The Journey

Thursday 2 December 2010

 

Three feet of snow closing down the entire country?

No problem.

Hectic train journeys and having to use booked tickets three hours in advance in case of cancellations?

No problem.

Hidden cost of £11 for a shuttle to the airport hotel?

Again, no problem!

 

Now, how about arriving at the hotel, going for a meal and being given something that wasn’t ordered and having to get the waiter to

bring  you what you originally asked for. Then, after dinner you get to your room and while one of you is in the bath there is a power cut?

Hmmm...

Or...finding that there is only 1 towel for two of you to use and then phoning reception several times to find out why you are having to

fumble for your clothes in the dark and why the heating is no longer working in sub zero temperatures only to be ignored and not have

reception answer- is this a problem? No!

 

Let's get all the bad luck vibes out of the way all in one go, shall we? We can wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to start again-

trouble free!

 

As we entered reception to check out other couples were already complaining about the power cut and a rather prepared man took it all

in his stride as he began to fill out the necessary forms, adhering to the company policy that was

sloganed across every piece of glossy blurb, “We guarantee you have a good night’s sleep, or your money back!” Excellent,They

refunded the cost of our stay.We laughed in the face of adversity as we celebrated a final win for us and stepped tiredly out of the hotel

into the ice-covered carpark to wait for our bus to the terminal, full of excitment about leaving this frozen land, England. As we got on the

bus and flashed return ticket to the driver he declared that we didnt have a valid ticket. the reason for this; we had a family ticket and the

driver from the previous night should have charged us for two single fares. We ignored his complaint and grabbed a couple of seats.

After the comedy of errors of the last twenty four hours we just didn't care. The driver must have picked up our vibes as he did not pursue

it any further.

Onwards!

 

Friday 3rd December 2010

The first flight to Abu Dhabi is quite uneventful and any longer than 8 hrs  would be too long. Abu Dhabi airport has quite a colourful mosiaic at the centre. The Arabs really know how to turn a relativley boring building into a wortk of art. The seperate terminals are dome shaped with arched windows, giving the airport a unique mosque feel to it.

After our initial wandering of architechtural wonderment we headed for the gate for our flight to Trivandrum, Kerala, India. This was pur first introduction to Indian style queue system. Basically, there is something you need to get to as well as everyone else, so a 'mob' forms. Being at the front does not nessessaryily mean you get to go first because while you are there you take part in a constant elbow battle where-by the participants are constatnly jossling for first place in a queue that isn't going anywhere! I don't think they realise that the airline  will make sure they are all on the plane before it takes off!

The gate (or door) opens and there is a surge as people thrust their tickets into the hands of a rather stressed airline employee. All rules are out of the window as Indian business men slide their feet in front of you whilst barging your knees with their brief cases just to get in front. We shuffle through the door and realise that we are then packed onto a bus to take us to our plane parked up on the tarmac. On the bus veryone has settled after fighting for their standing places with hand strap rites. As we look around it becomes apparent that there are quite a few people blatently staring at us. Not so unusual I suppose considering that we are the only westerners on the bus of about hundred and fifty. Many of the men are wearing trousers and and new shirts- you can tell they are new as they still have the packet folding lines across the back, front and sleaves. Mustaches and Elvis hair cuts seem to be  the fashion of the evening and I begin to feel that I too should have dressed for the occassion- well, when in Rome!

As the bus slows towards our plane the foot and breifcase shuffle begins again. This time the women also take part in the ritual. The doors open and the pushing becomes a more aggressive body slamming. People are strategically pushing and trapping each other against the saftey bars and squeezing out of the the doors with a determination of a trapped wild animal. On the accent on the steps to the plane the attitude and behaviour is no different!

Once inside the plane all evidence of the mosh pit etiquette has subsidsed and normal human behaviour is in control once more.

During the flight we witnessed an alcoholic frenzy displayed by Keralan men. They drink whskey by the bottle and mix it with Fosters larger. As time goes on some of the older men begin to fall asleep and it is only the younger ones that keep drinking. They constantly badger the  flight attendnts for more alcohol until finnally there is no more whiskey left on the plane! This doesn't seem much of a problem as they then turn to drinking beer.  I bet the flight staff dread this flight if this is what happens every time. I wonder if it is because they have been working in an Arab state where alcohol is not permitted? I thought Indian culture also had restrictions on alcohol consumption? Maybe it's because they aren't at home and that they are testing it out like teenagers having their frist illegal drink- it always seemed more fun when I was underage!

 

Saturday 4th December 2010

Arrival- 3.30am

Finally off the plane we headed to passport checking and immigration. Some of the die-hard drinkers got in line behind us.

 "What country are you from?" one of them asked in Indian-English.

"England".

"Welcome to my country", he smiled. "Scare-ala!" He said it a couple of times and yes, I got it! You put Kerala and scare together, well done, now SHUT UP!...I thought...

We collected our bags and wandered bleary eyed and tired into a corridor. On the left of the corridor a man was shouting from behind a chicken wire window, "Taxi! You want taxi?!"

"Not yet" I replied.

We walked passed the Taxi man and straight to the Money Exchange fifteen metres on adjacent the airport exit- our gateway to India. Can't get a taxi without money! Diane changed about £50 into Rupees; the colourful pile of paper meaning nothing at all to us due to our state of tireness. A woman stopped us walking back towards the taxi office and asked if we could change some of our Rupees for her Euros. I declined. I had read somewhere that there is a rife market in counterfeit and money laundering that operates at this airport and didn't want to take any chances. We marched back to the taxi man and ordered a taxi to Thamburu Hotel Rs 350. Taxi man pointed towards the exit and said he would meet us outside. We passed an armed guard standing firmly outside the door of the airport. As we exited the terminal a thousand pairs of Indian eyes stared at us from behind a crowd control fence. Taxi man appeared form a doorway in the wall.

"Follow me", he ordered above the din of the crowd and we did!

We pushed through the crowd to the sound of shouting, horns blowing, music and drums beating. The air filled with a carnival atmosphere where there was no room for silence. The sticky humudity immediately soaking our clothes as the smells, sights and colours filled our senses as we loaded our backpacks into our taxi- we had arrived!

At the hotel the driver gave us his contact details just in case we required a taxi at a later date, we checked in and hit the bed for a well earned sleep.