Friday, July 18, 2008

We Arrive in India

Our hotel was hiding in there somewhere

Utterly exhausted, we arrived in Delhi; my bodyclock was telling me it now 3am and demanded I lie down and have a long, deep sleep. All my faculties were concentrated on the singular goal of spotting my name on a board held by the smiling, pre-arranged driver from the hotel, then of course motoring off to our pre-booked bed.

Of course, there was no sign to be seen, and no sign of our driver.

We now faced the vile prospect of catching a taxi from the airport to Central Delhi. Generally, taxi drivers are bastards, and the ones who hang around airports and bus stations are utter bastards. The drivers of Delhi have a reputation for being a particularly devious and untrustworthy breed; never taking you where you ask, dropping you off in the middle of nowhere, overcharging and generally enjoying making your life hell.

With this in mind we peered outside to a screaming throng of touts, drivers and all the kinds of characters you don’t want to deal with in the fragile state brought on by a sleepless international flight.

We stepped outside the terminal to whoops of greedy glee as taxi touts spotted us - another delirious and naïve white couple, the exact kind that can usually be parted from large wads of their cash without too much trouble.

The slight concession of a pre-paid system of taxis exists at the airport, where you buy a slip that tells the driver where you want to go and give them that slip as payment when you’re there. After going through an attempted scam by the clerk (which brought the total number of attempts on our cash to three for the day already; one short changing by a phone attendant and another involving miscellaneous and unspecified ‘other taxes’ at the currency exchange), we were handed our precious, precious slip.

So of course, this slip was now the key to all our happiness. I left Angie in charge of it. The driver needed to have the slip signed by a guard before we could leave the airport, and a small battle ensued inside our cantankerous Morris Minor when the driver asked for her to hand it over. With steel in her eyes she passed it forward, it never left her sight until it was handed back to her. Pure mother bear instinct.

We left the airport and headed out underneath a low slung haze, thinking only of bed. After all the usual near-misses and close-calls that arise when an entire population of drivers regard lane markings and traffic lights mere suggestions, we arrived in the vicinity of our hotel. Exactly where our hotel was no-one was sure, and we spent a good deal of time bouncing down alleys that didn’t exist on my map, or any other map, probably.

Eventually we found it: a collection of wood-walled, dusty rooms with cardboard thin mattresses. Mattresses! I was ecstatic at the thought that I might very soon be stretching out on a horizontal plane. However, Angie was sure there were better accommodations to be found and went off in search of them. Meanwhile, my head pitched and yawed atop my slumped body in what you might call a lobby.

She soon returned with the happy news that a room had been found and I would presently be free to lapse into blissful unconsciousness. We got to the room, and I have never been happier to find myself in front of a circular bed seven feet in diameter, though at that point, I would have been delighted by a reasonably thick pile of hay.

Every time we entered or exited the room, we did battle with this, the World's most complicated light switch

No comments: