We slept in Delhi on the first night, and it was a bit chillier than we expected (we had to use the blankets we got from Air India, which are very pretty) instead of the thinner sheets we got from the hotel. It was still warm overall, and we
discovered that this is as cold as it gets in Delhi—something equivalent to a cooler spring day in Boston. The fog is apparently not smog. For twenty days per year around new year’s, some fog comes in and obscures everything - at other times it’s clearer.
Sleeping went well once we used the blankets, except for the neverending honks and the dogs. The dogs are ridiculous - the only thing I can imagine to explain the commotion is that some dog finds food, and so ten others join in and fight for the food, leading to one minute of the loudest barking and howling I have ever heard.
In the morning we met our driver for the Rajasthan trip. His name is Saje (pronounced Sajee), and he and his wife moved to Delhi a few years ago from Kerala, the southern part of India, which features a paradise-like tropical climate all year round. We didn’t question what he was thinking to move up here, but we were grateful for his services, since he turned out to be awesome.
Saje told us we couldn’t go to Akshardham (the largest Hindu temple, and commercial enterprise in the world), since it was too far across Delhi, so we started for Jaipur. Driving on the highway was quite the experience, so here are some notes: 1. The toll plaza to leave Delhi comes pretty fast. As soon as you pass the toll, you are in Heryana state, a mostly agricultural state with flat land in every direction. 1. The first city we reached outside of Delhi was Gurgaon. This is a city that did not exist a couple of years ago, at least in its current condition. At the moment, there are billboards advertising for Dell laptops, various phone services, etc. It’s technology- and call-center-o-rama, with many high-tech looking buildings under construction, and many companies with offices here.
Early in our journey, we were told to move over by a military truck. At first I thought we were being pulled over, but it turns out that this was a caravan for a minister (government, not religious:)) that was being accompanied by army guys in the front and back. Saje took this as an opportunity, and the next 20 km where spent zig-zagging through the small vacuum left in traffic by the caravan. I was in the front seat with him, and decided to turn off my brain for the ride, since I would have otherwise pooped my pants. Given that, jumping between lanes and riding the middle lane was fun:).
Highway is not exactly what you would imagine in the US. Think of a two-lane highway with way more traffic than a major interstate driving at speeds about that of the interstate, with no one in a lane for too long. Cars drive the wrong way, as do motorcycles, bicycles, and people walking. While We saw accidents, there weren’t a surprisingly large number of them—about as many as you would see on a weekend trip across a few states.
HIV/AIDS is a big, and until recently, silent problem in India. At a bus stop, I saw painted on the wall a sign that said “AIDS (HIV) is not Cancer.”