Escaping Scam City The Hard Way

If you read my last blog entry, you’ll already know I consider Delhi to be a form of slow torture. In this heat it’s a form of slow torture similar to death by roasting over hot coals, whilst being tormented by unsubtle scam artists (“please buy some LSD, then I can go home and eat”; “you want to stay at my place? Cheap and best”; “You need help? I’ll take you to the official tourist office”… I’ll pass, thanks!).

To be fair to the place, get away from the main tourist districts and the attitude alters dramatically. We spent our second Delhi day stumbling around Pahar Ganj’s less obvious corners, and found ourselves photographing local families, drinking chai tea at the side of the street and going on a long and winding (unfruitful) hunt for ‘great samosas’. If it wasn’t for the heat it would have been a great day, but even allowing for the exaggeration on the digital clock in Main Bazaar (a good 10 degrees due to being directly in the sun, I’d guess), the temperature was still topping out at well over 40. After Dublin, ducking out of the Delhi heat was necessary after less than an hour each time, and the tightly-nit buildings prevent any kind of wind chill either. We decided it was time to move on.

As we’re on our way to Ahmadabad to start work on Helena’s thesis research, it made sense to pick the best spot we could in Rajasthan. I remember Pushkar for its relaxed atmosphere and numerous pools, so despite the long journey we settled on heading a long way west (around 13 hours drive – check the distance on my blog’s map, and you’ll get an idea of the sheer scale of this country!) and settling down to relax for a couple of days. Pushkar’s great, and when I finish writing this I plan to order a cocktail and sit by the hotel’s pool. But this entry isn’t about Pushkar, it’s about Delhi, and our great escape.

Getting out of the capital was more than a tad eventful. We booked the sleeper bus (I love this concept, beds on buses using the windows as air conditioning, fantastic!), but only four people in our district booked that bus, so we had to take a lift with a ‘bus company employee’ to another leaving spot. This was the story we were fed, anyway, and being keen to get out of the city, we went along with it. So we found ourselves sat in a tiny little ‘Tata’ (India’s dodgy version of any small two door car). For a long time. After about ten minutes of trying to start the thing (with no air conditioning, in the heat with the windows up) we eventually got going and discovered that we had Delhi’s version of a particularly angry Michael Schumacher at the wheel. Congratulations Mr. Boyce, I’ve travelled to 25 or so countries and I’ve finally found a driver worse than you ;).

After sliding the car round a roundabout, driving straight over some very large stones and stalling twice more, we found ourselves in the middle of a major junction attempting a push start. I was hovering near the (now open) back window, getting ready to dive in should the car actually manage to start and the driver decide he’s rather drive away with my fiancé and all our belongings than let us back in. He didn’t, fortunately. When we finally arrived at the bus stop the four of us (myself, Helena and the two Indians, who, for the record, were both praying for large parts of the journey, it wasn’t just us who were scared!) jumped in the bus, travelled half a mile down the road and then waited. And waited. And waited. For about two and a half hours, with a tiny water supply and no toilets in a rapidly heating bus-bed before we finally got going, to our relief, out of Delhi.

We arrived in Pushkar at around 11 this morning, sweating like pigs, but we’ve found that long awaited pool and we’re recovering, throwing back loads of water and waiting out the midday heat. Bliss!

Two days of calm await! We’re out of Delhi, so happier stories to follow,

James x

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