First leg of our trip to India!
We had started discussing the possibility of a visit to India early in the year, in January. My friend Tsetan is of Tibetan origin and had lived for 21 years in Dharamshala, in the far north of India in a state called Himachal Pradesh and still has a son there. When I told her that my family and I were thinking about going to India she asked whether it would be possible for her to come with us and my response was “Why not?”
Long story short, tickets were purchased and visas issued and we embarked on an adventure. Tsetan’s family came to the airport to see us off, it felt like when we leave Mauritius where relatives come to the airport
The first part of the journey was tiring but uneventful We took Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore, then to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi we collected our luggage, cleared customs and immigration and proceeded to check in for our domestic flight to Dharamshala.
We checked in for our domestic flight and then had some food and walked around a little. We had several hours to wait so we looked at the shops and chatted with some Tibetan monks that we found in the airport, in particular, a very interesting lama based in Sikkim, a place that I have always wanted to visit.
About an hour before the flight was scheduled to depart we headed to the gate only to see that the flight was no longer listed! Nobody around seemed to know what was happening until I found a couple of Indian guys who were looking for the same flight. A few others gradually joined us, including a lady from Uttar Pradesh and one from Vienna. After confirming the flight was cancelled due to bad weather in Dharamshala we quickly made our way through the airport back to arrivals to collect our luggage. We then went back to the ticket counter, snaking our way through the Delhi airport. At the ticket counter, one of the Indian gentlemen, Saransh had a vibrant discussion with them to negotiate our refunds.
After all of this happened we decided it was time to introduce ourselves to each other We actually sorted out the issues together without knowing anything about each other, including names!
At the same time, another one of the Indian gentlemen was at another Air India counter negotiating for the refund of the excess baggage that several of us had paid. It was quite stressful and confusing since none of us knew where to go or what to do but they were like a breath of fresh air and were incredibly helpful in sorting things out.
The next step was to figure out how to get to Dharamshala! We were all hungry and tired and needed to get there as soon as we could. There were several options that we discussed. One was to stay overnight in Delhi and plan to take the 6 am flight to Dharamshala, assuming that it wouldn’t be cancelled. The weather forecast was grim so we opted against that.
After weighing up a lot of possibilities, including flying to Amritsar and finding a driver, we opted to get a couple of drivers and make the 12 hour overnight drive to Dharamshala, in the dark, through the mountains while raining. We were told that night driving was a lot easier in those areas.
The Indian gentlemen made a few attempts to find taxi drivers at the airport and when that was unsuccessful one of them made a few phone calls and found us 2 drivers. It took them a little while to get there due to Delhi traffic conditions and then they loaded up all of the luggage and we started driving.
After a 12 hour drive through the mountain passes and winding roads with a brief stop for some food we finally made it to Dharamshala, where Tsetan’s son was waiting for us. We will always be grateful to the people who helped us along the way. With their help and companionship, an ordeal was turned into a fun adventure.
This was a reminder to me that when travelling in India, always expect the unexpected and stay open minded and ready to go with the flow. There will always be someone to help and the unexpected will turn into an adventure!
More to come on our visit to Dharamshala!