Monday, October 1, 2007

The Trip Begins!

We Begin

We started our journey from Boston and it was exciting to see the city as we rose toward the north but as we ran up the Maine coast we flew into the darkness quickly and I waited for the stars. As we made our turn eastward over Nova Scotia and then Newfoundland, my seat looked out to the north and Ursa major, the great bear, aka the big dipper. The aircraft had settled in at 37,000 feet and the outside temperature had fallen to -68°F.

Just after 8 PM, an auroral storm began rearing up in front of the always present auroral oval that encircles the pole. It was difficult to photograph given that most people in the cabin were busy with movies, reading, and using computers. This was especially true of a young Frenchman who seemed to be doing all three simultaneously! There was too much light and the reflections on the multiple surfaces of the aircraft windows was difficult. I tried putting a blanket over my head and camera and pressing the lens against the window for 15 secs. The vibrations from the plane made a rattling buzz but I managed some serviceable photographs of the storm's life of about 35 minutes. Soon after I saw the lights of the Irish coast and the cities of Shannon, Cork, and Kllkenny.

Paris Layover and the Mid-east

We had a stopover of five hours in Paris and we needed most of that to negotiate the walk and multiple bus rides to the "Hinterlands Terminal". These Air France airbus 330 planes were pretty cramped- both flights jammed to the gills and my knees spent 22 hours pressed up against the seat in front of me.

I watched the flight screen in front of me raptly. I was surprised that our departure from Paris took us east over Frankfort, Germany before beginning to angle southward through the former eastern bloc communist countries of western Europe. Below us was all farmland, no signs of borders and past wars. My excitement rose when I saw that we were going to cross the Black sea just north of Istanbul.

The west coast of Turkey came and went quickly as we flew into the interior mountains. More excitement came when the flight map showed that we were indeed going to fly over Iraq. Our path now took us between Mosul and Tablisi and it became clear that we were going enter Iranian airspace. We sliced right down the center of the country flying between the cities of Qom and Tehran. The GPS noted that we had increased our altitude to 39,000 feet and and had accelerated to 630 mph. I suppose the pilots was as uncomfortable as I. We again entered the terminus of the earth's shadow as we flew over the Iranian deserts. It was interesting to see cities illuminated in the darkness with the sharp outlines of the orange street lights, that ended abruptly into complete darkness.

Our flight path brought us through the Lut desert and just north of Karachi, Pakistan before we turned southward along the Indian coast. Vast stretches of dark lowland were below us with few lights. We struck inland finally reaching Bangalore, high on the Deccan plateau.


As the plane descended I saw flickering lights in the outskirts of the city. At first I thought I was seeing them through tree leaves but as we got closer to the runway I realized that the power itself was going on and off rapidly. How could that be in the "Silicon Valley (plateau?)" of India?

The airport was much smaller than I expected, more like a small regional airport. Customs went smoothy after a long wait for our three checked bags- yes, all three managed the trip as unscathed as we. Our first little delay came when we left the terminal to find the promised car to take us to the hotel. No such driver, no one waiting with a placard to whisk away after such a journey. Sally jumped right into her leadership role and had two cars in no time. Turns out our first ride in Bangalore was not in the least hair raising since it was 2 AM and there was little traffic. It is true that the driver drove with his head out the window!

Once into the hotel we were greeted by a stunningly beautiful young woman. I thought I was in a Bollywood film! Naturally I broke into song. After being led to our room and given a spirited tour, Sally and I collapsed until 8 the next morning.
The view from our balcony!

M.G. Road

After a delicious breakfast of Indian fare, the four of us, me, Sally, her business colleague Marion and her husband George decided to experience the streets so we headed west along Mahatmas Gandhi Road. The honking cars and blue acrid fumes of the auto-rickshaws was less unpleasant than I had been led to believe. We ran into the construction project to build a metro and got caught in a muddy cul de sac. At least three of us did. George, more up for adventure pressed on through mud and less than welcoming street people while the rest of us back tracked and crossed onto the shop side of the road.

We of course were accosted by a few beggars but mores so by street hawkers trying to sell us all many of junk- toy cobras, drums, whistles and most bizarrely classroom maps of India.
We stopped in a few silk shops to browse the beautiful colors and patterns. All the shop keepers were delightfully pleasant.

Dinner, while extremely good and with wonderful presentation, was western food so I was disappointed in it.

Loud drumming brought out to the balcony to see one of three parades for Ganesha, the elephant god.

The next morning we were awakened for the first time in our lives by the muslim call to prayer, broadcast over loudspeakers.

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