We never really wanted to go to Delhi. We surely never intended to be around for that long – one to two weeks. But after we literally escaped from shattered Kathmandu after the terrible earthquake, it had to be Delhi where the preparations for our next steps needed to be done.
While we would have loved to couchsurf in this metropolis with the doleful title of being the most polluted city in the world, like often the case, we received friendly invitations from people living far in the suburbs. Destructive 45°C daytime temperatures under an unforgiving sun does not invite exactly to extensive travels within the city. Consequently we decided to base ourselves in the centrally located Pahar Ganj area and to shift the suffering to the night times, using wet pieces of cloth as blankets to relieve the completely helpless ceiling fan, which just shifted the masses of heated air around the room.
The rough charm of Delhi
Yes – we tried to show our best lousy sight seeing manners and took a peek at the famous Red Fort and the Jameh Mosque, but while no unimpressive buildings, it is hard to enjoy any accumulation of bricks in such a heat.
The surprisingly beautiful side of Delhi revealed itself in the narrow lanes of Old Delhi and in those of our Pahar Ganj area. The air is comparably cool in the shade of the old crumbling houses and we had joy walking among cricket playing children, arguing elders, chai sipping rickshaw wallahs and laundry slapping women. In all those nearly four month in India it were always those simple people who offered the widest smiles!
We also enjoyed the very varied street food with specialties from all over India a lot. Well, me just until one morning. I woke up feeling like sporting the worst possible hangover and started to develop a fierce fever in the course of that day. Towards the evening it got worse and worse, I felt dizzy, between freezing and shaking and sweating in heat. Maria checked online for a decent hospital and called the ambulance in the end.
Hospitalized in a different world
The ambulance carried us through the crowded streets to the gigantic Apollo Hospital in southern Delhi – one of the most modern clinics of international reputation in India! Observing my arrival with blurred view I remember thinking over and over again: ‘Thank God, thank God we got travel health insurance!’ and ‘Hope oh hope they pay for this…’
After four months in India we stayed in our first air conditioned room – Maria staying with me and sleeping on a small couch. It was quickly diagnosed that an aggressive bacteria, most probably taken from bad water, caused the severe trouble. I felt better quite quickly though, but paying the bill in the end nearly caused another hospital stay – only prevented by the thought that it would result in just another bill. And again: ‘Pray oh pray the insurance pays…’
Leaving the hospital, the foyer resembled an international airport. A huge hall full of people from all over the world – Nigerians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Uzbeks, Arabs and many more – all having a heavy wallet in common. Out, out – as fast as possible!
Third time is no charm – no visa for Pakistan
The next trouble was an expected one. We hoped to get the Pakistani visa in Kathmandu, which didn’t work out due to obvious reasons. Delhi, we knew, would not be the place in this world to try. But we did! The answer was short and straight, like in Turkey before, like in Iran once before: No visa for non residents. Apply in your home country. Good bye!
So that was it. We had no choice but to fly to reach Central Asia. Two options: A) a flight straight into Kabul and B) a flight with a new and slightly odd airline to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital.
While I favored Kabul slightly, for personal reasons and seasonal reasons, I could absolutely understand Maria’s position. After experiencing a major earthquake in Nepal and a hospital stay in India, she did not feel prepared yet for a definitely not too easy to travel country like Afghanistan. So option B) it shall be – as a Romanian Maria needs to apply for the Kyrgyz visa next week, Germans get it on arrival. As early as next Saturday, we might be out of India and bound for the great Central Asian adventure!