With only a limited time in Nepal, I went flat out to get as many photographs as I could. That meant long days of sunrises, sunsets and lots of hours walking around in the slush and mud in between. Whilst I was engrossed in the extraordinary things I was seeing, like the mystical temple and palace filled Patan Durbar Square (image below), I was also thinking of my upcoming visit to India, preparing myself psychologically for what I knew was going to be challenging and exciting visually and culturally.
My flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was uneventful apart from Indian customs wanting to open and X-ray my precious boxes of sheet film! Permission denied!! After some wrangling I eventually stepped out of the terminal to a blast of the heat, smell, dust and cacophony of sounds that was to come. The hotel room I had booked overlooked the Jantar Mantar, Delhi's beautiful palm lined observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century (image below). Nothing like some astronomical orientation before heading off to the desert towns of Rajasthan!
The first thing was to arrange a car and reliable driver for my ongoing journey. In the street below my room were crowds of yellow autorickshaws and cream and black Ambassadors, the car of choice in India at that time and the one that I ended up travelling in. They don't have great suspension, so every bump and pothole is felt, but at least there is a sense of security knowing that they are built like tanks! The funny thing was that the hire car office was in a dead end side street and when we eventually took off there was an elephant blocking the exit. Lots of shouting and horning was inevitable, of course, and I just couldn't stop laughing at the irony. That was my welcome to travelling in India, how appropriate.
Despite regularly seeing carnage on the side of the road (normally overloaded Tata trucks driven by drunk drivers coming a cropper at night), India is actually a very finely orchestrated symphony of people, transport and animals. You simply surrender and accept the chaos and breathtaking millimetre close shaves. The horn culture doesn't help the highly strung, and even I was a bit frazzled after an unforgettable 13 hour drive on another trip to Orchha with a horn crazy Nepali driver.
Having bypassed the road blocking elephant we headed out of Delhi through the traffic and noise to the yellow fields of the countryside and on towards Jaipur, the magnificent pink city and my first overnight stop.