It now seems a long time ago that I said my goodbyes to friends and family, hugged and waved farewell to James and Faye at Heathrow airport.
The last day on home soil was a very emotional time. The “sending” service at Hockliffe Street Baptist church was a climax and celebration of much preparation and prayer. It was lovely to be surrounded by close family and many church friends. To have their support and good wishes was welcome as I was beginning to feel the trepidation of what I was about to undertake.
Having a close friend by my side to accompany me on the first leg of my travels was a great comfort and Janet’s experience of long haul trips was invaluable in so many situations.
I am indebted to her for posting regular updates and photos of our journey and the sights we saw en route. I know many of you have followed our progress via Facebook and the like.
We land at Indira Gandi International airport I encounter no problems with immigration control much to my relief.
We are met by our first driver and hoped to be “whisked off” to the Maidens Hotel across the city, where we were staying for 2 nights.
However Delhi’s traffic is notoriously bad and during our stay we spent a great deal of time sitting in jams or being squeezed from 5 lanes of traffic into 2. Except Indian roads do not have marked lanes. So cars, lorries, tuk tuks, overladen buses scooters and cows all perform a hair-raising intricate weaving type “dance” a bit like a jig, which seems to work somehow?
After the traffic chaos the colonial 1930’s Maidens Hotel was an oasis of calm and genteel elegance While in Delhi we did the usual tourist spots,visiting Humayun’s tomb a huge edifice built as a memorial to the 2nd Mughal emperor. It stands within gardens on an imposing terrace and dominates the skyline.
Janet and I at Humayum’s tomb
On our first morning in Delhi we visited the largest mosque in India, Jama Masjid (1650) situated in the “old town”. On sacred days it can hold 25,000 worshippers within its red sandstone forecourt. We had got there early before the crowds and the place had a peaceful stillness only disturbed by the numerous pigeons which every so often took flight.
A rickshaw ride around old Delhi is a must if you ever visit.
We took our ride after visiting the spice bazar and back streets which were a buzz with people manhandling heavy sacks of spices and the air was filled with the aroma of cummin, turmeric and our eyes smarted from the vast amounts of red chillies hanging from the shop doorways. We were introduced to the medicinal and dietary virtues of India’s herbs and spices when visiting a store and managed to escape having only made one small purchase.
Our rickshaw driver deftly negotiated the busy narrow streets and then out onto the now commercial street of Chandni Chowk where in the space of a few hundred metres we pass a large Hindu temple, a Jain temple and a Baptist church. As well as a Sikh temple marking the spot where a famous guru was beheaded, also, the “Golden Mosque” where in 1739 the victorious ruler stood and watched the massacre of thousands of Delhi’s citizens. It seems that Northern India’s history is often one of warring factions fighting for supremacy, but this also adds to the richness of its culture and architecture.
We headed towards the Rajghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a simple large granite platform upon which sits an eternal flame and a four garlands of orange marigolds. the memorial site is in a vast parkland which is pleasant haven from the hustle of the Delhi streets.
From the Rajghat our taxi driver took us on a tour of New Delhi taking in the state residencies and Rajpath a 2 mile long avenue used for parades. While we are there the army were practising drills for Republic Day on the 26th Jan. The state administrative buildings are very grand, a legacy of the British rule and I glimpsed the Vicroy’s house, a vast building behind majestic iron gates. It is now the Prime Minister’s official residence.
In contrast to the pomp of state our next stop is vastly different. We are taken to the 11th century site Qutab Minar where we marvel at the word’s highest brick-built minaret. An awe-inspiring column rising skyward, you wonder how in times so long ago such a structure could have been built ? In the large complex of gardens there are many temples and towers to be seen. One that remains unfinished was intended to be twice as high as the Qutab Minar! After many photos we leave for our last destination, the Lotus flower shaped Baha’i House of Worship ( World Peace Pagoda. This modern imposing white building is one of 7 similar buildings found throughout the world. It is a place of meditation and is visited by up to 12,000 visitors a day. I think we must have gone on a quiet day!
We rounded off our day with cocktails in the hotel bar – just managing to catch “happy hour” with 5 minutes to spare.