25. March 2015 – 12:58
Anyone who has ever been to India or perhaps seen one or the other documentary on television, knows India is richly populated and especially in the cities there is a lot of crowds on the streets. Another special feature of the traffic in India is of course the driving style of the Indians themselves. Here the main traffic rule seems to be, that there is actually no rule and that the driver always takes precedence in the larger vehicle: the weaker one gives in!
It is therefore important, and this is exactly what Indians do, to become an attentive observer of traffic, to adapt to the current and to react flexibly. The Indian usually only orients himself towards the front and never backwards while driving. The label on the backside of every vehicle suddenly makes sence: “Please blow the horn!”. Yes, in India we are told to honk. The horn serves for everything: it draws attention on oneself, gives instructions to other road participants, clears the road and at last: serves as a warning signal!
So, as I said, taking part in Indian road traffic is quite a challenge. Even more so in big Indian cities and of cours especially as a cyclist.
Nevertheless, I have long been attracted to taking part in a guided sightseeing tour by bike through Old Delhi!
The early morning guided rides from 6:30 am to 10 am take place in different parts of Delhi and offer the perfect setting to experience Delhi and its people up close and authentic, while getting a little history and culture of the capital explained.
They are offered by the company Delhibycycle, which was founded by a Dutch bicycle enthusiast.
That a foreigner is behind the company is immediately noticeable during the tour: everything is perfectly organized and planned, the tour guides are well trained and everything from the bikes, which are in very good condition, to the uniforms of the guides are in a uniform orange!
I had the opportunity to take part in the bike tour through Old Delhi, the oldest and busiest part of Delhi and I would like to share my impressions with you below.
Just in time at 6:40 am, after a short briefing about the tour and safety on the bike, our nine-member group started with our two guides, one at the front, the other in the back. In a long queue we rode slowly one after the other and had the first highlight as we passed through the slaughterhouse. including a blood-stained Indian who carried half a goat over his shoulder! Latest now everyone was awake.
Due to the start in the early morning, the temperatures are very pleasant and the otherwise crowded roads are still instructive. We cycled past Turkman Gate, one of Old Delhi’s five city gates, and then went on through narrow streets. Again and again we stopped at interesting points. Here our guide explained to us in a relaxed way the various sights or historical events. He showed us Havelis (old townhouses), explained to us the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Hindus here, pointed us to the confusing cable balls that connect the houses all over Old Delhi, and finally took us to the Fathepuri Mosque, a mosque built for one of the many wives of the Mughal king Shan Jahans in the 14th century. From here we first came across the morning flower market and then Asia’s largest spice market. The spice shops were still closed. But already here, at 7 o’clock in the morning, there was a lot of activity and bags full of spices were carried back and forth. We left our bikes and followed one of the porters up to a warehouse. Our sensitive noses tingled from the chilli, coriander and cumin aromas and by the time we got to the top of the roof of the house we had started to sneew neatly.
We were now over the rooftops of Delhi and had a great view of the whole city. At some distance, the Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque) and the Red Fort towered, and in the delicate light of the rising sun, they shone like a fairy tale of a thousand and one night.
Our guide drew our attention to the many swarms of pigeons and explained to us, that the birds belong to their owners, who areplaying a game with them against other bird owners. And indeed, we could spot men on the surrounding roofs whistling and gurgling to incite their swarm, attacking another swarm so that they would mix and possibly cause confusion in some pigeons, thereby increasing their own swarm. A traditional game that’s all about a lot of money!
We went down and back on our bikes. We were encouraged to do the same as the Indians and eagerly used our bells to get us a way. We passed cows, fruit carts and older men who drank their tea. What a wonderful way to move around: We moved forward quickly, seeing all sorts of things without having to make an effort.
We stopped for a short stop at a tea shop, then we continued past the old railway station where many contract workers waited for the day. Finally we reached the famous Chandni Chowk, the main street of Old Delhi. The name of the road derives from Chandra (moon, because earlier in the middle of the road there was a small canal in whose water the moonlight was reflected). The street is the direct link between the Fathepuri Mosque and the Red Fort where the former Mughal rulers lived.
The street is known for its street snacks and shopping. Here and in the side streets you will find everything: from jewellery, clothes and shoes, to books and all sorts of food! There is also a Sikh temple, a Hindu temple, a Jain temple and also a church! So almost every religion is represented here!
We continued past the largest mosque in India and finally ended up at Karim’s! Karim’s is one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Delhi. It was founded by the former chef 1940 and is famous for its goat dishes and flatbreads. We are hungry after the eleven kilometer tour and enjoy the hearty breakfast! After breakfast we continued. It is already after 9:30 am. and the streets are noticeably fuller. Not so easy anymore to find a way through. But now we are adjusted and finally we reach our starting point on time at 10:00 am! Wow, what a morning!
Conclusion: The bike is probably the best way to really get to know a place. Due to the early start in the morning, the temperature is pleasant and the streets empty, but it still takes some courage and consistency when cycling through Delhi’s streets. During the tour we were shown hidden places and explained things that you wouldn’t otherwise experience or see.
On this tour everything is perfectly organized, the guides are entertaining, safety comes first. An absolute must for adventurers, active and culturally interested!
Chalo Travels is happy to either include this tour in your fully booked trip or only book the tour for you at no extra cost.