Seeking the Adventure: Delhi by Bike

By a hair’s breadth my tire misses the legs of a dog, that sleeps in the narrow lane. A motor-rickshaw, packed with seven children in neat school uniforms, approaches in a frantic speed. A boy scurries away from the water pump. The butcher to my left sits in front of a block of wood, scraping a goat’s head. Someone is still sleeping on the floor.

Old Delhi is an attack on all senses. As soon as the sun rises, when the middle-class people in the richer areas go for a run or a stroll in the lush parks, the people in the four hundred year old web of alleys start their day’s work. On their heads and shoulders they carry heavy loads from trucks into tiny shops, they pack flowers into big bundles, distribute bricks on man-pulled and -pushed carts or clean the streets with two pieces of cardbords in their hands. Others stir food on open fires, shape rotis for the ovens or sell their aubergines, cucumbers and onions.

When going on bike through the city, the eyes catch impressive pictures at a tearing pace – even though the travel speed obviously is slow. Motorcycles overtake from behind, people stand in the way or cross suddenly, so often the biggest task is to keep the balance. If you look up to see the huge web of electric cables or to follow a monkey’s way, you better have the fingertips at the brakes.

Or at the bell, that is. The most important rule on Delhi’s roads is to make sure that others know you are coming, our guide for the Shah Jahan Tour explained the group. That became more important with every minute the day gained and every person, that woke up and entered the street.

In the old spice market, where the piles of bags full of dry red chilis made everyone cough, we left our bikes downstairs and went up on the rooftop. In the dark of the staircase, we nearly stepped on a pile of turd, that someone left there at night. On the top some men washed themselfes with pans and in a big kettle cooked breakfast for everyone.

Finally we left the chaotic szenes behind and entered straight, broad streets, lined with trees. But even here barbers shave their clients in front of mirrors, that are hung up on the walls. Facing the street stand tall, nice houses or even colonial-style hotels, behind them sit men in the shadows and sip chai.

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