Some transit days are easy. You get up, pack, hit the road and everything just goes according to plan. And then there are the other days… 😉
Having sold the bike we decided to head back to Nepal for a little bit before leaving the subcontinent. I had the whole thing mapped out. Pack, catch the metro to the airport at about 10.30/11ish (30 minute trip on the metro), hop on the plane to Kathmandu at 1.35pm, 1.5 to 2 hours of lead time. Now how hard could that be (heheh)
The packing thing went remarkably well. Since we started we have both bought clothes while we had the bike and the extra space of the panniers, but now with the bike gone everything has to go back into the smaller backpacks which looked like a bit of a mission. I ended up leaving a couple of things that I decided I didn’t need and in 30 minutes of pushing and shoving on my bag we were all packed and ready to go, with time to spare.
Not wanting to have too many rupees left over we had run our money right down the night before (read went out and had a heap of beers to use up the spare cash heheheh). We paid our hotel bill and had a comfortable 300 rupees to get us to the airport. The metro is such a great and cheap travel system. Most trips were costing us about 20-30 rupees for both of us so no problem there.
We left the hotel with time aplenty and headed to the station. What we had both forgotten is that the only way to get a metro token is to line up and of course this time the lines were really long and seriously slow. Still, no problems. 18 rupees and we were off to the central Delhi station where we would buy the tokens for the airport line. All good.
Get to central and eventually find the special airport counter only to discover that the ticket to the airport is priced completely differently. No little cheapie here – the price was R300 (not that much – $6) but …. We only had 280 rupee and no, there is no atm in the train station L Oh boy – starting to look a bit stressed now. If we try to go out and find an atm we will be well behind schedule for getting to the airport (it would have taken probably close to 30 minutes to get out and back). Thankfully a lovely young Indian gentleman heard our exchange with the ticket man, came up and asked how much were we short and gave us the extra 20 rupees. The kindness of that simple act literally saved us from missing our plane and I will never be able to say thank you to him enough.
So, problem solved (and lesson learnt – check ticket pricing online the night before, don’t assume) and we are on the metro running perfectly to time. Arrive at the Delhi airport dead on 12. Perfect. That gives us 1.5 hours to check in and go through immigration. Easy!
Nope – not so much. The check in line was insanely long and suuuuuper slow. In the end they called our flight forward so no worries there. I knew that was the way this part worked so was not even vaguely stressed. Then immigration; an absolute breeze. Stamped and done. And then security…
And that’s where it all went to hell. Women can only be checked by a woman and while they have the walk through beepy things they don’t use them. They wand and pat down everyone. So I am now in a line with 20 other women in front of me while seemingly the lady that does the checking is off somewhere else (as in we were not moving). I’m thinking, ok well, I’m sure that once they start it will go quickly. After all, we are in an airport where people have planes to catch right? Wrong!!! So slow! I was tearing my hair out by the time I got through the other side. We had gone from having plenty of time to now being T minus 30 for departure. Cutting it a bit fine for my liking.
But it wasn’t finished yet. Security were having biggggg problems with our bags. They had electronic things in them – like cables and cords – such lethal items to be carrying!! So we fished all the cables out and they rescanned the bags. Then Dave had a small battery operated nose hair trimmer (don’t ask 😉 ) and they seemed to effectively feel that this was almost a bomb in the making. Another 5 minutes gone! And then calamity of all calamities – our bags did not have baggage tags on them for the security guys to stamp. Now we are in search of 3 tags. It got to the point where one guy suggested I go back out to checkin. I did explain that that was impossible as I had already gone through immigration!!!!! Stress levels are now starting to peak. With no checked luggage we are very easy to offload as “missed the plane” passengers.
Eventually 3 tags were found and we were released to go and find our plane. At T minus 18minutes!!!!! And it turns out the airport is HUGE and our gate at the far end. So Dave and I are hotfooting it all the way to the gate, with people yelling “Are you Kathmandu? Hurry, hurry!” Man, I could not have hurried any more if I tried. By the time we got to the gate they were calling our name, which having worked in an airline is the last step before they offload you from the manifest. Both of us were blowing like race horses and dripping with sweat. And the little man at the gate just kept saying, “calm, calm”. Yeah right!!! Anything but calm.
In the end we made the flight, miraculously found space for our bags in the overheads and settled in to our seats thankful to have made it.
I can honestly say that in all of the travel I have done, in countless airports around the world I have never seen anything like the absolute rubbish and time wasting that went on around that security clearance station. It took us over 40 minutes to get through. Incredible.
Some days, travel is easy, some days it is not. But that’s just travel. And now, safely delivered to Nepal I can truly sit back, shake my head and laugh and think with great gratitude on the generosity of strangers and the frustration of airports.
The Himalayas from the plane window. They are truly spectacular! I would have taken more but we were on the wrong side of the plane and this was the only shot I got where the guy was not looking out the window so that I could shoot across the aisle 😉