It was always going to be a long and tiring day, but I didn’t realise how long and how tiring it would turn out to be. I left Castlemaine at 7pm by train to Melbourne, a quick catch up with my daughter, SkyBus to the airport for the 1:10am flight to Mumbai via Singapore.
I was counting on the complementary champagne and extra leg room in my modest upgrade to Premium Economy to provide the sleep I needed to keep me functional for the long flights and the following two days of travel.
The best laid plans were undone by an extraordinarily uncomfortable seat (wondered why I bothered with an upgrade), and with food being offered at ungodly times of the night, a crying baby behind and flickering screens all around, sleep was hard to achieve.
The wakefulness was interrupted by the stopover in Singapore where I paired up with Jeanette from Mumbai, returning to India after visiting her family in Australia. Changi terminal is so vast, that by the time we had found our way to the correct departure gate & lots of chats, it was soon time to board again with renewed hope of some sleep.
The second leg of the journey held more disappointment: more food, noise cancelling headphones that only slightly muffled the unhappy child but managed to magnify the crew’s announcements to a deafening level of decibels, and a screen that refused to go dark all conspired to keep me in an annoyingly wakeful state.
However, I was seated next to Richard, an Australian CEO of an Indian company returning to work after the Christmas break. Interesting chats ensued and he told me of his company’s charitable work in the Dhiravi slum in Mumbai, which, according to Wikipedia, is considered one of the largest slums in Asia. With an area of just over 2.1 square kilometres and a population of about 700,000 making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. He also told me about Reality Tours who run tours in the slum, the proceeds from which provide amenities to the slum community. (I have just booked a tour for my last day in India). Although nearly sleepless (I think I snatched about an hour of shuteye somewhere), the time was spent pleasantly until touchdown in Mumbai at 10:30 local time, about 20 hours after leaving home.
The next stage of my journey that day was a flight to Jaipur where a car would be waiting for me to drive to northern Rajasthan to the 17th century Alsisar Mahal (palace), now converted to a hotel, and still owned and operated by Abhimanyu, the Raja of Khetri.
However, after a four hour wait, the Jaipur flight was delayed a further two hours: plenty of time to meet new people and have lots of interesting chats.
Finally arriving in Jaipur at 6pm local time and nearly 28 hours since I left home, I met Bhajirath, my driver and companion for the next few days and we headed north for a four hour drive to the dusty village of Alsisar and the palace for a well deserved sleep in a very comfortable bed.
….. and now ready for some more Indian adventures.