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Published: December 16th 2016
Looking back to the arrivals area.
Our 'relief' flight as it was described by Singapore Air departed earlier than our scheduled one the day before. This meant arriving in Chennai at a reasonable time about 7.00pm rather than the original 10 pm.
After arrival there was a long wait for immigration but finally got through. Our pre-arranged Visas helped. Those folks picking up e-Visas applied for online had to join a queue to pick them up before immigration.
Finally in India after 27 years but Shelley and I didn't have a chance to celebrate, there were a whole series of logistics that needed dealt with. We were confronting a city that had been hit by a Typhoon, a country that had turned its cash situation upside down and we hadn't had a reply back from the Hotel we had booked.
There were no ATM's visible at the airport, they were probably in the part of the airport that was missing some of its roof!
There was no one staffing the pre-paid taxi counter where we had hoped to buy a taxi chit on a credit card and avoid the hassle of the taxi touts outside. There was a Cash Exchange open but they only had the new 2,000 rupee (about 40 Kiwi) notes available and changing that size note would be difficult ( or so we thought).
Deciding that big notes are better than no notes, used some of our US cash and bought a couple.
While standing in line had a very funny chat with a chap from England whose family emigrated from India many years ago. He was here for the cricket which starts on Friday and he was definitely supporting the country of his birth, not his parents. His humourous view on the cash situation and what the 8 people behind the currency exchange counter individual roles in the process was priceless.
Shelley had the bags so out we went to confront India!
Scanning the sea of faces and more importantly the sign boards hoping my last minute email to the hotel to meet us was in vain. As we slowly worked our way through the crowd, I spotted the tout with the profile I wanted. He was walking beside us, not saying anything, not trying to grab our bags and drag you to the car like the others, but keeping pace and trying to make eye contact and then a smile. As we cleared the first wave of touts who left us alone to head back to find other potential clients Mr Smooth stuck with us. By this stage he knew where we wanted to go, he had been listening to all the exchanges,so when he made his approach I engaged with him. The negotiation just came down to price..guess what 2000 rupees. That of course was the start of the game. I heard how the Typhoon had disrupted traffic, streets were closed, the flight delays had meant no work for two days, the time his wife has spent at the bank to get small notes after the big notes were taken out of circulation, etc,etc. all of these stories emerged while he dragged my opening offer of 500 rupees up to 1400. Deal lets go. He directs us to one of his drivers gives us a big smile and a handshake and wishes us luck that our hotel is still open !.
I had read in my Times of India app that the Typhoon had made landfall in Northern Chennai and in making my hasty booking all I knew was the hotel were close to the Cricket Stadium. In the taxi I quickly had a look at my map and realised our hotel was in the Central/Northern part and we were heading in that direction.
As we got closer we went through pockets of blacked out suburbs, trees down, power poles down and road closures in many places.
Our driver was in a jovial mood pointing out others misfortunes with a laugh. He came from a place called Rameswaram which is on the Eastern end of Adam's bridge in the south, a place we hope to visit.
It was a welcome relief to see the lights on at the Beverly as we pulled into the courtyard. They had no idea of our booking because the internet was down but they had rooms, power and running water. Unfortunately Shelley and I had to celebrate with a chilled water due to bar being closed for the day for a Muslim holiday.
A great day and a great result..night one in India in a pair of single beds with hard mattresses and the prospect of our first Indian breakfast in the morning.
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