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This is a transcription of the diary I made when travelling to India for the first time. It was 1981 and I had never been outside Europe before. Travelling alone to India and Nepal was a great experience.

I have been to many places around the world since but this journey remains the most memorable. Like most young people at the time I had to travel on a small budget and this undoubtedly meant I got to meet more local people and experience the real hospitality of India than if I had stayed in large hotels and travelled by car.

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.

Sunday 23rd August: Day of rest near Delhi

We went swimming in the morning at a pool used by the ex-pat families. Wow - what service, nimbupanis served on silver trays by very polite waiters in white jackets who quietly appeared every time I climbed out of the pool. The only problem was the heat - the tiled floors and the metal handrails were too hot to touch - what luxury! What a contrast to the grime and squalor of yesterday. Then back home for lunch and siesta.

In the evening we went to the Qutb Minar a UNESCO world heritage site. At over 70m it is the highest in India.

Wednesday 2nd September

After feasting on an expensive breakfast we walked back to the station and made a reservation on the 02:30 sleeper for Varinassi (Banares). Sounds simple, but despite the very short queue it took us an hour. Everything in India seems to be done as slowly and methodically as possible and with all the documentation made in at least triplicate. There is absolutely no point trying to rush anyone. After awhile one slows down and adapts to the unhurried business and the sedate pace of life around. The trains move slowly and people wait patiently (or sometimes not) for hours, and hours.

After the train ticket we sought out a bank to change money. Another long and tedious job. Better make it part of the holiday experience rather than a functional necessity to get out of the way as quickly as possible.

21st August: Agra

Still tired when time to leave comfort of Golf Links. Jane brought me toast and marmalade for breakfast. Set off at 6:30 and miraculously - no auto rickshaws so took a taxi. Rs12/- not bad and a lot cheaper than the rip off trip there from Connaught Place the first morning I arrived.

The station was crowded but I found a seat (wooden with no cushions but not too uncomfortable) on the train which was far less crowded than I expected. I had had visions of people sitting on the roof and hanging out of the windows - but that would come later - this was the express to Agra. Journey time three hours.

Tuesday 25th August, afternoon: Mazafarur to Raxaul

From the railway bridge we could see into the town. It was flooded in murky water to about 6-8 inches.

Mazafarpur station floodedMazafarpur flooded street

We enquired about trains. The next train was at 2:30, a two hour wait, and would take 5 hours!! After this morning's train: dismay. But there was a bus which took only three hours. A better bet. We'd get the bus.

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