Today was long and hard work. We left the hotel in Shimla at 9am and did not arrive in New Delhi until 11.45pm.
Our local guide was a woman – that was a surprise. Smaller than me, big beautiful brown eyes and smudged red lipstick. She told me that she would not eat anything all day because her stomach hurt. She even refused the boiled sweet that I offered her. I think she said her name was Charylee. Whatever it was, it sounded pretty.
Charylee escorted us onto the Toy Train. It was old, small and quaint, moving very slowly and showing off the panoramic views of the Himalayan mountains. The old railway had many twists and turns and took us through over 100 tunnels on our journey Shimla > Solan, which took three hours. Something about travel seems to make my bladder weak… never have I been so desperate to use a stinky, filthy hole-in-the ground. And never have I been so desperate for hand sanitiser.
We’ve had some incredible culinary experiences on our trip so far. But today, it was a disaster. I wanted something bland and so ordered boiled eggs on toast. It was vile, disgusting, and resulted in a terrible sense of humour failure on my part. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a spice lover. So why pick something so tasteless? I’m hoping to do a half marathon tomorrow… that’s why.
Two hours of bumpy roads and mad over-taking left our tummies feeling very turned – probably not helped by my bad eggs and Mum’s deep-fried cheese. (Why on earth did she choose that!?)
The train food was ‘interesting’ let’s say. In an attempt to protect my little stomach for tomorrow, I stuck to pre-packaged food. Mum ate a couple of fried things and a few mouthfuls of suspect curry. STOP!!! I told her. She reluctantly stopped. The only unpackaged food that I did eat was a huge naan, wrapped in foil (in an attempt to carb up for tomorrow). Due to the hectic journey, I’m worried that I haven’t fuelled up enough for tomorrow’s race. My carb loading today has consisted of cereal and porridge for brekki, two dodgy eggs, three slices of toast and jam, two slices of banana bread, cereal bar, muffin, four bread sticks, a huge naan and three bananas. Will that be OK? We’ll soon find out…
When arriving in Delhi (late) as you can imagine, the traffic was hellish. After near death Mario Kart experience number sixty-eight, we finally arrived at the extravagant Maidens Hotel. The men were dressed in white and gold and had the kindest of smiles. After checking in, booking a taxi for the race tomorrow at 4.15am, guzzling a complimentary hot cocoa, my head hit the pillow at midnight (too exhausted to even change my clothes). I set my alarm for 3.30am. What am I doing?
It’s dark. We’re lost. The taxi driver is lost. Nobody knows where the Yamuna Half Marathon start line is and I’m buzzing off my tits, at 4.30am, thanks to very little sleep, an energy drink, a power bar and pack of jelly beans with added electrolytes.
In broken English, the taxi driver suggested we call the race organisers. He offered me his phone. I didn’t think that there would be any point calling – it’s 4.30am for goodness sake! Who on earth would be in the office? Once again, India surprises me – a man answered.
No explanation, just: “cancelled.”
Annoyed, deflated, but still wide-eyed from sugar and additives, I sulked back to the room.
I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I had stomach cramps instead. “Oh no!” said Mum, trying to be sympathetic. She was about to put her arm around me, but then ended up barging me out of the way instead, so that she could be violently sick in the loo.
My stomach pain passed as quickly as it came on. Mum on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Delhi Belly has struck. I repeat. Delhi Belly has struck. This is not a drill.
This meant I was to explore Delhi by myself. Poor Mum, she would have loved to experience it too. I was shown around by a local guide – Bubbu, who looked after me ever so well.
My hopes weren’t all that great for Delhi. ‘Smelly Delhi’ they call it. But wow, it was so much better than I imagined! Even with no sleep and feeling a little lonely without Mum, there were moments where my jaw would ache from smiling ear to ear, feeling so lucky to be seeing this colourful chaos, the madness of it all.
Bubbu and I rode on the back of a Rickshaw (a cart lead by a bike) through tiny backstreets and through the bustling spice market. We rode along a main road too and almost got clipped by other vehicles, including a bus. At first it was a little scary, but then after each near miss, I laughed out loud, feeling truly alive. It was electric. I could feel my heart beating in my head (although that could be due to no sleep). Who cares.
It was a surreal experience to wander around India Gate and see the President’s House. But it’s more of a palace than a house. In fact, it’s more of a city. The President has over 7,000 workers and the house has its own post office, school, hospital, tennis courts, football pitch… and in the garden, it is said to have every type of rose on earth.
I finished off my day by treating myself to an Indian head massage. The coconut oil that they used made my hair greasy for days, but the wonderful experience was worth it. Although, questionable at times. I closed my eyes in sheer relaxation, but then my eyes widened as there was definite boob cupping as he massaged my chest. I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed, but I was too exhausted and relaxed to care. I thought what the heck, it actually felt quite nice.
Hurrah! Mum was feeling brighter and was going to attempt to join me for dinner. I couldn’t get over how beautiful she looked, even though she had been so sick all day. We ate outside on the garden terrace. The candle lighting and the warm evening air made the whole place feel like paradise.
I can’t believe our Indian adventure is almost at an end.
Before visiting, I thought it was a bit of a cop out when people said, “words cannot describe” in their response to, “so what is India like?”
Now I know what they mean. I don’t think we have the language to describe such decadence and such dirt, such beauty and such pain. My experience of India has been a constant, fighting juxtaposition between heart-fluttering madness and inner peace. It is a country that makes you feel alive. It is a country that makes you feel everything and nothing.