After an exciting but exhausting 2 weeks in Nepal, it was finally time for us to go to India to begin our medical rotation! Given our track record with public transportation on this journey, it will come as no surprise that our flight to India was delayed. Fortunately, the airport in Kathmandu had reliable wifi and we all had a chance to call our families and have a chat which was a nice taste of home before the next leg of the trip. Finally, we catch our flight and make it to Delhi without issue. After a modest 1 hour in customs and another hour spent tying to get money (look for a future post about the current demonetization movement) we step outside to meet our driver sent for us by CFHI, excited to finally be stepping foot outside the airport on India.
Thankfully, our driver is waiting for us just outside the terminal (I felt a little guilty since he had been waiting for over 4 hours because of the delay) and we rendezvous without an issue. He sizes up the four of us and our two carts of luggage before confidently saying that we will fit in his car without a problem. I have to say that I admire his optimism, but as he pulled the car around in the parking garage I couldn’t help but chuckle. I have no idea what type of car it was, but if you picture a Cavalier (or whichever compact car of your choosing) and then shrink it by about 40% you’d have yourself our vehicle. Somehow we made it work, the tiny trunk was jam packed and we each had a bag or two on our laps but we fit. Much like the cliched “clown car” or “can of sardines” I couldn’t help but empathize with my friends who were packed in the back seat shoulder to shoulder and yet hardly fitting (not that riding shotgun was much better). After we were all loaded up and on the road, our driver breaks the news to us that we have missed our train to Dehradun and will instead be taking a night bus. Again, we can’t help but laugh and just go with the flow.
And so we begin our drive across Delhi to the bus depot. I can confidently say that driving in India is one of the most unique experiences on the road that I’ve ever had (and that includes nearly falling off cliffs on the highway in Honduras and having the rear tires of my bus slip off the mountain roads in Costa Rica). What makes the experience unique? First, the pure volume of people and cars on the roads. We happened to get caught in a traffic jam which can be likened to those pictures of LA traffic at rush hour except for being in a developing nation and the jam taking place in between the arches of an ancient fort (the Red Fort). Second, there are rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles dipping and dodging between all the cars on the road. Third, was the noise! The awful sound of car horns everywhere! Our guide told us that everybody is fluent in the use of a car horn as their second language and I have absolutely no doubts about it. Honestly, it is a wonder that anybody can hear themselves think (yet alone sleep) with all the noise. Fourth, every kilometer or so there would be some random motorist pulled off on the side of the road/highway peeing right on the shoulder….. weird ….. and shameless.
Despite the joys of driving in Delhi, our ride to the bus station was really neat. We drove through the government and embassy areas which were very nice and put together. We got to drive past the massive India gate (which was surprisingly similar to France’s arc du triumph) which is situated just opposite the presidents mannor (which was set so far back that you couldn’t even see it through the smog). We also got to catch a glimpse of the Red Fort which we will hopefully have the chance to come back to before we leave India.
At the bus station we finally had the chance to meet Hema, the local CFHI coordinator, in person. She was super helpful in getting us to our bus and making sure we safely got on our way to Dehradun. She even bought us a bag of snacks for the bus ride! We arrived in Dehradun 6 hours later happy to have finally reached our destination. We were met at the station by Mayank our local coordinator and taken to our home stay where we swiftly fell asleep after a long day of travel.