Friday, 9 November 2012

Delhi Encounter #1: Indian GP

24th-30th October 2012

Arriving in Delhi means that we've begun the final leg of our travels: just three weeks until we get back to the UK. Before then we’ll visit Agra, Jaipur and Jodhpur, but first there’s a Grand Prix to attend! There are other things to see in Delhi, but we’ll be back for a few days before our return flight so we decided to just relax, get our bearings and enjoy the motor racing.

First impressions of Delhi itself? It’s everything you’d expect: big, dirty, dusty, smelly and crowded. Stepping out of our hotel (close to the main railway station) we’re competing for road space with taxis and rickshaws, motorbikes, cars and vans, food vendors, beggars and touts. It’s mental.

The hustle and bustle you get used to, the dirt and pollution not so much. We've learned to avoid any damp patches by the side of the road (the smell is an early-warning) but avoiding the dust and fumes is impossible. It’s easily the most polluted city we've visited. And somebody really needs to put a mop round.

So, what of the Grand Prix itself? I’ll come to the race later but first, I have to say that it is by far the worst organised event I have ever been to. And I've been to T in the Park.

For example, we didn't have our tickets yet, just a sales voucher so we had to work out how to pick them up. There was no way to pick the tickets up in Delhi itself so we had to go to the circuit which is 50km south of the city. But how to get there? There was an official bus service, but you can only buy bus tickets if you've got your race tickets and even then you can only get bus tickets from the track. Catch 22. We had to pay for a taxi for the day to take us to the circuit on the Friday. We got there late after our driver took an unscheduled detour (twice) so we missed the practice sessions. At the ticket office (a portacabin two miles from the circuit) they gave us our race tickets and then insisted that we could only buy bus tickets for all three days. This led to a full and frank exchange of views. Eventually they backed down and discounted us the cost of Friday's bus. (This seems to be a peculiar feature of India: any ‘rule’ can be circumvented simply by creating enough of a fuss.)

Judging by the sound of more raised voices as we walked away, we weren't the only frustrated punters…

And that’s just one example. I had loads more written down but it was starting to sound a bit too ranty. If you want your ear bent for half an hour then you can ask me about it later.

As for the race itself? Well, it was pretty good I suppose. The noise from the cars is incredible – even with ear-plugs it was almost painfully loud – and the atmosphere in our merged stand (don't ask) was pretty good. Vettel won at a canter and there was some excitement watching Alonso hunt down Webber (and Hamilton almost doing the same). I enjoyed myself but I would have felt a bit short-changed had I paid the European ticket price – for the amount of entertainment on offer, it’s just not worth it. Glad I went though.

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F1 drivers' parade
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Some cars
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Our view of the circuit: pretty good - we could see everything but the two straights
We filled the rest of our time in Delhi wandering around the bazaars near the train station, window shopping and, to pass the time one afternoon, going to the cinema. (We saw Looper – confusing but good. Bruce Willis and time travel is always fun.) The movie experience wasn't without its Indian idiosyncrasies: the usher literally ruined the first minute of the movie by waving the popcorn menu in front of our faces, there was a pointless intermission - too short for a toilet break - and the aircon was set to 'Russian winter'.

Delhi also managed to damage my body in several ways. First, I walked into a road-sign cunningly placed on the pavement, at head-height (I still think it jumped out at me). Then I grazed my eye trying to put my laptop in the travel safe (again, don't ask). Finally, in our waste-of-space hotel (once again, don't ask), I walked into a glass door, at speed, cutting my nose and badly bruising my knee. I looked like I’d been ten rounds with Audley Harrison i.e. not that badly hurt. Here's a photo of me feeling sorry for myself.

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You should have seen the other guy
So, let’s just say I wasn't exactly unhappy to leave Delhi. Hopefully the return visit will be better…

Current location: Delhi (the return visit) until 14th November
Next stop: Blighty!

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