Maybe we tried to do too much in one day. Our hired, taxi driver certainty did not like all of the driving that our itinerary required. It drove him to the point of drinking. Although, looking back now, he was probably drunk when he picked us up.
After Annie wrapped up a few long days in Delhi, we hit the ground running trying to “bag” as many tourists sites as we could.
On Friday evening, we kicked it off by taking the subway to Old Town Delhi. We marveled at how empty the train was when we got on. Silly us, our station happen to be the first station. So, we soon marveled at how packed the train became.
Even the locals, who must be used to the cramped conditions, got a little heated with each other. It was almost impossible to squeeze your way to the door, so most people, worried they might miss their stop, tried to camp out as close to it as possible. When the doors opened you had the clash of the Titans – peopled determined to get off, people determined to get on, and people determined not to move away from the door.
When it was our turn to disembark, I politely said “excuse me” twice. Funny, but that got absolutely no response from the 20 people between us and the door. So it was time to make like a local and crank up the bulldozer inside me. I was a bit timid at first, but then, surprised by my latent talent to part a human sea, I really got into it. Just before reaching the door, I even considered veering left and doing an additional lap through the car just for good measure.
Old Town Delhi was the real deal. (watch video)
We wandered through the narrow streets, checking out the amazing number of shops and food stalls. At the mosque, we argued with the holy man who tried to rip us off. Triumphant, we avoided the $4 overcharge, but he got the last laugh. Even though Annie was wearing pants and a long-sleeved sweatshirt, she apparently looked too delicious and therefore, was additionally covered in a blue, patterned muumuu. (watch video)
Later, we got stuck behind a small parade. As we turned a corner in a poorly lit part of town, some local squeezed Annie’s bum. Fair is fair – I squeezed a local’s neck who tried to pickpocket my bag. What a fun cultural exchange! Satisfied with our “high touch” tourist experiences, we ended the night with a tasty meal at a local Muslim joint.
Saturday was our only day to get out of town, so our plan was to see the Taj Mahal in Agra and then drive to Neemrana Fort. Since this was going to involve a lot of driving, I called the taxi company twice to confirm that it was indeed possible to drive to both places in one day. “Yes, no problem,” the owner said.
Speaking from experience, we would agree that it can be done, however, it requires a driver who picks you up on time, stays awake while driving, and actually knows where Neemrana is. Our driver failed on all accounts. We did see the Taj, which was awesome, and we did eventually make it to the Neemrana Fort, which was also stunning. (watch video)
The problem was that we were about 1.5 hours late to the fort, so we missed our opportunity to sail over the top of it on zip lines. All in all, not a big deal. Honestly, I was just happy that we actually got the fort alive.
Pop quiz – your taxi driver is lost in the middle of nowhere, India, on bad roads. You have at least another 2.5 hours of driving to go, and you notice your driver falling asleep at the wheel. What do you do?
First, we politely suggested that he pull over for some tea, but he would beg off and say he was fine. Three minutes later, his eyelids would droop, the car would decelerate, and we would start to veer towards the center of the road and oncoming traffic. So we tagged teamed and unleashed a constant barrage of queries. “How many kids do you have? Where did you grow up? What is your favorite Indian dish? Where did you get your hair cut? Do you think Vishnu would use a Mac or PC? Shiva, Mac or PC? And Ganesh?”
In the end, we had an amazing day of sightseeing, but, as you may surmise, we were not happy with our driver. On our final leg back to Delhi, he pulled over next to some highway stalls. He said that he just wanted to pickup some whiskey, but quickly added that he would not drink it until after we got to Delhi. “Sure…” we said. He returned to the car with a bottle of whiskey and a large bottle of beer. Back on the road, he turned to us and asked if he could drink the beer.
“Wait!” we exclaimed. “You said that you weren’t going to drink until after we got to Delhi!”
He then corrected us: “No, no, I won’t drink the whiskey until Delhi. Not the beer.”
Resisting the brilliance of his logical trap, we denied him the beer.
When we parted ways at our hotel, I don’t know if his outcry and anger over the small tip I gave him was sincere. “I give you good service! Where is my tip for my good service?” Further discussion wasn’t going to edify either of us, so I just gave him a half-smile and an empathetic pat on the back.
I was, however, truly sorry for the next tourist, Bart, who had already booked this driver’s services. Rather than getting some sleep before his next trip, which was scheduled to start at 1AM, we were pretty sure our driver was going to keep his promise about drinking his whiskey in Delhi.