Our trip in India ended just the way it should have–with major transportation issue. It all started when we took an overpriced “early morning” tempo to the station in Rishikesh for the daily 7am train to Delhi. We spent an hour asking everyone at the station which train was going to Delhi and in every case, the two people we asked would point to different trains. We picked one, crossed our fingers and got ready to fight through our first general boarding experience (where you don’t have seats and typically have to push past old women for space). But we found too much space on the train and hunted for other passengers to question about the travel duration (11 hours!). We had read the train should take 5-6 hours like our journey to Rishikesh. After sitting on the train for 1.5 hours, having it move away from the station and return, we were told by a fiesty taxi driver the train had been cancelled. He
sweetly obnoxiously offered us another over-priced ride to the bus station…in another town 1 hour away. So, predictably, we starting walking and made the statement that we wouldn’t stand for that B.S.
We paid the local price to get to Haridwar…although I had to remind the driver we had done this dance before. Just as he pulled up to the local bus station, someone called out “Delhi” and we jumped on a bus without knowing the price or the time to reach the big city. We felt lucky because we had been told by Shell (online travel master) he couldn’t find any more buses scheduled for the day and we had missed the last train. Luckily, not all India’s transportation resides on the web.
Back in Delhi, we felt like we were coming home…to crazy colors, narrow alleys and cows eating trash.
We knew what metro to take to get to our hotel in Pahar Ganj (the grubby backpacker area with easy metro access). We arrived with no trouble at all (except Joshua had to battle line cutters for tickets). We dropped our bags at Cottage Ganga Inn and headed straight back out for food. Well, before we left, Ella washed her hair for the first time in weeks, swearing it had been too cold to do so perviously. We wrapped up our Chandi Chowk food tour which took us three installments (how does any normal human do this in an afternoon?). It included an aloo tikki, followed by a parantha, lassi, pani puri, halwa and a kulfi…we were really tempting the food gods on this one as everything was purchased from an alley/street vendor.
And then I got my final falooda…tear.
Randomly, one of Joshua’s pen pals, Bobby, was also in Delhi. We managed to coordinate seeing him at their gorgeous family home in South Delhi for an evening (only the second time Joshua’s seen him in real life even though they chat weekly). We had the best time reliving our India experience, trading stories, asking questions and getting answers. For example, I have wondered how the he/she’s on the train get wads of bills begging while the children sweeping up the garbage only collect change, but we learned from Bobby’s family it is because people believe the he/she’s can cast a spell on you if you don’t give them money.
We coordinated our flight out of India with Ella’s back to the south, so we stayed up all night packing, trading pictures and generally being silly (all three of us shared a bed built for an NBA basketball player). When the taxi came to pick us up, he poorly communicated that we were flying from two different airports. We couldn’t believe it! We wanted to make sure we got to the proper international airport for our flight first…it was earlier. Shell found out there was a free shuttle for Ella to the domestic terminal. Unfortunately, our cab driver tried to make an extra buck and took us to the wrong terminal first even though we repeatedly told him to take us to Terminal 1. He kept telling us to “be cool, be cool” (in Hindi) when we questioned his driving directions as he aggressively accelerated while not following posted signs for our terminal. Instead of paying him for the ride to the next terminal 9km away, we scolded him and got out of the cab. It was only fitting, though, that India tried to take us for an extra 300 rupees in our final hours.
We said goodbye to Ella (after three weeks together!), took the free shuttle (well almost – 25 rupees) to our terminal and hopped on a flight to a different quadrant of the world with warmer temps and a new cuisine. Hello, Southeast Asia!