Day 25 – Thursday 10th March
Our last day in India! I was feeling a little better when I got up. I was the last one down to breakfast that morning, I needed the extra sleep. The plan was to take a look around Delhi and this time, I didn’t have to organize anything, I was just there for the ride. We would jump on the metro and then head to Old Delhi for a look around.
It was a little deceiving catching the metro from Aero City. The train is fast and very quiet, until you get to New Delhi station……. You get off there and change lines, then you see just how busy the metro really is. There are 1,000’s of people getting on and off the trains (which are very frequent!) and the noise and heat is oppressive. People definitely don’t wait for everyone to get off (despite the signage), so I got to practice my old rugby skills a few times, trying to get off the train as the surge barged in. Being big sometimes has its advantages……
Our first stop was at the Akshardham complex, about 6 stops from Delhi and just a short walk from the station. It was really hot in the sun and the security process to get into the complex is pretty full on (x-ray machines, pat downs), but unfortunately, you are not allowed cameras or video cameras, so we couldn’t get any footage of the place, which was a shame, as the place is truly spectacular.
It’s a modern place having been completed in 2005 and is a massive complex (100 acres), which showcases Indian art, wisdom, heritage and values as a tribute to Bhagwhan Swaminarayan (1781 – 1830), a torchbearer of Indian culture (this is all taken from the English guidebook I bought at the complex, 5 INR). The whole place only took about 5 years to build, which is amazing considering how many amazing, intricate sculptures there are.
The highlight is the Mandir, a central temple (if temple is the right word), which is just amazing. Inside there is the 11 ft high, gold-plated Murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, with 4 other gold-plated murtis of other significant people. The whole building is filled with other statues and paintings, with ornate carved ceilings and pillars. The place is breathtaking. Outside the Mandir there are 148 carved, ornate sandstone elephants all the way around the base of the Mandir. The whole complex is like this, it’s truly stunning. I just wish I could have taken some photos…… of well, can’t have everything.
Then it was back on the train to head to Old Delhi. I’d been there once in 2008, but the plan was to really immerse ourselves by taking a couple of rickshaws (bicycle taxis) to get to the old spice market, right in the heart of Old Delhi. We got off the train (we purchased the all-day train pass, a bargain at only 150 INR) at Chadni Chawk and immediately came to a market outside the station. We walked through that to an intersection where we were going to hail our rickshaws. That was quite the scene, the rickshaw drivers are extremely aggressive and in one minute, we had about 20 of them all trying to compete for our business. It was a bit over the top, but finally we had our 3 bikes and off we went (I would recommend fixing the price before you get in, in hindsight or expect some pretty decent haggling at the end of your trip).
Riding in the back of the rickshaw, you felt every bump and felt very exposed riding through heavy traffic (plus the horns are really loud when they are right in your ears), but you definitely get the total experience of being in Old Delhi. All the sights, sounds and smells, are right there, in your face. You either embrace the storm or you don’t! Being sick and run down didn’t help me, but I was willing to keep an open mind and see as much as I could.
We rode to the old spice market and that place is just incredible. It is such a hive of activity, with people and carts everywhere. You have to have your wits about you to not get run over. Inside this old bazaar, is a multi-level spice market, in this old square building, with a central forecourt. There are hundreds of shops where they trade the spices, each one has many different spices, all contained in these open sacks. The smell is quite amazing! After a while, all the chili and other spices in the air starts to get to you and it’s hard to breathe. Your eyes and nose will invariably start running and then you need to get some fresh air.
We went up on the roof tops and had a great vantage of the market and the rest of Old Delhi. What a sight. The guys put the drone up and got some great aerial footage of the area. Then it was time to hop back into the rickshaws for our tour of the sari market area. We started off in a pretty narrow street and with every turn we took, the streets got narrower and narrower and we went deeper and deeper in. There was only room for pedestrians and bikes by the end. It was quite the sight. I got some video so I’ll add that so you get a rough idea on what that was like.
We finished up at a mosque. We had to wait outside until the prayers were over, then just the crew went in. They weren’t allowed to take in their camera bags so I volunteered to keep watch of them. I never got to see the inside of the mosque, but by looking at pictures online, it looks pretty big. Then it was time to head back to the station and head back to the hotel to pick up our bags.
It was quite late by the time we got back to the Red Fox. Then we organized a couple of taxis and in 10 minutes, were at the international airport. The rest of the guys had priority check-in, so I went to check in by myself. I did have some fortune with my extra bag, I was due to pay $100 but their card machine wouldn’t work and after about 20 minutes of trying, it still wouldn’t work, so they had to waive the fee. Then I got through security and immigration pretty quickly. Berman was having a slow time with all his camera gear, so I managed to catch up to him and then we were on a mission to find the others in one of the lounges. I had wanted to shower and change before I got on my flight (rinse all the Delhi off me!) and grab a bite to eat, but we barely had anytime. It was a really quick shower and then a dash to get to the gate, for a second round of security. I was hotter now than before I arrived…..
Anyway, I made it onto the flight, Berman ended up sitting next to me and I had a pretty easy, 14 hour flight (I managed to sleep 9 hours), so I arrived in Newark not feeling like a complete zombie! Then I had a quick 3 hour flight back to Denver and my lovely wife was there to meet me. It was another fun adventure to India and Kashmir, but I was happy to be back. Until next year! Hope you all enjoyed the adventure as much as I did……
Start of the ride into Delhi. It's deceiving, on leaving Aero City then the train is nice and quiet, then when you get into the New Delhi and change trains, then it all gets pretty crazy!
Getting off at Chadni Chawk, straight away, there is a market and the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi begins!
Organizing a rickshaw can be an eye opening experience. Expect there to be a lot of aggressive drivers vying for your business, but once you are on board with one, then it's a pretty cool way of seeing the old part of the city. It doesn't get anymore authentic than this!
Most of the locals were pretty friendly.
Driving in Delhi traffic in a rickshaw is pretty nerve wracking experience. I definitely felt exposed, but we made it through just fine. Thankfully with the near constant gridlock, then the traffic doesn't move that quickly. My only regret is that the bikes don't have any suspension, so you feel every bump.
Just about to jump of the bikes to visit the spice markets. This road was hectic!
All the spices are delivered in small vans and then unloaded into the middle of the street. Then porters come and carry the spices to the stalls and shops in the markets. It is absolute pandemonium, but an amazing sight.
As you can see it's pretty tight, really just room for pedestrians, bikes and rickshaws but then sometimes cars will try and get through as well. That's when it gets really tight.
Open bags of spice. The aroma of all of the spices was just incredible! The smells were incredible. After a while though, all of the pepper and chili really started to get to you; your nose would be running and eyes starting to water. The guys that spend all day in their open shops, must build up a tolerance to it all, but for newbies like us, it was pretty overpowering.
Spice porters hauling their heavy carts full of spice sacks, to their respective shops. You definitely get out of their way.
Entering the spice market, you go through this dark narrow corridor into the market itself. It was like something out of Star Wars. You want to keep a tight rein on your bags here as supposedly there are pick-pockets around.
The market is on 2 main levels, then you have two stories of residential building above.
The crew wanted to get on top of the roof so they could get the view of Old Delhi, then send out the drone to get some urban footage. On one side of the market, there is this big square, all peaceful and calm. It's such a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the street and the spice market.
The view back into the old market.
Looking further up the street we came up to get the spice market.
Looking down the street.
And of course they have ox carts too.....
Robin and Josh get into position to get some more footage.
Leaving the spice market, we jumped back into our rickshaws and then rode through the sari market area, a collection of shops selling everything you need for your wedding, lot's of sari shops, to cloth houses, to button shops, accessory stores, basically anything you need to either buy or make, all your wedding needs, all down one narrow street.
Every time we took a turn, the street got narrower and narrower. It was pretty cool! At one stage, our driver (who was constantly yelling at people to move out the way), ran over a guys foot. I could hear the guy yelling at us and he sounded pretty angry. Our driver didn't stop and just kept going. Finally we got stuck in a bit of a traffic jam. The angry was still coming and was still yelling, thankfully the traffic moved on and we were able to get going again. Who knows what would have happened if angry guy would have caught up with our driver!
The Mosque in Old Delhi. I stayed outside to watch all the bags, so I never got to see inside. The photos that I saw did look pretty impressive, it's a big place apparently.
Well, that's it gang, that's the end of the trip. Thank you for following along, this has been a lot of work but something I really enjoy writing about, it's a great way of reminding me of the fun and adventure I just had. It was a great 3 weeks. It definitely wasn't the best season snow-wise in Gulmarg (of course as soon as we left Gulmarg this season, it didn't stop snowing and they ended up with a decent amount of snow, the cover is still 100% at the moment....), but as always, Gulmarg is much more than that. Because of the lack of snow, we really had to diversify the trip and it wasn't about the skiing, we really got to focus on the people and their culture. I can't wait to see the finished video and see how all of this translates onto the big screen. It's only going to be maybe a 10 minute segment, so it will be very interesting to see, what makes the cut and what doesn't.
The highlights for me were the trip to the school in Drung, that was an amazing day. The jumps on the bunny hill and watching the locals go off the jumps as well, that was a fun day and then all the cool stuff we did in Delhi and Agra. They are all fond memories that I'll keep forever. I do hope that next season, we'll have a lot more snow and we get to enjoy the powder again, but whatever happens, it's always a fun time in Gulmarg. Thanks for sharing the ride!
Edited by Mattadvproject - 5/2/16 at 8:57am