August 12, 2011

Biking through Old Delhi

Sarah and I made it to Delhi!  Our fabulous hosts arranged for us to take a bicycle tour of Old Delhi early this morning to give us an overview of the area.  Their driver, Mr. Bati, picked us up at 6am in the pouring rain to take us to the meeting point.  Everyone else that had booked the tour cancelled at the last minute because of the rain (the powers that be couldn't let us forget that it's monsoon season), so Sarah and I were the only ones taking the tour! 

Our guides took us down 4-lane streets, small lanes, and brutally narrow alleyways.  There were taxis, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, carts pulled by cows and donkeys, and carts pulled by humans.  Despite the initial appearance of a complete lack of street order, somehow it all just worked. There was trash everywhere.  Not a single building that we passed in all of Old Delhi looked anything less than dilapidated except for Fatehpuri Mosque and Jama Masjid.  Cows, donkeys, horses, and goats were hitched to doors and posts.  Everyone that had the ability to honk did just that, but no one seemed to listen.  Two of our guides were European women, and the four of us western women were quite a sight - men stared at us everywhere we rode.  We got "Hello hello hello!" and catcalls galore.  Smells alternated among chillis, onions, curry, fennel, and sh!t.  Men hauled carts of fruits and vegetables around and carried enormous sacks of spices on their shoulders through a spice market.  We saw very few women. 

Poverty and filth in front of the imposing Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque)
And then there was all that rain.  At one point we had to stop and wait for a particularly torrential downpour to subside.  Once it did, the streets had turned into canals.  We were soaked already, so biking through a foot of water was simply not a big deal at that point.  The downpour did wash a lot of the trash and cow poop away, though.  

Simply based on what we saw this morning, India is going to be an epic sensory overload experience.  Touring the old city by bike was a great introduction to it all (we used Delhi by Cycle).  And after a  nap, we'll be ready for more!

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