Traveling to the past
It is going to be a long day. My morning started with a mild headache but had to get up as I had to complete my packing, follow-up my visa, pick up a bag from market and do some minor chore before I leave. And yes, my travel agent have offered that she would send my passport to me instead I going 5 miles to collect it. I completed all my tasks and was waiting for a call from the travel agent office. I called her up and she said she will update me in 15 min. After waiting for many such 15 mins I called her up to confirm if my preparations are not in vain and I would get the passport well before time. She said she would deliver the passport mid way and could pick it up.
I left my place towards bus station where the passport delivery boy was supposed to come and I would then catch a bus to Mumbai. Puneites have to travel 7-8 hrs more than the scheduled time to reach the Mumbai international Airport for any international trip. Aks had taken a day off to help me out and drop me to the bus station. On the way we went to telephone office to give international roaming a try on my phone. But these people need a post-paid phone to activate it and I had a prepaid one. Anyway, internet has made world easier and I could work without the phone. When we left this place, I called up the travel agent to confirm the place where I would get the passport and now she declares that she does not have anyone to deliver it, without even apologising for the delay. I needed it and not hers, hence had to go all the way to her office in another direction to pick it up. Thankfully Aks was with me and we went to the travel agent picked up the passport, went to bus station and I caught the Shivneri (AC bus run by state Govt.).
It was 4:00 pm in my watch and my journey had begun. The bus took its usual root and I wanted to sleep. My fellow passenger wanted to have some casual talk and the lady with a child behind me didn't want me to recline my seat. And my head was screaming and shouting at me "SLEEP". Very obediently I neglected the surrounding and slept without wasting a minute till the time it took its usual halt at a food mall. MacDonalds have been a great savior wherever you go. I got down, picked up a burger had it and again slept. 90 min to go to reach Dadar, my dad is supposed to pick me up and I am supposed to call him 30 min before I reach. But, I slept again and got late to give him a call. This resulted in longer waiting time at Dadar bus stand.
So we quickly reached his place, had some nice home cooked dinner which I had carried and I took a nap for a while. We should reach the airport by 12 am and hence we left his place at 11. So here I was, carrying a small hand bag, a sack with packed/ready to eat food and a laptop bag on my back at the freshly baked crisp terminal 2 of Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. I was ready to travel 5 hours behind our time.. travelling to the past..
Travel and Travel
Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2: I collected my boarding pass and as I was passing through Kenya I was also recommended to be vaccinated against polio which the airport authority had arranged for. After all regular formalities of immigration, security check etc. I went in the airport lobby. When I checked my gate pass to reach the gate, I was surprised to see Gate no. 73 on it. Did the new terminal 2 have so many gates?? Without wasting time I started walking towards it, I didn't know, how much time it would take. But then the moving escalators for walking made it easy and quick. The corridors glittered with decorative lamps and the chairs were colourful and comfortable.I reached my gate and I had enough time to spend reading a book. "Lady, you are not a Man" (LYANAM==LAYMAN) by Apurva Purohit, accompanied me through-out my journey. The book is about woman for a LayMan (wink) and encouraging, especially for me as I was traveling alone.
After I boarded the flight and receiving the usual meal which had a Indian taste I dozed off only to open my eyes in Nairobi, Kenya. I had a connecting flight to Ghana from there as most of my fellow passengers had. It was interesting to see how people of almost all races in the world come together at a location and all disperse in the world. The airport with nearly 10 gates was full of people, leaving only few chairs for people adding in. Going through the window panes of many duty free shops, I inquired for a transit visa which I took in my return journey. After all this I had 2 more hours and the airlines declared that the flight was an hour late. What am I going to do for 3 hours? I sat on this really uncomfortable chair and started reading the book. I also made some changes to the ppt I was supposed to present the other day and then again I dozed off but didn't forget to put a alarm on my mobile phone.
After I got up I went through a confusing system of entering the gate no.8 where people from other flights were also awaiting their flight. They announced our flight name and asked us to board the bus which would take us to the plane. I got an aisle seat and the person besides me was reading something familiar. Although it is not meant to be good manners I peeped in and I found that the person was coming for the same meeting as I was. Small world!! I got introduced to him and then went back to my favorite task.. dozing off.
After the flight of 5 and half hour the pilot instructed to tighten our seat belts as we were about to land at Kotoka International Airport,Accra, Ghana. Amidst the grey clouds our flight landed safely. As we entered the airport we went through the immigration part, clicking our pics, imprinting our fingerprints and moved towards the exit. Now me and David walked together to find a person holding name of the institution we were invited at.
Sitting in a left handed driving vehicle we reached the hotel,we were staying at,in nearly 30min. Throughout the ride I felt that the driver was not following rules being used to the right handed driving in India. After we reached, true to the Ghanian claim of they being good hosts, the hotel staff was humble and very supportive. Although it was 2:00pm in the Ghanian clock I was in the evening as per my biological clock. All this travel had confused me in terms of date and time. After eating some home made snacks I slept to wake up only tomorrow morning.
Meeting and Networking
2 days of Marathon meetings and plenary sessions.. with a Chinese dinner on 13th evening.
This was a great experience.
As soon as the meeting finished on 14th me and David ran towards the airport as we had to catch a flight at 8:30 and we had to report 3 hours prior. The roads were not empty and also not full as we see in India. We took slightly longer to reach the airport. On the way I purchased few Ghanian chocolates "Golden tree" from a roadside vendor. All the Ghanian Cedi I had were supposed to be exchanged at the airport but I me and David were surprised to know that they had just one private exchange stand that too not in the premises. So i waited with our luggage and David exchanged Cedi for both of us. I was relieved.
The Kotoka Airport is a small one with only 4 gates. Our flight was from gate 1.
I just bought a water bottle from the airport and went to sit near the gate. Although I was hungry nothing seemed tasty on the counters. The flight was late again. So I started with the book sharing a 'made in India' cake and chocolates with David. I encountered 3 Indians who were booked on the same flight. The lobby near the gate was now full and everyone inquired about the flight time. After 1 hour of wait we could board the flight which came from the Freetown Sierra leone. It was nearly 10pm Ghana time. As soon as I had meal on the flight I shut my eyes to open them before landing at Nairobi, the other day. I was awaiting this day..
Karibu... in a rainy day..
My eyes opened to see dark clouds out from the plane window.. I was worried because the flight was 1 hr late, I was worried because rains were unexpected and more importantly I was worried because I thought the driver who was supposed to pick me up at 6:30 am would have left by now. It was 7:15 and I got down at the airport in this confusion.
My mobile network was unavailable. I inquired if any paid telephone booths were available at the airport so that I could call John (the driver cum guide) and ask if he was still at the airport. But no booths and more confusions. I requested one of the staff members of the airlines if I could use their mobile phone and she sweetly agreed. Thankfully he was there and I informed him that i would come out of the airport after I get a visa. The queue was long as two flights landed one after the other. Till the time I reached the counter I was not sure if Visa on arrival is available for Indians. The process was complete and I was out in the rainy day looking for John. He was carrying a placard with my name.
After a warm handshake he greeted me "Karibu" and took me towards the car. I was slightly scared of being alone in a new city without any mode of communication. And then Aks called up on John's mobile giving me a sense of security. I also remembered that I had given John's number on the immigration form. So, it was now time to relax and enjoy the ride.
I paid the pre-decided amount to John and he stopped by a fuel station.I purchased water and cakes as snacks and then we entered the Nairobi National park through back gate which was near the airport. John picked up our entry passes and we went in.
As we entered, I had many questions in mind, whether I would see any animals, will they be far or near, will the battery of my camera run till the end, will I see a lion? So many of them I kept on asking Passing through the grassland within 2 minutes of the entry I spotted some brown animals on my left as we went closer, they looked like dear which are known as big gazelles. So swift and so many. They were crossing the dirt road we were passing through. Then came the crown crow and later biggest antelope of the world Eland. They were all amazing and to see them in wild, much more amazing.
As we moved ahead I saw some thing stripped amongst the gazelles on my right. Oh really!! Those were the zebras and I was seeing them for the first time. I had seen them only in books and TV programs. They were far but we stopped for a while and I observed. John was smiling as asked if we could leave. I said OK and we moved with the speed not exceeding 20kms/hr.It was just 15-20 min after we had entered and we spotted giraffes... first 2 then 4 then 8 and then many. They were walking towards us. Though 10-20 ft far from the vehicle I could see them closely. I felt like i should get to touch them,interact with them, but being a forest area this was not allowed. I was observing these creatures for a long time, some very very tall, some were short, some had slender neck while few of them had a fat neck. All kinds and they were grazing with their heads down as the plants were shorter to the. One of those was staring at our car continuously, perhaps it was ruminating. But for all the time we were standing there, I got a clear view of many giraffe.
I pulled half of me out of the rooftop to experience few drops of rain, the cool breeze, the chirping sound in the background and the wild beauty. We stood there for a long time, after I was all fulfilled with the experience we decided to move ahead. many gazelles and elands were grazing around. And John exclaimed pointing towards right, ostrich. Oh really!! Are they spotted so easily so close or I am just lucky. All animals I saw were very close. John explained that because we entered from back gate and the atmosphere was all rainy,you could see so many out. But I was lucky for them being close.
So, I had seen house flies and the wild flies, the butterflies in many colors, then the birds small and blue, grey and orange and many other kinds followed by crown cranes and vultures and Ostrich as the largest of them.
Ostriches are nearly my height when they stand tall with their stretched necks. And their necks moves like a classical dance just the neck. It seems as if a hand is plucking something from the shrubs.
Just ahead comes the zebra. Blend of black and white and yet amazing.With all those stripes if many zebras stand together, you just can't differentiate between two. Some kind of hypnotism or illusion is created with their movement. Amazing creatures representing the opposites staying together- Black and the white.
Now I was awaiting the Rhinoceros but no signs. We saw another vehicle stop by in front of us. I thought it is stuck in the mud as we saw many such stuck vehicle behind. But they were looking towards something. John said Rhino! but I was unable to spot it. He had really sharp eyes. It was nearly 100 ft or may be more away from us. I used binoculars and maximum zoom of my camera to see it closely. That was not a fun part just a satisfaction of seeing a rhino.
We then went somewhere with a lot more greener view. But we could not spot any animals there. Perhaps, because of the dense trees none were visible or they were away partying somewhere else. But they had Baboons there and a sign board to beware of them. We could step out of the car at this location and I clicked some pics of me and John with the car.
Once we crossed the greenery, we decided to move towards the exit as I had spotted most of the animals except for the Lions. But where ever we went all other animals were coolly grazing and we knew that lion must not be
Later we stopped near a water body which was overflowing from the mud road. To my surprise I spotted a hippopotamus taking rest in the water. Although I couldn't capture it well, I got a glimpse of that really ugly but cute creature.
After nearly 4 hours of our safari, we came out, me with a fulfilled heart and John with a heavy wallet. We came out from the main entrance which was nicely decorated and more lively than the one we entered with. But the back gate had it own benefits. We had 2 more hours in hand. Instead of Giraffe centre, I decided to have a city ride. I was tired but wanted to see. John suggested if we could go to the KICC, one of the tallest building of Nairobi from where I could see the city.
The KICC had an entry ticket. The experience was good but not that worth if you are really short of time. We just spent 15-20 min there and started with our drive back to the airport... On the way I saw the poster of a Airlines which said Karibu.. you are welcome to our country!!