Monday, February 27, 2017

Before All Hell Breaks Loose 

Carnivale - Panjim, Goa
The chaos of Carnival is only a memory to me now.

In a few hours I will embark on one of the most arduous journeys of my life. The fact that approximately 30 hours of transport in taxis, planes, and trains can be referred to as “the most arduous journey of my life” tells you just what an incredibly overindulgent and mollycoddled life I’ve led thus far. I would never be called a refugee, escapee or even a “boat person” (with apologies to those referred to as such). In the past, as a student, I took a hockey bag full of all my belongings (how quaintly Canadian) and hitched a ride with friends by car from Ottawa to Toronto, flew economy (as I still do) from Toronto to Halifax, took an unusually long train ride from Halifax to North Sydney, where I then took a cab ride to the ferry terminal, took the overnighter boat to Port aux Basques, then a bus to Deer Lake and days later, I took an $80 flight from Deer Lake to St. John’s. The longest uninterrupted section of that trip took 24 hours. I recall the sensation that my clothing felt starched and stiff and fused to my skin.

This trip to India has already surpassed that; traveling from Toronto to Bangalore was about 30 hours yet the six hour layover in Frankfurt included a shower, a full buffet breakfast and a two hour nap in an over-stuffed leather recliner. That Germanic break came with vitamin-E infused moisturizer, lattes and little cakes which made the entire trip much more tolerable. That will not happen this time. Additionally I’m leaving from Goa to Bangalore (in +30 C heat) before I even begin. Taxis and hanging-around-abandoned-terminal-time will add some eight hours before the wheels on my flight to Toronto even begin to roll. I expect the entirety of the trip to be about 28 hours, non-stop, if everything goes as planned.

How I messed up this trip is only partly due to my lack of imagination. The rest falls on the odd ebbing and flowing of travel. This is essentially about the “hot dogs/hot dog buns paradox”. These inseparable items which are sold in incompatible numbers such that hot dogs are packaged with eight wieners per pack, but hot dog buns are sold with only six buns per pack. Such it is with travel. International flights arrive in Europe in the morning, but hotels won’t allow check-in until the afternoon. Likewise, hotels require guests to checkout by noon but all flights leaving India happen in the very wee hours of the morning - mine happens to be 3:30 AM. What the traveller does with too much time to wait, but not enough time to go anywhere or do anything is their problem. This is what awaits me. Thankfully, I’ve arranged to pay for a “half-day” extra at my hotel to allow me to just hang around the pool (and bathroom and shower) until I leave at the unnecessarily early time of 7PM. That should mean I get to the airport in Goa around 8-8:30PM still leaving me two hours to linger around for a regional flight to Bangalore at 10:30PM. Judging from the flight to Goa, the flight back will be under an hour, giving me a scant four hours to wait at Bangalore. I’ve since discovered several lounges at the Bangalore airport that have “all you can eat curry buffets” (exactly what you need before an International flight) and very comfortable reclining chairs and wi-fi. I plan to head to one of these havens, nibble and nosh and change from my undoubtably sweaty attire to a relatively fresher outfit. If everything goes as planned, eight hours later, I’ll land in Frankfurt with approximately an hour or so to get to my flight to Toronto. Once aboard, I’ll have another eight hours to Toronto. Despite the simplicity of taking only carry-on luggage, the wait to de-board, the line-up at customs and walk to the taxi area takes an unbelievably long time (45 minutes to an hour) which only adds to the frustration that I’ll still be another 30-minute cab ride from home (if the traffic is light).

Into the breach I go, laptop bag over shoulder and rolling bag in tow. Godspeed good traveller.

Update: I got to the Dabolim Airport in good time around 8PM local time. The departure lounge is essentially one large waiting area, more like a bus terminal than an airport. When my flight should've been boarding and I saw no evidence of this, I lucked into finding someone to ask who then told me my flight was delayed by 2 hours until 12:30 AM. The departure board never showed my flight by the way mostly because it only displayed flights that had already departed and showed their status as "Boarding". So there I was, waiting for 4 hours in an airport with one of the worst food services I've ever seen. I'm convinced Kandahar has a better food court. Luckily but without announcement, my flight boarded and departed before midnight getting me to Bangalore airport with just the right buffer to get through customs and security to make my flight to Frankfurt.

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