When the plane touched down in New Delhi, it was 9:15 at night but for me, with the time change, it was actually 11:45 at night. It took a while for the bags to come out and I could see that the airport was pretty chaotic. I wasn't sure if it was because the following day was India's independence day or if it was just the nature of being in Delhi. My bag finally showed up and I tracked down a British girl whom I had spoken to in the Hong Kong airport so that we could split a cab into town. Normally, I would take a bus but the cabs here were only about six dollars so being as how it was so late at night, I really didn't want there to be any hassles so I could find a room and fall asleep.
There were several taxi stands at the airport and all were pure chaos of Indian men and women pushing their way to the front of the window. After attempting to join several different hordes of people and making no progress what so ever, I decided to try a different approach. Inside customs, I had seen a pre paid taxi stand similar to the ones that people outside the airport were fighting for but there was no one there. With a little careful planning, I managed to slip through a few security checks and make it back to the taxi stand. There weren't that many people there and at least none of them were pushing and shoving. I stood in line for a minute and quickly realized that no one was moving. I asked someone in line what was going on and they informed me that there were no more taxis. I didn't understand, how could a city with 13 million people run out of taxis? It didn't make much since so the British girl and I decided we would brave the crowded bus into town.
We found the bus stand immediately and saw people loading onto a bus that we assumed must be the correct one to our part of the city. Outside there were at least a thousand people waiting with the most enormous collection of baggage you have ever seen. While people shoved their way into the back door and we debated what to do, I grabbed the British girls arm and dragger her on the front of the bus where we found just enough room to stand. For some reason, no one else followed us on and the over crowded bus closed it's doors and we slowly began to pull away from the airport. Happy to be moving now as it was already 10:45 and I was beginning to feel tired so I didn't mind be crammed amongst a ridiculous number of people standing in the aisle of a hot and sweaty bus.
Traffic was really bad and I didn't think much of it at first but as our journey slowly inched away from the airport, I began to realize it could turn into a miserable ride. Cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles filled up every inch of the road. We would stop in one place for a solid ten minutes before creeping forward a few feet only to stop and wait again. An hour and a half into the ride, sweating profusely and extremely tired, I began to see signs for the domestic terminal that would be coming up in three km. It was only Eight km away in the first place! The comedy of the situation at that point was somewhat entertaining but I new as the night wore on and I became more and more tired, my attitude would take a turn for the worse.
As miserable as myself and my British friend were, the people on the bus were so kind and friendly. Everyone was offering to make room in their seats for us and some people who had bottles of water kindly offered us sips. We talked amongst those who could speak English about the different aspects of life in New Delhi and the different parts of their history that would help us to understand their culture. It was an incredible experience so different from how I would have felt in a similar situation back home and I knew that I was really going to enjoy my trip to India!
At 1:30 in the morning, we were still on the bus creeping along in a mass chaos of traffic. The people on the bus explained that it had to do with the fact that it had rained heavily that day and there were extreme security checks along the way because it was their independence day in the morning. It was hard to believe that was the cause of all of this traffic in the middle of the night but thus far having seen no signs of accidents or anything, I was beginning to believe it.
Around 2:00, the traffic finally broke apart as we passed a check point with literally thousands of people standing on the road side. Five hours now after I landed, I finally arrived at the guest house I would be staying at for the next few days. It was 2:30 a.m. And I felt horrible. I wanted nothing more than to lie down in a bed no matter how clean it actually turned out to be and get some sleep. It was a difficult beginning for my trip to India but at the same time it was exactly what I expected. Irritating yet exciting, it was the essence of what you can expect from traveling in a country like India. I can't wait to get started!