I awoke before the alarm. I could get another 30 min of sleep but I was too excited. Or perhaps just too anxious. I got out of bed and quickly dressed. I could have showered, but I had showered the night before in anticipation of a quick paced departure in the morning.
I had to actually get the dogs to come down stairs. They were confused about this earlier than normal awakening. After all, it was only 2:45 am. Snowing! I sighed as my anxiety rose. Now we may go slower to the airport and I was counting on my neighbour for the drive.
Despite my continued worry about his pace, the flying snow flurries and accumulation on the road, I tried to busy the mind with chatter about other things we could share. I drank the coffee quickly and ate the crossainte. This was going to be a long day. Little did I know just.how long.
Because I booked travel from Boston to India so I could visit my son on return and then subsequently booked the Halifax to Boston travel, my flight to Boston involved going to JFK in NY before I went to Boston and then travelling back to New York. Upon arriving in NY I repacked my bag, putting my winter clothes in my checked luggage and getting some of my more summer oriented clothes for the arrival in Delhi.
As I attempted to get my automated boarding pass, I was told I needed to show my visa. No problem, I had an e-Visa. E Visa is new for India, but was fast to get and I was hopeful I had actually gotten the right thing. I managed to pull out the printed document of my e-Visa, only to have the representative of the airline inform me this was just my confirmation of application. not the visa. Quickly going through the printed information I had since I could find no confirmation. I pulled out my iPad and showed the woman the email confirming my visa and she informed me this would not do, I needed the printed sheet. No worries I told myself, I have a couple of hours here to get this sorted out.
Can I print this from your computers? It is on my email account and I just need internet access to a computer with a printer.
You should go to Special Assistance, she directed me.
Four agents later and sending the email via WIFI to an agents account, I finally managed to get the paper and a boarding pass. Then the fun began. My flight boarded at 8:15 pm. Travel time to Delhi, 14 hours. The flight - pretty much full.
Fortunately I am seated next to two very nice gentlemen, but a 14 hour flight beginning at what is my body’s idea of my bed time was already exhausting. Real sleep alluded me. I did cat nap maybe for three to four of the duration of the flight.
Finally, despite a delayed departure from New York, the fourteen hours of flight time and the fog delay in Delhi, we touchdown 32 hours after I left my house in the morning. I quickly move to the visa line, desperately wanting to find my hotel and get some sleep. It is now 11 pm in Delhi. After being told I am in the wrong line, I find my way to the end of the very long e-visa line.
Laughing and chatting with two fellow travellers in the line, I have met an Australian who is living in the US, and is a frequent traveller to India, and an Englishman going to tour India through hostels and trains.
Finally Finally finally, I have retrieved my bags, purchased some rupees and I am ready to step out of the airport. As I move toward the doors, I see men holding signs for people and the occasional sign for a hotel. I scan the horizon of people desperate to see a sign saying Ibis. That’s where I have a hotel reservation.
I nod. “I have a nice hotel, the Airport Hotel. What airlines did you fly with?” he asks. I tell him, adding I just want a cab to the Ibis. He says, “it costs $30 USD to go to the Ibis hotel.” My faces must have shown my concern because I know the Ibis hotel is only 3 km from the airport. “I have a good hotel here at the airport, the give you drive to and from the airport and will be cheaper, only 3600 rupees for the night."
The Ibis is 6000 rupees. Now bare in mind 1000 rupees is about $21 Canadian dollars, so not super spendy. I pull back and say “it is ok I will get a cab.” He has taken my bag at this point and started walking purposefully toward a ramp outside the airport. I hasten my pace, pushing through the crowds of people trying to retrieve my bag. "oh God! Don't let him take my bag."
He sees a friend and asks or his phone and he places a call while telling me not to worry, he can get me a cab. As he is talking my mind is think of Natasha arriving the next day and how will she find this hotel. Now that she is on planes, and there is no Wifi, I have no way to communicate a change in plans.
He hands me he phone and says, "here talk to this woman." I say hello and the woman says, “yes, I have a room.” I don’t even know what to ask. The Ibis is not in sight, and here is a promise to put my head on a pillow after being a somewhat upright position (except for my 2 hours on the floor at the back of plane, which I was chastized for by an unfriendly flight attendant). She says, “the driver will bring you and take you back to the airport.” I hand the phone back and sink into the realization, I will probably not get to the Ibis, but perhaps I will sleep.
I hand the phone back to this man and he says, “It is okay, the driver will be here in 10 min. Wait here.” I am left by gangway to the parking area. There is a person sleeping under a worn blanket on the ledge next to me. My stomach starts to tighten and I am feeling something deeper than anxiety. Fear. Primal fear begins to move through me. I move toward the man and say, “I want to go to the Ibis hotel. I will get a cab. My friend comes in tomorrow and she will be trying to find me at the Ibis Hotel.” He says, “but the driver is coming he needs to get paid.”
Determined to have my way, I say, "I will pay him. How much?”
“Thirty rupees.” I sigh and look angrily at this man. He says, “come, he is here.” I follow. I am thinking about bolting at this point and running to the safety of one of the many men in military costume holding a gun. I decide to not be afraid. I will simply pay and then walk back to the cab booth and see if I can get a cab.
The cab has seen better days. The door is dented, the trunk will not latch and roof racks for bags. The cab driver doesn’t speak to me, he picks up my bag and tosses it in the trunk. At this point I am falling back into despair. I just want a room and a bed. Sleep. A couple arrive and they are well dressed and obviously well off. I decide, what the hell and get in the cab with them. They are from Denmark. He is an interpreter and they have a short night, then off tomorrow. Safety in numbers I think to myself.
We drive out of the airport area and as we pass the Marriott Hotel, which sits just in front of the Ibis, I am regretting my decision. Regret grows as we leave the airport and I discover traffic and driving patterns in India. Cars cut in front of us as the driver peeps and jockeys for position. Just as every driver driver does, it is a continuous honking of horns and jockeying to get just ahead of the car in front. The driver turns abruptly left and we are in what can only be described as a lane. There is barely room enough on either side of the car to avoid hitting the mirrors of the parked cars on either side. I scrunch my shoulders to my ears as we pass person walking on the road. How did we not hit him?!? There are buildings that appear half constructed and people sitting next to fires in what I am guessing are meant to be driveways. So this is India.
The cab stops, the door opens and I am placed in a lobby, carefully watching the man with my bag. The lobby is not as expansive as the Ibis, but it is clean, though a little shabby and worm looking. Marble floors and a long marble desk give it a sense of expense, though I come to learn marble is cheap in India. I am still on the fence about this place. But I am here and I really just want to lie down and sleep.
…for about 3 hours. I was wide awake and totally messed up time wise. I got my iPad connected to the internet and checked out the time. It was 3:45 am. I tried to go back to sleep.
I next awoke at 8 am. I could hear the sound of shovels hitting the ground outside my window. And a man barfing in a loud and violent way. Oh God, I thought, why did I come here. I want to go home to my soft bed. I want to be awake next to my loving puppies who lay with me while I meditate. I want to stop being so afraid. How did I actually believe I would come here and travel by myself? I can't even get a cab let alone see Dehli. I can't leave my bag here, they will probably steal my things. I need to go to the Ibis. I did not shower, rather I made my way down to the free breakfast, which it turns out was India food - something that tasted more like dinner to me. I ate very little and instead focused on the toast.
I was tossing through my jet lagged mind whether Natasha and I should stay at this hotel or should I go to the Ibis and get us checked in today. My mind couldn’t make decisions. I was still trying to figure out what I would do and staying at this hotel was not one of the things I wanted. It was not dirty, but it was not quiet, not light and certainly not reminiscent of the North American comforts I know so well.
I approached the desk person to ask for transport to the airport and he asked what time my flight was. I told him that it was the following day, but I was told I could have transport to the airport. The gentleman says, “Miss, you stay here another night and I give you a drive to a place to see today. Then to the airport tomorrow.” I tell him I am meeting a friend and I cannot make a change. He says, not to worry, tell him my friends name and they will find her. He then takes a piece of paper and starts to write on it 8 hours …. 1600 rupees. 6 hours …. 1200 rupees 4…. 800 rupees. I ask if he has a room that has 2 beds. I like Natasha, but not sure we want to share a king size bed. He shows me 2 rooms, one looking out to tarp covered shack and clothes line, the other in the centre of the building - no windows.
No… I need to go to the Ibis hotel.
Finally, perhaps it was my tone, he gets my bag and puts it in a car to go to the airport. I am too tired still to recognize the significance of his sudden change.
I share the cab with a wonderful British photographer and tour guide who fills me in on how to tell real cashmere from fake, how to tip, how to carry my money. Along with a few other do's and don'ts. Things are looking up.
I finally arrive at the Ibis - the cab ride it turns out was only 130 rupees, or maybe $4 Canadian.
Sigh…. This was only the beginning…