I've mentioned Carol several times here previously. She has become quite close to us, and so it was natural that we should travel to India for her wedding.
So the plan was: fly to Goa via Delhi, meet the family, travel to Kerala with them and see Carol get married, then fly home again.
Just the day before departure I got a moderate cold, and within 12 hours Chris seemed to have it too. Nice.
The flight from London Heathrow was ideal: 6.50pm departure from terminal 5 with British Airways. We arranged for the luggage to be checked forward (ha ha, more later) and caught a flight that, if not amazingly comfy, was at least pleasant, the famed BA service re-appearing for the first time after years of flying with other airlines. Colour me impressed. Food was as good as a restaurant, albeit in aeroplane-food format and departure and arrival almost spot on time too, even if sleep was in short supply.
Indira Gandhi airport is vast and immigration slow. I had completed eVisas for us (took 3 hours to complete mine, 30min the subsequent visa with so much shared info) in advance, but they were approved through the Indian Government in about 24 hours. We had to complete landing cards on the way in, then visit the eVisa desk in the airport area where our faces were photographed, fingerprints taken and everything stamped and checked multiple times. We were a little nervous due to the limited time available for transfer, but got away OK.
From the immigration desks one passes through baggage reclaim, situated in a hall so large that the other end is misty*. We just had a sense that we should check the conveyor where our bags should have been delivered and lo & behold there they were, not having been checked forward at all! Frome there we wove our way through the airport to a seeming underground area where we were to check our cases back in, then up to the main airport.
And suddenly we were in India.
The departure area for internal flights was incredibly busy, but better than that, it smelled of spices and exciting food instead of pollution* like the area we had just left. Everywhere there were people, some wearing traditional clothes, some in suits, some in army uniforms, all moving and talking and standing as only the Indians do. This was where the trip became an adventure.
*Mistiness. The last time we were in Delhi there was a fair bit of pollution, and I particularly remember the Taj Mahal being a grey building against a grey sky. This time it was borderline smog – I could smell it faintly within minutes of the plane landing after the doors were opened, and the terminal was full of it. I’m sure the fine particulates that we’ve seen mentioned in the news as being so harmful were the cause of the mistiness inside the baggage reclaim area.
So we got through security with more stamps on our boarding cards and 100% checking of every passenger. Our connecting flight with another airline that was organised through BA pushed off the gate 1 minute late but then sat on the apron for 20min, though with a flight time 20min less than described when booking, was likely to arrive in time.
At the time of writing this section we’re in the air. India is 5 ½ hours ahead of the UK and we left home around 2.15pm on Saturday. It’s presently 12.15pm local time or 6.15am in the UK (my phone displays both times – how cool is that?!) so we’ve been travelling about 16 hours.
In theory we meet up with another English couple in Dabolim airport in goa, and will share a transfer to Morjim where we’ll meet Carol’s family and have our accommodation. We still need to get money too, and will need to eat again at some stage, having passed on food this flight. Chris feels pretty lousy right now, and my eyes are burning from lack of sleep (and pollution?) but we’re OK and all my worst fears about failing to make the connection and losing bags have not come to pass.
It IS an adventure.
So continuing to write up the story on Tuesday morning, we arrived without difficulty to find the friends travelling for the wedding waiting for us in baggage collection at Dabolim airport. Bags collected, we went outside to see if we could locate the transfer cab taking us to the place we’re staying.
Went outside. I should mention that the heat at 32’C and humidity really hit us, moisture condensing on cool skin quickly, meeting perspiration coming from inside. The feeling was of a tropical butterfly house, and the smell was similar, with fragrant plant and spice smells, quite different from Delhi.
Of transfer cabs there was no sign, so we just got a conventional ‘pre-paid’ taxi (set fares) to take us.
The place we were staying – Morjim – is a good 1 hour+ drive from the airport, and the village is quite small, with tiny roads, many unmade. Our friends were staying in a hotel off the road that ran behind the beach-front restaurants, and wasn’t too hard to find. Ours was a little more mysterious, and after much questioning of locals, was eventually located at the end of a short dirt road. We knew the place was real, but had started to wonder if it would ever appear!
Once installed we contacted Carol, then met her family and were made very welcome – they could not have been kinder to us, though we may not have been very responsive in our rather jet-lagged condition. Eventually we got some food and hit the sack with the sounds of fans and air con gently drumming in our ears (the first couple of days are becoming fuzzy to me now).