Today we fly to Mumbai, but first there’s the small matter of a 5 hour coach journey from Dharamsala, where we stayed for a week, to Chandigarh. We caught a “Volvo bus “ down the winding mountain roads. Quite why Volvo is seen as the height of luxury or sophistication in India is a mystery to us, but there you go.
It was staffed by a driver (naturally!) and an assistant who was sporting a rather fetching Dennis the Menace style striped polo shirt with matching underarm ventilation slits. Quite the look.
As I’m sure we’ve mentioned before, the driving style in India is crazy to say the least. This level of insanity is not a character trait of the car or tuk tuk driver alone though. No, it also applies to 48 seater coach drivers also. At one point we overtook an ambulance with its blue lights flashing on a windy single carriageway road with no more than a 2mph difference in speed. Throw in a few blind bends to boot, and you get the picture.
After arriving at Chandigarh bus terminal we needed to get a taxi to the airport. It’s never the easiest of tasks at the best of times in India as I’m sure they hike the price up slightly when they see tourists, but we’re getting pretty good at guessing a good price now, and holding our ground.
As we got off the bus at 2.30am we found ourselves on the side of a duel carriageway. We grabbed our bags and made our way towards the waiting taxis. We had to clamber over the central reservation barriers where the floor appeared to be moving in the half light. When our eyes adjusted we could see multiple rats scurrying around our feet! Lovely!
A man working at the bus terminal helped us order an Uber taxi as the tuk tuk drivers prices were so inconsistent we were getting the impression we were being ripped off. Especially as they all kept mentioning 2 airports with massively differing prices. We’d heard many times since arriving in India about the various taxi scams so we’re always on our guard.
Just as the taxi arrived the helpful man gave me a 100 Rupee note and asked me to give it to the driver as he owed it from an old outstanding bill!
He then said to us just as we’re climbing into the taxi that the airport would be closed at that time?! How can this be? How can an airport be closed we say? Airports are 24hrs! He conceded very quickly and said it would be open “for us”. We figured we must’ve misunderstood.
This is a classic example of a scam we’d heard about. Your destination, usually a hotel or hostel is closed or even burnt down, let me take you to another place where they get a commission.
So, we were finally on our way to the airport, even though we’d be arriving very early but we just figured we would just relax there and get some sleep, or something to eat etc.
The Uber driver spoke a bit of English and was chatting to me about the Cricket World Cup being hosted by England for most of the journey. That was until just before we arrived and the conversation turned to his dog, which he described as “strong and a fighter”. Here, I show you a video, he says. So, whilst running multiple red lights he proceeds to show me a video of a dog fight! I make him turn it off immediately as that’s something I really don’t want to see.
Then we arrive at Chandigarh airport. Early as I said, but ready for our flight to Mumbai only to find the airport is indeed, you guessed it………closed!
Until 5am anyway, so here we sit under a lamppost at 4am smothered from head to toe in mosquito repellent writing this! It could only happen (to us) in India!
Update: When we finally got the nod from the smartly dressed armed security guards that we could proceed at 5am we began to wonder where the actual terminal was. As it got lighter we realised we’d been stopped at a checkpoint well outside the airport and we had to hike about 1km semi awake lugging our heavy backpacks. It’s not every day that you know 100% that you are the first people through the door of an airport for any particular day.
Also, who knew that there was such a thing as a non 24hr airport?!!!
Still, we are the ones who wanted some adventure though and here it is! But as per our below picture, we continue to smile, albeit in the dark.