Olwen Law writes from Delhi on Day 1 of the new Hola Mohalla ride.
It has been over ten years since I’ve been to India and initial impressions are that a lot has changed. The airport was very efficient with about 50 desks open at immigration and so our queue was minimal apart from a slight problem when the machine scanning our finger prints wasn’t able to cope with ever so slighty sticky fingers.
But from landing to checking into our very lovely Jaypee Vasant Continental hotel was under an hour which cannot be bad by anyone’s books.
Of course roads around the airports are usually slightly better maintained and while there was litter around, there has clearly been a concerted effort to clean up.
After a lovely lunch in the hotel café we set off for our afternoon city tour. Some of our group had been on the Christmas Ride 9 years ago and were thrilled to recognise our guide – the lovely Ruby (and I remember her from a trip even earlier than that).
Everyone says Delhi traffic is bad and it certainly was. We crawled along and took almost 1.5 hours to get to old Delhi. Noticeable were lots of new clean cars and not many of the ramshackle vehicles I remembered. There were still lots of people on mopeds and motor bikes seemingly with a death wish as they weave in and out of the traffic but now at least the majority were wearing helmets and I saw only a couple of the “whole family on a bike”.
Lots and lots of noise. Our driver said that to drive in India it was essential to have “a good horn, good brakes, and good luck”.
Our destination was “old Delhi” where we were going to ride on rickshaws through the bustling narrow streets. It is a perfect vantage point because being slightly higher on the rickshaw you can see everything that is going on and the driver keeps us moving through the crowds.
This is where people come to buy and the streets were organised by product. Lots of fabric shops – apparently this is where you come to buy a wedding sari if you are the parents of the bride or to buy saris for all the family if that is part of the dowry.
Then we moved onto shops selling all the trimmings, then to the jewellery stores although they were mostly closed because of a dispute over excise duty and finally to the stores selling gifts for the wedding couple.
Look at these monkeys in amongst all the trailing cables. If someone’s power goes off I wonder how they could ever work out which cable was the problem?
We leave the markets just in front of Jama Masjid mosque, which is the largest mosque in India.
Around 25,000 people can pray in this huge courtyard at any one time. We, as well as lots of Indian families and children were enjoying the sunshine but would have to leave just before 5pm when the call to prayer sounded.
We have to cover ourselves with these huge gowns and take off our shoes.
Which does make us quite an attraction for some local girls who wanted to have their photo taken with us.
A very exciting first day in India. The weather has been perfect. Some recent rain has removed all the dust, the bourgainvillea is blooming and this tree about to burst forth into bloom.
Tomorrow we fly to Chandigarh in the Punjab and meet our guides for the riding section.
You can read the blogs from the rest of the Hola Mohalla trip by clicking on the links below:
From Delhi to Chandigarh
We do hope to do it all again next year, with only a few modifications to the itinerary. For more information email email@example.com or visit www.inthesaddle.com