We reached Delhi in the midst of a heat wave-45 to 48 degrees C (118 F). Delhi was, to say the least, a difficult place to be. Heat, stench, pollution, and touts. These problems were interlaced with a few good experiences, however. I will write a long blog about this at a later time. Delhi is also an extremely easy place to get visas. We secured visas for both Pakistan and China in four days, after which we fled the city as fast as we could. After being told by several travel agencies (tout agencies) that there was no train to Dehra Dun the next day (one said the 28th, another monday, another no direct train at all, after which they all tried to sell us airline tickets to Shrinigar or expensive bus tickets to Dehra Dun-something was wrong here!), we finally went to the train station. They have a lovely air conditioned foreign travelers office away from all the crowds and craziness where we were able to secure our tickets to Dehra Dun the next day-go figure! So on Friday we were off on the train to Dehra Dun.
One thing we learned on the train was that the Hindu people do not hold grudges. A family got on the train late, and not finding a place for their luggage, decided to pick on us.
" your bags very large. you must move them to make room for ours. there is spot by door"
I could just see our bags walking off the train on there own if left conveniently by the door. I responded " sorry. but we are not putting them by the door. you can put yours there, or we can try to make room for them elsewhere".
A shouting match ensued. The situation was finally resolved when Tim slammed their bag into a space not quite large enough for it. Suddenly they were all smiles.
Next, they are offering us food and advice and telling us how much they liked Alaskans. They were getting off in Haridwar.
As it turned out, at the last minute we decided to jump off the train in Haridwar also, instead of going on to Dehra Dun. There is a special pilgrimage there to bathe in the Ganges. Haridwar was a crazy-insane place; a giant, colorful, wriggling mass of humanity - Tim and I arrived at night, got seperated in the mad crowds and traffic, I got run over by a bike rickshaw, and then a man appeared out of nowhere and showed me where Tim was-how he knew we were together and where Tim was I will never know. We finally found a room and as soon as we checked in the construction taking place right outside our door resumed, sledge hammers and masonary saws until midnight. Next day we followed the steady stream of pilgrims to the river, crossed the bridge, and then took an auto rickshaw to Rishikesh. This cost 300 rupees-we could have got there by bus for 14 rupees but just could not face a crowded local bus yet, and 300 rupees is still pretty cheap-about 7.50 US.
Now we are holed up in a semi-quiet backpacker enclave in Rishikesh with Delhi belly, Delhi lung, and Delhi exhaustion, but only for one more night-I put my foot down and said we are absolutely getting out of here tomorrow. We could be sick the whole time in India and just need to deal or we will get nowhere. So tomorrow night at 3:00 AM we take the dreaded local bus to Ghuttu about 8 hours away, and then will do a 6 day trek across a high ridge with views of the Himalayan range to Kedarnath temple. After this we will be off to Leh. Wish us luck
A mosque in Delhi
View from Majnu Ka Tila, the Tibeten refuge colony we stayed at in Delhi
Pilgrims heading to the Ganges to bathe
Selling offerings by the pedestrian bridge