Where do we begin to describe this harrowing day that started at 7:00 am when we started the drive to the Mumbai International Airport through crazy Monday morning traffic at this early hour? It was quite a daunting experience.
But, before we get to that, I’d like to mention that the Courtyard by Marriott, Mumbai International Airport made our departure extra special when they “comped our dinner” and sent an exquisite chocolate cake up and a beautiful handmade card filled with signatures from the staff, to our room last night. We’d just finished dinner, and Tom ate a small piece, leaving the rest behind. Since I don’t eat cake, I could only admire it and take a photo below.
We settled the final bill last night, making checkout this morning quick and easy. We arranged for a wake-up call at 6:00 am, but neither of us slept a wink. My Fitbit said I slept 4 hours 44 minutes, but the majority of that was me lying still and trying to fall asleep most of the night, causing my heart rate to become slow enough that Fitbit “thought” I was sleeping.
In our past travels, especially during the first few years, we had trouble sleeping the night before a travel day. As time marched on, we combated this issue and were able to sleep. However, after these past ten months, we lost some familiarity with being on the move once again.
We arrived at the airport with over three hours until departure, plenty of time to do what had to be done, all of which we dreaded. Our baggage sailed through without any excess baggage fees only after I reminded the Emirates rep at the counter that the website allowed a total of 40 kg, 88 pounds, per person. I’d be happy to show her that fact on the Emirates app on my phone when she tried to tell us the maximum was 23 kg. The excess fees would have been more than the airfare. She relented, and our bags went through at no additional cost.
That bullet dodged, we made our way through the airport toward the security check-in and immigration, each of which took no less than 30 minutes to get through the queues. In each case, we had to produce copies of our endless documents. In each case, they seemed to have no idea how to process the paperwork. Somehow, we made it through.
Throughout this process, we were stunned by the number of passengers not wearing their face masks properly or only covering their mouths and not their noses. I’m not exaggerating when saying no less than 40% of passengers that we encountered weren’t following masking and social distancing protocol.
Finally, we reached our gate to sit in chairs and begin a horrendous wait, including while in the “tube” where the poorly masked passengers were huddled close to one another. We desperately tried to avoid facing anyone directly, but it wasn’t easy.
They’d provided us with face shields, and we were wearing the extra heavy-duty N-99 masks we’d purchased in the US over a year ago to protect from the smog in India, long before the mention of Covid-19. N-99 masks are one step safer than the coveted N-95. Regardless, we were nervous over the proximity of all of those people.
Boarding the plane was like in the “old” days, people packed tightly together, talking loudly, spewing spittle, with little regard for the virus. We cringed in our seats as they passed by. Around ten years old, a young girl sat next to me while I was on the aisle seat in the grouping of four center seats.
During the entire flight, I had to ask her to put her mask back on while her arms were continually flailing my way. It wasn’t very good. We never ate the offered food, a spicy Indian dish which didn’t work for Tom and me wouldn’t like. As of this moment, we’ve yet to eat a morsel today. Soon, we’ll order very pricey room service, but we need to eat before the long night ahead. Tom’s having a burger and fries, and I ordered the Caesar salad, no croutons, with a salmon add-on. Had I ordered a burger, it wouldn’t have been a sufficient portion of 200 grams, with no bun, no fries.
Everything was smoother when we arrived at the relatively quiet Dubai airport. We had plenty of help from staff and the reps at the Emirates desk. We asked for an upgrade to Business Class, but they could only accommodate one seat for the additional US $650 plus tax. Tom insisted I take it. If they get a no-show or cancellation, Tom will join me “up-front.” I hope that works out. I feel a little guilty.
To leave the airport and return only hours later for the next flight, we had to have a complimentary Covid PCR test since we were going to the terminal due to UAE regulations. This was no big deal. Shortly after, the hotel shuttle was waiting in a nearby parking lot outside of Terminal 3, and we made our way to this bargain hotel which is quite acceptable for resting for these few hours.
Without drinks (we have plenty of bottled water), our dinner will cost more than the hotel room with the taxes and fees. So it goes. Again, we aren’t allowed to leave the hotel, but we had no intention of doing so anyway. We’re content we don’t have to spend the next several hours with lots of people until 1:30 am when we have to return to the airport and go through immigration and security one more time.
I know I’m rambling a bit from the poor night’s sleep, so I’m signing off soon and will return, providing all goes well once we’re in the hotel in Johannesburg. That layover would have been 21 hours, so once again, it made sense to stay in a hotel and await our next flight on Wednesday.
We probably won’t sleep tonight since we have to leave this hotel by 1:00 or 1:30 am. By the time we get to the hotel in Joburg, we’ll be ready and hopefully able to get a whole night’s sleep. Our flight the next day to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger will only require that we get to the airport around 10:00 am for our 12;30 pm, 45-minute flight. We hope to be in Marloth Park by around 3:00 pm.
As I mentioned to many well-wishing family, friends, and readers, we won’t relax until the 14-day quarantine period ends in Marloth Park, and we feel confident we didn’t get the virus.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and breathe the fresh air. We certainly did that today!
Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2020:
|Saturnalia, a Sculptural group by Italian artist Ernesto Biondi at the botanical garden Buenos Aires in 2018. For the year-ago story, please click here.