Delhi has never been my favourite city. I’ve been twice before. The first time I was with six friends, we stayed in a smart and very western chain hotel in a shitty area, and spent a lot of time getting lost. My memory was of having to pick our way over or around people. Homeless, desperate, sleeping on the ground, sleeping on benches, hanging under trees, just there, chaotic, poor, sad and heartbreaking.
I hated every single minute of Delhi then, I hated the chaos, I hated queuing to go into temples with another thousand tourists, I just hated the in-your-face poverty and a city that seemed unmanageable.
Second time round, god I’m lucky actually, travelling to Delhi was better. I was with a friend who kind of new Delhi, haha New Delhi, we stayed in a (shitty) rooftop hotel in a different (shitty) area, got munched by mosquitos, braved the underground system where the men eyed us up and down and made us deeply uncomfortable, but found fab shops and restaurants and coffee and clothes OMG the clothes, but also coughed like maniacs and had streaming eyes because the pollution was so bad.
I left Delhi thinking, never again. It took me a while to recover from that smog, I am not sure how people live here and don’t get sick.
Well, they do.
This time, I was having just an overnight in Delhi, before the Himalayas baby. My heart kind of sank because, Delhi, but you know, how else does one get to the mountains? It was raining so the air felt clean, we had a lovely hotel, shitty area, lovely staff, few mosquitos and the best fresh lime juice I’ve ever had.
But one day turned to two as the flight to Leh was cancelled, and so I had another full day in my least favourite city.
The city is unmanageable, the distances are huge, there are throngs of people, it’s hard to know where to go or what to do. Especially if you’re on your own and don’t want a lengthy group tour. But the air was clean because of the rain, god bless the rain, and I had one beautiful experience. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find an ATM to draw money. I eventually asked the hotel who sent me off with a young girl, maybe 18, who would show me.
We walked Delhi. ATMs are oddly not on every corner. We walked with the cows, and the dogs, and the lime juice sellers, and because she was local, it suddenly seemed so easy. And she was charming, and unexpected, and I think she found me charming and unexpected too. So we drew money, we picked up a lime juice, we still stepped over a lot of people, but we did the most fantastic walk.
She phoned the hotel to say we’re going to take a little more time, and we spent a great two hours in the city.
That is how to do Delhi. With someone who is local. Her English was not good, my Hindi is terrible, and she was young and shy. But she was so lovely and I think that hour or two together made Delhi really good.
And now I’m in the Himalayas, I don’t know how to say that casually, now I’m in the Himalayas, and it seems unreal and we are taking today easy so we don’t get altitude sickness, but oh my gosh, the mountains, the un-be-fucking-lievable mountains, they’re leaving me speechless.
I can’t wait to get out and explore.
And I know this not my last trip to India.
Which means Delhi Delhi Delhi Delhi Delhi.
See you again, my nemesis city.
Each time it’s going to get a little bit better!