Jan 17 - time to leave northeast India and head for Board meetings in Mumbai.
Travel time Gangtok via Bagdogra to Mumbai via Delhi - 16 hrs door to door. All is well that ends well BUT the time between is worth reporting on! Previous night Instructions from friendly but firm ex-Gurkha Guide was "please ensure your bags are outside your door at 6 AM, proceed to early breakfast and departure at 6:30 so that we may have plenty of time for the 1:30 PM flight from Bagdogra." No problem for the compliant Canucks. Note: Bagdogra was 115 kms away - 5 hours, you must be joking! Well departure was on time but our Guide neglected to inform us that the Drivers of the 5 car convoy had not been paid and so they decided to go on a 'drive slowly' protest. This was most disconcerting and certainly out of character for the normally inclined Indian version of kamikazes.
This was frustrating but as the roads were in fact quite icey and the cars equipped with 'no tread tires circa 2000 manufacture' the troops did not complain. Saw a Caucasian tourist wipe out on his shiny BMW motorcycle and held our collective breaths as we descended the hairpins that we had climbed a couple of days previous. Beautiful mountain scenery again. At the border of Sikkim and West Bengal the Drivers and Guide had a powwow and things began to move a little faster UNTIL we hit a serious railway crossing construction project. We reckon the line-up was over 1 km. And how would anyone know such a fact? Well we were at a dead stop for well over an hour and then a few short advances until our Gurkha Guide came running back (all sweaty and flushed) to blast our other Drivers to pull into the wrong lane of the 2 lane highway and forge our way to the railway crossing - which we did. So now our 'plenty of time' had vanished and we began thinking that maybe a1:30 ETD was not a slam dunk. THE PACE PICKED UP. Unfortunately we came across an accident and some serious traffic as we approached Bagdogra. Panic began to set in as to have the tourists miss a flight would be a serious loss of face and so our Driver who Glenn had nicknamed Rocket, tightened his seat belt and lived up to his nickname. Sylvia was in the backseat totally petrified and her seatmate , a tax accountant from the UK uttered 'shit' as we tore down the road alternatively in the centre row of three cars /trucks , in the inside row and then the outside row. It is hard to appreciate that this is all on very small roads with serious oncoming traffic. The game of Chicken as we now know was surely invented in India and we were part of the national sport. Glenn was riding shotgun and took a fairly fatalistic view of the whole scenario. He only lost it once and joined the British Lady's chorus when we were moving at a fast clip only to have to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the two inside rows that had come to a complete stop. Yippee arrived at the Airport at 1:15, so, very iffy BUT the flight was delayed 30 mins - goody. Compared to the Drive, the Flight was downright boring.
Comfortable in our 7 star Taj Lands End Hotel made all the tension dissipate and we enjoyed some fun and sightseeing in Mumbai. Lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel complete with the bullet holes from the terrorist attack a few years back is always interesting. Relaxing now and getting ready for over night 7 hour flights to Bangkok and Luang Prabang in 6 hours.