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Posted 03 Mar, 2012 | 8 Comments
Posted in: India, Our Story, Travel Blogs

We flew to Delhi, preparing ourselves for the worst kind of hectic. This would be our third time backpacking India and somehow, on the previous two visits, we had managed to avoid this infamously chaotic city. Even India veterans have told us that Delhi is the epitome of everything that is bad in India.

It’s an impossibly packed population plagued with poverty, pimps and putrid pollution. A sick, unsanitary city soaked in smoke, slime and sex. A chaotic catastrophe caught in the commotion of crime and corruption. A helpless hell of hectic heckling, harassment and hollering. A dense destitute disaster drenched in dirt, disease and deformities.

This is Delhi, we were told. This is the end of the world… and we loved it!

backpacking india
We’re back India! Nick ordering some freshly squeezed juice off the streets in Delhi

Landing on the tarmac at Delhi International Airport, we were already prepared for the worst. But just being back in a polluted big city of India paradoxically felt like a breath of fresh air. Landing in India always feels like your being thrown into a mosh-pit of true travel. Things come at you from all angles and, if your ready for it, it makes for one of the most exciting countries to travel in.

To explain India with an endless stream of adjective alliterations is to describe it in vein. In India that chaos that drives you to distraction becomes something that you crave rather then despise. People ask us why we travel to India when it’s so insanely different, but isn’t that why everyone travels? To find something different from home? To find something new and exciting, or to just escape the sometimes mind-numbingly monotonous normality of work and sleep that we often fall into at home?

backpacking india
Goats On The Road on the plane from Kathmandu to Delhi

We all need something different sometimes, something to shock our senses and Dariece and I have seen some crazy things while backpacking in India. We’ve seen beautiful wedding processions with full orchestras stop traffic for hours. We’ve seen some of the poorest people in the world offer their lunch to wealthy tourists.

We’ve seen two dogs fighting over a severed human hand, and we’ve seen a cow give birth on the street. I thought we had seen it all, until one day, while walking down the streets of Delhi, we were shocked to a standstill as a homeless teenage girl past us by. Sadly, this is something we see all the time in India so it was not her that had amazed us. The girl was casually strolling along, dragging behind her a full grown, dead dog. She crossed the street without looking and all the traffic stopped for her as she pulled the stiff, furry corpse across one of the busiest streets in Delhi.

We had originally thought she was just walking the poor animal around town like a stuffed pet, until she reached the other side of the road and hoisted it into a garbage can before disappearing behind the ensuing traffic. Dariece and I appeared to be the only people phased by this morbid scene. Others simply went about their business with little more than a curious glance. We named the dog Rigamortis Rex and will forever remember his sadly unceremonious funeral procession that passed us by in downtown Delhi.

backpacking india
A side-of-the-road pumpkin vendor, Delhi, India
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checking out the fresh fruit & vegetables at a market in Delhi, India
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school kids on the back of a cycle rickshaw, Delhi, India
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a cow on the streets of Delhi – a very typical sight in India

Delhi was hectic sure, but amongst all the noise and pollution, there are people who we could all learn from. Men who make two dollars a day cycling citizens through a dizzying maze of traffic and smog still smile and wave at you as they buzz by. Store keepers who spend their day on the street trying to careen potential customers into their shop, deal with rejection like champions.

Customers constantly mumble no thank-yous as the Store keeper smiles and wags his head with a simple “okay”. And complete strangers strike up conversation with you just because they are curious and friendly. It was one such stranger who we met outside of a Sikh temple who really reminded us of what is great in India.

He saw us curiously peering in through the gates outside, taking photos of the massive, ornate structure, when he excitedly hurried over to invite us in. He showed us where to put our shoes and wash our feet before climbing the stairs towards the prayer room. He tied a bandanna on my head and explained why Sikhs touch the floor of entrance ways before entering their temples. He sat with us and explained what all the music meant and why people pray to a massive book perched on a bed in a glass case.

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Nick with our new friend heading into the Sikh Temple, Delhi, India
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inside the beautiful Sikh Temple, Delhi, India
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the golden book that the Sikh people pray to. Delhi, India

He hurried us outside and into the kitchen in a separate building where dozens of people prepared dahl, veg curries and chapattis for a lunch that was to feed up to 90,000 people, for free. A lunch that the Sikh temple serves everyday, and does so with donations and volunteer work. He explained that Sikhs don’t care what religion, race or faith you may be, everyone should be allowed to eat, and everyone should be allowed to enter their famously beautiful temples. At the end of his energetic “tour”, instead of asking us for money, he ran out on to the street and came back with 3 teas and a gift for us. A holographic picture of Om (Sanskrit Peace) for us to hang on our wall. With that he vigorously shook our hands and waged his head good-bye, then he took off back into the depths of India.

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A volunteer at the Sikh Temple mixing up a massive vat of dahl for lunch. Delhi, India
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volunteers at the Sikh Temple chopping up vegetables for lunch. Delhi, India

Instead of leaving the temple, we decided to go back to the kitchen and help roll chapattis (thin Indian style bread) We spent more than an hour at the chapatti table until lunch began, at which point we sat with the Indians on the floor, ate the delicious curries and bread with our bare hands and chatted small talk about Canada and our travels with the friendly, smiling people around us.

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Dariece rolling chapati bread with the other volunteers at the Sikh Temple, Delhi, India

We really, really enjoyed our time in Delhi – and we may be some of the only people to ever say that!  It was a very typically Indian city with friendly people.  We were trying to decide where to go for Christmas and came up with the “pink” city:  Jaipur.  So, we boarded a train and made our way to the state of Rajasthan.

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Backpacking India- Delhi

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Goats On The Road

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8 thoughts on “Backpacking India: Our Trip to Delhi

  1. Hi guys! Really enjoyed reading this story about your time in Delhi. My boyfriend and I will fly to Delhi in 2 weeks, we are into the 5th month of 10 months around the world. and I’m pretty nervous as it’s our first time in India. This story made me feel excited, and I lived the story about the Sikh temple. Cheers!
    (PS my sister Maddy (from nz) apparently meet you guys in China a few years back, seems like a coincidence to stumble upon your blog!)

    1. Hi Lucy!!

      That’s sooo cool that you found our blog! Yep, we know Maddy 🙂 Such a small world, hey?!

      You’ll love Delhi, it’s crazy, chaotic but very, very India. Have a great time in that incredible country.

      Cheers

  2. Hahaha The way you described Delhi in your first para was truely ,ummm what should i say phenomenal . Part of it was right part of it was wrong. But it was good to know that you guys enjoyed Delhi the capital of India. India is really Incredible in all senses. You must head to Uttarakhand Too. You will love this place m sure about it.

    Next Time you come to India do go to Uttarakhand !!

    All The Best To You Guys

  3. Hello Goats on the Road!

    I’m planning a trip to the North East of India, googled backpacking in India and came across your blog. It was so refreshing to read! This is exactly how travel in India should be done 🙂 I spent 4 months this year living in Delhi and I felt the same way about it. I saw a million wonderful and terrible things and that’s all part of what makes this country so exciting. I think when you live here you tend to not appreciate the great stuff, as much as you force yourself to ignore the bad things (like poor Rex) – because if you let yourself feel sad about everything you see here you’re going to be sad a large chunk of the time. It’s a coping mechanism, the not reacting. I hosted a Swiss artist who was painting as part of the Delhi St Art festival and I think being around her helped me see again all the amazing things the country has to offer. I’m glad you enjoy your travels here, and thanks so much for writing about it! – Madhu 🙂

  4. We will be in Delhi in 3 months and have been using your blog for information! This post definitely has excited us. I would love to more about the Sikh Temple as it would be great to spend some time helping out. Also, any suggestions on budget friendly places to stay in Delhi? We will only be there for 4 nights total (2 at the beginning of our trip and 2 at the end) – any help is appreciated! Thank you 🙂

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