19th -20th August 1981 Getting there


Departed London Heathrow for Schiphol. This was my first ever flight and I was setting off for India. Destination Delhi, but no plans thereafter.

From Schiphol first stop Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 34 degrees C. Very humid, droplets condensed on my skin as I walked down the aeroplane steps. Luxurious airport, lit by chandeliers - down the runway - wow. 10:30 local time. Airport cool, everything expensive. Forty five minute stay. Didn't buy anything. Caught a glimpse into 1st class lounge. Fleeting wish to be rich.

Passengers for next leg of flight quite different. Fewer white European faces. More Arabs and Asians. Flight destined for Manilla, with a stop in Karachi and then my stop, Delhi.

 

Karachi airport. Scary. Very much the extreme opposite from Dubai. Terminal buildings for transit passengers unwelcoming, unclean and intimidating. 2:30am local time. Hot at 30 degrees but less humid than Dubai. Large military lady with machine gun searched all the female passengers on entry to building. Intimidating - did they think I was dangerous? I'd never been face to face with a gun before, certainly nor one so large and obvious. Signs proclaiming military law everywhere - very intimidating. To me, first time out of Europe, this was alien and scary. Inside the terminal - signs all in English. Prices all in US dollars.

Another change of passengers. Now almost all the white Europeans had left the plane. I couldn't see any others. Mostly Indians and Phillipinos. I felt a long way from home. I'd be there soon. Then what.

 

5:30 Delhi. It was just getting light. Still high humidity. Temperature about 29 degrees. Arrivals hall a bit smarter (just) than transit at Karachi. Health and immigration control no problem. Didn't see any customers officers. Needed to change money. I had been advised to bring US dollars. I got Rs 167 for $20.

Outside the terminal building there was baggage lying everywhere. Literally hundreds of taxis. All old looking battered cars of what I took to be 1940s and 50s style. Were they that old or did they still make them like that?

Taxi drivers and auto rickshaw drivers pestered for customers but I was looking for a bus.Caught the Ex Servicemen's Bus into Dehli for Rs 8/- I thought this was a good price.

Drove along what seemed to be continuous building site. New buildings going up everywhere - mixed in with the old. Large, white, bony oxen pulling ploughs, turning pumps and doing roadworks. All signs still in English. The days activities were getting underway.

Near New Delhi Station

Near New Delhi Station

I had arrived in Delhi.

Delhi 20th August 1981

Connaught Place. I new almost nothing about India but the name sounded vaguely familiar. What did I think? - It made Sparkhill look smart - and this was supposed to be the posh part. I hoisted up my red rucksack and climbed off the bus. Immediately surrounded by dozens of rickshaw drivers. I moved left - they followed, I moved right they followed. I tried to walk away, they followed and grabbed. I was completely surrounded with no way out. Oppressive, not frightening, but trapped. Finally rescued by a young English man and decided to get an auto rickshaw to Golf Links - the address I had in my pocket. My sister and her boyfriend should be there - his Uncles house.

I've no idea whether the driver took me on the shortest route. He ripped me off - that is certain - and latter I saw an article in the Indian Times about government measures to stop the auto rickshaw drivers ripping off tourists. They wanted them to use regulated metres and controlled fares. Mmm. Good luck to them.

Rickshaw driver explained the rules of the road. Basically one rule - give way to anything bigger than you. He didn't seem to obey his own rule, ducking and diving between everything as though his piercing shriek of a horn made him immune to collisions.

Finally arrived at Golf Links at 8:00. Journey over tiredness swept over me and I slept for over three hours. Awoke still tired but eager to get started on my adventure. Revived by a shower, the coolness of the air conditioned house and a delicious lunch I set off to Delhi station with my sister Jane to buy a rail pass. We didn't have to queue for very long. Apparently amazing. $30, go anywhere for a month, 2nd class. Now what would that be like.

Outside New Delhi Station

Outside New Delhi Station

Reserved a seat for journey to Agra for following day and an overland trip to Nepal for the following Monday. All these early starts. I'll be knackered before long.

Returned to Golf Links. Still impressed by the hectic variety of traffic. Tomorrow I'd be setting off again on my own.