Monday in Ashwen. Sleeping alot. Like old lady in bed at 8 to the roar of dance music bedtime. Dead to the world. Waking for a moment around the witching hour then sleeping and dreaming till 5am. Time for old lady pee and a stretch as I am sleeping on an Indian mattress, aka board covered in cotton padding, aka torture….Today I forced myself back to sleep, skipping yoga and aiming for sleep olympic medal in the hope of making it to 10pm tonight.
It was, of course, trauma-town to get here. The first leg, home to Heathrow, involved some bus shenanigans, as the Heathrow Connect wasn’t running that early. A bit of a fib to the National Express coach man got me to T4 gratis. Thank you v much 😊.
Despite checking in online my need to not be late meant I still needed to arrive 3hrs before the flight. And thus I arrived 3.5hrs early. Time for some random hanging around, observing the excess baggage overload that was happening at Air France check-in desk for flights to Africa. I was allowed to check in 4mins earlier than my allotted time and thus get through an uber efficient security process and sit down for a breakfast before you could say shashuka for one.
KLM was super efficient and Schipol was bustling. The connecting flight was practically next door to where I arrived so no painful superdash across the airport – that was to come later in Mumbai….of course.
I had read online about delays of up to 3hrs at the airport as a result of e-visa introduction. Surely not still the case…but taking no chances and despite us landing 10mins early I muscled my way off the plane pretty sharpish and pegged it halfway around the airport to immigration. Time to get in my 10,000 step, elevate my heart rate whilst being dehydrated and needing a wee…winner.. .
It seemed fairly quiet, which seemed pretty hopeful. However the airport is huge, with plenty places for people to hide. However the reason for the quiet soon became apparent…all the passengers from other flights were already queued halfway out of immigration. Shit. E-visa queue was the worst with not even half the desks were open. Snail’s pace would be over-egging it as a description. I had 2.5hrs to get through, get my bag and get across to the domestic terminal. Seeing this tired, polite queue of sweaty folks I realised that I was potentially fucked.
A little kerfuffle of ‘you pushed in’, ‘no we didn’t’, soon kicked off in front of me. The lady who had instigated it rightly pissed off having spent 45mins (along with other fellow passengers from Toronto) in the wrong queue, then was told there had been a mistake and now was at the back of another. A sudden rush of people as a couple more desks opened…doing, as the best sheep do, I followed. Can’t say I really moved much further in line overall but my swollen ankles and potential dvt got a chance to move around a bit. I managed to pick out Toronto lady a bit further back and called her over and we chit-chatted. Tanzanian Indian her family had moved to the UK and 40yrs ago she had moved to Toronto as a new bride. She was back in India for a puja, husband or father or brother it wasn’t clear and I didn’t feel it my place to ask.
It was fairly low key in the queue, although many had connecting flights at 5am. A few people had family with OCI who were impatiently waiting the other side. Standard visa was also moving a lot quicker. We shuffled our way forward. Time ticked by. An hour gone and maybe halfway there, maybe not. Final corner of the queue to join the counter queue. Go behind the wheelchair or not? Not. Chose wrong…argh. Now getting agitated. Over an hour and a half going not very far. Immigration man chat chat smile smile to the woman in front…all the time in the world. Me next. Finally. Smile ‘yes, all good, flight to catch, please be quick’. The fingerprint machine is slow and not working well. ‘Left 4 fingers’…’Again’, ‘Ok?’, ‘Waiting for machine…’, ‘Ok’, ‘Right 4 fingers?’, ‘Wait for machine.’…all the time rictus grin of ffs and I need to get my bag. Finally thumbs…’ok, all good’. Hurray. ‘Thank you SO much’, quick hug to Toronto lady and running through duty free to baggage and queues all the way back to duty free for customs….ahhhhh shit.
The flight was gone off the board. And the bags were not at carousel 7 as we had been told. ’10 madam’….scan of the bags piled up…’KLM??…no not 10. ’11 madam’. Fuck, run to 11. I hadn’t had a workout like this since the Turkish Airline debacle at Istanbul that ended in missing my connection there, missing my flight to Goa and overall total fuckuppery thanks to that thwarting airline. Nothing personal, just never flying with them ever again.
Not in that pile by the belt. WTF. ‘Here madam’, a few bags left stacked in another pile. Of that is all that’s left then how did those other feckers get through so bloody fast??? Grabbed it and ran past the red channel, ignored the green channel queues. Headed to a moustachioed man in uniform ostensibly in charge of the queues. He looked at me ‘connecting flight’ I hoarsely explained. I queue jumped to x-ray hand luggage then out to prepaid taxi. 700r for a 625r ride which wouldn’t really be that in a normal taxi but hey it’s an emergency. Didn’t really listen to instructions as to where to find the taxi, muscle memory took me downstairs. The lifts few and far between, designed with space for a wheelchair, a man and a mop and one carry on bag. Perfect for an international airport then.
Outside I hit the heat of Bombay and a row of taxis. Found my way to the prepaid. 3.50am. 300rupees if you get me there by 4am. Challenge accepted. Seatbelt was working. I checked before I laid out the request, not a total nincompoop.
We got there with 4mins to spare. Check-in desk was calling for all passengers to Goa. ‘Madam, this is your ticket?’…well it was in my hand, so….’Yes, not this counter..this is Indi–Go. You need Go…’. Obviously at the other end of the airport. Nincompoop.
Bag dropped. Departures is obviously upstairs and obviously there’s people just standing on the escalator and not engaging their lower limbs to ascend it. The stairs it was. My beautiful shade of beetroot only served to accentuate my rapid dehydration. If I had gone to the loo likelihood is I would have pissed sand.
Not allowed in tbe short security queue because that was for men only. No…join the longer lady queue and mandatory frisking up on a podium but behind a curtain.
Discretion is everything after all. Through that rather understated check, ‘ underwired bra?’ ‘Beeep’….’Bob on for getting that right aye?’ and after a rather long wait as the security guy’s job didn’t extend to utilising his arms to move the x-rayed items along the belt it was off to the gate and onto the plane IMMEDIATELY. No hanging around and we took off 20mins early. Not a flight for slackers.
An hour later we descended into Dabolim still in darkness. The flight a mix of early morning business men, Bombayite bachelor boys on a weekend away from mum, Bombayite single girls on a weekend guaranteed to be more debauched than that of their male counterparts, families utilising every piece of luggage allowance and finally the tourists.
My case was there and so was my driver and we headed off in the morning gloom and cool to my accommodation in Ashvem. It was a tad nippy out. As evidenced by business man running with a balaclava on his head that exposed his eyes and his bald head. Further along there was someone actually in running gear, and not office attire, in a similar mask – seemed to be an anti-pollution thing not abalaclava after all.
As we drove along it was evident there had been some progress on the road works that headed north. In 2015 it was mayhem, causing tailbacks to the airport. There was more of it on more stretches of the road and it was all very much work in progress. We wove past and through it creating two, three and sometimes four lanes of traffic in space designed for one. No overtaking signs acting merely as a suggestion rather than an actual requirement. Yep, I was definitely back in Goa.
Arriving at the accommodation about 7.30am I was entirely unsurprised to see anyone on reception. I was technically 5.5hrs early. Settling down for a snooze on the bench by the desk I just started to drift off when I felt rather than heard someone next to me. One of the staff, looking less awake than me. Without any preamble and presumably to remove the untidiness that was me cluttering up the space he shifted me up the road to their other site, a house. My room was looking out to the beach, there was a tele, spacious bathroom and a comfy mattress on a mahoosive bed. Heaven. Mine. For all of 2hrs. Then at breakfast I was informed I was in the wrong room and needed to move. Bugger.
Shifted back to reality of an Indian mattress (a paradox if ever there was one) and a room that smelt faintly of sewerage once the fan was turned off. Bollocks.
Mentioning it at reception I was told it would be sorted. It was. I was moved again. Turns out someone had thought the bucket next to the loo was purely for decorative purposes only and had thrown loo roll, plastic and all manner of rubbish down the toilet. Bell-ends. Thus I had arrived back, now it was off to go exploring and reacquaint myself with Ashvem / Mandrem.