IT HAS BEGUN!
So, on Tuesday I woke up and scrabbled to do last minute things (such as packing my whole bag, which I discovered was a mistake as I finished seconds before I left the house, crying my eyes out because I knew I was going to miss my mum. Embarrassing because she stayed strong). After a little detour back to the house because I left my sunglasses on the table – it wouldn’t have felt right if I hadn’t forgotten something – we were at the bus station and loading our stuff on. Queue more tears from both me and Ollie; we had a sensitive few minutes waving my mum, stepdad, brother and Ollie’s dad Matbow off.
Whiping or little teary faces, we pulled ourselves together in the only way we know how to: a massive packed lunch. The journey went in cycles of giggling our heads off and Ollie sleeping, and 4 hours sped along. Before we knew it we were at Heathrow and hopping onto the tube, with me already moaning about the weight of my bag; it’s 2 kilos heavier than Ollie’s for some reason (nothing to do with him only bringing 3 tee shirts and me feeling the need for outfit changes).
We were really early but check in was already open so we swanned on through to do it straight away, feeling very proud ourselves for actually getting there at all – let alone early. As I’m sure you will have gauged, Ollie is super organised so we have researched everything loads. It does seem to have slipped through the (mosquito) net that you need proof of onward travel out of India in order to be let in. As we are completely blagging the journey, we hadn’t booked anything in case our plans changed. Disaster.
We had to go and set up camp in the corner of the airport, hurriedly trying to find buses from Varanasi to Kathmandu. Luckily there was a plug socket here so I had a little scroll through Instagram before settling down to business. The disaster got worse because there were no sleeper buses – which are basically buses with 2 layers of beds instead of seats, for long journies. This was going to be a 15 hour drive through the night so the idea of sitting on a crappy bus was pretty painful. The alternative was a flight which would be £100 more expensive so we just settled for the bus to try and make our money last.
Obviously we were pretty nasty people in a previous life because the saga got worse and no card payments would go though to book the bus online, even when we called Ollie’s dad and asked him to give it a whirl. This literally seemed to take forever and was pretty stressful as the queue was growing and we didn’t have a lot of time to check in. To save out on stressing we just booked the flights for about £130 and had to join the huge queue again. All went smoothly this time luckily, with the lovely assistant basically telling us that we needed to be with an Asian or we would be ripped off. Angry at Ollie for his nationality now.
We had spent a lot of time sorting out the flights so whizzed through security. I found a little Gucci bag filled with nice things in the toilets which I nearly added to my backpack but decided not to commit a crime so close to security. In no time we were through to boarding the plane, after a little stroll through the pricey shops where the people looked down us as, in fairness, we clearly couldn’t afford a pair of socks there. I haven’t been very far afield so everything like customs and boarding the plane was so exciting for me. The plane was the temperature of India itself, even when sat in a foggy runway in London. Nethertheless I snuggled up in the little blanket they give you and braced myself for a perfect nights sleep.
I could not have been more wrong. Ollie is notorious for his cat-like abilities to sleep anywhere, and even he was struggling. I got an hour in total (I think) so felt like the grottiest person in the world. My excitement reappeared when the suavely-dressed attendants came round with plane food, but my hopes were dashed when it turned out to be pasta – obviously confused with a flight to Italy. It was actually delicious, even though the pudding was some sort of lumpy cinammony rice pudding type affair.
8 and a bit hours later and we were arriving in Mumbai. The first thing you notice is how blue and cloud-less the sky is, and also how many people were getting lifts on the little golf buggy. Very jealous, even if we did get to walk along the escalators (flat escalators, who’d have thought it). We met a really nice older lady in the flight who was off to a wedding near where we were heading, so she offered to show us the way and even offered to share her car. She hopped onto one of the buggies and into the sunset (the airport) and was never to be seen again!
Mumbai Airport was absolutely dead and just had a horrible atmosphere. The money crisis is a million times worse than we thought it was; we got to the exchange point and could only exchange cash up to £50. We only had dollars so exchanged about €30 which is very little rupees. If you haven’t heard what’s going down, the government is cancelling the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, in order to cut down on terrorism and the black market and corruption etc – so all for a good cause. However, it means they’ve completely run out of cash, so loads of the ATMs we went to in the airport just flashed up as having no cash, which was getting ever increasingly worrying. Luckily we found one, which still had a limit on but we managed to scrabble together about 6000 rupees which is only about £70.
We felt miserable in the Airport after the stress and a very rough and touchy experience through customs. We sat and had a cold drink feeling very culture shocked and wondering if we had done the right thing. Luckily we didn’t have long to mope as we had a relatively short changeover period, before we flew to Goa.
I was so shocked as we left Mumbai because the whole way around the fence of the airport are huge slums. So as I was sitting on a flight which I had more than enough money to pay for, I could see mums sat with tiny children in big piles of rubbish, and people stood around the fence to watch the planes coming and going. This was a complete shock to the system as it’s the bluntest contrast between rich and poor that I’ve ever had to see. Ignorance really is bliss and I feel very guilty that I have the life I do just because I happened to be born into the family that I was.
After a little cry we had a really funny flight as we got delirious from tiredness. Goa Airport was manned by rough armed security and I was very relived to leave! We booked a taxi at the pre-booking area just by the exit, which has set prices so is really simple. Outside it was the painting of the Indian stereotype: animals everywhere and horns beeping at a ridiculous rate. We then had an amazing and dangerous taxi ride to Anjuna with Indian pop tunes planning loudly. The driving is mental and people genuinely seem to think they’re invincible. Definitely going to have to build up some more courage before we are able to get on a moped!
Tune in next time to hear all about our stay in Anjuna, which seems like it’s going to be fabulous.