Delhi. Day 1
A Backpacker's Adventure. Excerpt from my blog
Stepping off the airport connection train on a chilly January morning earlier this year, we had our first taste of India. Jet lagged and apprehensive, we navigated our way over the broken concrete blocks, doing our best to avoid sleeping beggars, stray dogs and piles of burning rubbish. The early morning light was yet to bring out the colours of the day, leaving all but a monochrome grey tinge to the dilapidated buildings and the thick, soupy smog that rested above them.
We had arrived in Delhi, our first stop on an extended adventure across the Indian Subcontinent.
My boyfriend and I were first timers to this foreign land, and aside from watching extensive travel vlogs featuring enthusiastic white westerners on YouTube, we had no idea what to expect.
Lack of sleep can do funny things to a person. Long gone were the bright eyed couple with excitement in their hearts and a ready-for-anything attitude. After stepping on a plane in Manchester and travelling for roughly 19 hours, they had been replaced by a pair of short tempered zombies that staggered over the cracked Delhi streets under the weight of their overfilled backpacks.
When it came to forward planning for our trip, we’d practiced a minimalist approach. We’d booked our flights, purchased some basic travel insurance and secured a room in an incredibly cheap hotel for four nights. It was here that we planned to sleep off our jet lag and prepare for the adventure ahead. Our next destination was still unknown to us, so in the coming days, between bouts of sightseeing, it was our chance to settle down with some chai and wifi and get researching.
The hotel we’d booked had appeared on one of the aforementioned YouTube travel vlogs a few weeks previously. The vlog was entitled “The 10 Worst Hotel Rooms in the WORLD”. Ours had made it to number 6. Chuckling nervously to each other about our misfortune, we reassured one another that it wouldn’t be that bad. After all, we were no strangers to the idea of ‘roughing it’, and princesses we certainly were not. A little dirt and an unwashed sheet wouldn’t kill us, we said.
With no internet and therefore no Google maps to help us, we set out on an extensive search combing the entirety of the Paharganj area of the city, to eventually, miraculously, stumble into our destination: Hotel Namaskar.
After handing over our passports and checking in, our lifeless limbs cautiously dragged us and our luggage up the wet stairs, over a soiled, bloodstained mattress propped against a brown smeared wall, and over the threshold. The flickering fluorescent tube lighting gave the room the ambiance of a scene from a Saw movie. We surveyed the piles of rubbish, the rusty coloured stain on the sheetless mattress and the slow drip-drip of brown liquid from the basin in the bathroom.
In the cold, jetlagged, and hangry light of day, our ‘we’ll be fine’ mindset quickly melted away, replaced by a feeling of helpless horror. This place had really earned its Top 10 status.
Still, the desperate need for sleep took over and we reluctantly laid down our heads for the next few hours.
Waking up and assessing our situation, we quickly formed an escape plan. The patchy wifi told us there was an affordable, highly rated hostel around a kilometre from where we were. We hurriedly gathered our belongings, choosing not to shower in the toxic looking water supplied in the bathroom and instead make a quick exit.
With a few strong words from the hotel manager and after coughing up the cancellation fee (a price well worth paying for freedom) we headed towards our sanctuary: Himalayan Hostel.
A bright, clean and colourful looking lobby greeted us and relief swept over us as the friendly Raj checked us in to a spotless and comfortable private room.
This was to be our base for the next few days, our haven from the hectic, polluted streets outside. A haven we would surely need, as the mean streets of Delhi took their toll.