Guest writer: The one previously referred to as Shell.
Yet another early start. We’ll be glad to get to Goa where our time will finally be our own. It’s a 5.45 rude awakening today as our first flight of the day leaves at 8.10.
Inder is as prompt as ever and ready and waiting for us at 6.30 along with the rep. The tour company have been excellent throughout with reps meeting and assisting us at every stage. Today as we are leaving so early they have even arranged a packed breakfast to take with us. The rep provides a final bit of Jaipur sightseeing on the way to the airport, although we are too bleary eyed to take much in.
Once at the airport we bid farewell to Inder, our companion for the past week. He has taken us hundreds of miles across three Indian states safely negotiating every conceivable obstruction that was thrown in our way. He shyly poses for a last photo before we head into the terminal, juggling rapidly-disintegrating cardboard boxes containing our breakfast as we go. The rep arranges an airline assistant for us so we are whisked to the front of the check in queue. We are booked in for both our flight to Mumbai and the connecting flight down to Goa. We head for security but our assistant is still with us waiting for his tip. We pay him but no sooner has he gone than we are accosted by another airline assistant asking for Miss Powell. Turns out we need to pay 52 rupees tax each to the Indian government. So we head back past security to pay at a ticket office. Once there, we are told it’s actually going to be twice as much as we are taking two flights. We pay up and make sure we get a receipt as we don’t want to get hit with this again in Mumbai. We make off for security for a second time but again our latest assistant drags us back as the check in clerk needs proof we’ve paid our taxes. Third time lucky at the security queue but once again our assistant is there looking for recompense for his help. We begrudgingly fork over about 7p. Well it’s not like we asked for this to happen and he wasn’t a huge deal of help. We finally make it through security making sure that everything that needs a stamp, gets stamped, learning a lesson from earlier in the week when I was refused entry onto the plane as my boarding card hadn’t been stamped by security (not that this was ever mentioned to me at any point).
The flight is uneventful and arrives in Mumbai with plenty of time to spare before our 12.05pm flight to Goa. Flying over Mumbai we saw huge areas of shanty towns on a scale that we had not seem before. I don’t doubt they were there but the size could not be perceived from the road.
The gate escape
After landing we amble off the plane – for the first time ever there is no need to rush. We don’t even have to pick up our cases as they are checked through to Goa. We follow the signs to departures and join yet another security queue. I get through quickly as there is a dedicated ladies lane. It evidently either offends delicate Indian women’s sensibilities to be searched in public or Indian men get too excited by the sight of a woman getting a pat-down from another woman… Whatever the reason, I go behind the screen to be searched and wait on the other side for the other half of my party to join me. However, there is a problem with Andy’s ticket. I have a brief sense of deja vu where one of us can get through security but the other can’t. It turns out there is more than one terminal and our connecting flight doesn’t leave from any of these gates in this terminal. To be fair, the gate number is on our boarding cards but it didn’t occur to either of us to check this or that we were in the right place. Sometimes following your nose isn’t always the best idea. For the first time this trip, we are thankful for the Indian bureaucracy that has highlighted our error. It obviously isn’t 100% foolproof as I made it through security without question and who knows how long we may have sat there waiting for a flight that was departing from another terminal…
We retrace our steps looking for the correct gate. We make it through security and triple check we are in the right place this time. Our flight is listed on the departures board so we have nothing to do but wait to be called.
The flight is a short one, only 55 minutes. Despite the shortness of flight we get a three-course lunch, although as we are near the back we are only just tucking in when the captain puts on the seatbelt sign in preparation for landing. Never one to be parted from my food, I end up hanging onto my pudding just so the cabin crew can take my tray before we land.
Good game, good game
We are finally back in Goa and our arrivals experience is slightly different to the one we had less than a week ago. Then, it was just package holidaymakers all desperate to get their cases so they could begin their holiday. Due to a small delay in our flight we landed at the same time as two other internal flights and at baggage claim it is every man for himself. It’s also not just cases that we see coming round the carosel. Indians evidently pop to Mumbai from Goa for a spot of shopping as we would to London. There are huge boxes coming round the conveyor belt and we see amongst other things a large fan and a 42-inch flat screen tv, but alas no cuddly toy.
Reunited with our cases we head outside where all hell has broken loose with cars and people everywhere. A week ago we’d have been shell-shocked by such events but we now see this as a mere nothing after our adventures. We try to avoid the porters but one gets a hand to the rucksack as it goes into the boot of the car. He immediately demands a pound coin for his assistance. We refuse and our driver makes his way through the carnage and we are on our way to the hotel. After a week of feeling safe on the anything goes Indian roads with Inder, our latest driver is trying to break the land speed record in delivering us to our hotel.
Room with an ooooh
We somehow manage to get to the hotel without incident. From reception we walk for ages to reach our room taking in the facilities as we pass – several bars, restaurants, a mini cinema, gym (we won’t be needing that this holiday at least), spa, two swimming pools. We finally reach the room which is an oasis of air conditioning. We are led into the bathroom first, which is about the size of our previous hotel rooms to date. It’s my dream bathroom with a huge shower, double sinks, a large wardrobe each complete with bathrobes, a dressing table and the piece de resistance: a free standing bath in the centre of the room. We are then taken into the main room which is even bigger with high ceilings and the biggest bed we’ve seen in a while. We sit on the sofas to complete the check-in forms and I make a mental note to buy a big bag of sweets for my contacts at work. We didn’t book this luxurious accommodation – I had a word with a few people and they’ve done me proud.
Finally left alone to explore, we wander round the hotel taking in the stylishness of the place. Andy rates it even more highly when he finds out there is free wifi throughout the hotel.
The catch-up with our holiday rep has some useful advice and information for us, especially concerning good places to eat. We were not sure what to expect having only eaten in our hotels up until now. For our first outing we cross the road to Fish-Ka. With a name like that I didn’t think I’d find much to my liking but the menu is extensive and the food pretty good. Even more of a surprise is the bill which is less than half what we’d paid previously for a great deal more food. Tired and full, we wander back to the hotel and fall sound asleep in our giant bed, dreaming of the relaxing days to come.