I arranged a taxi to take me from the Tibetan enclave to Indira Ghandi airport. On returning from a visit into the centre I had spoken to a taxi operator at the entrance to Manju Ka Tila. There was a taxi van with sliding side door and which looked just the thing to transport me and my bike to the airport. The operator assured me that this vehicle would be available and we negotiated a price.
The taxi driver appeared at my hotel the next day and we walked to the main road alongside the colony. He led me to a small car. My bike would not fit in it. I complained bitterly that this had not been the arrangement and could see the van I had booked parked nearby. The driver, whose English was poor, said that the van was much more expensive than the price I had been quoted. So i asked to speak to the taxi operator and was determined to get the vehicle I needed. Finally to resolve the problem I took my bike and spoke with another taxi operator standing nearby. Seeing that they might possibly lose my business the original driver had the van brought round. I paid a little more than originally quoted but not quite the price hike that I had been asked. Problem solved! However it was not the smooth arrangement I thought I had organised and thankfully had allowed plenty of time before the flight.
The next problem was at the airport. The flight check in staff were not happy with my bike in the CTC clear plastic bag . It needed, in their opinion, to be in a box. I carefully explained that the bag had been accepted every time that I had flown with their airline and demonstrated the security and check in stickers that it had picked up from previous flights along the way. Once the staff had discussed the issue with their managers they decided that it would be fine providing the airport security scanning and baggage handlers were okay with it. We took the wrapped bike to the oversize luggage scanner unit. It went through okay. Yay! My bike and luggage were to be forwarded onto my next flight in Sri Lanka.
An uneventful flight and I arrived in the humid climate of Colombo, Sri Lanka. My next flight back to the UK was the next day. I expected to sleep overnight at the airport. At the Sri Lankan Airways information desk I was told that they were going to provide me with free taxis, hotel accommodation and breakfast. Wowser. I had no idea that I was going to be treated so well. I waited with others until a large taxi took us all to the Ramada hotel at Katunayake. A short wait and I checked into my room. Now for someone that had spent the previous six months cycling, camping and often ‘slumming it’ in seriously poor conditions this was the most comfortable place of entire journey. My room with en suite bathroom was amazing! It provided everything and more. I found it incredible that such facilities were being provided gratis to me by Air Sri Lanka. I had a long relaxing hot bath ; something that I had been dreaming about for some time. Breakfast the following morning in the dining room looking out onto the outside swimming pool was an event in itself. I was a little embarrassed by the courtesy and high class service afforded to me by the staff. I gratefully took a little extra food from breakfast for my long haul flight back to London. I understand that such facilities are ‘normal’ for many travellers. But not for me.
The taxi took myself as part of a group back to the airport. It rained and was very muggy. Although appreciative of the rest and courtesy provided part of me wanted to stay a little longer in Sri Lanka. I had really enjoyed my stay there in January.
By early evening I was back in London and Heathrow airport. The bike and luggage appeared with no visible problems. My big brother had arranged a taxi to pick me up from the airport and so once again I was treated to an easy modern ride. It felt strangely odd to be back home. It would take several weeks to adjust back to ‘normal’ life and a different time zone..
All in all I (very roughly) estimate I had cycled about 3000 miles in six months but do not really know how far I went on the bike. I had to replace the battery in my cycle computer several weeks into my trip in Sri Lanka and much of my local cycling at various destinations went unmeasured. I had lengthy breaks in Kathmandu, Srinagar, McLeod Ganj, Leh and Manali. The distance is, I guess, immaterial. It had been an incredible journey from the most Southern reaches of the Indian subcontinent and then North to some of the highest mountains ranges in the world.
I was glad to be home in one piece..