Itís goodbye to Communitech, as I skip out on the last install of the trip to catch my flight to Delhi. Steve, Amna, Anahita, and Professor Gangulee are not close friends: Iíd never call them up on bored Friday afternoons. But, I have spent mostly every minute of the last several weeks with them and theyíve been good, smart company. Iím sad to go and expect to have many other friendships like these.
Iím also sad that I read Robin Sharmaís ďThe Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.Ē I picked it up at the recommendation of the cool Indian dude from IILM, also names Robin. Itís basically buddhism lite and not particularly well-written, but it does push me over the edge for my layover. I get through the PIA flight, complete with Koran travel prayer broadcast over the loudspeaker in Arabic, only to arrive in Delhi and realize Iím even worse at travel than I thought. My flight isnít at 12 midnight: itís 12+ hours after I land, at 6:45 in the morning. Go me.
So, I have a choice. Stay in the airport the whole time? Definitely not: Iíll probably get cabin fever crazily, between this dirty airport and the upcoming Air India flight. More reasonable would be to return to Anahitaís house, get a hostel until 4 in the morning, or take an autorickshaw to do some sightseeing. Nix Anahitaís: Iíve already said my goodbyes to her parents and theyíve put up with being more than inconvenienced by us with a smile on their faces. Iím tired of sitting around, so Iím not too keen on checking into a hostel or even sitting in a taxi. Questions are laid to rest by the bookís bullshit but inspiring lines, things like ďlive today like itís the last day of your lifeĒ and ďbe adventurous.Ē Obviously, I should start walking and see what I find. I check the larger of my 2 backpacks, take off my shirt, and hit the highway.
Itís immediately better than even a comfortable bed would be. Smiling at anybody who looks my way and adding ďhel-loĒ gets lots of reciprocated smiles, and Iím offered rides on everything from vans to motorcycles. Iím carrying $500, meaning I could stop almost any passing bike and buy it from its owner on the spot, yet people assume Iím a bum because Iím on foot and shirtless.
I walk a seriously long way: from Indira Gandhi International Airport to past the Ericsson building in Guragaon (sp), if that helps you. Coolest sight is a ~40-foot Shiva statue, complete with pitchfork and painted shiny copper. No idea why somebody put it there, but itís attracting a good number of devotees. At maybe an hour from the airport, this isnít far into the walk. Iím guessing I go about 3 hours before finding food in the form of China Club, a posh restaurant amid corporate towers holding offshore operations of Microsoft, Canon, etc. Itís extremely overpriced for India, but I still have to absolutely gorge myself to break $20.
And then comes the walk back. Itís dark and my foot hurts, but I get to use my headlight. My navigational strategy is basically to ask multiple people at every backroads intersection which way to the airport. I hope the average will be accurate and get me to Jaipur highway, after which I should be OK.
I get to the highway, still loaded with traffic. Necessity being the mother of invention, I affix my keychain LED light to the back of my headlightís band. I decide this will be enough to prevent motorcycles from running me over as we both squeeze onto the bit of road between trucks and gravel, construction having started on a much-needed road widening. My headlightís just bright enough that I manage to avoid falling on my face and the exhaust fumes are only making me slightly nauseous, so things are going pretty well.
Then I stop for water, and my luck disappears. Iíve just gotten done turning on my ďtorchĒ in response to and the great amusement of the bartender asking if the strange thing on my head is a light when dust starts flying all around my plastic seat in front of the shack of a restaurant Iíve stopped to get water at: itís a sandstorm! Iím covered in dirt before I can even make the few steps inside. Dust is dying down but still blowing after a few minutes, so I decide itís an opportunity for more adventure. Iíll cover my mouth and half my eyes with my t-shirt, bandit style, and continue.
Itís uncomfortable but effective. But whatís that flash in the sky? Thereís another. Shit: large drops of water are falling on me. Very large numbers of drops of water are soon soaking me. I endure for a few minutes and then my thumb goes up. Is the hitchhiking sign recognized here?
Nobody stops. A gas station in the distance, but on the other side of the highway. Crossing the 3 lanes for one direction of traffic, Iím against a fence. Should have cleaned off my glasses first, back across. Another attempt to cross further down results in improvement: Iím in a mud puddle several inches deep.
Across in one piece, barriers to communication ensue. Saying ďairportĒ loudly eventually results in a taxi being called, but the driver canít understand me at all and vice versa. I get out in the parking lot and start down the highway again.
Good luck: a different taxi stops right after I leave the lot. Even better luck: we can communicate enough to set the location and negotiate a price. Iím fading fast as we go, in and out of sleep for the 10 minutes it takes to get there. Somebodyís asking him for parking fees, I donít have exact change, and he claims to have no change, so he settles for 230 on the 250 rupees we agreed upon. I get out and he speeds away with the parking lot guy yelling.
I get my ginormous boxes out of storage and set up camp in the visitorsí lounge. Refreshing miracle of miracles: thereís a shower in the bathroom, and itís functional! I shower, set 3 alarms (my watch, the dude selling tea, and a security guard) for 4 am, and pass out, hopefully just nervous enough that Iíll sleep straight through takeoff to prevent if from happening.