Friday, May 25, 2012

What's Not to Like About Bir?

May 11th-16th, 2012

The taxi brought me to Hotel Surya Classic (Surya means sun in Hindi) and I met one of the managers Suresh and later his brother Naresh whom I had heard about from my Canadian paragliding friend Elli.  Both are super friendly guys with a modern three storey hotel in the Tibetan colony called Chougan, close to the small town of Bir (pronounced “beer”).  It is a world famous site for paragliding and I could quickly see why.  Based at the foot of the tree covered foothills of the Himalayas, Bir makes a perfect starting point for many cross country flights with the mountains running from east to west.  A common flight is to reach Dharamshala, 40 kilometres away, and return back...something I hope to do while I’m here.

It might be tough to read but the sign says: "Himachal Tourism Welcomes You To The World Famous Paragliding Site":

Hotel Surya Classic:

Unfortunately the weather didn’t start off well when I first arrived with a thunderstorm on the first afternoon and the following morning but later in the afternoon of the second day it cleared up.  Two Spaniards, Tolo and Miquel arrived at the hotel and Naresh took us up to launch for a late afternoon flight, a perfect way to get familiar with a new flying site. 

Tolo and Miquel hail from the Spanish island of Mallorca where they run a paragliding school and fly commercial tandems.  They had spent months planning a “vol bivouac” trip starting in Dharamshala and finishing near the Nepalese border, hundreds kilometres away.  Vol bivouac entails flying a paraglider with basic camping equipment such as a tent, sleeping bag and food.  They would fly anywhere from 10-50 kilometres a day and hopefully land up on a clearing on a mountain, stay the night and then fly off the following day.  What a fantastic day to get around.  However they had experienced the same thunderstorm in Dharamshala yesterday and had therefore taken a taxi to Bir to stay on schedule as they had another friend, Oscar, meeting them part way along their trip.

Bir sits at 1400 meters above sea level while the takeoff is at 2400 meters, so even a sled ride (just flying down without going up at all) takes at least 15-20 minutes.  For me, it was my first time flying solo in the mountains since my crash a year ago last March in Panchgani where I compressed a disc in my back so needless to say I was a bit nervous.  Thermal flying in the mountains is a much different game than ridge soaring in the smooth ocean breeze back in Goa.

The takeoff:

Standing behind Tolo's expensive vol bivouac equipment:

Tolo and Miquel:

The Spaniards took off first and I had a few botched attempts before I took to the air.  I felt like a beginner pilot again as even the wimpy late afternoon thermals seemed to jostle me around in my harness.  I didn’t fly too long and safely made it to the landing zone and felt happy about getting some flying cobwebs out of my system.

The landing zone:

Happy after my first flight in Bir:

The next morning Naresh took us up to launch again and this time the Spaniards had all of their equipment with them.  I wished them luck and jokingly told them that I hoped to not see them again, as that would mean that they were successful in beginning their vol bivouac adventure.  Miquel was off first and quickly climbed away while I joined Tolo in the thermals in front of launch.  He flies a more advanced wing than I do and therefore flies faster and more efficiently than me so I made sure to get out of the way in a few thermals as it was definitely more important for him to get up and away...which he did. 

I had some challenges properly thermalling and at one point I was working a spine on which a hairpin turn of the road up to launch is exposed.  There was a film crew staying at the hotel and they happened to be shooting at this bend in the road and I saw a few of them waving their arms at me, signalling to get out of the shot.  Sorry dudes, I need to climb up a bit first...I don’t really want to land down in the narrow valley below!  I flew longer and a bit further than the day before and since I plan to be here for a number of weeks I’ve decided to take baby steps with my flying and this was a solid step forward today.

That afternoon, while eating lunch back at the hotel, another pilot sat down and joined me.  Thomas, who hails from Switzerland, has been in the area for three weeks and is staying with an American pilot Matthew who has been living in Bir for a few years.  We made plans to share a taxi up to launch the following morning.

Right from the get go I could tell I would get along swimmingly with these two fellows.  Matthew is laid back, straight shooting guy originally from California but prior to moving to India he was working in the solar panel installation in Hawaii.  Having now been in India for 3 years, he’s picked up some Hindi and has been an inspiration to me to try and learn some more.  Thomas meanwhile is quite the interesting character who is not only an excellent pilot with over 3000 flying hours but also has his sailboat skipper’s licence.  He shipped his Swiss campervan to India and plans to continue with it to Myanmar, Malaysia, Australia and finally New Zealand...quite an adventurous guy. 

I had another good flight this day and progressed one ridge further to the west to a spine that has a big open grassy area on the top known as the “golf course” to pilots.  I climbed 1600 meters above the launch to a height of 4000 meters above sea level.  With this height I thought it would be cool to fly way above the valley, towards a very large monastery to the east.  I began to lose height and realized I wouldn’t make it there so I headed back west towards the landing zone.  I passed the spine with the launch and was still 1000 meters above the valley but I hit massive sink and was heading into the wind.  I soon clued in that I wasn’t going to make it back to the landing zone.  There are many terraced fields in the valley and it is harvest time right now.  Some fields have had their wheat crops cut while others haven’t.  Back at the hotel, Naresh had told me not to worry too much should I end up landing in someone’s crops as safety was paramount.  He also stated that the biggest worry is to keep an eye open for power lines as they crisscross all over the valley.  At first I thought my best option might be a gravelly school field but it was surrounded by tall trees so I opted for a terraced field which was fallow.  The landing was fine and my walk back to the hotel was no further than the landing harm, no foul.

The obligatory foot shot:

Climbing higher:

 That's launch, the bare patch on the left in the middle:

Cruising out to the valley:

I'm staying somewhere down there:

A happy pilot:

Safely down in the LZ...with my wing and matching t-shirt:

The next day, on the 16th, another pilot, another American, Ron joined the three of us in the taxi up.  Ron has also been living in Bir for a few years (Americans can get a 10 year visa for India so it’s easy for them to stay a long time) and he used to be a hang glider pilot.  We had heard that there were going to be a few days where paragliding in the area would be banned as there was going to be a couple of Indian Premier League cricket matches in Dharamshala.  I guess the officials were concerned we might fly over the pitch and drop a bomb or silly.  Anyways, we decided to chance this day as the first match was tomorrow and it proved to be a great decision as the conditions were the best I’d experienced here yet.

Once again, continuing in my baby steps, I progressed yet one ridge further to the west to one known as “Waldo” along with Thomas and Ron.  My max height was my highest yet, climbing 1776 meters above the launch! (ironic number considering I was flying with two Americans)  The views of the snow capped mountains to the north were stunning to say the least.  Unfortunately, and stupidly, I didn’t bring my thicker gloves with me from Goa, figuring I needed to keep my weight down for taking the plane.  My fingers had gotten quite cold in my previous two flights so this time I put some wool socks over my gloved fingers which helped a bit but they still became frozen at this height...and I also had to pee so I worked my way back to the launch area and as I cruised out towards the valley in relatively smooth air, I decided to try my first attempt at “in-flight urination”.  I’d heard of male pilots doing this before including Thomas just a few days prior on an epic 7 hour, 150 kilometre flight he did.  The concept is easy:  lean forward and let it rain.  You have to have total trust in your chest harness straps that you’re not going to fall forward out of the harness but it went off without a hitch…I don’t think I even got a drop on me!

The view of the mountains to the west from launch:

Parawaiting...Ron, Matthew and Thomas solving the problems of the world:

Thomas setting up:

Matthew chillin':

Thomas in flight (the spec in the middle in front of the snow):

Well on that note…I think I’ll end this blog entry…there will definitely be some more news from Bir!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hello Dalai – Visiting Dharamshala

May 9th-11th, 2012

The overnight bus to Dharamshala began its slow exit from Delhi’s suburbs. As is usual in this country, I did not get the seat in the bus that I had reserved online but I initially thought I had lucked out and had no one sitting beside me...score. Well that lasted all of 5 minutes as we picked up some more passengers at the Indian Petrol Pump where my tuktuk driver had originally brought me (damn...sadly it would have been a nicer place to wait for the bus than the junction I was at). I was a bit fortunate as it was a cute young woman from France who sat beside me. Julie has been studying in Delhi for the past four months as part of supply chain management Masters Degree she’s working on. We chatted for about half an hour but then a loud Bollywood action movie blasted thoughout the bus so we both plugged into our iPods to try and drown it out.

The bus is called a “semi-sleeper” as the seats recline quite a ways back and a footrest comes up. I think they’re fairly comfortable, better than the sleeper buses where you have no choice but to be lying down the whole time. Around 9pm we stopped at a dabaa (a restaurant at the side of the road) for dinner. After eating the waiter just assumed that my 25 rupees change from my bill was his tip. C’mon buddy. In general people don’t tip in this country but since I come from the big tipping country of Canada, I usually do tip here, but 10 rupees is considered the norm. Still feeling a little sore from all the money grabbing in Delhi, I called the cheeky bugger on it, especially after seeing him return change to all the non-white customers he had and he sheepishly gave me the money back.

At some point in the middle of the night the bus was stopped by the side of the road. I figured it was a bathroom break so I got out but then saw that the hood of the bus was up and the driver was reaching deep into the engine with some tools...uh oh. Speaking with an Indian man standing outside he told me that there was some problem with the accelerometer...okay, sure. I was impressed that within 20 minutes the turban wearing driver had fixed the problem, or at least patched it, and we were on our way again.

Climbing into the hills of Himachal Pradesh, the bus bounced and lurched about as the driver, figuring that he was a professional race driver on the “Dash to Dharamshala Derby”, honked at every slow moving vehicle and overtook them on some dodgy bends in the road. I figured it was better to put my earplugs in and pull my toque over my eyes and ignore what was happening on the road, even if sleep was next to impossible.

We arrived in Dharamshala around 6am and to my surprise, the bus continued up a mountain for 15 minutes to the small Tibetan enclave known as McLeod Ganj, which was my true destination. Dharamshala is a small city down in the valley where tourists just catch buses while McLeod Ganj is in fact the home of the Dalai Lama and the true destination for foreigners. I had already picked out a guesthouse to stay at online before the trip, “The Pink House”, and seeing as I had no idea where exactly it was in McLeod and I had close to 30 kilograms of luggage (my paraglider being the majority of it), I hopped in a taxi to take me there for a mere 100 rupees.

The Pink House lived up to its name, a four storey rectangular building painted bright pink. Thankfully they had some rooms available and sure enough my room was a few different shades of pink...lovely. I settled in, followed by a nap, lunch on the rooftop terrace with its spectacular view and then wandered around the area to get my bearings. It’s a very cute little mountain settlement and I can see why many tourists come here to visit, practice yoga or just read a book.

Knuffly Bunny has arrived in McLeod Ganj:

Looking down towards the valley:

One of the two main streets in McLeod:

The following day I walked up to the Buddhist monastery which is the home of the Tibetan exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.  Unfortunately he didn’t seem to be home but many other monks were, with some milling about in the open areas, others sweeping up rice on the floors in the temple (not sure who was throwing the rice around), others studying on computers in the library and some younger guys playing football on a small flat area by the dorms.  The views of the nearby mountains were gorgeous and as for a group of exiled people, I think they chose wisely as to where to resettle.  I’m sure they’d rather be in their homeland but hey, this isn’t too bad.

A monument dedicated to those who have lost their lives in Tibet's struggle with China:

The main area of the monastery...reminded me a bit of Expo '86 in Vancouver:

Wise words...but not sure how you go about is it okay if your shoes are stolen by "anyone"?!?

People busy sweeping up rice:

The main Buddha statue:

Quiet reflection:

Great views from the monastery: 

Spinning the prayer wheels:

Monks busy studying in the library:

The dorms: 

The footballers:

I sat up on a rooftop pseudo-patio of a restaurant to enjoy views of the mountains basking in the late afternoon sun and was shocked I was the only one there, with many other people downstairs inside.  Eventually one other foreigner came upstairs and we soon began to chat.  Miha is from Slovenia and he was surprised to hear that I had visited his homeland a few years ago in the first leg of my Wandergliding trip.  We chatted for a few hours on a wide variety of topics including the unfortunate political demise of his country.  Super nice guy.

Back on the streets:
 Gorgeous mountain views:
The next day it was time to head off to Bir, a world famous paragliding spot. I hopped in a taxi and even though Bir is only 40 kilometres away as a crow flies, it takes 3 hours to get there!
What can I say about my visit to the home of the exiled Buddhists of Tibet? Been zen, done that!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smelly Delhi

May 7th-8th, 2012

I decided to get out of Goa for a few months as the tourist season is winding down and after a sticky, humid May, the monsoon rains will commence in June.  There are a few spots in India that I have on my bucket list such as the spiritual city of Varanasi and the state of Rajasthan, home of some impressive palaces and temples.  However at this time of the year, they would be stinking hot.  Rajasthan is mostly desert like terrain and over 40 degrees Celsius is not uncommon, in fact it’s normal.

Instead I opted to return to Himachal Pradesh in the north, where I spent a month last year around this same time.  After months and months of ridge soaring the beaches of Goa, it’s time for some mountain flying in the foothills of the Himalayas.  My tentative plan is to start in Dharamsala, the home of the Tibetan religious leader: the Dalai Lama, and then to a popular paragliding spot called Bir (pronounced “beer” how could I not want to go there!).  This would be followed by a place called Kasol where my friend Panna from the Olive Garden runs a guesthouse and restaurant (which is inundated by young Israelis letting loose after their mandatory army service years) and finishing off the trip in Manali.  Unlike last year, when I was still recuperating from my paragliding crash in Panchgani, this time I would bring my wing with me.

In lieu of a 35 hour train ride to Delhi, most of which seemed to be already booked up, I wimped out (or was smart...tough call on that one) and booked a one way plane ticket to Delhi.  Two and a half hours in the air and I would be in the sprawling metropolis of 12-13 million although it turned out to be closer to three and a half hours.  First off there were delays in getting on the plane in Dabolim, Goa’s airport, which weren’t explained.  There is a big new terminal under construction but meanwhile chaos reigns.  There was another flight to Mumbai leaving ten minutes after my flight and by some sort of Indian logic, the two flights utilized the same gate, at the same time.  I shuffled along with the other passengers like cattle being sent to slaughter as we walked out of the air conditioned terminal through a covered walkway bisected by a rope partway down.  There were no signs that Delhi passengers should remain on the right and Mumbai on the left and in fact I didn’t even realize I was in a mix of multi-destined flyers until I heard an airport worker yell out who should be on which side...which was received by most foreigners with some smiles, shaking of heads and just general acceptance of “Indian craziness”.  I hopped onto a packed bus on the tarmac and after turning around it dropped us off no more than 60 meters away from the terminal!  Surely we could have walked there...

Dabolim is a single runway airstrip that is used by the military along with commercial airlines.  There are signs in the terminal and the airline stewardesses warn the public of taking any photographs due to heightened security measures because of the air force presence.  However I was a bit gobsmacked when I witnessed out the window of our plane, which was sitting in the queue to take off on a side lane to the runway, a parade of motorbikes and scooters barrelling across the runway shortly after another commercial jet had taken off.  I guess it’s a shortcut for the two wheelers but I was even more baffled as I watched a lonely bicyclist slowly pedal his was across the asphalt...oh India, you never cease to surprise!

Half way through our flight I admired some towering cumulonimbus clouds (big anvil shaped, nasty storm clouds) out the side of the plane.  I was in awe of these massive, white and grey broccoli shaped clouds.  Being a paraglider pilot I can appreciate the awesome power associated with them.  I took a quick glance up and down the plane and sadly I could see but one Russian woman sitting behind me admiring the true beauty of nature occurring outside of our tin can while almost everyone else slept, read a book or chatted with their neighbour.  We modern day humans take the fact that it’s only been a bit over 100 years that we have escaped the surly bonds of the earth too much for granted.  The pilot later explained that part of our delayed arrival to Delhi was due to some storm dodging...fair enough, I don’t think we wanted to fly through those monsters.

After picking up my bags I hopped on a bus to head to the international terminal where the Delhi Airport Metro Express (or the DAME) station is located.  For a mere 60 rupees ($1.20) I hopped on this modern transit system that was recently constructed for the Commonwealth Games that occurred here in October of 2010.  It reminds me of the train that I took in Hong Kong back in 2007 as a very clean and sterile environment, on time and efficient...however sadly it seems to lack in ridership as my car had but half a dozen people in it.

The DAME terminates at the New Delhi railway station which is close to an area called Pahar Ganj (ganj is the Hindi word for “neighbourhood”) which is a common backpacker’s destination.  It’s only a 10 minute walk from the station to Pahar Ganj but with my 20 kg paraglider bag and a 6-7 kg carry on, I decided to spring for a rickshaw.  Well true to Delhi form, being a white guy foreigner or “ghoraa” in the local language, the tuktuk drivers wanted to charge me 200 rupees ($4) for the ride...sorry dudes, I know that’s a rip off price.  Instead I opted for the 50 rupee bicycle rickshaw.  Sadly, due to some unfortunate circumstances, I spent the next 2 hours trying to find a place to stay and when I finally did, I ended up having to overpay for a real dump of a place.  Oh Delhi... doesn't look too bad from this picture...although I did keep waking up during the night scratching...but thankfully no bed bugs...just "in the head bed bugs"...

But check out the lovely bedside table:

And well the bathroom fell a bit short in expectations...the toilet didn't flush and there was no shower head...the water just trickled down the wall! 

I went out for a nice pizza dinner on a rooftop patio that I had visited last year.  Walking through the streets of Pahar Ganj is a journey for all of the senses: the cacophony of honking tuktuks, cars and buses, the sights of homeless people sleeping anywhere and everywhere, the smell of putrid urine,  smoke from garbage fires and the distinct scent of beedi cigarettes (a thin cigarette of tobacco wrapped in a leaf).  Walking in flip flops as I was is not advised as puddles of iridescent fluid trickle down the streets and the souls of one’s feet are bound to be black by the end of the night.  But it’s part of the adventure...right?!?

My dirty, dirty feet:

The following morning I decided to stay in my room, even though it was pretty nasty, until checkout time.  The forecast for the day was 42 degrees Celsius and my bus to the north wasn’t leaving until 6:30pm so I wanted to spend as little time as possible in the sweltering heat.  I left my bags at the hotel and ventured over to the metro station where I decided to buy the one day tourist pass which gives you unlimited on and off riding privileges for the price of $2...which is actually kind of expensive as regular fares, depending on the distance range from 12 to 50 cents.  But my logic was to cruise around in the air conditioned, modern subway cars and occasionally pop my head out at various stations and see what I can see.

The idea was working well even though some cars were quite crowded.  At one station I perused a mural of photographs of the construction of the metro.  A boy in his mid teens came up to me and asked me something in Hindi but I didn’t understand him.  On his second attempt, a short skinny man dressed in drab coloured clothing came up and shooed the boy away.  He apologized in his relatively decent English that he didn’t appreciate how his fellow countrymen see a white person and immediately think that there must be a way to extract money from them.  We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him a few questions about which subway station I should ride to in order to see a few of the Delhi sites that I wanted to see.  Rajesh suggested that I go to a nearby station called Rajiv Chowk (chowk means “square” or “market”) in order to walk to the India Gate, a big Arc de Triomphe like monument that is dedicated to Indians who lost their life in World War I.  I should have been wary at this point as Rajesh stated that he was heading to that station too and he could point me in the right direction when we got there....okay, sure.

Exiting the metro, Rajesh led me through a small market where men’s clothes were being sold.  I explained to him that I abhorred shopping so don’t even try to take me anywhere near a stall or shop.  He stated that he would first help me get a free map of Delhi and then head on his way to a store he worked at that sold Indian trinkets from all over the country.  He led me down a backstreet to a tourist shop where we spoke to a large man who tried to convince me on a 2-3 hour, air conditioned car ride to some big tourist attractions for only 1500 rupees ($30)...thanks but no thanks, but that’s way too expensive.  Thankfully I’ve been in India long enough to know that at least.

After examining a map and writing down the subway station names for the 2-3 attractions I wanted to see, we left.  Rajesh now suggested that I should get a rickshaw to take me to these places and he’d make sure he’d get me a good price.  Well after talking to 2-3 drivers, it wasn’t looking promising and I was happy to make it on my own but finally I capitulated to having a guy take me to the India Gate, the Presidential Palace and the Parliament for 300 rupees.  All of a sudden, Rajesh was jumping in too...this should have set a warning bell off in my head...

Rajesh, my informal tour guide:

I hope they're not being taken off to slaughter:

We puttered along the tree lined boulevards to the India Gate.  It actually was a bit of a distance so I was, at this point, happy to have decided on the rickshaw.  They dropped me off near the gate which is surrounded by grass park land interspersed with the odd tree, pond and statue.  The India Gate was quite impressive although I was a bit put off by all of the vendors hawking stupid trinkets ranging from glass smoking pipes to marionette emus.  To me that seemed to degrade from the monument’s purpose.

The India Gate:

Knuffle Bunny checking out the gate:

Peering through the middle with guards on duty:

A random fountain:

Not sure what this monument was about...this was as close to it as I could get:

We drove a couple kilometres along the straight avenue to the Presidential Palace and Parliament.  Impressive again.  They dropped me off in order to snap some pics as parking was prohibited and then we headed back towards Rajiv Chowk.  This is where Rajesh finally started to contradict his “I don’t like when Indians take advantage of foreigners” creed.  He stated that he was a shoe shiner as a kid but he had obtained better jobs thanks to picking up English from foreigners, although he still couldn’t read or write it.  He told me that a whole world of opportunities would open up to him if he could just purchase a second hand dictionary and that his wife and two sons would benefit greatly.  If I were game to be taken to some government run shops, where I wouldn’t have to buy anything, just look, then he would receive a small kickback and the tuktuk driver would get some free gas.  This is typically Indian sleight of hand, they end up taking you somewhere you don’t want to go hoping that you’ll buy something, stay somewhere or eat food and they we’ll receive a cut from the vendor.  I told him no.  I reiterated that I hated shopping, didn’t have much time and wasn’t going to buy anything anyways.  I had already agreed on a fixed price with the driver and felt that was fair.

Cruisin' in the tuktuk:

Approaching the Presidential Palace:

The Parliament...looks more like a sports stadium:

The Presidential Palace:

Nice elephant:
 Some serious defense systems outside the palace:
 Not sure what goes on in this building but it looks nice:

We reached Rajiv Chowk and Rajesh said something to the driver in Hindi and we continued on.  I asked what was going on and he mentioned his hope for a dictionary again.  I told him I’d give him a bit of money for his time and help but he claimed that he would rather that I see with my own eyes that it was meant for a dictionary.  Okay.  So we stopped at a small bookshop and the old bearded shopkeeper showed us a few English/Hindi dictionaries.  I asked the price and the guy wrote down 850 on a piece of paper ($17!).  No way!  I turned and walked out.  I explained to Rajesh that he had stated at the beginning that he was not looking for money from me and as much as I would like to help him if he is honestly trying to improve his English, that that was too much.  It may sound cold to some of you but I was at the end of my string with Delhi and all of the money grabbing locals that just saw a dollar sign above my head.  I told Rajesh that I just wanted to get to a metro station as I needed to catch my bus.

Cruising by one of many markets near Rajiv Chowk:

We pulled up to a station and I handed a 500 rupee note to the driver.  Now he wanted 400 rupees instead of 300, the initially agreed upon price, since we had gone further than expected.  I was getting upset.  I had told Rajesh that I was happy to hop on the subway at the Parliament buildings so I refused to pay another hundred.  He explained it to the driver who then returned me 200 in change.  I figured that this was a decent amount to pass on to Rajesh even though I still felt like I’d been played.  Then, to push it over the top, after receiving the money from me, Rajesh claimed that if I gave him 100 more he could get the dictionary he needed.  Only because I had accompanied him into the store had the shop owner given him a high price.  Bullshit.  Sadly in the end I had to walk away from Rajesh, through the metal detector of the subway entrance and not look back as he kept asking for some more money.  It left a sour taste in my mouth.

To escape any more Delhi dollar grabbing, I headed to Domino’s Pizza for a meal before going to catch my bus.  I collected my bags from my s*#@-hole, overpriced hotel and grabbed a rickshaw to the bus pickup point.  All I had from my online booking was the name of a region, Majnu Ka Tila, and that the nearest point of interest was an Indian Petrol Pump (yes, a very interesting point).  The driver took me there and asked a guy standing around whether this was the correct spot.  He directed us back from where we came, about a kilometre or two.  The tuktuk guy said it would cost 50 rupees more ($1) to go back as we were on a main freeway and would have to go further up the road to turn around.  No problem, one dollar well spent, especially seeing as I didn’t know exactly where we had to go... but yet more money being squeezed out of me by this filthy megacity.

Weaving my way through rush hour in Pahar Ganj...what a gong show!

One ox powered cart...why not?!?  Probably has fewer break downs than most vehicles in Delhi!
 Part of the old fort of Delhi remaining:

The pickup point was a bit of a nasty spot which was maybe an appropriate send off from dusty, dirty Delhi.  It was at a gravel road junction in the shadow of a 10 storey, incomplete housing project with young grimy kids moving from tourist to tourist begging for money and a fight almost broke out between a couple of young men, who knows what it was about.  Surely they could have selected a better spot to hop on a bus to head up north but hey...this is India. 

The bus pickup point:

Lovely isn't it?

Time to get out of this big nasty city.