Another day of recovery, though we did go in search of an ATM. Unfortunately, the closest one was out of order and we didn’t fancy going to Connaught Place to find one. We checked with the hotel travel agent, Capital City Tours, about getting train tickets to Jaipur, then Nawalgarh and finally onto Bikaner. They said that wouldn’t be a problem and we could paya Rs2,000 deposit (about 25 pounds) and they would book the tickets. As the ATM was out of action, that would have to wait until Thursday.
The flight to Delhi was much shorter, at a little over 3 hours, we both skipped the breakfast offered and tried to get some sleep.
Arriving in Delhi, there was slight delay while our plane was lined up with the terminal building. After queuing at immigration we moved to on collect our luggage. Our bags were already out on the carousel by the time we arrived there and we then braced ourselves to find the driver that our pre-booked hotel said they would send.
The arrivals hall was surprisingly quiet for 10.30am on a tuesday morning. We were not terribly surprised to find that the promised taxi was not there so Vic went to the pre-paid taxi booth and got us a taxi to the hotel for Rs250 (just over 3 pounds).
The taxi was our first real experience of Delhi. The car itself was pretty old and beaten up, a classic old Ambassador type. Now the traffic system in India is difficult to describe. Total chaos on first inspection, with a rough “drive on the left” rule and roundabouts being a free-for-all with the largest vehicle getting right of way. No one seems to collide, thought the state of most vehicles would indicate that collisions are far from rare. The noise of the cars, autorickshaws and mopeds all hooting their horns is tremendous. The horn is the default control on any vehicle. Want to turn? Sound the horn! Want to overtake or slow down? Sound the horn! Want to announce that you are on the road? Sound the horn! There don’t seem to be any lanes, moped riders rarely wear helmets, and a family of 5 will fit on a moped. Then there’s the animals. Cattle wander freely, often sitting down in the middle of the road while traffic roars around them. There were pigs, goats and dogs running loose down the side (and middle) of the road. Bullocks, oxen and horses pulled carts. Joining this throng were cycle rickshaws often holding 4 or more people.
After half an hour or so, the taxi turned down a side street close to New Delhi railway station, and pulled up outside our hotel, Hotel Ajanta. We weren’t expecting too much, given the failure to send a taxi, and the hotel didn’t seem to have any idea we were coming. We were given room on the fourth floor but a couple of minutes in the was enough; the room stank of burnt carpet from a large hole in one corner, the only window was about 1ft square and the room was thus very gloomy. We popped down to reception and were offered a new room, this time on the third floor with a large window. That was a vast improvement so we settled into rest after the journey. We were so tired the only thing we did for the rest of that day was pop down to the great little restaurant attached to the hotel, Cafe Vagabond, for an excellent veg thali (costing about Rs60, which is 75 pence each). A bottle of drinking water was Rs10, about 12 pence, for a litre.
The hotel also has an internet cafe, costing just Rs20 per hour, with access being quite fast. The keyboards and mice are a bit flakey, and on a couple of occasions the other sort of mouse, small brown and furry one, made an appearance next to the screen.
We were up until about 3am repacking Vic’s bags as she couldn’t lift them at first. Still way too much stuff but we can’t think what else to leave behind. Lots of space taken up by contact lenses and anti-malarial tablets, at least 4 months supplies of both for each of us.
Up at 7am to finish off packing and sort out photocopies of documents etc before finally getting a cab to Paddington at 9:30. The Heathrow Express got us to the airport in 15 minutes; we usually use it when going on holiday but this is the first time we’ve bought single tickets rather than a return. No point getting a return as it would have expired by the time we’re planning on coming back.
We met up with Vic’s parent, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend at a coffee shop in the airport, and my parents turned up shortly afterwards, having come in from their hotel near Hyde Park.
A couple of hours were passed talking about plans, sorting out a few bits of paperwork etc before it was time for us to head off to departures.
Tears were shed as we all said goodbye, but we all knew that everthing was going to be okay, we would just missing having each other around. Vic and I made our way through security with backward glances to our families and tears in our eyes, but looking forward to the adventure ahead.
A few last minute items were purchased at Boots (ear plugs, vitamins) and then it was time to board the flight to Dubai. The flight to Dubai is almost seven hours so we appreciated the in-flight movies to keep us entertained. We lost about 3 hours due to time difference between the UK and UAE so arrived at around midnight, Dubai time.
Dubai airport was very busy, the airport operates right through the night but we managed to secure ourselves a couple of seats in the quiet area to await our 4.35am departure.
I’ve not had time to write up the rest of our adventures in Scotland, and we leave for India on Monday so I’m going to do a quick summary.
We stayed on Skye for four nights, at a very nice campsite just outside Portree. We spent a day driving round the north of the island, with great weather making the experience much more enjoyable. We both really liked Skye and hope to go back there when we return to the UK.
After Skye, it was time to head home. We did this in 3 days, stopping at Fort Augustus and Berwick-on-Tweed before reaching my parent’s house in Cleethorpes.
We stayed in Cleethorpes for a week, managing to fit in a trip to Blundell Park to see “The Mariners while we were there. We also did some work tidying up the bodywork of the van.
Next up was Bury St Edmunds, where Vic’s parents live. We spent a couple of weeks there, getting some more repairs done to the van (leaking oil seals) and reducing the amount of stuff we were taking to London.
For the last leg of the trip we drove down to London, to stay in the YHA at Hampstead Heath / Golders Green. We’ve been there for about 3 weeks now, sorting out passports, jabs, tickets, stuff to take and lots more. The van has had even more work done on it, this time more oil seals were replaced, the gearbox was changed and a new clutch was fitted (the other one had been contaminated with oil from the leaking seals).
Sadly we’ve not been able to sell the van yet, so I’m hoping to either store it or get someone to sell it for me.
That brings us up to date, pretty much. Not sure when I’ll be updating next as it depends on Internet access in India.