Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Arriving in India

(I'm really pleased with this photograph. It was early morning when I arrived at Delhi's famous Red Fort. Although the fort itself isn't as impressive as some of the sites I've seen recently, it is very photogenic. In the early morning, this woman was sweeping out one of the ornately decorated buildings.)

Within two hours of arriving in Delhi, I'd completely changed my plans for India and booked a train ticket back to the Himalayas.

It wasn't so much the fact that Delhi was 38C when I arrived, but more that the news was reporting that the third stop on my original plan for India - the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan - was a full 9 degrees hotter than Delhi.

47C is no climate for a Scotsman.

At the main train station in Delhi I was able to book the last seat on the long-distance train to Shimla, 2000m higher and 20C cooler than Jaipur.

It's a great thing to be able to completely change travel plans on the spur of the moment, to swap mountain retreats for parched cities, tea plantations for Mughal palaces and relaxation and reflection for sight-seeing.

Before I left the capital, I had a day to do some exploring.

With 13 million people, Delhi is anything but quiet, but I felt more relaxed here than in Kathmandu where the traffic had seemed almost inescapable.

(Left: early morning at the mosque and someone is certainly enjoying their duties!)

Though there's enough to occupy the visitor for a couple of days, there actually aren't as many interesting sites as you might imagine for the capital city of a country with over a billion people.

I got round the old sights of the Red Fort and the main mosque in a morning, and did some shopping (a couple of nice shirts for $3) and a tour round the newer sights in the afternoon.

Candy striped tower of red sandstone and white marble at one of the largest mosques in India. Visiting a mosque is fraught with rules - no shoes, foreigners aren't allowed to climb minarets alone, don't cross in front of a praying person.

Whilst climbing the minaret, I met some lads from Kashmir who were in Delhi on holiday. Though Kashmir is a troubled area, I'd love to go there. It's quite a bit further north than Shimla though, so maybe not this time around.

Rajasthan was famous in the 18th century for astronomy. The two main observatories are in Delhi and Jaipur, with Jaipur definitely taking the honours between the two. I still hope to get to the lyrically named Jantar Mantar observatory in Japiur before I leave India, but it was still possible to get some great shots as the sun was going down on Delhi.

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