Trip Start Oct 27, 2008
13Trip End Nov 21, 2008
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Where I stayed
Satagiri Hotel, Delhi
But still, the morning wake-up call from the hotel front desk was like a kick in the gonads. If not for the fact that there are worse night to come, I'd go on about it! :')
With my 23 Kilos of gear soundly stowed away in my pack, I was ready to have one last luxury breakfast in the Executive lounge at the Sheraton Jumeriah Beach. The stunning view looking east along the beach was worth being up early enough to be the only ones in the restaurant. That and Kitty and I took all the fresh pineapple and watermelon, the mango yogurt, and did a nice number on the strawberries too. Man, that woman can pack it away!! (Hahaha - you won't be reading this until well after the trip is done!!)
A quick taxi trip th the airport, and we were on our way to Delhi. Well, that is after 40 minutes of lining up to check in for our flight - which apparently is exactly the same procedure one goes through when you DO NOT make the effort of checking in online, and in advance. So much for the Internet age!
The Emirates flight to Delhi was relatively short at 3 hours. Our flight path took us over the Hatta mountains in the west of the UAE, where I had intended to trek the previous day and cound not, so something of a gift that we had clear views of the desert mountain range and the varied colours of sand and dunes - changing from golden yellows to reds to an almost black colour. The flight continued over a slice of Oman, the straight of Hormuz, south of the Iranian coast before cutting north across southern Pakistan. Here the terrain was as desolate as it was ruggedly beautiful. Although this is not the frontier region, one can imagine how difficult it is to bring law and order to a place that looks so hostile to transportation if not population.
Eventually the arid and mountainous landscape gave way to more lush river valleys before our plane crossed into India, somewhere between Quetta and Lahore. The view from the plane turned quite poor, and it wasn't until we were well into our descent that we were able to see through the haze that covered Delhi.
The city is sprawling - immense really. Part urban, part lush and green - and noticably lacking in the choking highway traffic that defined Dubai. Though we were coming in at 3pm local time. Never the less - the view from the airplane allowed us to see several temples, mosques and shrines that firmly stood out amongst the urban fabric in a bold way. Having NOT fully done my India homework, I cannot say I properly identified any of these places, but of course, we will have a week to see the main highlights of Delhi - Agra - Jaipur after the Bhutan trek that will start tomorrow.
Indira Ghandi airport is chaotic, but not as much as I expected. There was certainly a semlance of order to the place, and everyone seemed genuinely friendly. Soooo different than going through U.S. customs at Pearson airport!! They could take a few queues from the folks here in Delhi.
I noted the unfortunate presence of a Nescafe booth while I waited at the luggage belt for our gear. Everything I have read indicated that I should not expect filtered (brewed) coffee while I am in India or Bhutan....and it has not been long enough to forget the misery of instant Nescafe coffee from my week at Walt Disney World in August. On the plus side, a decrease in coffee consumption will certainly help the "bowel immobilizers" do their job!! Speaking of which - the lunch on the flight today was Chiken Tikka Marsala (sp?), and I have yet to discover its effects in my milque-toast constitution. Time will tell, and Ill keep those bowel immobilizers handy...
Oh - last point on this topic - Kitty reports that the toilets in the airport bathroom are the authentic squat type - as in spread 'em and hover. Good to know. If this is how it is at the airport, it all goes down hill from here.... I will soon discover whether I have spent enough time on the Smyth machine doing those squats. If not, Ill have to have a word with that trainer of mine!
Our driver had been arranged for us, and Rajesh was a welcome sight amidst the hordes of taxi drivers, tour guides and general population types hanging around the exit from customs. Thankfully, he was not hard to find, and unlike Nairobi airport last year, I wasn;t left hauling a mountain of crap through the hordes of clawing drivers to find someone who looked trustworthy!! Rajesh was the man!
It was a short drive from the airport to the Satagiri hotel - though I have to admit that the immediate neighbourhood does NOT look terribly inviting. The street is literally a dusty path with top-heavy buildings framing the route, people cluttered at the roadside buying things from stalls selling cola, bread, housewares, you name it. It does not look like the kind of place to go exploring after dark, and we decided to limit our travels to the immediate vicinity, and finally, to the hotel restaurant.
As I sit here updating the blog, we are waiting for dinner service to begin. The menu has a wide selection of Indian and Chinese items, and some funky things you might not expect to find in a tiny hotel tucked away on a dirt alley. Like ice cream milk-shakes and french fries. Ill do my best to avoid these items and jump right into the authentic Indian cuisine. Ill report back on how THAT goes!!
As for tomorrow, we are expecting to wake up at 5am local time, with a quick breakfast and off to the airport for 6am. Our flight to Paro, Bhutan should get us to our starting point before 1pm local time, and we will have a free day in the city (town?) tomorrow. After that , our trekking adventure begins with a series of hiking / camping days that average about 15Km per day at an altitude that averages about 3,900m. This is less than the summit of Kilimanjaro, so I think we have both decided to forego the altitude sickness meds again this time. We'll see how we do after the first hiking day.
One last note before I break away for dinner (and I do hope we run into some Australians at the hotel tonight - they tend to be the most fun at drinking!), I have NOT had success loading the photos from my super-awesome Nikon. I think the file sizes might be too large, as I am using the fine setting. So Ill keep trying randomly, but man - I have some stellar shots from the UAE, and I am anxious to get them posted.
Until later, I hope all is well back home. It's a hot 33C here on Hallowe'en night in Delhi, and nobody in costume!