Writing this on the New Delhi – Dibrugarh Rajdhani, a nearly 40 hour train ride that should take us nearly to Myanmar/Burma.

Gear check:

I decided my three shirts were getting too funky, and had decided to ditch two of them and pick up two new ones. Troy convinced me to hold onto the old ones and try to get them cleaned during our two days in Darjeeling. I am humoring him, but now my bag is a bit overstuffed.

I’ve also bought another package of baby wipes. The first batch suited me well, so I will continue with those.

The tiffin experiment was a dismal failure, yet I continue to haul the thing around, the last person to do so. We simply never put anything in it, so it remains an unused US$2 experiment. Again Troy has insisted that we will fill it with food and give it to a beggar at some point. A noble idea, if we get around to doing it…

Oh, socks. I bought two cheap pair for under 50 cents US. I have no idea just how cold Darjeeling might be. I hear it’s, you know, quite.

New Delhi

Some time after 6AM we arrived in New Delhi, the location I was dreading the most in the whole itinerary. I only had a brief brush with Delhi before this, when the family and I had to spend a night there in between flights on our way to Goa. Admittedly, the airport is well outside of Delhi proper, but my assumption was that however hectic it was outside of the airport, actual New Delhi would be an amplified version of that experience.

Basically, I expected Mumbai X 8 or so.

We had 6 hours to kill in between trains, so it was off to a twisting alleyway walk to a nearby hotel for people to drop their bags off, wash up, or catch up on emails. The day was wide open, with all of us attendants fending for ourselves until 1PM, when we needed to be back at the hotel for a group return to the station.

Not much time to get to know Delhi, by any means. Troy and I opted to grab a motorized rickshaw to go check out the only sight seeing we were told we had any reasonable amount of time to see – Red Fort.

Nice joint. You know, if you’re into World Heritage historic sites that have fantastic architecture and all that. I was into it. Apparently the Indian army only turned it over to the tourism board in 2003. There are still parts that look like they are being restored, but the place is enormous to the point that we may have barely covered half of it.

Foreigners expect to pay 250 rupee, about US$6. Locals get in for either 10 or 60 rupee, I’m actually not sure. I read 60 somewhere, Troy thought he read 10. it doesn’t make a difference to me though, I think it’s great that the locals should actually be able to afford entry to a place on their soil with so much history, and they do brisk business with the locals here.

When it was time to get back, we decided to go via a proper rickshaw, a first for both of us.

I’ve never seen someone do so much work for such low fares. It cost half of what the moto rickshaw had cost, and scared the living crap out of me for about 70% of it. If I’m going to that scared during a ride, the person giving it to me shouldn’t have to do more than pull a lever or something, seriously. Troy tipped him well afterwards, and we were agreed: that job has to suck.

We stopped for something to eat between the station and the hotel. This is backpacker haven, full of cheap hotels and shopping. From my cafe view, it was easy to spot the new travelers among the crowd. Want to guarantee the attention of every street beggar and hawker? Wear a giant backpack! Also mixed in were foreigners who had clearly checked into India years ago and have been in Delhi just a bit too long. Vacant, uninterested stares, uneven, thrown together lack of fashion sense, generally a bit grimier from head to toe than any other westerners you might see.

Back at the hotel there was a chaotic mess awaiting us, confusion in payment, missing people, generalized anxiety. Our train was in an hour. I decided to breathe a bit, and reflected on how un-daunted I was throughout the day. Where was my anxiety? Even this group of nervous people surrounding me weren’t getting my blood pressure up. I was fine. We were going to make the train. No problem. Delhi, or at least the bits around the train station and Red Fort, was not at all overwhelming to me today. I not only handled it, I was able to enjoy it as it was happening, which I understand sounds silly, but it’s rare for me to enjoy something until after the dust settles and I am able to check to make sure I have all my limbs. Clearly I am improving as a traveler.

The missing people arrived.

“Okay, everybody breathe. It’s all going to be OKAY.”

Mick laughed.

We made it to the train station in groups of two or three at at a time. Troy and I went with the newly familiar bicycle rickshaw, as did several others. Somehow through the least organized trek so far, we all made it to the station on time, minus Tim, a photographer who left us in Ahmedabad, had not fully recovered from a previous food poisoning, so was not joining back up with us.

There might be hope for this group after all. We’re getting good at this.

Next: 38 hours on a the Rajdhani Express.