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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Headfirst into Delhi!

As I write this it is middle of the dead of night, and Hanga and I are squeezed into narrow seats on a rickety, old bus that feels more like a roller coaster in the dark, bumping and snaking its way through the narrow and unpredictable asphalt arteries of hilly Northern India.

Unable to sleep, I admire the twinkling lights from nearby hill cities, which, lit sporadically by homes and not on roads, resemble the stars of the night sky itself. I watch as the bus driver honks at occasional shepherds guiding their sheep along the road, and makes passes around trucks on impossible road curves, owing to magnificent skill, and even more outlandish luck.

This is only one of numerous experiences so far in India that screams “welcome to the big leagues of backpacking.” India far exceeds any country I have visited for culture shock and extremes – where you get the beautiful with the repulsive.

Through Day 5, Hanga and I have maximized, if you will, our low budget low discomfort travel lifestyle, to so far manage a daily budget of around 500 rupees ($10 CAD, 7 EUR) on no less than rickety old buses and the amazing generosity of Couchsurfing hosts.

We landed in Delhi, where we had a hell of a time getting from the airport to our host, getting approached by many locals providing mixed, unreliable information about everything including transportation, times, prices and amenities such as Wifi. It got to the point where we couldn't trust anyone, no matter how friendly, upon the suspicion of swindling.
Suny, our awesome host in Delhi (pic borrowed from CS profile)
Suny, our Couchsurfing host, was like a shining light in the dark, the eye of a storm in the centre of a chaotic city. Suny was more than just our sanctuary but an amazing human being with an inspiring success story.

Suny is full of compassion – aside from his travel agency work (which did not even cause a smidge of conflict of interest in being his guest), Suny teaches yoga and works with youths in the NGO that reached out to him early in his life. He is saving up to start his own NGO someday. Even now, in his home in Delhi, his place is intentionally humble, bare but enough for furnishings.

At Suny's we managed to catch up on sleep and let the culture shock sink in: the poverty, suicidal rickshaw drivers in insane traffic, heat and humidity, stench of faeces everywhere. Squat toilets. The claustrophobia of all of this cramped in a huge city.
One half of the indoors of Suny's apartment - there is balcony and washroom above
Then we escaped via the first available overnight bus north out of the suffocating city and into the fresh air, mountainous and more indigenous cultures of Himachal Pradesh.

Now better acclimated to our surroundings, Hanga and I have rediscovered the reasons why we came – to be stretched outside of our comfort zone, to witness humanity at its greatest and worst.

Our bus ride has finally escaped the night time, and sunlight is now exposing some of the greatest of India – the deep cut cliffs of Parvati Valley. The stereo starts blaring Indian dance, with its modern rhythms and electronic sounds. A delusional man alights the bus, starts shouting strange sermons out loud.

Just another day in India.

Preview of next blog - Shimla

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