Thursday 17th December
Kochin to Heathrow
It was a very short night that ended at 4.15 for our departure to the airport. The chef had provided breakfast in our room including a decorative fruit platter garnished with pomegranate. We said goodbye to the beautiful Old Harbour Hotel.
The journey to the airport proved something of a challenge. Exciting in retrospect but anxiety-provoking at the time as there seemed to be a very good chance that we would miss our flight.
Kochi being on a series of islands, there were many bridges. The direct route to the airport passed over one. Unfortunately, building works to the metro meant that there was a huge jam where traffic from a two lane dual carriageway was attempting to squeeze along a single carriageway. Trying to achieve this in India without traffic lights or police was just asking for trouble. Instead of passing each other slowly in two single files, the vehicles surged forwards, sideways and even backwards until the tangle of cars was wedged solid, every available square inch of Tarmac covered by a bus, taxi, lorry or motorbike pointing in various directions. The obvious way to fix this was for the drivers to sound their horns, and when that didn't work, to get out of their vehicles and wander about, shouting and waving their arms. The workman in their hard hats ineffectively pointed and gesticulated with their red illuminated traffic wands. In the front passenger seat we could see our travel rep starting to look anxious. Motorbikes and mopeds were driving back through the jam in the wrong direction. A car appeared driving on the pavement (beyond the street lights and rubbish bins) and got stuck.
The rep eventually got out of the car to scout around and to help direct traffic. After several agitated telephone exchanges between Mr Binu and the rep he reappeared and hopped in. We shunted our way to the side of the road, and squeezed down an improbably narrow alley - the ones that you often see in film car chases, that usually end in a flight of steps! There were no steps, just some huge potholes and many startled cats. Taking directions from local people we turned left and right, bumping our way at speed through the narrow back streets and over small bridges. It felt a bit like a Bond film, although no cars were actually damaged and as far as we know, no hand barrows of oranges were spilt. Meanwhile, the rep was videoing the entire scene through the windscreen using his iPhone!!
Once we arrived at another main road to the airport they relaxed and the rep phoned ahead to the check in desk to make sure that they would wait for us.
There was an anxious moment at the armed security check on the door. We had no tickets and no boarding passes, just passports and our booking reference (Bill had thoughtfully discarded the relevant documents from the travel agent to save weight in the luggage...)
Eventually the rep explained that we were in a hurry, so he let us through!
We checked in, boarded the plane and set off for Delhi.
Arriving at Delhi 30 minutes early allowed us a bit of slack to negotiate the baggage, leave arrivals, arrive departures, check in again. We re-packed our bags to make the most of our glorious new 23kg luggage allowance and lighten our cabin bags considerably.
There was another anxious moment when another security guard asked to see our tickets... Bill fidgeted uncomfortably, thinking of the well-stuffed waste paper bin back at the hotel, but eventually we managed to find an email that connected our names to our flight and that did the trick.
Onward to London and Christmas at home!!