We have to give up on the idea of entering Tibet by overland. The Nepalese bus service by Satya could not get the Tibet permit from the Tibetan Tourism Bureau in Lhasa for us to travel. Furthermore, we already have a China (for mainland entry only) visa, applied during our first trip to Nepal in August’05. If we do go overland to Tibet, that 30-days double entry visa would be overwritten by the new one, which will only be 15 days valid. And we run the possibility of not getting an extension visa to mainland China from Lhasa. Tough …
Hit by no choice, we have to seek what we try to avoid since the beginning of our trip – travel by AIR!
Our destination would be Shanghai where we might be able to service our bicycles and a Singapore friend is also waiting there *grin*. However, flying into Shanghai is not as easy as it seems …
We managed to secure the tickets 2 days before our departure. On the day itself, we rode from Chabahil, just minutes to the Kathmandu Tribuwan airport. We had to strip off all panniers, removed our pedals and wrapped some vital parts of our bicycles for the bicycles check-in. Dunlin was already inside, queueing at the Jet Airways counter. By the time we passed the security check and rushed to the check-in counter, it was left with only 45mins to departure time. Dunlin was still in queue at that time, 2nd in line. However by the time it was our turn, the counter staffs instructed us to move to another counter beside and wait (??). It appeared that they have given up our seats to other passengers due to our late arrival. #$%@!
After counter-checking again, they found 2 more seats available. It was less than 30mins to departure. We decided that Sean & Dunlin should proceed on this flight. It was also during that last minute confirmation that they found out we have 8 panniers, 2 tubes of tires and 2 bicycles, total 12 luggages with 85kg!! *jaw drop* whoa!! Fortunate for us, they decided to waive the overweight luggage charges for the Kathmandu-New Delhi sector but we might have to pay for New Delhi-Shanghai sector with Air India. *phew*
The Airport customer service staff would have to find another airline to fly for SK. SK was not alone, there were also other passengers competing for seats and the staffs were enquiring from other counters – Air India, Cosmic Air, Air Sahara. They requested for available seats, even from crew seats but the respective Flight Commandents refused.
2hrs later, on the last flight out of Kathmandu to New Delhi for that day, the staff found available a seat for SK. *clap* The last flight by Royal Nepal Airline was supposed to fly at 1630h. By the time SK checked in, the last passenger in fact, it was 1730h. 1800h, the RNA aircraft finally departed for New Delhi. People always complained of delays from RNA but this time, we are glad that it was delayed. *grin*
3 of us were reunited in New Delhi Airport by 2000h, finally. Our next flight out of New Delhi, bound for Shanghai by Air India would be the following day at 0845h. A check with the transfer desk and we were advised to check in only after 0500h the next day. And so we slept, spending the night in the transit lounge, on chairs.
0600h. The transfer desk was empty. We tried asking around from the airline staffs there. They said we have plenty of time, need not worry.
0715h. The same guy from the previous night finally appeared and was serving other passengers on wheel-chair. He did not serve us as it was change of shift time. What bad timing.
0745h. Another guy appeared. This time we finally got their attention. He saw Dunlin’s Singapore passport w/o a China visa and was in doubt about the visa exemption rule for Singaporeans. He found another problem with us – we have 12 luggages and they have already been checked out the night before. More worryingly, they were overweighted! He quickly arranged for the luggages to be brought up from the Arrival hall for the new luggage tags and our inspection. Unfortunately, the machine ran out of stickers for the tags. So he hurriedly ran off to check about the visa exemption case of Dunlin and get new rolls of stickers (from somewhere out there).
0830h. BOARDING!! *flashing* The staff finally returned. There was no time to charge us for the overweight luggages so they changed the total weight of our 12 luggages to 60kg. *grin* Fine with us but we were running out of time!! Run, run … RUN!!!
0845h. Finally in the aircraft. “Come on, you are late already!” the air steward furiously signalled. We were the last passengers, again. But come to think about it, it was not our fault at all! Just our luck …
2030h China time. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have landed on Shanghai Pudong Airport. Local time 2030h and ground temperature 21′C …”
We walked past a billboard along the way to the Luggage claim section. It read, “Welcome to Shanghai …”.
2130h. We waited until the last baggage exited from the conveyor belt but atlas! our 12 luggages were not there!!!!! *faint*
A check with the ground crew confirmed that our luggages did not board the plane. Even the ground crew (China Eastern Airline, rep of Air India in Shanghai) were jaw-dropped when they heard ALL 12 luggages did not arrive. But according to them, such mishap happened frequently with Air India, but not liked our case – 12 ITEMS at one time!
We finally received all our luggages – 2 bicycles, 8 panniers and 2 tubes of tires. They were bruised, mishandled and scratched but nonetheless, they arrived. *phew*
Haa … thinking back, really unbelievable string of events. Cycling is still much more convenient and rewarding … the torturous bus rides, the unpleasant flights, nothing can really beat the joy of riding on the road even though one might have to compete for space with other road warriors. But the sad thing is always the man-made restrictions on border crossings …
Can’t wait to feel the earth again, Ride On!!