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05 June 2008. Bagdogra—Kolkata via Delhi

  • Getting to the Bagdogra airport
  • Finding an alternative itinerary to Kolkata
  • A Delhi airport adventure
  • A night at Kolkata airport

In the morning the bandh came to effect. That meant we would have to either walk from the hotel to the airport or search for a brave soul who would dare to defy the bandh and agree to drive us there. Somehow we found such a desperado, and he gave us a five-minute ride to the airport by the back roads.

Because of the bandh all flights to Kolkata were canceled. Wanchuk's help here proved invaluable: he talked to Kingfisher Airlines' manager, Mr. Santosh Rai, and he and his associate, Ms. Lama, helped me book two one-way tickets: from Bagdogra to Delhi on SpiceJet, and then from Delhi to Kolkata on Kingfisher Airlines. That would get me to Kolkata in the evening, and I would still be able to catch my British Airways morning flight to Washington, D. C. after spending a night in Kolkata.

Mr. Rai issued me a full refund for my canceled flight with a written explanation: Due to WB (West Bengal) bandh.

Interestingly enough, later it took me a long time to actually get the refund. When I inquired at Kingfisher Airlines what the problem was they were very apologetic and said that their system did not have the proper code for refunds caused by a bandh!

Having settled my itinerary, Sonam-la, Wanchuk, and I sat for a breakfast at the airport restaurant. They were kind enough to spend a few more hours with me until my departure for Delhi. I said my heartfelt Thank You and Good Bye to my hosts and boarded the plane.

When I arrived to Delhi the airport was a chaotic scene: an expansive construction was going on. I was told that my terminal was quite far away, and I needed to wait for “the blue bus” that would take me there. However, nobody could tell me where exactly that mysterious bus's stop was. When I asked a few passer-by's they all gave different answers, and then it became like a scene from a movie: several people were giving me advice at once, all contradicting one other: “Listen to me, I tell you the truth!”, “No, don't listen to them—they have no idea what they are talking about, they are only trying to take advantage of foreigners! Listen only to what I tell you!” etc., etc. My time was getting short, and the blue bus was still nowhere to be seen. Having found out the general direction of my departure terminal, I decided to push my cart on the side of the road and just walk there, which I did. It was rather hot and humid, and as I was sharing the road with cars, motorcycles, and bicycles, I was asking rare pedestrians whether I was on the right track. Finally, covered in sweat and dust, I reached the terminal where Kingfisher Airlines' staff greeted me and said that I had to hurry up to the check in counter. I made it! When I landed in Kolkata it was already evening time.

Because of the bandh and the associated flight disruption the domestic terminal in Kolkata was filled with people sitting and lying everywhere. Of course, there were no rooms available at the airport hostel, so I just walked over to the International terminal. In contrast, it was cool, quiet, and almost empty there. I spent reading a newspaper and thinking back on the past two months. In the morning I left for London and then Washington, D. C. My Himalayan journey came to an end. Indeed, that was a vacation of a lifetime.