FREEDOM FREEDOM FREEDOM OY!!! (There's nothing crazy about it, it's just) FREEDOM DAY!!!

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December 21st 2011
Published: December 23rd 2011
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Casting their alluring little glows...
You heard us...

So the last day of our confinement came just as we were despairing of ever getting out, due to the spicy food making us somewhat less than happy once again, and were prepared to make a break for freedom when the medical team/entourage descended along with the Chief Medical Officer. At about 11am they finally pronounced us fit to leave the hospital, so after submitting the various documentary requests we needed at the behest of the insurance company (seriously kids, get travel insurance even if you think you won't need it... it has paid for itself and then some!!!) we were ready to leave. Or so we thought. As the day dragged on, we waited, and waited, and waited... nothing happening... nothing happening. Okay, seriously, nothing happening. So then eventually as Aisha was about to go spare, at 5pm one of the nurses rocked up with our documents and our takeaway prescription drugs to keep us going on the road. With that we raced over to the homestay to pick up Tess' shoes and orthotics (which Aisha in his fevered insanity had forgotten to collect) and then spent the next 30 minutes at the local internet cafe
Suite As Bro!!!Suite As Bro!!!Suite As Bro!!!

Two rooms? We think so...
trying to book a hotel for the night to stay in. It really was quite surreal being outside for the first time in four days. Although fortunately, Fort Kochi had put on a cooler spell on for us so it was quite a pleasant temperature.

After Tess doing verbal battle with one hotel for a while to no avail, we managed to get a room at the aptly named hotel 'The Mercy' and got in an auto for a taste of evening rush hour, Fort Kochi style. With what seemed like every other vehicle in the city going in the same direction, with lights going everywhere, it was like being inside the world's loudest internal combustion powered kaleidoscope. Emerging at the other end, we found this tower of bright lights that was The Mercy. Ushered up to our room we opened the door to find we had been upgraded at no cost to A FRIGGIN SUITE. SUITE AS BRO!!! Praise the lord. So with a sigh of relief that may have been heard by our Australian readership, we collapsed in a heap and ordered room service for dinner. Trying to book airline tickets for the next day proved to
Ship The Bed Mate...Ship The Bed Mate...Ship The Bed Mate...

Yeah that's a shipyard outside our hotel bedroom window...
be LESS inspiring however, with the various websites either not allowing online bookings within 24 hours of the flight, or just refusing to accept our card details (despite the statement on the website that they take all OS cards). WEAK! Delhi of course was the location of the wedding we'd be attending.

Crashing out for the night after eating good bland honkey food (pasta) and enjoying showers hot enough to cook shellfish, we told ourselves tomorrow would be a different day. It was. Though possibly not like we'd envisioned.

The gentle sound of clanging hammering metal on metal woke us not so gently from our slumber and Aisha dragged himself out of bed and towards the window to try and work out what it was. Of course there's a freaking SHIPYARD next door to the hotel. Of course there is. The sound of two tugs being built tends to vanquish all thoughts of a sleep-in though - and anyway, there were flights to book and planes to catch and parcels to post. So Tess got on the phone and after a hugely annoying 20 minutes talking to the airline's Kochi office, they told her she could only make
That Hammering Noise...That Hammering Noise...That Hammering Noise...

Less relaxing than you'd think, at night it looked perfectly innocent!
a phone payment to the Mumbai office (THANKS GUYS!) so then commenced another 40 minutes of phone tag with some of the most amusing spelling attempts known to mankind...

T as in...TOPHAT?
E as in...EGG?
S dunno...SAM?

After all that, 40 minutes later they advised Tess they couldn't take credit cards either. India is nothing if not a farce (as Tess observed, not even the funny French kind) but at least the tickets were reserved, although we had until 1:10pm to get to the airport to pay for them before they ceased to be our tickets. We figured, okay, we've got nearly two hours to get there - that's easy enough to do, right? So we proverbially girded our loins for battle (seriously, does that just mean putting on a metal codpiece?) and steeled ourselves for the Indian post office. The Auto that got us there was the most spavined thing we've been in and basically blew up halfway there, to grinding metal-on-metal sounds and stares from everyone we shuddered past. After two or three breakdowns, it eventually limped around the corner to the post office and we escaped before any major explosions occurred. With some
Arguments Rendered Invalid...Arguments Rendered Invalid...Arguments Rendered Invalid...

Hair is a Lion and Dog respectively...
shoving and dirty look casting on our way to the front of the queue we managed to get our forms, go and fill them out, then cut the queue to pay and leave our precious parcel to (perhaps, maybe, possibly) get sent home.

By this time it was almost midday, meaning we now only had one hour to get to the airport (with a projected travel time of minimum 30 minutes by taxi or at least one hour by auto...way too long). So we agreed taxi was the best option. Except there were NO. FREAKING. TAXIS. ANYWHERE!!! Racing up and down the busy streets, weighed down by packs and a sick feeling of desperation (the desperation is the perceptually heavier of the two) we were on the verge of a murder-suicide pact when the twentieth auto driver in a row accosted us to ask if we needed an auto. With Aisha exasperatedly muttering we needed a taxi, we asked how long to the airport and got the standard reply of an hour (at this point we only had about 45 minutes left to get there) and Tess was basically in tears. To his credit, the auto driver responded with

This totally counts as seeing it right?
'Don't cry missy! I get you there in 45 minutes! No problem!' Figuring that making some progress was better than nothing and praying that he was telling the truth, we jumped in. Call it fate, call it divine intervention, call it what you will, but this was clearly the right man and his auto for the job. The auto was better tuned and functioning than any we've been in (purring along) since we arrived in India and the driver? Well, if there was a south Indian Colin McRae, this guy was him. From the moment we set off he was 1000% committed to getting us there on time, tearing through gaps in the traffic which seemingly opened at his command, closing a millisecond after we'd sped through going wherever there was enough room to slide three wheels through at 60kmph (lightning speed for an auto!). No room on the road? Just use the footpath! Traffic light red? No worries - take a sharp left on to the side road (swerving narrowly past the truck), do a U turn across the oncoming traffic, left again and back on to the main drag without missing a beat! There were heart-stopping moments, like

Looks kinda dry down there...
when a scooter came out of nowehere at a T-intersection, zooming out in front of us as we literally squealed skidding to miss him by about 2 centimetres, or the time we nearly got sandwiched by a bus. We have to say, this guy is wasted not driving in a world rally championship. He really was committed, though, using his horn EVEN MORE than normal (ie even more than heaps) and whenever he and another auto driver would be jockeying for poll position he'd yell that he had to get us to the airport QUICK QUICK and the other guy would yield. Even when a traffic policeman was forcing our two lanes of traffic to halt for the cross coming traffic he said "Sorry sir, they are going to the airport!" and drove straight through the block. Legend. Even including a petrol stop ("Sir! I need 100 rupee advance! I have petrol but not sure enough...we are going a little fast...") we got there only slightly late, paid the driver his richly deserved rupees and raced to the ticket counter, sweat streaming, mouths dry, hair awry, hearts panic stricken. That luck that found us the auto driver also decided that
More SuiteMore SuiteMore Suite

Somehow more alluring than the hospital beds...
our tickets should still be there, so we paid, raced through security (twice in Aisha's case - Indian airport security protocol is OUTRAGEOUS) and collapsed outside our gate with minutes to spare. Of course, this is where the shaking, post-adrenal, tears-of-relief crash came (mainly for Tess, cos she's great). It was not the day we had been hoping or planning for!

The flight was the usual painfully boring flying experience, combined with 6 foot 3 Aisha's usual luck to be sitting behind the idiot who wants to recline his seat ALL THE WAY, as in, drop it straight on to Aisha's kneecaps. Aisha then derived savage joy and small doses of revenge from kneeing the balding twat in the small of the back By Accident every time he had to move to get anything out of a pocket or whatever. Our flight was via Hyderabad, with half the passengers disembarking while we had to remain in our seats for 45 minutes while the cleaning crew just cleaned around us and ANOTHER security check took place, despite the fact that we'd been checked immediately prior to boarding and HADN'T GONE ANYWHERE SINCE THEN. IT'S A PLANE. Eventually the replacement passengers
A step up from Hospital...A step up from Hospital...A step up from Hospital...

Woohoo, is the word we were looking for...
boarded and we were on our way once more. We probably can't count that as going to Hyderabad, huh. Although the total flight time was only 4.5 hours, it was a really uncomfortable trip, mainly because we were fresh out of hospital, still exhausted and not feeling 100%.

Before long, the lights of Delhi appeared below us and we had touched down in the capital of India. As we waited by the conveyor belt for our bags, we looked around and noticed...fog. Smog. INSIDE the airport. And we can tell you, outside was much worse. It's winter here, so it's cold, it's grey, it's dusty and boy oh boy is it smoggy. Within minutes, Aisha's eyes were smarting and Tess' asthma was waking from its temporary slumber. After some confusion over which taxis were the prepaid taxis and a conversation with a lovely young man with an assault rifle, we got in a falling apart vehicle with a driver who had only a vague idea of where he was going. The first thing we noticed (after the smog) (so the second thing, whatever!) was the roads. As in, they have asphalt on them. In one piece. Not crumbled into a million jagged boulders with equal parts gaping potholes. Weird. Delhi is full of wide, multi lane roads (think Northbourne, sorta), the difference being that you mentally erase aaaall the lane markings so that it is like one GIANT, black, rule-free lane - and then drive.

We are staying in Pahar Ganj, which we have seen described as dodgy, a ghetto, unsafe and more. Unfortunately, not many cars will go in there, which meant our driver dropped us off in the midst of apparent chaos, leaving us with no idea where our hotel was. Several phone calls to the hotle for directions yielded largely disappointing results, ie no freaking clue where we were, so we traipsed up one street and down another, back again and round about. Of course, with packs on our backs we were even more of a prime tourist target; and Delhi's touts (accommodation, auto rickshaw, cycle rickshaw, drugs - take your pick) have mastered the art of being persistent, annoying...Swear Words. It was dark, we were starving, the streets reeked of urine (and we had to avoid several yellow streams in motion), drugs were offered, there was garbage everywhere, men passed out high or drunk in the gutter and we were Very Ready To Find Our Hotel Now Please Thank You.

We did, in the end, of course. It's the Hotel Le Roi - no, that's not pronounced like L'Roi, more Leeroy - Aisha calls it Hotel Leeroy Jenkins.

Love Tess & Aisha


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