Safe and sound in Delhi. The worst you have heard about the Delhi traffic is true. It’s a familiar tale – our meet and greet person said “to drive in Delhi you need three things: good horn, good brakes, good luck”. Coming from the airport last night there were more ‘near things’ than in a year of driving in Adelaide. The three lane highway somehow accommodated five lanes of traffic, there is barely any use of the indicator, and I don’t believe anyone actually looks where they are going first, they just go.
Day one highlights and impressions. Lots of stray dogs. One camel. Two cows. Many monkeys.
First stop was Jama Masjid, a mosque and one of the biggest in India. Free entry except for the camera fee. Shoes off, which we had to pay someone to keep secure. IndianInterlude was obliged to wear a cover-up gown, which she was very nearly asked to pay for upon return, our guide saved the day. For a small-ish consideration we got up close and personal with some Islamic relics – original pages from a Koran written on deer skin, one of Muhammad’s sandals, a foot impression, and a hair from his chin. He was a redhead you’ll be interested to hear.
We had driven past the ‘thieves market’ the local name of which we don’t recall, and a rickshaw ride around the lanes and alleyways of the local area, inclusive of the first cow sighting. The rickshaw driver was rewarded double the going rate for carrying all of IndianInterlude on his own.
Next stop Raj Ghat, a large garden area the site of Ghandi’s cremation, now a memorial with an eternal flame. And gum trees! Which was just about the last thing expected in an Indian garden. Shoes off again here, and our first sighting of an Indian squirrel.
Then to ‘the royal road’ – the coronation canopy, India Gate and the Presidential Palace. India Gate is actually a WWI memorial, and the Presidential Palace has more than 300 rooms furnished in teak. The gardens have topiary elephants, real monkeys, and real guards.
Then to a no-haggle craft emporium (surely our guide was on commission), and then to lunch well after lunchtime. Highlight of lunch was the adjoining table of young girls celebrating a 13th birthday. The aunty of the birthday girl so appreciated our joining in for ‘Happy Birthday’ that IndianInterlude was rewarded with birthday cake. Local custom: smear cream and/or icing from the cake on the birthday girl’s face.
Post lunch we headed for the Qutab Minar which dates back 900 years, and the whole complex (primarily of ruins) was really very impressive. Our planned last stop was likely to be closed by the time we got there, so that becomes tomorrow’s first stop.
Other impressions: lots of hawkers at all the major public attractions. Delhi, so far, is a sprawling mass of a place. Imagine the entire population of Australia in an area smaller than the Adelaide metro area.