Having missed a night’s sleep we slept solidly for 10 hours. But even after that when the alarm went off at 8am we felt groggy – our body clocks still thinking it was 1am and time to go to bed and not get up. Then our first experience of curry for breakfast. There was some soggy white sliced toast and jam that were a token gesture to the very few western foreigners we have seen here, but meant we could be cautious on our stomachs while we adjust to the local milieu.
As David described in yesterday’s blog – our late departure from Birmingham left us sprinting across Dubai airport to catch our connection and unfortunately only 5 out of our 6 baggage items sprinted quickly enough – the item dragging behind was rather appropriately my bicycle and was left lurking somewhere in the far reaches of Dubai airport. Today was therefore punctuated by phone calls at regular interval trying to track its whereabouts. The first phone calls after breakfast established that none of the numbers given to me at Trivandrum airport were functional but fortunately the main Emirates baggage phone line in Mumbai confidently told me my bike had arrived in Trivandrum and the airport had been trying to ring me to arrange delivery but could not get through (they had been given the hotel number). So I gave them my UK number to pass on but heard nothing on that.
Our next job of the day was to get ourselves connected to the Indian telecommunication system – i.e. get a mobile! We braced ourselves for what the blogs had said would be a long and bureaucratic process, armed with passports and photos, but in fact none were needed and in 10 minutes we had a functioning Indian SIM card. As our UK phones were stubbornly not connecting to any networks we even went back and brought a very cheap phone and another SIM card so we are both contactable should we get separated.
Back to ringing the baggage line and I gave them my new phone number and I was confidently told my bike was definitely in Trivandrum and they were definitely still trying to ring me and I would definitely be phoned on my Indian number. So confident were we, we went out for a cup of coffee in the 7th floor restaurant of the posh hotel restaurant with great views but there was still radio silence. Back to the baggage line and I called again and was confidently told my bike had now been picked up by the delivery company and they were on their way. Hooray.
David put his bike back together and took it out for a spin. He came back looking happy that he had not been mown down by any lorries or buses and that everything was working. Generally the cycling was fine apart from dodgy junctions but I am sure we will work out the best tactics as we progress. I went out to buy fruit and snacks and also returned without damage!
Still no sign of the delivery driver but we waited hopefully and eventually at 5pm the hotel got a phone call from the delivery driver saying he would be 2 hours. The bike seemed to be inching closer. We went at 5.45 to stroll down to ‘sunset point’ where at the southernmost tip of India you can see the sun set and the moon rise at the same time (more or less), supposedly at the junction of 3 oceans (and you don’t get that in Bognor).
So my biggest impression so far is that there are just so many people in India – and most of them were walking down to ‘sunset point’. We joined the hubbub passing stall after stall of tea shirts, saris, snacks, sugar cane juicers and coconut drinks and a whole host of other things and reached the point to see the red globe of the sun dropping down. The experience was slightly marred but the fact that that part of the beach was clearly also used as a public toilet so one had to tread carefully (!)..…..but the people watching was great. The sunset not so great as the sun dropped into low lying cloud and disappeared before the final denouement but I am sure we will see many a sunset in the next few weeks, but I doubt with so many people.
Back at the hotel, no sign of my bike but another phone call…he would be there 7.30-8. 8 o’clock came and went but hunger drove us out and we went back to the posh restaurant opposite for their ‘New Year Buffet’. A tasty selection of South Indian curries, tandoori, chapatis, rice, dhal (500 rupees each – about £6). Amazing views of the local church lit up in multi-coloured lights like a beleisha beacon. Half way through the phone went…….the hotel……my bike had arrived!!!!! David dashed over to sign the paperwork. When he got back we finally relaxed. We will have a holiday after all. South India is dry so a very abstemious New Year’s Eve and we toasted each other with tea – not at midnight – we are now back at the hotel and David is putting my boke back together. I am sure we will be in bed before midnight but as we don’t really know what time zone we are in yet I don’t think it will matter too much and we will need some shut eye to start our great adventure of 2018 tomorrow.