24th to 31st January

Friday 24 January

From the train window, we see India passing before our eyes. The land around us is very much occupied: fields, towns, rivers, ! always a lot of people, and also cows and dogs. And many places full of trash. It looks like an impressionist’s painting, with many touches of colour. We arrive in New Delhi around 12. After one hour of queuing and filling forms, we finally reunite with our bikes. For the last time in Asia, we mount all the panniers on the bike, and leave for our couchsurfer’s place. Tonight, we sleep in the South of Delhi, at Dheera and Khoram’s house. The first kilometres in Delhi are impressively calm. But soon enough, we realize that we are in New Delhi, the neighbourhood of Delhi where all the administration is located. The traffic is Delhi is as we expected it: many more cars, people driving faster, but much less mess. It’s a little like Jakarta, or another big city of developing country (although still quite messy).

We are more than happy to arrive at the house. After lunch with Dheera and Khoram, and a small rest, we go to the roof (here in India, the roofs are flat, used like patios) to clean the bikes. Wow! They recover their original blue colour. For dinner, we get some chicken momos, and pizzas with our hosts. We have a nice chat with them in the evening.

Saturday 25 January

In the morning, we work on the bicycles: clean and grease the chain, and adjust the brakes. Then we go to a bicycle shop nearby in order to put our bikes inside a box, to be ready for the plane. We enjoy the small distance to cover by bicycle: the bikes look like new, everything going very smooth. The people of the bike shop only dismount the front wheel, mudguard and panniers holder to fit the bikes in the boxes. In one hour, both bikes are ready to be sent! So professional! We carry our boxes back to the house. If the going by bike was a total pleasure, the returning, carrying two giant boxes of 20kg each is like hell. But finally we arrive home with the boxes.

We spend the rest of the day working on the website.

Sunday 26 January

Today is the Republic Day of India, the 65th anniversary of the constitution of the country. It corresponds to our 14th of July in France, with a cultural and military parade in the centre of New Delhi. In order to see it, we get up at 5h30. We have not been able to buy tickets in advance. Hopefully we’ll find a place over there to buy some. A taxi comes to bring us to the India Gate. We had booked the taxi on the evening before! but the taxi arrives half an hour late, now affirms us that the price is more than agreed, and takes time to refill the tank on the way. Quite professional! The road is blocked before India Gate, so we do the last two kilometres by running.

low-1090747
low-1090748

But in India Gate, we cannot pass. And there is no way to buy tickets. Our last hope is to go to a place where they don’t need reservation. After maybe one hour more of walking, following the crowd, we arrive at a “queue”, a bunch of people waiting behind barriers. So we do the same, and when they allow people to pass the barrier, it’s quite physical. Soon after, we have to pass another checkpoint, this time they do not allow bags, cameras, cell phones, lighters, ! As you know, we always have a bag, with the food, water, camera, and of course our cell phone. We try to negotiate, but without success. So we decide to go somewhere else, since we cannot see the parade. We walk till the Red Fort. When we arrive there, it’s closed, obviously (despite the police telling us it’s open, on our way). Depressed by so many failures for one day, we go back home and sleep a few hours more. During the day, we work on the computer: the website is finally updated!

In the evening, we go out with our hosts, Dheera and Khoram. We go to eat street food, mainly from Northern India. We have very good momos, then Golgappa or Panipuri (as what we ate near Kathmandu), Allu Tikki (like in Gorakhpur), a kind of spicy chicken roll, and some sweets, a fried thread of dough covered with liquid sugar (Jalebi).

low-1090754

low-1090755
low-1090756

India has many sweets coming from milk, called Barfi, the most famous ones are coming from the region of Kolkotta. These sweets are traditionally recovered by a very thin layer of edible silver, or even edible gold for the most luxuous ones!

Monday 27 January

After a lazy morning, we spend most of the days preparing a presentation for our speech of tomorrow: we have been invited by Mukash Kare, a former teacher of Mick in Nantes. Mukash is Dean, responsible of Alumni Affairs and International Programmes, and professor of Environmental Engineering in the Indian Institue of Technology of Delhi. He has organised for us a meeting with Master and PhD students from his department, the Civil Engineering Department, so we need th prepare a presentation about our travel, and the technical visits we have made so far. You can find our work on our website: http://vertlhorizon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Presentation_IIT.pps

Tuesday 28 January

This afternoon, we have two important meetings. First, answering the invitation of Mukash Kare, we will present our project to master and PhD students in the Indian Institute of Technology. And after this, we will meet Arjun, a senior consultant in Ernst & Young about the CDM projects.

We already wrote a small post about our presentation in the IIT, that you can find here

In the afternoon, we also meet with Arjun Some, a Senior Consultant from Ernst & Young LLp. He used to do a lot of work with Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). You can find our summary in our previous post.

We go to have dinner with Khoram in a shopping mall nearby. We are happy to find Western food, pizza, but once again we regret to have come in a fast food chain!

Wednesday 29 January

This afternoon, we have a heavy program: first go to withdraw money, and then go to visit Red Fort. Indeed, we are going to Argentina in a few days, and we need to pay over there the permits for climbing Aconcagua (700US$ per person!). And in Argentina, it’s complicated to withdraw a big amount of money. So we prefer to withdraw here in India, and arrive in Argentina with quite a lot of cash. In India, there is ING Vysya, a joint venture between ING Direct (Julien’s bank in Europe) and the local bank Vysya. After confirmation with the customer service of ING Vysya, it’ll be possible to withdraw the money we want (around 130 000 INR) in one time. So we go to the head office of this bank in Delhi. Obviously it’s a hell to go there: the address given on Google is not correct. And the address given on the phone is incomplete apparently. We have to go there by rickshaw, and we are reaped off. If we try to negotiate with the rickshaw driver, he simply goes away. Here it’s impossible for foreigners to get a decent price. If you look foreigner, you’ll be reaped off, and you cannot do anything about it. So we arrive at the bank finally. And it turns out that we cannot withdraw more than 10 000 INR every time. So we withdraw many times this small quantity, and of course pay the commission to the bank every time. And then we change this money into US$ in the bank. The employee calls an agent to bring the dollars from I don’t know where. And the little change at the end is directly given by the employee from his wallet. Of course we did not sign any paper nor showed a passport!

After all these adventures, it’s already 16h30, and it is too late to go to visit anything. In India, the monuments generally open from sunrise to sunset. So we go to the Old Delhi, and wander a little around there. We find postcards, and wait for Khoram. When he meets us, we go to eat some typical Moghul food: Parnathas. It’s a kind of thick rotee (pancake), with some veggetables, cheese, fruit, or sugar inside. It’s served with several veggetables, chutney, pumpkin purée, ! It’s quite spicy but very good. And for drink we have lasee, it’s a little like yoghurt or milkshake with some solid cream on top, it’s perfect for relieving from the hot feeling.

low-1090775

After dinner, we go to the nearby Jama Masjid: the biggest mosque in India, built some 350 years ago by the Moghul emperors. We are in the heart of the Old Muslim City, with the narrow roads being very animated, and full of Moghul cuisine restaurants.

low-1090778

Thursday 30 January

This afternoon, we finally go to visit the city: Qutub Minar and Red Fort. (You may ask where are the mornings: in fact, we want to shift our biological clock to Argentina time, so we go to bed late and get up late). Qutub Minar is a sandstone tower, which construction started at the end of the 12th century, under the first Mamluk king reigning in Delhi, Qutbud din Aibak. It is now inside a wider Qutub complex, with rests from the first Muslim dynasties that reigned in Delhi. Qutub Minar is the highest stone tower in India, and reaches 72.5m high.

low-1090806
low-1090815
low-1090826

The three first storey are in red sandstone, and the last two in marble. It is richly adorned with perso-arabic, and Nagari inscriptions and verses of the Koran. Just next to this minaret, we discover the rests of the very first mosque in India, the Quwwat ul Islam mosque, dating back to Qutbud din Aibak. In the courtyard of this mosque, stands a very special pillar: it’s known as the iron pillar of Delhi. Dating back to more or less 1000 years, it was forged by some Hindu society before the arrival of the first Muslim in India. The particular composition of the iron (a high concentration of phosphorus, the existence of second phase elements) has prevented the pillar to get rusted!

low-1090805
low-1090835
low-1090802
low-1090787
low-1090799

After this very interesting visit, we go to Red Fort. Finally we can visit it! This palace was constructed by the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (the same emperor who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife), when he moved his capital from Agra to Delhi, in 1638. The palace stayed the centre of power till the British ousted the last Mughal emperor two centuries later. The name comes from the red color of the sandstone used for the walls. The palace is very vast, with many buildings inside, and it’s a great show of the Mughal architectural style.

low-1090849
low-1090859
low-1090867
low-1090878

For dinner, we are invited by our hosts, Dheera and Khoram, to eat a Biryani of their preparation: it’s a dish coming from the Mughals. It consists in a kind of stew of rice with mutton. The originality comes from the water used to cook the rice: it is like a soup where the spices (cardamom, fennel, coriander, pepper, !) have infused. Thus the rice gets a divine taste. It is absolutely delicious! In dessert, we try many different Brijwasi sweets.

low-1090888
low-1090895

Friday 31 January

Today is our last day in India. We first pack all our stuff and panniers inside 4 bags. Then we go out with Dheera and Khoram. We go to Delhi Haat, a place gathering many handicrafts from all the states of India. The many small stalls present pashmina scarves, the typical bags and pillows full of colours and mirrors, painted wooden statues of elephants and other animals, wooden boxes and board games, brass statues of the gods, and so on. And we also try food from different states: Dosa from Tamil Nadu (South of India), and some other dish from Maharastra (region of Mumbai).

low-1090912

We go to the airport by taxi. The bicycle boxes are o the roof, with only a little thread to attach them! we are pretty sure to see the boxes fall from the roof while going to the airport. But the taxi driver takes care to go smoothly, avoiding accelerating and breaking too strong. We arrive at the airport without problem, and the driver did not even try to reap us off. We end our trip in India on a good note.

We will take Qatar Airlines to go to Buenos Aires. We chose this airline because they seem to be bike-friendly. And in fact, we are surprised how easy it is to get the bicycle on board. We are allowed to take 2 check-in items per person: one of them if the bicycle, and the other one the panniers all grouped in one item. For the weight, we are just at the limit, with 24kg per item.

low-1090913

And for the video, here it is: