India: Pender Island to Mumbai

We departed Pender early Sunday, January 8, 2017 and spent the day visiting family in Sidney and Victoria; including seeing the new Star Wars: Rogue One.

Very early (4:30am) Monday morning we were up and took a taxi to the Victoria Airport for our 6:05 flight to Seattle. From Seattle we flew Emirates to Dubai and then on to Mumbai. Security was more intense than usual at the airports. I had a secondary screening in Victoria, where my money belt had to be extracted and all my cash fell out onto the floor. In SeaTac the personnal were far more uptight than usual; one fellow complained about how we put our small packs on the scanner belt on their bottoms rather than their sides. Security in Dubai was far simpler and we were there only briefly.

The best part was the flight itself. I’m so glad we booked with Emirates. It was a bit more expensive than flying westwards with one of the Chinese airlines but was far more comfortable and had more amenities. We had pre-booked our seats and chose an aisle seat and a window seat. Lucky for us the Seattle – Dubai flight was not full so we had an empty seat between us, giving us some sprawl space (we’ll be using that strategy again!). We were given menus and had both dinner and breakfast on the 15 hour haul to Dubai, including free drinks plus a major snack. The multi-national air crew were amazing. Plus we were each given a beautifully designed small bag with eye shades, toothbrush etc. The screen on the back of the seat in front of us had a large selection of movies including current theatre releases.

Moscow by Night

We flew a polar route: over the BC interior, Edmonton, Great Slave Lake and up and over. I nodded off for a few hours, after the sun set somewhere over the Arctic, and woke up over Greenland. The full moon lit up the icy landscape below. Once I saw a hump of heavily glaciated dark rock and another time a triangle of lights in the middle of nowhere. Then we crossed Greenland’s coast, flew over the water until we crossed the northern edge of Scandinavia. Below I could see a port and a few ships lit up. Towns were few and far between. Gradually cloud cover blanketed the continent. When the plane’s flight map showed us approaching Moscow I hauled out my camera and took some photos of the city glowing through the clouds. Daybreak found us between the Black and Caspian seas. The landscape was rugged with snowy peaks. As we flew over Iran I was fascinated to see snow covered peaks. The textures of the landscape prompted me to take quite a few photos. Then we crossied over the Gulf and landed in Dubai. I could barely make out the towers in the city due to a thick haze.

Iran by Day

The flight to Mumbai only took a few hours and we landed at about 5:30pm. Both of us had only catnapped on the flight so were starting to feel tired. But we’ve certainly endured far worse long flight that have left us exhausted. We cleared Customs and changed some money in the airport. One of our pre-trip worries was the news of the demonetization of some of India’s currency and horror stories of finding cash. We changed Canadian money and were given some rupees and debit cards for the balance. So far (one week in) we’ve had no issues with cash. We’ve been using rupees, the debit cards and our own Canadian bank cards to withdraw cash.

We proceeded to the taxi pre-pay booking stand and were set up with a Yellow and Black taxi to take us to our hotel. We had arrived just in time for rush hour! I had printed a Google map with directions to our hotel which I gave our driver. He seemed a bit puzzled by the hotel’s location and made one stop before we even left the airport for clarification. I was glad I didn’t leave my elbow hanging out the taxi window for long as we almost immediately had a car come within inches of us. We were alternately caught in immense jams and speeding along clear roads through the dusk. Pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, carts, auto-rickshaws and cows lurched out of the semi-darkness as our driver expertly propelled us along. We passed high tower blocks, ramshackle slums and endless small businesses. After about an hour we pulled over and our driver chatted with a shop owner and found we were within blocks of our destination. He couldn’t drop us at our hotel door as the street was ripped up but he got us within easy walking distance. One hour taxi ride = just over $10. Plus a tip for delivering us safe and sound.

We checked in and were soon sound asleep.

Street with Travellers Hotel – Fort, Mumbai

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