-It was a peculiar first night in the strange city and without any real incident - luckily.
I had just arrived in Delhi after a reasonably good fourteen hour flight. When it comes to international travel I am pretty free-wheeling. But I do have a couple of rules. Foremost of which is that on the first day I am careful because of jet lag. I don't buy anything and I just rest. And I don't adventure around too much. It is very easy for unscrupulous or malicious locals to take advantage of me.
But, upon arriving in Delhi in the afternoon I couldn't resist leaving the hotel and adventuring out for just a bit into the wondefully vibrant streets of India! Our tour guide warned us that sundown was around seven pm so be back by then.
I went up to my room and put all my bags on the bed, turned around and headed right back out the door with just my camera. I figured I had a couple of hours and I could get a taste of the local flavor.
I stood in the hall and locked the door to my room. Just as the person in the next room was doing the same. Evidently he had the same idea as me. "Hey, you going out for a walk?" He chirped over at me. "Yes" was my reply. "Let's go together. It is safer that way".
I was looking forward to just adventuring a bit on my own but he did have a point. It would be safer if we went together.
So, we headed to the elevator, made out way downstairs and poured ourselves out into the warm Delhi air.
The first couple of hours were wonderful yet exhausting. Just soaking in the newness of it all was wonderful. The crowding and the traffic was something of note. There are a whole lot of people and the traffic is unmodulated. It is just a big free for all. One wonders where all these people were going. We stopped at a small sandwich shop and had sandwiches which were quite good before adventuring further.
But Dusk is a funny thing. If you are busy it will creep up on you. The gloaming is a mysterious place between light and dark and it doesn't last long.
I turned to Joe. "It will be dark soon. We should head back".
Up to this point we had only taken two turns so we knew exactly where we were in terms of getting back to the hotel.
"Nah! We aren't far from the hotel. It is easy to get back". Was his response. And against my better judgment I went along with his decision.
We hit another store and a local told us about a terrific little shop that sold just what we were looking for. And of course we would need to take a taxi. Which we did. And that meant we would be technically lost. And have to take a taxi back.
By the time we arrived it was dark. We shopped around the store and exited to darkness and the feeling that we were alone. Not a taxi in sight. And not a friendly face in sight.
We started wandering around trying to get our bearings. Trying to find a street that looked familiar and always staying in well lit areas. We balked at more than a few streets that were too dark.
(One thing that struck me is that an awful lot of people have nothing to do. You can tell by the picture above. And this is probably common in big cities with extreme poverty)
As the minutes ticked by it got darker and more confusing and we got more and more lost.
We spotted some police officers and tried to talk to them. But they couldn't understand us. We were looking for directions to the hotel.
A local stepped in and promised to walk us to our hotel. Before you knew it we were walking down some dark side streets (supposed short cuts) and my radar was on high alert. A suspicious looking man had been following us for a couple of blocks. I turned and looked him in the eye. He changed directions and slinked off.
And the guy that promised to take us to our hotel stopped in front of a shop on a dark side street and said "Let's go in". This is my shop. I was stunned. It was all a ruse just to get us to go to his shop. Now we were even more lost. I looked him right in the eye and said "You lied to us". I was bordering on livid. You really can't trust anyone when it comes to money.
We walked off in a random direction with the guy trying to keep us there.
We talked to one young man who represented a taxi. It was a nice taxi, a mercedes I thing. And it gave me a sense of security. This was probably a respectable a reputable way to go. He knew where our hotel was and it would cost us sixty dollars to get there? Sixty Dollars? Come on! We couldn't have gotten that far from the Hotel. We balked at this just on the principal of the thing. Gouging is what it was we believed.
We then flagged down a little motorized rickshaw and told the driver the name of our hotel. He nodded his head and communicated that he knew where it was.
"How much" I asked him.
"Whatever you want"
was his reply.
What the heck is this "Whatever you want" philosophy?
I think it has something to do with the Indian mindset. And the fact that we moved down the caste system from Mercedes driver to rickshaw driver. His humility only allowed him to assess his worth based on our judgment. Strange thing and very humble.
Anyway, it was a five minute ride in the rickshaw to our hotel and you can imagine my relief when I first spotted it up ahead. But I will never forget that ride. And the wondering as to whether everything was ok. I can see that rickshaws unhealthy eyes looking at me through the little rear view window and I can still hear his cackling laugh.
But he delivered us safely.
Some of the lies we heard that night:
"Your hotel is just around that corner - Always the next right) No matter where we were that was where the hotel would be."
"We have the cheapest prices in all of India"
"That other shop you want to go to is closed today"
"I can only give you this price today"
"I have a wife and two children" Seems that everybody has a wife and two children in India.