Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day One: Delhi

Friday, March 30th.

Lesson of the day: NEVER FLY TO DELHI...EVER.

Mudras in the Delhi airport.
Note: As a prologue to this entry, it should be noted that I have very bad luck when flying. I have never had a bag lost, however, out of my last five destinations (pre-Nepal), four of the flights have been canceled (one was "only" delayed six hours, not canceled). I am so used to being told that I have to spend the night in the airport, that I am no longer surprised by the news. I always arrive at the airport stocked with books, knitting projects and food, just in case. I pack my toiletries in my carry-on and also a change of clothes. I even bring along a light bedspread, which I have learned is a travel necessity. I also warned my travel partner and employer, Jackie, before leaving for Nepal that disaster would likely strike in some form. I don't think she believed me. Okay, maybe "disaster" is too melodramatic a word to use when talking about planes...

First class plane ticket to Nepal. This will likely never happen to me again in this lifetime. And I have paid for it in my way. I have been more or less awake for two full days. I am now sitting on the floor of the airport in Delhi, but in the last 48 hours, I have gone from Calgary  to Amsterdam and then on to Delhi where the ticket agent informed me flatly, "You are not on this flight". We had an eight hour layover in Delhi on our way to Kathmandu and had sensibly planned to pay for a nice, cushy hotel bunk for the night so we would be refreshed for our first (and only free) day in Nepal. Best laid plans, eh?

I had spent the previous nine hours flying from Amsterdam seated next to an enthusiastic German lady who spent most of our flight guffawing and crying out in her guttural tongue and even going so far as to roughly shake her seat (and mine) and everyone's all around her during bursts of obnoxious behaviour. As no sleep was to be had (without heavy drugs), I think I would have preferred to be seated next to a screaming infant. After such a long time in such a cramped seat, all I could think about was stretching out my stiff legs in a bed in Delhi and resting my head on a pillow. Just for a little while. 

Flying into Delhi has a very different view than our orderly Canadian cities offer at night. This city is a squall of orange lights with no apparent organization. An ancient city. Being in India and unable to explore anything save the Westernized airport is the ultimate tease for me. I long to explore India. 

Live music in the Delhi airport.

We arrived at 11:00 pm local time and spent the next six hours trying to figure out why my booking had been canceled. Six hours of useless phone calls to the travel agent back home, receiving many irritating, non-committal head waggles to direct questions in India, and listening to no less than seven ticket agents jabbering to each other and their cell phones and being constantly told, "Just wait. 10, 15 minutes. You go wait." Our travel agent insisted that the booking was normal on her end, not canceled, and that there was also extra room on the flight. Very peculiar.

In the end we managed to buy the only available seat to Nepal in the next two days (or so we were told) on a different airline, Air India. We were told that otherwise, I would have to wait in Delhi for the next 24-48 hours until a seat opened up. I should also mention that the room we had to wait in was void of any accessible food or water save a few questionable vending machines. Many people were sleeping on the floor, leading me to believe that we weren't the only ones being screwed by the Delhi airport. 

Naturally, once you obtain that elusive boarding pass, you are scoured from head to toe by grumpy custom agents in official uniforms. They were very suspicious of my knitting needles. Luckily, all they found was a sock project on steel double pointed needles. They didn't dig down to the dozen pairs of circulars or my entire roll of crochet hooks and double points. After exchanging stern glances with each other and some dramatic eyebrow raising, they let me through with all my belongings. Women must go in a separate line and duck into a curtained booth to be searched and then you enter the real airport. This section is part mall-for-yuppies (Versace and high priced liquor and cigars) and part haven (having just emerged from the airport room of hell). It was startling to see the security casually sporting huge machine guns here. 

After we finally got my booking sorted out, we realized there was no point in sleeping now and that we were really hungry. It was just after 4 am, so we actually got McDonalds (the first in years for me). Then we toured a gorgeous Indian shop where they had live sitar music. There was a large pool where you could wade and refresh yourself (we didn't, even though we probably could have used it at that point!). Then it was almost 5 am and our flights were at 7:30, so we went to our respective gates.

So, Jackie and I are on separate flights, which miraculously depart within five minutes of each other. And that is how I ended up with a first class ticket to Nepal. I have never been so relieved to get a boarding pass in my hot hands. Usually my flights are just canceled. A much more simple problem.
All things considered, it could have been much worse.

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