian roads are, in fact, known for their atrocious potholes the size of VW Bugs. The result is an…exciting…ride. And the traffic pattern does not help calm things down. The “highway” we were on was a two lane road. One each direction—right? HA! Really it’s a mass of whizzing cars, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, ox-drawn carts, horses, donkeys, cows, and pedestrians that weave in between and among one another with heart-stopping disregard for the personal safety of any of the above. Horns blare continually and I eventually had to stop watching.

Next time I vote we travel by flying carpet. Wouldn't that be fun?


At 12:33 PM, Blogger Preya said...

Yeah, that winding ride up to (and down from) Mussoorie is tough! I've had bad experiences traveling by train in India. Quite a few perverts lurking around, ick.


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