Me and my most gorgeousness woke up at 4.30am to set off at the unknown hour of 5am for me to grab my flight from Heathrow to Pune. We got there with plenty of time to spare which we used by hugging, commenting on each-others watery eyes, and taking selfies in front of Christmas trees, we were both left thinking that this is a trip we should be doing together 😦.
It wasn’t my first time on a long-haul flight by myself, my first was to Toronto in June 2016, but it was the first time that I had to make a change at a country that I wasn’t too familiar with at Abu Dhabi. I was wary of changing here as the middle-east doesn’t exactly have an unstained reputation of being a welcoming place, however my experience to Abu Dhabi was nothing but very pleasant. I had unfortunately made the mistake of opting for a special requirement of a ‘bland’ meal which meant that I was served before everyone else, brilliant, but was left feeling downhearted when presented with a menu by the stewardess of all the tasty options the others on the plane could choose from, I ended up with fish of some description and potatoes… not fun! From being served first I also had to sit with the tray in front of me for the longest amount of time, not what you want when you either need a pee or want to snuggle down on the seat and snooze. While we are on this topic, why do the stewardesses always wake you up at obscene hours to feed you? In my experience if you have a late-night flight you must expect to be woken around 1am to be given food that you don’t even have an appetite for, I mean it isn’t even good for your teeth eating between snoozes and not brushing, I don’t see many people on the planes popping up to brush their teeth after every meal. One of the perks of flying is that you always get off the plane with a mouth feeling like a carpet.
I hate how long it takes to get people off of planes, when disembarking I am always left standing for about 20 minutes whilst the slowest people in the world grab their luggage and get off the plane, I am always left wondering that there has to be a better solution that squeezing everyone out through the same door, seriously this really rattles the cages of very being even when I am trying to be patient gggggrrrrrrr.
Another thing that annoys me about plane journeys, other passengers… there was me happily watching my movie (Ab Fab I think it was..?) and the guy who was sitting in front of me and waiting to get out into the aisle to use the bathroom, touched the top of my screen accidentally (?) and exited it in throws of a good scene, if only my eyes could have burnt a unhappy face into the side of his skull.
Anyway, back to 16th December and me regretting ordering a bland meal, apart from this the journey was quite comfortable, it was about 7 hours to Abu Dhabi with the plane arriving early which allowed me 2 hours and 20 minutes to try and get my phone to join the WIFI, it didn’t seem to think that their network was secure strangely, maybe because my Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is a bit of a posh nosh…? Any way I eventually was able to join the WIFI about 1 hour before we boarded yay, I don’t think it helps that foreign airports don’t ever think ‘hey let us name our WIFI ……….Airport’, they always call it some obscure name so that you wonder if whether all your details will get stolen when you log on, if you have a phone like mine it is easy to see why it was suspicious! I had the same issue at both Pune and Delhi airports, they had ‘open networks’ with odd names that didn’t seem safe to join.
From Abu Dhabi I was able to send some selfies to my avid followers (my bf, my mum and my bezzie) to let them know that I had arrived looking like something the cat had thrown out of its pram (or however the saying goes). I had flown with Etihad airlines from London which was amazing, but then was shoved on a Jet airways plane which was one of those ones where you have to jump on a bus to be wheeled to the plane which is about ½ a mile away but somehow the bus takes about 40 minutes to get there going the long way around the airport, again, there must be a more productive way of doing this, what’s wrong with the walk ways that the bigger planes use to load up passengers..? As I was boarding I noticed that I was literally the only European, this was a taste of things to come in Pune where I only saw another Westerner at the registration bureau, against all odds I felt entirely comfortable and happy to be on the way to a city that not many ‘tourists’ get to explore. I say against all odds because Indian men are supposed to be angry, disrespectful yobs who can’t keep their hands off of ladies, I as always, had an aisle seat for ease of pees.
Landing in Pune I was given my first introduction into Indian organisation; a huge queue of both foreigners and citizens waiting to be called forward to go through the immigration that consisted of just a couple of tables with no barriers stopping anyone from hurtling through, I had been shocked enough by the pilot saying that it was 22 degrees outside…. At 3am!
I ended up being last in the queue as had exchanged some funds (could only exchange £60 ie 4800 rupees!) and used the lovely and errr unsanitary bathrooms, the officers were looking extremely bored by the time I reached them and were scouring my flight itinery, passport and Visa for something that they could be mean about, lucky for them they found it on my 1 year tourist Visa “for visas valid more than 180 days registration is required within 14 days of arrival into India”, just as they wanted, this threw me into a bit of a panic thinking OMG how am I going to get this sorted. It took up about 5 days of my holiday worrying and trying to sort this out with my friend, only to look online and realise that for tourist visas you don’t need to register as you are a tourist, gosh knows what stupid bureau thought it a fabulous idea to print such a thing on every single visa valid over 180 days regardless of what it is, tut tut. The long and short of it is, if you do need to visit the police in India so ‘register’ take a local who can bargain for you and help you sort things, otherwise you will never know what is going on! Another welcome to India was the lack of Wifi at the airport and my phone wouldn’t send text messages as the network didn’t work in India, damn.
My bezzie, Vee, met me outside at around 4am after waiting for ages for my bag to pop out from behind the curtain and surprise me on the conveyor belt, I had by this point dodged my first ‘scam’, a man offering me an airport trolley and me going ‘oh thanks so kind od you’ then him saying’ I help you with luggage’ and me saying ‘ermmm no I can push my own luggage thank you’ and scampering off to find my own trolley, the cheek of the man. The strangest thing at the airports in India, as I was about to discover, is that you have to scan you bag through a machine yet again before you are allowed to take it. (It was the same as every train and metro station, only one of the most annoying things in the world to constantly do!) do they not trust that Heathrow airport and Abu Dhabi would have picked it up if something was wrong with my luggage?
Anyway, I met my friend outside and gave him and his sister a huuuuuge hug each, it was the first time I had met his sister but I felt like I already knew a lot about her, she was after all related to my bezzie. He had Wifi about his person, thankfully so I was able to send a selfie of me looking even more worldly worn posing with my bezzie to my bf and mummsy just so that could see how tired I was, his Wifi was not the most consistent in the world but instead of getting frustrated I should have known that this is probably the best Wifi I would have for the whole trip. For a country so far advanced in its IT compacities you would have thought that they would have better Wifi, I mean seriously.
The India that greeted me was feeling very warm, looked very dusty and very much in need of some TLC. The streets are lined with mismatched buildings made out of metal and brick, wedged in right near posher looking buildings with glass. The air smelt of pollution and animal excrement.
My first experience of the roads coincided with my first experience of my bezzie driving, it wasn’t really an indication of things to come mainly because it was so early in the morning that there wasn’t much traffic, though I did see a dog doing a poop in the middle of the road. I didn’t see any of India’s famous cows though but I shouldn’t have felt sad as when I departed the country I had approximately 25 million photos of cows haha. The roads that we took to get to his house were an eclectic mix of normal looking tarmac roads and dirt tracks joining two parallel roads together, and traffic lights served as a guide rather than something that should be obeyed, the same went for roundabouts. I hadn’t at this point been treated to the full experience of my friends over enthusiastic use of the horn, this treat was to come later, but I did get a taste of his ‘see a speed bump and keep going at same speed’ philosophy which meant that anyone in the back without a seat belt on ended up flying high in the air (more on this later). To be honest I was taking a lot in at this point A) because it was dark B) because I had just flown for 13 hours and C) because I was catching up with my friend.
We rocked up at Vee’s house to be confronted with the room that I would be sleeping in, it actually already had some people inside it, 4 small people to be exact… and they were all on the bed where I was supposed to be sleeping, doh. So thus for the first night I had to hunker down on the floor, but like the hardy traveller that I was this wasn’t a huge deal for me, I mean when I stayed with my friend in Toronto there was 3 of us all sleeping in his tiny studio apartment, me him and his friend from India. Having known him for almost 10 years I was now used to Indian way of not really having personal space, we had practically lived together for 3 years after all.
I awoke about 5 hours later to find myself in a chaotic household and me being stared at like a fascinating object, probably because I had been dribbling and talking in my sleep which is a normally occurrence for me, by a selection of the small people. I must admit I am not the biggest fan of children ever, in fact before my trip to India I had always avoided being in the same room as a small child on my own. The two youngest I had actually ‘virtually’ met before as I had sung songs from Frozen to them down the phone in the past and they thought of me as a mix between Anna and Olaf, I did jokingly say to my friend that I would wear an Olaf costume to the wedding.
The wedding, now this was why I was in Pune, my friends brother (actually his cousin, but interestingly they call all their cousins their brothers & sisters, quite cute actually) was getting married to his girlfriend of a number of years in a lovely lavish ceremony and lucky little me was along to get the experience of a lifetime…….