Today was a long travel day, the first flight took us across the Gulf of Oman into Pakistani airspace and then onto Ahmedabad, India, where we cleared customs and re-fueled. This was the India method: slow, multiple paper forms (remember carbon paper?), repetitive (scanned luggage in and out), and ended up a 3 hour stop.
One highlight of this first flight came when the jet in our group had a moment of concern with Pakistan ATC. Pakistan ATC: “Sir, we have no clearance for you to enter India. Please turn around and go to Oman.” Jet Pilot: “Um, say again?” Pakistan ATC: “Sir, turn around and return to Muscat, Oman.” After a long pause…..Jet Pilot: “We cannot turn around. If we do, we will not have enought fuel to make it back to Oman. We will land in the ocean.” Of course our director solved this dilemma: thanks to the use of his satellite phone, awakening his colleague in USA and managing the conflict with logistics by obtaining the proper permit number. Once Pakistan ATC was given the permit number, he cleared them to enter India.
Next: Agra (planned 1 1/2 hour flight 380 NM) became a two hour flight at about 500 + NM. The thrill of darkness approaching, dodging storm clouds that exhibited electrical activity and the difficulty of getting ATC (air-traffic control) to acknowledge and clear us to decend morphed into a STRESSFUL experience. Tom’s aviator skills and decision making brought us through landing in darkness. Once our fourth airplane landed: Praise God and “It’s Miller Time!!” Or in India, Kingfisher time!
Our transfer to The Hotel Oberoi Amarvilas was an experience not to be believed! About 9 PM we were transferred via white Audi SUV and introduced to India’s night life. Following extreme daytime heat of 106 degrees the locals were ready to socialize after sundown in cooler 100 degrees. This wedding season in India: we passed four wedding processions including marching bands, 8-12 men carrying large decorated lanterns and multiple cheering, dancing participants. Tiny cars (“Tuk-Tuks) or auto-rikshaw, bicycles of all kinds (some with flatbed cargo capacity) and motor bikes filled the streets. Every moblilty was loaded with twice as many people or items than it was designed. Navigating the streets requires experience, our driver says three things are needed: good horn, good brakes and good luck! Animals everywhere: cows and monkeys (held as sacred); goats, dogs and even a random pig or two!
Our hotel: The Oberoi Amarvilas was a welcomed oasis from the hustle and bustle of the day. All of the Indian hosts were the most gracious and welcoming with bows and peaceful calm.