Indian Himalayan Grand Traverse - Day 1 - Delhi

The hottest London July in 10 years did little to prepare me for the heat and humidity of Delhi and the start of the Indian Himalayan Grand Traverse. After about 60 minutes of fitful sleep on the overnight flight from Heathrow all I wanted to do on arrival was hide in an air conditioned room and recover.  No money though so I had to venture out and find an ATM.

If you're foreign and look slightly vacant for more than a second in Delhi the tuk tuk drivers spot their chance.  Everyone here seems to be a hustler.  I told Billie, who was soon to be our best Sikh friend, that I didn't have any money but that didn't put him off and he insisted that I could pay him later.  He had a special affection for the British, London was his favorite city, and he had many friends in Southall.  He had only come back to India because his eyesight was failing and repatriating bodies would be a terrible expense for his relatives.

Although failing eyesight didn't seem much of a recommendation we put our lives in Billie's hands, climbed into his tiny three wheeled taxi and shot off into the current of tuk tuks, rickshaws, motorbikes (some carrying whole families, others furniture and some with goats and other livestock), pedestrians and the occasional cow. It was actually great fun and after a few near misses we knew that seeing things in a blur was an essential attribute for tuk tuk drivers.
Billie shows us the Monkey Goddess

After five failed attempts to get money out of different cash machines, Billy (my new financial advisor) suggested a call to my bank.  He was of course right and my debit card was soon working.  It also meant that I was in his debt and in effect kidnapped.

For a very good price he ferries us around a highly selective portfolio of "the sights" (Sikh temples and all surprisingly close) before taking us to an equally select series of shopping destinations.  Billie is clearly on commission and outside each of the authentic craft centres are a line of tuk tuks while inside are tourists in various stages of a vicious money extraction process.  After three stops we finally gave in and bought two scarves and some fabric. Ransom paid, Billie also relented and agreed to take us back to the hotel.

Short distance freight solution
Billie gives us his phone number and tells us to call him when we come back to Delhi.  We pay him the 200 rupees agreed, twice as much as on the meter but £2 seems a reasonable price for our freedom and we part on the best of terms.  Welcome to India.

The trekking group has assembled over the day - 11 of us, two couples, four women and seven men.  Nick, the retired psychiatrist we met on the trip on the Annapurna, is here so we know someone already although as usual it's a very friendly group.

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