New Delhi, Delhi, India
When you first step off of the plane, it’s like entering a different world. Thousands upon thousands of people rushing from one place to another, insistent merchants peddling their wares, noisy crowds pushing forward to get some food from the sellers. “Shoe shine sir? 5 minutes and very reasonable price” “Chai, for you sir?”, “Designer jeans? You buy! You buy now!”
You look out the window at the smog, hovering in a layer, almost blocking out the sun.
And the smell… It is all encompassing. A mixture of various food stuffs from the vendors, unidentifiable chemical smells, and the body odor of the thousand desperate souls who wander aimlessly about.
Most of the signs are in English, but some are confusing and it is easy to get lost in the maze of corridors and hallways…
Yup… I think it’s safe to say that I hate Pearson Airport.
And the new airport in Winnipeg? It feels a lot like Pearson Junior. A lot of similar architecture, but very efficient.
The flight to Toronto was uneventful, just like every other of the hundreds of flights to Pearson, but this time, I’m not going in to be a theatrical sound guy for a musical… I have some connecting flights to make…
A six hour layover in Pearson is about 5 hours and forty five minutes too long in my books, but I got a chicken burger from one of the fast food places (probably the last meat for awhile) and then wandered the international departure corridors.
Next stop, Zurich. An 8 hour Air Canada flight over the ocean. Watched Harry Potter, read a little, slept a lot. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an international flight with Air Canada and the service has improved immensely, but it still feels like I haven’t left Canada.
Arrive at Zurich… The Airport is made up of cold marble and steel, and every few minutes, an announcement is made in Swiss German. There are no less than 10 chocolate shops and about the same in cheese shops.
Seven hours to Delhi. Service starts with coffee and some cheese, then a little later, they bring by some cheese. Watch another movie, then sleep a little until the cheese cart comes by again followed quickly by the meal cart which offers either a dal curry, or the standard airline rubber chicken, complete with salad and a side of cheese with a Swiss chocolate bar for desert.
There is very little cloud cover during this flight, and I have a window seat, so I can peer out at the landscape while waiting for the cheese cart to come by again. The flight path from Zurich to Delhi zig zagged quite a bit to avoid the various no-fly zones in the area (Iraq, Afghanistan etc.) but we were close enough, and by using the interactive map in the seats, I was able to see Baghdad, Kabul, the West Bank and Islamabad. But apparently, Swiss Air has access to Iranian airspace, because we flew right through it and at one point were directly over Tehran. So I nibbled on some gouda and marveled at the world below.
Then we had some cheese.
Just before we arrived in New Delhi, the Swiss Air flight attendants passed out hot towels with a hunk of cheddar, and then we disembarked with an aufedersein and some chocolate.
I didn’t really know what to expect my first sights and smells of India to be, but it certainly wasn’t this. The air was hazy, but it smelled of smoke more than anything, as if a forest fire were blazing in the vicinity. But the thing I was really not expecting was the total lack of people in the gargantuan international terminal at Indira Gandhi International Airport. It was desolate.
So I zipped down the ten moving sidewalks, until I came to a set of escalators. As my sight lines crested to the point of seeing past, I was able to see the teeming mass of humanity waiting to clear customs. There were less people at the U2 concert in Winnipeg than there were in this line (about a hundred persons wide and thousands long).
In that line I heard German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Hindustani, Farsi, and the occasional snippet of English. I had read about India teaching and testing one’s patience, and I have a feeling I am in store for more queueing during this trip. I did notice while in line, that for the most part, I was the only one smiling.
And so the adventure begins… I’ll keep you posted. Right now I’m going to get a nap and a shower, while eating a bit of cheese left over from the flight…