Yeah, it’s challenging… Especially if you’ve basically done everything wrong as we have – packed too much and wrong things, bought too much and heavy things (6 table cloths – really?), not really done the right research into perhaps how big India is, how different the roads are, how they are truly less organized than Americans are – stuff like that. Challenging.
Sunil, our perfect Sunil, the best driver ever, is late – now 15 minutes. Just as we ask the front desk to call two auto rickshaws (6:15 a.m.) Sunil arrives. We throw our now 4 large suitcases, PLUS our carry ons into his car and race to the train station where we have been assured their are porters (FYI – no porters at the Mysore train station anymore). Sunil grabs our two duffle bags, Mallory and I take our wheeled cases plus carry ons and we RUN for our reserved seats in an air conditioned car. We run to the end of the train (approximately 100 cars, I kid you not) to find out, it’s the other end – really. We arrive minutes before departure to discover seats 9 & 10 are two rows apart (don’t ask). As Sunil is hurling these ridiculously heavy bags onto the upper baggage racks (there are no others) he is issuing orders to 2 people sitting together, YOU sit there (he points to one of our seats and YOU sit there (he points at our other seat) then tells us to sit in the seats of these two strangers. We ALL do as he says. Sunil smiles, says he will call driver at other end and tell him to come with porters, gets off the train. Sunil is magnificent. Mallory and I turn to the people who have been displaced, apologize profusely, offer their seats back, thank them profusely when they say all is fine, look at each other and say “shit, how are we going to get those bags down?”
Sunil, in fact, does contact the pick up driver, who literally jumps onto the train as it pulls into the station holding a sign with our names and .3 burly porters in tow. We are amazed, delighted, and grateful. And now to the airport…that was another whole scene with over baggage charges, deal making, and more burly porters. Have I mentioned yet that Mallory has fallen in love with every driver, porter, and waiter we have met in India? Well she has…
Before the end of our train ride we have been befriended by the very people we displaced. The extremely charming man displaced across the aisle from Mallory has offer up banana, some strange kiwi like fruit, pomegranate, bread and so on. The woman I displaced is concerned that we know where we are going (well with good cause, she thinks we’re idiots, I’m sure), and the young man behind us, is anxious to tell us he lived in LA for awhile. More charming and disarming traits of the Indian people – friendly, concerned for your welfare, helpful, generous.
When we arrive at Cochin airport we mistakenly think we are close to our destination, Ft.Kochi. This is one of those not well researched issues – an hour and a half later we arrive at our destination, The Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel, Ft. Kochi, in time for a beautiful sunset, a cold glass of wine, and the news that the beach isn’t swimable – great disappointment on our side….