That's how Lonely Planet sums up India. It's the destination for which we have felt the most intrigue, nervousness, excitement and hesitation. The metaphorical peak glistening atop the moutain that is this trip - everything before slowly leading up to it, and everything after smooth downhill sailing.
Preparing for our departure from Egypt was the first time in ages that I've felt the nervous excitement you get at the start of a trip. We had been stagnant for so long that we've completely lost the rhythm of traveling. And the build-up has been extraordinary. Mystifying blog entries, dramatic horror stories, glowing guidebook descriptions, pleas from my family not to go. This, we felt, is where we'd earn our true badge of travel honor.
And now, here we are. In Delhi. What may arguably be the least appetizing place in the feast for your senses that is India. Where even the hotel manager says not to stay for more than a few days. So...
Is it dirty? For sure. Just about the same as the school we taught in every day in Kenya.
Is it crowded? Yup. But the crowds don't hold a candle to those found round the clock in Alexandria.
Are the touts aggressive? Nah. They are certainly annoying, but totally chill compared to what we have become accustomed to.
Is it difficult to get around? Let's say... more difficult than Argentina, less difficult than Mozambique.
I guess that means the past eight months have done a great job at preparing us for this moment. Who knows, maybe all the India hype comes from folks who haven't done Africa yet. Reece and I keep commenting on the fact that if we were fresh off the boat, this would be total insanity-overload. But now, we kinda feel right at home.
We've decided to start playing a game called "First Impression". Openly expressing our initial opinions about each place, so we can look back and laugh at how naive we were. So here goes.
First Impression: I love India. Reece once said that going to Burning Man is like walking around inside your brain while you are shrooming. Being in India has a strikingly similar effect.
First Impression: The people here are really, really nice and really, really friendly. The fact that we are someplace where people speak English again helps a lot of course. But the culture is also just so much more CALM than it is in Egypt, and it shows through every interaction.
First Impression: India is a culinary country after my own heart. Dozens of tiny dishes at once and all kinds of breads to wrap around all kinds of fillings and a myriad of dipping sauces and so many curries and sizzling street foods and everything is so damn cheap! I don't know what the heck I am eating most of the time and I absolutely love it.
Feel free to place bets on how long it will be before I eat those words with my garlic butter naan.