Our Longest followsummer Travel Day
Today starts the longest travel day –
days, in fact, for it is all of today and most of tomorrow – of the trip. First, we will go back to Delhi, during daylight; we don’t want to travel the bumpy back roads of India after dark. We will be dropped at Indira Gandhi International Airport hours and hours before our flight to Frankfurt, which leaves at 2:25 tomorrow morning. We hope the check-in opens early, and that we can get into the business class lounge and get a good glass of wine – after 7 weeks of almost only beer, the drink of Asia, we know it will taste really good, even if it’s bad. Then tomorrow, we connect in Frankfurt to a flight to Athens, and from there to a flight to Santorini, where we will stop moving for a couple of days.
Back to Normal, Weather-Wise
The drive to Delhi is uneventful. We see where Tibari made the mistake driving up – he somehow missed the sign that told him to turn left for Corbett NP. Oh well. The newspaper this morning is full of pictures of snow in Kashmir – from the same weather pattern that caused yesterday’s rainstorm in Corbett NP. It was due to some cyclones and was not caused by the early arrival of the monsoon. But in giving rain to places, such as Delhi, farther south, it has provided some relief from the heat, and the dryness, of the summer. Today is back to normal – it is well over 30 degrees outside, the sun baking down. But we pass deep puddle after deep puddle on the side of the road, and see cars and trucks struggling to deal with the mud. We wonder how anything gets done during monsoon, when the sides of every road, and the sidewalks too, will all turn into inescapable mud.
In the Ghandi’s Neighbourhood
After 6 hours we get to Delhi, and we drive right through downtown to get across town – there is no ring road. We drive around the beautiful India Gate, through the area filled with the mansions the government ministers inhabit. Then past Sonia Gandhi’s house – which has more security than your average US embassy. Past Indira Gandhi’s house, the place she was murdered. Past a sign for the shrine marking the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Then through the embassy district.
Stuck in Traffic: India
Finally, we get within seeing distance of Indira Gandhi Airport. And traffic stops. We can see the hangars of the planes, and we cannot move. Tibari tells us this stretch of road is notorious – and it should be. It takes well over 1 hour to get through 1 block, and onto the airport grounds. We are dropped shortly after 6 p.m. Our flight is not till 2:25 tomorrow morning. We discover that we cannot enter the terminal until 11:25 tonight. There are guards at the doors to see to that. Across the road from the terminal is an air conditioned waiting room – entry: 50 rupees each. Hundreds of people are sitting outside, calmly waiting. We scramble to find 100 rupees – we have been careful not to have too many left. And we pass the rest of the evening, sitting on chairs that need to be replaced, freezing in the air-conditioned comfort, but able to use the toilet with any further payment being required, which is not the case for those waiting outside. There is a wireless internet café in the waiting room – the whole airport is WIFI enabled – and we pass some time uploading a week’s worth of journal entries, and downloading email.
What we will miss about India:
The Taj Mahal!
Temples, step wells, forts, and palaces. The Moghul style in red sandstone
Beautiful coloured saris drifting across a parched, brown field.
The interactions with the children in places tourists seldom go. “Hello. What country you from? What is your name?”
The opportunity to see a tiger in the wild
The waiter in the thali restaurant in Udaipur
The Lake Palace Hotel
The graciousness and curiosity of the people
In talking about our 15 days here, we both agreed that we liked Ahmedabad best – collectively, the step wells and the Sun Temple were more impressive than the most impressive forts and palaces of the maharajas and the Moghuls, and the streets were wonderfully lacking in touts, hawkers, beggars, and tourists.