Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 1: Flying To Kathmandu

After months of preparation, mostly by one of my friends AD, we met up in New Delhi, India to board our flight to Kathmandu, Nepal. To find our flight, we first tried Kayak Flights and then seeing if Orbitz had any deals. We eventually settled on a JetLite flight from Delhi to Kathmandu that fit all of our schedules well. Since I had been traveling separately prior to meeting in Delhi, our travels required quite a bit of coordination. I arrived in Delhi at about 6 AM via an overnight train from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The train ride was decent enough. The benefits of an overnight train ride is that you board, fall asleep, and wake up at your destination. The downside is that the cabins and seats are a bit cramped, especially for someone with a relatively larger frame like myself. At any rate, I got to Delhi in one piece.

Upon arrival, I waited with my mother and aunt in the International terminal's traveler's lounge. The lounge at Indira Gandhi International airport is located directly across from the ticketing area on the upper level. Passengers are allowed to enter free of charge up to 8 hours prior to their anticipated departure time. Guests can also enter for a nominal fee. The lounge is reasonably comfortable, with a cafe and food court present as well as much needed fans and A/C. There are also several AirTel phone booths available to place phone calls. We waited in the lounge for approximately 6 hours, passing the time comfortably, napping, snacking, or chatting.

About two hours before my flight departure, I entered the ticketing area. There are several security checks. First, a guard checks that you have a valid ticket prior to entering the ticket area. Then, you have to check in at your airline's counter. Next, there is an exit customs process. Finally, there is a security check where they scan you and your carry-ons, after which you are finally allowed to proceed to your gate. Inside, the airport is like many other international airports, although perhaps a bit smaller. There is a center area with several duty-free shops. Around the periphery there are various cafes and small shops, including a Subway sandwich shop.

For my flight, I proceeded to the lower level, where there are two additional gates. Not the most ingenious design, but I suppose it gives them extra flexibility with flights. Also, they do not have retractable gate ramps, so one must board a bus to drive from the gate to the plane itself out on the tarmac. This process means that one must arrive at the gate even earlier than usual. As the time to board the first bus came and went, I started to get nervous. My friends had not arrived yet! I had no idea where they were, and little means to contact them. I faced a dilemma: do I wait for them and risk missing the flight myself, or board alone but risk being separated? As I watched the seconds tick by, I was unsure what the right thing to do was. Still, my default choice was to remain where I was and stick to the plan. I had seen enough movies (Jurassic Park, for example) where things went wrong just because people didn't stick to the plan, so yea, I was stickin' around.

My strategy paid off: running through the airport, thirty minutes late but undaunted, my friends appeared! Rule number 1 for starting a trek: have all the trekkers present. And off we went!

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