Welcome to India

Date: 15/06/2007 | Author: Gabby

Our trip so far has been near perfect. A few dodgy accommodations we have stayed in and a few places we didn't like but generally the whole trip has been bloody amazing! The biggest pain in the arse was trying to change the date of our flights from Bangkok to Delhi, but that problem was due to having paper tickets as well as incompetence on the part of the Virgin Airlines. Eventually that was resolved but now we are in India, things have started to really go wrong................our first week went like this:
We arrive at Indira Ghandi Airport in Delhi at 9.30pm and the outside temperature is 44 degrees Celsius. Our guest house in Delhi (recommended by Alastair Sawday) is lovely but unfortunately the air conditioning breaks an hour after we check in to our room. The overhead fan just swirls 40 degree heat around the room - it is so hot, I cannot sleep. We get up at 5.15am to get the 7am Shatabdi Express train to Haridwar. This had been booked by a travel agent but we only had confirmation on email. As a result we nearly miss the train. We arrive in Haridwar 4 hours later, where a car had been booked to meet us and take us to our guest house in Rishikesh. There is no car but there are thousands of people at the train station. On the Ganges, Haridwar is one of India's most important holy towns and it is the middle of pilgrimage season - so it's busy. After about half an hour I manage to find a man who says he could get us an AC car to Rishikesh (another holy town). Twenty minutes later a non AC car with plastic seats arrives - it's midday and about 40 degrees. The car takes us to Rishikesh but to an area the wrong side of the Ganges from our guest house. To get to the right side would involve another 45 minute drive in a sweaty car. We have already been in the car for well over an hour and have had enough, so decide to take our own bags across the pedestrian bridge to the right side of the river. We fight our way through beggars, sadhus, hindis, sikhs, swamis, cows, travellers and motorbikes. Eventually, tired, sweaty, hot and very bothered we get to our pre-booked accommodation to find there is no booking. Fortunately they have a room, a bit dark and dingy but the 4 of us can squeeze in there. At this point I could murder an ice cold beer, but as this is a holy town there is no alcohol allowed so I settle for a ginger, lemon and honey tea. Everything goes OK for the next couple of days. We are staying in High Bank, a traveller enclave on the hill above Rishikesh. I am glad we are away from the madness of the town - Rishikesh is a crazy, busy, dirty town and a head first introduction to Northern India. The times we do venture there the kids get grabbed, pinched, squeezed, photographed, surrounded, hounded - they always manage a smile but they find it a bit annoying. I keep sane by doing yoga every day (I try 2 different teachers, one is a charlatan but the other is great) and having various parts of my body massaged. We like High Bank and meet some lovely people there. A fellow Londoner, Ashlie, recommends the Glasshouse to us - it's on a beach further up the Ganges, where the river is much cleaner (Rishikesh's Ganges is really dirty). Our guest house, Peasants Cottage books us a room for the following day for 2 nights.
The following day, as we are about to pull away, Peasant's Cottage manager tells us that the booking is not 100% confirmed but if the Glasshouse is full there is another great accommodation (probably owned by her company) on the way there. We drive for 45 minutes to find the Glasshouse is fully booked by one big party and has been for some time. We decide to go back to Rishikesh, stay there for one night and start our journey to Manali (our next destination) a day early. Florence throws up on the way back - we have, unnecessarily, spent the best part of the day in a car. I could murder a beer. I missed yoga so am feeling stressed. When we arrive back, we get no apology from anyone at Peasant's Cottage but after me throwing a hissy fit they refund us the money we spent on the taxi.
We have no other accommodation booked so I spend the afternoon online looking for somewhere in Shimla (a 10 hour drive from Rishikesh and half way to Manali) as well as Manali. All Shimla accommodation is expensive or looks pretty shit. Eventually we opt for the Little Inn, which describes itself as 'exotic'. I have emailed loads of places in Manali but no-one has got back to me, apart from Nature Notes, a 'resort' on the River Beas about 25km before Manali. As it is Florence's birthday in a few days I need to make sure we are staying somewhere she will enjoy. On their website, Nature Notes sounds ideal, with great kids facilities and I have some very friendly emails and phone conversations from the director of the company, Amit. He offers to throw a party for Florence when I tell him it's her birthday in a few days. We need to make a decision as I am told they only have 2 rooms available for the 18 and 19 June. The place isn't cheap but I am positive the kids will enjoy it. A quick conflab with Dave and we decide to book it for 5 nights - but we need to pay everything upfront.
Early the next day we leave for Shimla. Our car is good (and air conditioned), the driver lovely. It's a long drive but the kids cope well. Florence manages to sleep for a bit, Ella doesn't (she never does) but no one throws up and we eventually arrive in Shimla at about 6.30pm. We have trouble finding our hotel and when we do we find it's a shit hole. The included dinner is disgusting and they don't sell alcohol! We retreat to the swankier hotel up the road where I have my first drink for a week. The constant headache I have had since we arrived in India goes. Does this mean I am an alcoholic?
We sleep well, get up early the next morning, pass on the included hotel breakfast and leave for Manali (an 8 hour drive) at 7.30am. This drive isn't as successful as Florence is sick about 4 times. After all this, I just hope that the Nature Notes Resort lives up to my expectations............

› Back