Leaving for India

Flying out of Cape Town in the early hours of Saturday morning, there was a lot of excitement between the four of us. No one has any idea of how the adventure is to unfold. But as with any long travel schedule, there are bound to be issues, and they were on the way.

I was busy checking in at Cape Town international, and it started. I needed 2 blank pages in my passport and I had only one. My heart dropped as my passport was referred to a senior, this took about half and hour and we were finally given the green light. Then landing at OR Tambo, we were running a bit late and forgot to check all our electronic gear in at the customs, we were now through passport control. Nothing was going according to plan, I think our minds were a bit blown with the enormity of what was lying ahead. Then a light bulb moment, we saw a customs official so we got her to pose with us in front of all the gear to prove that we had it before we left and did not buy it in India on our return – finally we were out of SA and on the way. Cape Town To Gauteng, then on to Mumbai, then Delhi and finally Srinagar.

There was another little problem that lay ahead of us, I had left some gear in Mumbai on my last trip to India and had to collect this. This was going to be a challenge to check this in with our other entire luggage booked straight through to Srinagar. Landing in Mumbai was total chaos. The airport is under a massive revamp and every one needs to be transferred by buss to the domestic terminal, and I mean thousands. We had now been through about 5 security checks, military every where herding us all over, after about 2 hours we found ourselves in a long passage, hundreds of shouting irritable people baking at about 30 degrees. Eventually we burst out into the morning air and again there were hundreds of people fighting for a seat on the busses. I have never seen such chaos. Utter madness.

At 3:30 am we had finally reached the terminal, frustrated and exhausted dripping with sweat, the next mission, to get my gear back into the terminal as we had already been checked in. Finally at five the luggage arrived. Now you can imagine the explaining I had to do to the soldiers at the door, why I needed to leave the airport and fetch more luggage. Eventually I got it in and then off to the check in counter there I had to start explaining all over again, plus we were now 40kg over weight. I don’t know how, but I got it onto the plane and into Delhi.

Delhi and with our 15th search of the same gear we finally boarded to Srinagar, it was now 28 hours of flying.
The beauty of the Himalayas began to unfold beneath us as snow capped mountains began to peak through the cloud. It was like staring down in a dream, was I really here, yes I was as we bumped bounced and lurched down the runway that suddenly appeared on a plateau.

I have never in my life seen such military presence as here, we are really in the red zone, a bit of a wake up call to exactly where we are in the world. As we walked into the arrivals area, the military were all over us, shit I did not know what or where to go. We were handed a form to fill out and ushered to a desk where some official approached us. Guess what he said, “Sorry gentlemen, your luggage is not on the plane.”

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