As I said in the last blog, we have had to come in and out of Delhi a couple of times. On the first occasion we had planned to stay only one night and then go to Agra. We had booked one night in a hotel near to the train station where we would leave from. This is not the best part of the city. We had originally planned to return to Delhi and have a few nights in a posh hotel in Connaught Place, a more salubrious neighbourhood. Our plan change meant we had one night in the first hotel and then two nights in a different one.
We had a free pick up booked from the airport. We were told the driver would be at gate 5 which is the exit for international arrivals. Not sure why as we were arriving on a domestic flight. Anyway we duly went to gate 5 to find, surprise surprise, no driver. We walked to post 5 by the taxi stand but still no driver. Buying an Indian phone SIM has been one of the best things we've done. It's a bit convoluted to get one but the calls; even international ones are dirt cheap. Jill phoned the hotel, who in turn phoned the driver. He's outside gate 5 where we said he would be, they told us. We headed back to gate 5 to be met by the driver running towards us.
'Where were you?' I asked. 'At gate 5' he said (Lie). 'You may have been 2 minutes ago but not 15 minutes ago when we came out you weren't' I replied. 'Yes yes' he said. We followed him to the car park pay desk. Free doesn't actually mean free, we had to pay his parking charge. No problem as it was only half what we expected. This was because the ticket showed he had only arrived 5 minutes ago. Gotcha. Guess who didn't get a tip?
At the hotel we were pleasantly surprised. While the area wasn't the best, the hotel was very nice. They upgraded us to an executive room and we were soon settled. A quick word with the concierge and we had located an off licence. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, a lovely hot shower and settled down to watch a movie. Bliss. It was very reasonably priced too.
Next morning after brekkie we were moving to the other hotel. We were reluctant to leave but had pre-paid so cancelling was not really an option. We crossed the road and after some haggling agreed a fare of 60 rupees with a tuk tuk driver. We had barely gone 100 yards when he said 'You understand 60 rupees each. Yes?' 'You understand, pull over we are getting out, yes?' I replied. 'I can be good Karma or bad Karma, make a choice and make it quick' I snarled. 'Ok 60 rupees for both' he replied.
We arrived at the new hotel. It was right in Connaught place so well located. It was also twice the price of the one we had just left. Clearly it's location, location, location in Delhi as well. We went up a stairwell and along a corridor. Before we reached the hotel lobby there were two derelict rooms, one on each side. On the floor were a couple of old mattresses and a sofa with a scruffy old bloke sat on it. Hand painted on the wall was a sign about trespassing and who owned the rooms. I suspect there is a battle going on with the hotel. Anyway he seemed harmless enough.
The hotel itself was ok. The room was clean and comfy but half the size of the previous one. The wifi was also next to useless. When I told them it wasn't working they argued it was then went and re-set it. They didn't have a restaurant so brekkie was served in your room. That would have been fine if there had been a table. We had ours perched on the end of the bed which wasn't great. It did help make a decision as to where we would stay when we returned to Delhi later.
It was Friday and the following day was Republic day when we figured most buildings etc would be shut. We decided to go and visit the Red Fort and a big mosque which was near it. We agreed a price with the tuk tuk driver. Tuk tuk drivers sit around chatting with each other but it is a cut throat game. As we were about to pull off a rival put his head in. 'Where are you going?' he asked. 'Red fort' we said. 'It's shut today' he said. Now this is an old dodge which if you go with it usually means they will take you to a gem shop or factory where they get commission. There was a sharp exchange between the two drivers and off we went. When we arrived it was soon apparent that indeed it was shut. 'It's ok, you can take pictures from outside' said our smiling driver as he drove off. Thieving b******. It seems on the day before Republic day the Prime Minister records a speech to the nation in the fort so it shuts. Oh well we'll go to the mosque instead. We walked through the market streets to get there. This was about as run down and awful as it gets and that is saying something. We arrived at the steps of the mosque which looks quite imposing from the outside. We could see people coming in and out. As we got to the entrance a young guy stopped us and said we couldn't go in as it was Friday prayer time. w***, this day was not going well. It was only 11am and we couldn't go in until after 2pm.
As we were about to leave we saw a small tour group of men and women (clearly European) talking to the same guy. They were taking off their shoes and about to enter. I asked one of the women if they were going in. She said 'prayers don't start for another hour so as long as you leave by then it's ok.'
I approached the guy and asked 'Why are they allowed in? 'They are Muslim' he replied. I turned to one of the women and said 'Are you a Muslim?' She looked uncertain but said 'No'. Then I saw my answer. The tour leader was Indian and he was paying someone to let them in. As a nation they do nothing to endear themselves to you. We gave them a filthy look and left. We will go to the Red fort when we return but the mosque can go swivel.
We are now back in Delhi. We've had two weeks of doing nothing in a beach hut in Goa. This was the break we had promised ourselves before we entered India. Agonda beach is a fabulous location. We had been here for a few days just before Christmas and decided to return. It has been difficult to remember to enjoy ourselves at points with all the business with the house. Mornings have consisted of logging on to see what the next c*** up by the tenant or the letting agent has been. Time differences mean then having to wait all day before making phone calls to England. We kept trying to relax but it is hard when you desperately need to find things out and can't. We love our house and have put a lot of work into getting it as we have it. To have it damaged by the stupidity of someone else is difficult to take. Moving back into a damp house with holes in the ceilings is not a prospect we are relishing. Having said that we've stayed in some pretty crap places on this trip so we'll survive.
Delhi is it really. No more bus, train or plane schedules to look at. No more hours trawling hostel sites reading reviews. We don't know what to do with ourselves. This is it, the end of an amazing year. Truly an adventure and the trip of a lifetime. Jill and I have spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together and are still talking. I guess we must have something. Going home will be great, seeing family and friends but tough having other people involved in our lives again. Only time will tell how we will settle.
At some point we will find time to reflect on the amazing places we have been, the people we have met and the things we have experienced. For now it's one final pack of the rucksack, one last struggle with the zip and one last wait at the airport. Blighty awaits.