Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I'm not training: Travel Karma

As I mentioned in my last post, occasionally my my travel plans go a bit awry.  I've been stranded on trains in London, stuck in traffic in a diesel van in Paris, been in tram accident in Germany, gotten lost and ended up in a "bad" neighborhood in Toronto, and stuck in more airports than I can count.  I still believe that it's all part of traveling around, but some of my frequent travel companions are beginning to question this, and are starting to see me as a common denominator. 

What does this have to do with India? 

Here are a couple examples from my trip to Delhi & Agra:

Story one.  "We're not going to all fit in that car"
So we land at at around 10pm at the Delhi airport.  4 of us are traveling together, and the hotel has arranged ground transportation from the airport to the hotel. 

All's well, right?  Not quite. 

There are 4 of us, and  we're all in India for nearly 2 weeks.  3 of us are women (sorry for the stereotyping) so we all have quite a lot of luggage.  The hotel shows up with only one car.  We look at the car, and don't see any way that the 4 of us plus our luggage are going to fit. 

Things aren't looking good, but the driver seems undeterred.  This is why:

Yes, this is our bags being strapped to the top of the car. 

I expressed some concerns to my travel companions, as the case containing ALL of my clothes is the middle one in the picture.  Normally, I might think losing a suitcase off the top of a car in one of the largest cities in the world is just a great excuse to buy more clothes.  Unfortunately, I'm in India.  I don't know that I could find any clothes to fit me here, much less buy more than a week's worth.  One of my travel companions commented, "well, if you're going to have your suitcases strapped to the car somewhere, they probably know how to do it right here."  Good point.  We piled in the car with the remaining cases and made it to the hotel with no luggage loss.  (I must admit that I was watching out the back window in case my suitcase fell off.  I have no idea what I would have done, but still, I was watching...)

Story 2:  "Let's change that flat tire"
My friends who grew up in India told me to take the train from Delhi to Agra.  It's quicker, apparently.  I'm on a business trip, though, and our corporate travel and security departments don't allow this.  We booked a car and driver instead.  It's 2 lanes of highway each way, and only 200km.  We were told it would take 2.5 to 3 hours each way.

I'm not sure what kind of trip planning provided those estimates.  It took us just over 4 hours to get to Agra.  I lost count of how many hours it took us to get home (5-ish, I think). 

Why the delay in getting back?

A flat tire.  Yes, a flat tire.  You may be wondering, "Is that really complaint-worthy?"  Normally, I would say no.  However, if this is the spare tire that's put on the car when the  tire blows, I think there's a case to  be made for complaint:

Yes, that's a split in the side of the spare, and some type of organic material (sticks, as close as we could tell) plugging the hole in the tire.

When the first tire blew, my colleagues and I thought it was just another fun adventure and got out to take pictures.  Oh, and one of my colleagues had to help, as the jack included with the spare didn't work properly on the car (no surprise) so my colleague had to lift - yes lift - the side of the car so the driver could get the jack in place.

When we saw the condition of tire, however, we didn't think it was such fun.  As soon as I saw the picture, I knew the probability of us getting back to Delhi on that same tire we very, very small.  The roads are not that nice, and that was an ugly patch. 

Sure enough, a couple of hours later the tire blew.  Not just gently went flat.  It blew.  We pulled off on the side of the road.  By this time it was dark.  We're parked next to a busy, should-be-four-lanes-but-is-really-used-as-eight-lanes highway.  We're outside of Delhi, but in a populated area.  The driver got out to look at the tire (with my colleague to act as a human jack again) and the driver left.  Yes left. 

The driver came back a couple of minutes later with another man.  They stared at the tire for a while.  One of my colleagues suggested that we call the car service and have them send another car.  Our driver replied, "No, it can be fixed.  Just five minutes."  And off he went, with the tire and the other man. 

Meanwhile, left alone again, our car started to attract some attention from the locals.  When stuck in car, at night, outside of Delhi, with no way to get away, attention is not what I want. 

5 minutes passed.  No driver.  10 minutes.  Still no driver.  15 minutes.  I call The Husband and tell him where we are in case we go missing.  20 minutes.  Still no driver.  30 minutes (or was it more?).  Who's that man running towards our car?  But yes, the driver!  The tire is finally fixed and we're back on the road.

Back to the hotel for a large glass of wine.


  1. I think you should carry a nice bottle of wine in your purse. Your "situations" are frequent and require immediate first aid.

  2. Or maybe something stronger than wine.

    Just wow.

  3. Lani, I think this must be standard operating procedure in some countries. When we were in Vietnam, our taxi ran out of gas between the airport and Nha Trang. So we all get out on the side of the road. A guy on a motor scooter pulls up and in a flash, our driver is gone. He didn't say anything to us. Just left. After about 20 minutes he was back with gas. We assumed he would be back, but who knows! On another occasion, just outside Saigon, a cab driver who didn't want to deal with Saigon traffic (or who didn't have the proper license to operate there, my husband thinks) pulled over on the freeway and tossed our bags out on the side of the road and yelled at us to get out. What do you do on the side of the freeway? As I recall, a different cab stopped and took us in to the city. And even sadder still, no good wine in Vietnam.

  4. Our security and travel people were NOT happy about this. They kept stressing how dangerous it was for us to be left on the side of the road like that. They said even Indian nationals would be at risk. Good to know!

    Needless to say, we won't be paying for our car.


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