Saturday, 11 December 2010

Rajasthan (1) – Getting there

This first post is about the journey to Rajasthan for my vacation with friends J&C.

The thought of doing this by train appalled me and only entered my head for the remotest of moments, so I bust open the bank account, paid 60000 Rupees for the fight,  and headed for the airport. 

Leg 1: Home to Rayagada station

Doing this before 5AM has always been a challenge, no least for me as a not morning person, but also because the auto rickshaw drivers never turn up when booked to come out here for that time. recently one auto driver moved into the nagar to a house really quite near mine and I have been cultivating him and so far so good, my slight 10 Rupees overpayment each time seems to be working. This morning the whole nagar was shrouded in darkness as the power was off, and his mobile was not answering, so I actually went to check he was awake and he was.  ten minutes later his auto appeared at my door and I was on my way.

Leg 2: Rayagada Train station to Vizag Train Station

A smooth transition into and through leg 2. Smooth ride, train arrived a little early, good.

Leg 3: Vizag Rail Station to Vizag Airport

Found an auto easily at the station and paid my 200Rupees ride to the airport. All plain sailing. Had a nice freshly made omelette and pressed apple juice at the Airport. Went through security and sat down preparing for a long wait for my flight.

Leg 4: Vizag Airport to Mumbai Airport

Then I noticed that my flight number was not showing on the departures board. Ok no problem, it is still early. I wait. Still no flight showing. I go to check in and ask. My Jet Lite flight to Mumbai has been cancelled and I have been rebooked on another flight 1 hour later. Ok fine. Then I wonder if I can make the connection in Mumbai, oh dear I had a changeover of 2 hours which has now gone down to 1hour assuming my plane is on time and I have to collect luggage, change airlines, and check in.

I try calling the help line numbers given on my booking with MakeMyTrip, none answer, some don’t even ring. I look around for a Spicejet check in desk, see none, I don’t even know if they fly from Vizag. No internet cafe at Vizag, oh for wi fi! In desperation I text H completely forgetting the time difference and wake her up. Luckily as an ex Indian volunteer she us very understanding and she finds out that there is a later flight from Mumbai to Jaipur, if I miss the connection. Phew! Last thing I wanted was to have to spend the night at Mumbai domestic terminal again or find an inevitably costly airport hotel for the night.

I toddle over to the jet Airway ticket counter and enquire about changing onto the later flight – outrageously they want 8000 Rupees to do this!  Then I see red….that’s the colour of Spicejet uniforms and following it I find that there is a Spicejet ticket counter outside the airport, so back through security. and I speak with the lady on the Spicejet desk. She is great! Tells me she can check me in now for the Mumbai to Jaipur flight and comment my ticket that I have been replaned and so Mumbai will know if I am late. She tells me there is no terminal change required at Mumbai so I will make the connection.  Much relived I return to the inevitable waiting period that characterises everything here. Finally I am on the flight and we are underway, but delayed.

Leg 5: Mumbai Airport

My flight lands at Mumbai Airport at exactly the time I am supposed to be boarding the Jaipur flight. The time to open the plane doors is an eternity.  I begin reconciling myself to missing the connection.  Finally the bus arrives and  I do the Indian push in front of the queue thing to make sure I am on the first bus, then I am whisked of to the terminal building and start the walk to baggage reclaim. There is only one man in front of me as we approach the baggage hall. Oh no there is a barrier, he looks around, I look around, then a airport man swings into action removing the barrier tape and telling us which belt our bags are to be on. I take a chance and explain my rush, he tells me I need to speak with “the man in glasses” pointing to the customer service desk in baggage area. Oh dear here we go again I think, being past from pillar to post, but no the man in glasses turns out to be the right person big time!!  I realise I am tired, stressed, am speaking more English than I have done in a long time, I am struggling to find the right English vocabulary and my brain and tongue are less than well coordinated. Slow down I think, more haste less speed. The man in glasses takes my boarding card and tells me to go get my bag. I obey, then wonder if that is the last I shall see of my boarding card.

Next thing I know he is at my side at the  belt, no sign of any bags yet, OK we will give it one more minute he says, but we will get you on the plane even if your bag follows on the next one. Wow! That would work, I’d happily wait an extra 2 hours at Jaipur for my bag. Then amazingly the belt begins and bags start to appear and there is mine. I grab  it. He says we must run, so run we do, all through the airport. The first person I bump I say sorry to the second I didn’t.  We run all the way back along the airport arm to the SpiceJet check in , they know I am coming, I am rushed to the front, the current persons bag is taken of the weigh scales and mine is done in 30 seconds flat. Suddenly the man with glasses is gone and I have a different minder. Again we must run, again I am reassured I will be onboard even if my bag is on the later flight. We ran to security. The security man sends me back for a tag for my hand luggage, I of course have to go through the Ladies scan, I recollect my hand luggage and have lost my minder. No problem I carry on, as I wait to get my boarding pass and hand baggage checked I hear a voice behind me “Jaipur madam, Jaipur madam”  It appears I have another minder, I am whisked past the security man with a flash of card authority and again we are running this time for the gate. “They know you are coming”  he assures me. My minder finally departs as I pass through the final checkpoint to await the bus to the plane. And that is how I made the incredible journey from one plane to any other in only 15 minutes! Mumbai airport staff I love you! Vizag SpiceJet Ticket counter lady thank you!

Then of course the plane if delayed on the ground for take off by 10 minutes!

Leg 6: Jaipur Airport to Hotel

I made it. My bag made it! ‘Man in glasses’ = organisational wizard!

I get an auto easily, get to hotel  but it is too late to eat there, but they recommend two restaurants very  close by, only 5 minutes and 10 minutes walking. Bed or food? Food wins, actually the hope of a beer wins. Italian food – expensive compared to Orissa - but a quite passable, very good tasting mushroom/porcini risotto and a Kingfisher and I am set for a good nights sleep before J&C get in tomorrow morning. What a day!

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