Saturday, 7 July 2012

Captain's blog July/ August 2012

So my vacation was once again coming to an end. Unfortunately this year the summer in Finland had yet to materialize so I had not enjoyed much of any warm weather although I had met a lot of old friends and a few new ones. Anyway, it was time to pack the 'ol trunk and get my arse to Helsinki to fly via Mumbai to Colombo.

Monitor lizard at Galle seafront

I boarded on time and flew first to Heathrow, London where my layover was 2h45m and I nearly missed my connection to Mumbai. There were a lot of people lining up for connection flight boarding passes and when I got the booth the lady said the gate is closed. I asked what do you mean closed, there is still an hour left and the lane has not left yet. She said I came late and the gate is closed. I replied that I just arrived from Helsinki, what do you want me to say? Isn't there anything you can do? Then she made a call somewhere and fiddled around on her computer and came out with the boarding passes and told me to hurry. Well, said and done I hurried, after 20meters I reached another checkpoint where the gent ripped my boarding passes and told me I am upgraded to coach deluxe. Bloody great, just give me my boarding passes, I need to hurry. I went off again at full pace and reached the security "express line" which to me seemed as fast as the regular line. Through I went finally and I hurried down to the inter-terminal railway station as I needed to change from terminal 3 to terminal 5. Luckily the train was there almost as on request and as I stepped in the train the doors closed and off we went. I came to terminal 5 and continued my trek towards my gate and arrived to a queue that was 30m long. Luckily for me the plane was a bit delayed and I got in good order albeit drenched in sweat. The flight leaves eventually and I am in deep slumber after a late last evening at my childhood friend, Taru's, pad.

The flight is 8+ hours long so I wake up at the stage they start serving drinks and food. I stare myself silly on inane movies from the on demand system in lack of anything else to do as well as turn a few pages on the book I brought with me. I fall asleep again at some stage and wake up to the waiters serving a very early morning snack or very late supper. Soon enough we land and I venture to the Visa on arrival queue. The thing is incredibly poorly arranged and the Officers can barely talk English. I am directed to a sofa group at the side of the immigration desks where a group of elderly Filipino ladies sit and laugh as well as a young Japanese lady. She looks extremely bored with the Immigration officer. I am given a form to fill up that is the same as you would fill any visa application form with the usual Indian paranoia if I have relatives in Pakistan and so forth. I fill up the form but have no picture to give, They also ask me of my hotel booking as well as my onward journey ticket. As I did not have any of what they asked it took them hours to find a printout of my onward journey, the photo was skipped and multiple phone calls to get them to understand I am staying at a friends place. Finally after some 3-4 hrs I was led through to pay for the visa (2000 INR) and I got the stamp, collected my luggage and was on my way towards Avnish pad. The Japanese girl was also at the visa payment desk at the same time as me. I saw her having only Indonesian rupees which naturally were not accepted, they are worthless anywhere outside Indonesia itself, so I offered to pay for her as well otherwise she'd never make it through the immigration. She asked if I was sure and I said yes, and off she went. I hope she got through alright. In hindsight I think she may have faked it all, who knows.

At Avnish pad I had a few snacks and we changed a few words of latest news and hit the sack after a kold Kingfisher started to weigh my eyelids. Next morning was busy in meeting with the Office people and the program of Kalizma and other small vessels accompanying her. Then it was lunch time that had to be in Gokul's with Avnish. After that a bit more meeting and saying goodbye to Cmde Mongia & Avnish and then it was again off to the airport for my flight to Colombo. Arrived early morning and was picked up by our local driver who soon was whisking me off towards Galle in his minivan. There is now a brand spanking new Chinese built motorway all the way to Hambantota port so the road was pretty smooth once we got onto it. The stretch through Colombo though was as chaotic as before but being the wee hours traffic was not too bad.

Once in Galle we had to get the agent to arrange me the requisite permissions to enter the port and get onboard. Eventhough Sri Lanka has entered a peaceful stage in their history the paranoia of security still lingers on from the Tamil Tiger scourge, but I could see the military presence was relaxing. Ports are a different story due to the security codes implemented by IMO internationally, so there is a fair deal of red tape in Asian countries to gain access to commercial ports complying to the ISPS code. I can't even think how a marina could operate in these conditions, there is still a long way to go. After some turns and twists I got the agent and he did his stuff and soon enough I was onboard saying hello to everyone and then hit the sack for a couple of hours as I was knackered of the overnight flight and land travel.

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