Friday, 30 October 2009

So, the adventure begins... but all is still well.

[0740 - Indian time - somewhere between Delhi and Mumbai.]

I had barely touched down on Indian soil and my adventure was already taking me for me for a ride. Yes, I was definitely back in India. I guess the adventure began really when I checked in to AirIndia. For five minutes the lady wrestled with her computer. Eventually she told me that all was done and that I would have to collect my bag in Delhi and recheck it in to continue my journey to Mumbai. Her supervisor quickly corrected her and said that I would not have to collect my bag but that I still needed to go back out to departures to collect my continuation ticket. This sounded a bit odd so I checked twice that I had heard correctly.

It was my plan to test the theory that one recovers from jetlag more quickly if one skips a couple of meals before having a meal at the correct time at the destination. So, having had only a very light breakfast it didn't take me long to drift in and out of sleep on the plane - about six hours earlier than I normally go to sleep. That was after I had played with my GPS dongle for a bit. :)   I was very pleased with my seat I chose next to an emergency exit as it enabled me to both be next to the window and get up to go to the toilet regularly without disturbing my neighbour - because without food I had to drink much more water. Being next to the window enabled me to wave my dongle at some satelites and I managed to pick up a weak signal. That is, until I approached Afghanistan and I could no longer get a lock on - I don't know why.  Pity, as I was mainly interested in knowing how our flight navigated past those countries there.

[1100 - Mumbai]

So, arriving in Delhi I was a little disorientated from previously dozing and I didn't stop to wonder why as we walked out to customs that other passengers were crossing our path to catch another flight. Well I was soon to find out that w itas my flight, and by the time I was asking whre to go they told me it was my fault for not hearing an announcement. Now why couldn't the staff on my previous flight have warned me when they kindly gave me a water bottle and I told them that I wasn't sure I would be able to take it through security as I catching the Mumbai flight?...

After fallowing them around the airport and being told to wait here and there I was relieved that they managed to retrieve my bag. I also heard a last boarding announcement for a Mumbai flight - I wonder if that was mine that had not left yet because they had to remove my bag for security reasons... Well I was in their hands now, and after a bit more following someone about I was told there was not another flight to Mumbai from that airport till 9pm. I suggested that maybe I could come back another day and make a trip to Delhi. That suggestion fell on deaf ears and I waited a bit it and was told that I was booked on a domestic flight from another airport and that a favour had been done that I shouldn't talk about it [whoops] and that a tip of $20 would be nice for good will. I wasn't at all sure about that: paying another $20 for where I was already supposed to be shepherded to and getting into a pushy taxi driver's car with a bit of simple paper with a flight number printed on it... I dragged my feet, asking more questions such as what time was it and what time was my flight and maybe it was best I just called it a day and caught a train some other time. I didn't want to lose sight of my bag again. After walking away to think I was called over again and told that the flight was already arranged and did I want it or not and that I could hop on a bus for a free ride to the other airport. I thought I had nothing to lose with that and got on the bus. I sat and waited. Then a couple of security guards boarded the bus and took away my bit of paper and I sat and waited. Then after what seemed an age they returned with my bit of paper and the bus drove off - funny ways through the airport grounds past various airline hangers. I arrived at the front of the airport at 0535 and my flight left at 0600. Every queue again seemed to take to long time and because everyone else seemed to be as frantic as me I didn't feel I could do too much queue jumping - though I tried. I was running back and forth to security scan and label my bag, to check it in and pick up my ticket, to go though security and then run back to security when I was told I was missing a security tag for my cabin bag and finally I made it on the shuttle and the doors closed behind me.

I arrived this morning in Mumbai just after 8am only two hours later than expected and again to my relief my bag made my flight.

So, I am definitely back in India. Everything is just that little bit more crazy, yet somehow things work and actually I love it - it feels like home. I feel a bit sorry now not to have tipped the AirIndia guy as maybe he won't be as willing to help the next tourist. But if I had tipped him and missed my flight but manged to send my bag to Mumbai, I would have definitely been swearing. Did I fall into a scam?

Sorry, this blog post has been a bit long and not well edited. I am wide awake yet dazed at the same time and am taking it easy at the Salvation Army Red Shield Hostel  before heading out in search of grub and an internet cafe. I'll let you know after tomorrow if the fasting thing really worked.

[1444 - found an internet cafe]

P.s. I walked passed the recommended tourist place to eat and had a very good meal for a fifth of the price at a workman's cafe.. Now full of yummy green looking curry, rice and ge patty (spl?) and chai.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I'm off!

Well, I am off tomorrow morning, but I probably won't get another chance to email my blog before I go.

Leaving has not come sooner than expected because I was originally planning to leave several months ago. At that time I was hoping to visit a friend in Malaysia to help study ants in the rain forest up 50 m trees. The opportunity passed as I awaited my thesis corrections to be checked. I am still waiting and I am still waiting to hear that my examination report for my viva in April has been submitted.

It wasn't all waiting. I had various jobs to do at my parents before I left. These included repairing a summer house in the garden that was beginning to leak and rot and putting insulation in the roof. I found a great deal for the loft insulation on ebay and including the cost of hiring a van for a day was able to insulate above three rooms for £150. Particularly in the kitchen, which previously had no insulation, a 30 cm deep blanket of glass wool made from recycled bottles seems to have made a noticeable difference. Then there were other small jobs too. But these jobs were not the only things keeping me from feeling ready to leave.

Tomorrow I'll be leaving behind my first long time girl friend, Kaily, drawn above. We met through a Spanish friend, Elena, who came to visit the UK and stayed with Kaily in London. I travelled from Brighton to go clubbing with them in London for a night. Having chatted with her on Don't Stay In after would we have barely failed to see each other every weekend since for the last three and a bit years. Was it the sweaty photo that did it or the florescent ginger beard? What ever it was, I am very glad to have met her and shall be very sad to leave her. For leaving her I am. We decided months ago that we wouldn't attempt a long distance relationship. I don't know when I shall be returning, but when I do come back, either we are still suitable for each other or we are not. Of course it is not without risk to hurt feelings: maybe one of us will find someone else and the other not. But I guess that is all part of life.

Anyway, it will be with mixed feelings that I go away. On one side is the excitement of being free, single and entering a new life, and on the other is regret at leaving the life I already have and the parts of it I love. On past experience of travelling alone, emotions tend to swing about, depending mostly on whom I meet. Will the butterflies in my stomach turn to lead? I expect at some point they will, but I hope at the end the journey will all be worth it. Anyone who is lucky enough also know Kaily please look after her when I have gone. The picture of Kaily above I drew as a leaving present and is a copy of a photo that I have had on my phone's backdrop for the last year.

Looking ahead now. I don't have a clear idea yet what I shall be doing when I arrive in Mumbai. My first place of call will be NARI (Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute) where I am keen to make myself useful and hopefully pick up some engineering experience at the same time. I won't bother explaining more about the place yet, as before I visit I won't have a much better idea of the place than you will get if you visit the website. I would have liked to have bought a motorbike when I arrived in Mumbai, as the mountain roads in between Mumbai and NARI look absolutely beatiful on google maps. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I won't be too much waiting around for the right bike and insurance forms, considering I won't need a motorbike at Phaltan, where NARI is based. I don't know if and for how long I will be staying there yet, but if I end up staying in Phaltan some time it will be easier to sort out a bike there.

So good bye everyone, and welcome to an onslaught of diary style blog posts. If you are reading this on facebook you can catch up at any time on posts you may have missed at, or if you want to make sure you don't miss a post you can request to be added to my email list. I expect to have two email lists like the last time I went to India: one for wordy messages with photos that will be also be sent to my blog and another one that will be used to let family know I am still alive.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Today's adventure has been removing a padlock that was left on my rucksack after the last time I went to India. Of course the key has long ago been lost. A hacksaw I had barely polished the steel U-bend and I was not prepared to hacksaw all the way through the brass body or to buy bolt cutters. I decided to find out how difficult it was to drill out a lock. I had never done it before. I was lock smith virgin.

Now I feel like a qualified bank robber. Holding the lock with a pair of pliers I drilled straight though the barrel of the lock. It took a few minutes drilling and moments wait to let the lock cool down a bit, a few taps with a hammer and screw driver to remove any remaining bits, and I was delighted to discover the lock now opened with my screw driver. Woohey!

Eight days till I leave and counting.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mumbai ahoy!

I just booked a flight ticket to Mumbai for the 29th October! So I am really going back to India.

Unfortunately I only have a standard six month visa and I have read that getting a new one in Kathmandu is a nightmare and likely to fail so I don't know if I shall end up coming back after six months or flying to Bangkok. I would prefer not to fly unless I have to. One moment I am grumbling about animal wellfare and the next I am killing the plannet with CO2 emmissions. I don't know. I would take the train if it was safe.

Lots to do before I leave. I have been busy insulating my parents' attic and I need to re-enforce a beam or two that are splitting and close up the holes I made in the sealings; plus other small jobs. Then I have to do a little more shopping before I go. I want a good anti septic cream for nasty grazes that tend to go septic in hot sweaty weather. Iodine drops for emergency water treatment. A map. Sunglass case. Soap box. The list goes on.

I have already tried packing my bag and I don't have that much - mostly because I am not packing many cloths. But I seem to have countless little bits and pieces. I wonder how I am going to organise it. My laptop I want to bring is a major culprit. Along with it comes a mains charger, a surge protector, and travel adapter (I could have bought the surge protector in India, but I prefer having a low ampage fuse in the plug - so spare fuses), a 12 volt car charger so I can charge it off the motorbike I would like, my GPS, a rucksack with modified internal pocket to put it in. A security cable in case I want to lock it to a desk where ever I am volunteering.  Ear phones. A mic. Then there are my USB chargers for camera and mobile phone batteries. Don't get me started on my medical and sowing kits! Maybe when I am a seasoned traveller I'll give an itinerary of what I actually have found useful.

Ok off to bed now as I want to do plenty of work tomorrow.