It’s my last full day in Goa today and tomorrow I will start my journey back to the UK by flying from Dabilim in Goa to Mumbai, then have a hotel booked near the airport before my flight back early Tuesday morning, providing there’s no hiccups I’ll arrive at Heathrow with it still being Tuesdday morning because of the time difference. I’m just going to take it one step at a time with the rate that things are changing at the moment because of the virus.
I haven’t noticed anyone here with symptoms of the virus so I’ll probably be more at risk on my way back or in the UK where cases are rising, I’m not going to buy into the panic buying thing which hasn’t happened here and bring any toilet rolls back as I hear you can get them on EBay for a price !, I’ll try to get some hand sanitizer at the airport for the flight back, I’ve still got some Anti-bacterial wipes that I came out here with.
I’ve spent today having a final run along the beach before cleaning my shoes and sports kit so it has time to dry, before I pack it, after breakfast I got my last bit of sun on the beach here, I’ll miss the sun but expect it will start warming up a bit in the UK in the next month and spring there can be nice.
Started my journey home today, I’m a bit anxious about the next few days with all the developments in travel restrictions and flights even getting turned back mid flight. The first stage was a taxi to the airport that went better than I expected and the expected 2 hour journey only took just over an hour because the roads were clear and I had a good driver. Coming though Vasco Da Gama I couldn’t help but notice people going about their lives seemingly without a care in the world, at the moment anyway it seems like India has had less of a problem than most other countries especially here in Goa.
Arriving at the airport in plenty of time all seemed calm and check in went smoothly and I was though security within 2 hours of leaving the resort in Arambol. The only thing that would make you think something out of ordinary was happening is about a 3rd of people are wearing some sort of mask, apart from that everything is operating as normal. The IndiGo flight was boarded and took off ahead of schedule and for anyone travelling on domestic flights in India I would highly recommend them because I’ve had only good experiences in my 5 1\2 months here with them. It was less than an hour to Mumbai and I was pleased to see my bag come out on what should be the last opportunity for it to go missing here.
I got a taxi from the terminal to Lalit Mumbai Airport hotel which is by far the nicest hotel I’ve been in since being here. The security to get into the hotel was the tightest so far and everyone is having their temperature taken before approaching the hotel including the taxi drivers, I’ve got no intention of leaving this hotel until my flight back to the UK early on Tuesday morning now. I just hope the second part of my journey back to the UK goes as smoothly as today.
I feel a bit spoilt in this hotel but it’s a nice place to finish off and it’s the first time I’ve been somewhere there is English speaking news channels in my 5 months here, I’m not sure that’s a good thing with all the developments around Corona virus but I’ve been able to catch up on it a bit here, I’m still a little anxious about my flight back but have been able to check in online during the night and tomorrow morning should be back in London all being well, then it feels like there will be new concerns around self isolation etc, I’ve already been checked for temperature here and expect it may be the same when entering the UK but I’m not sure. I will just have to play it by ear and see what happens. My biggest fear is that if I did get it which i’m pretty sure I would get over is passing it into someone who my not.
It’s the same with future travel at the moment with lots of uncertainty around, I may need to change plans but just don’t know at the moment as we don’t know how long it will last or what the long term effects on industries will be, so all we can do is wait and see how it develops and hope / pray for the best. With any luck it may disappear as quickly as it appeared.
Last night I got a couple of messages from people here in india that have followed my blog and asked how I was as they know I’m heading home and although we haven’t had the chance to meet in person , I feel that it is typical of the warmth I have felt from the people of India since I arrived here and I hope to return in the not too distant future and perhaps meet them on my next visit.
Just back from breakfast this morning and was thinking this hotel wouldn’t be a bad place to be if you had to isolate yourself in the current climate, the dining room was quite busy with everyone from business men to people that looked like they’ve come straight from the beach. Also started thinking about friends and family out there and hoping that you are all well and that you and your loved ones will also get though all this without being affected, it might be a big ask but we can only hope.
Amongst all this I don’t want to lose sight of my travels around India, the sights I’ve seen and most of all the people I’ve met although some only fleetingly they have all left a lasting impression on me, and even though I started out believing that the experience would be a good one, I didn’t think it would be as good as it has been. India really is a wonderful country with so much to see and even though I’ve been here over 5 months feel I’ve only seen a fraction of it on my travels.
I’m reminded of a quote that I saw whilst looking around the palace in Uddipur written by Mark Twain over a hundred years ago and feeling that it still applies today it went
” This is indeed India ; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genuine and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, who’s yesterday’s best the date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for lettered and ignorant , wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. ”
I read that at the time and thought how well that sums up India with its extremes and found it amazing to think for me that still applies over 120 years after he wrote it, and agree that once you’ve experienced it is not somewhere you would forget and will leave here with lasting memories and can only say thank you to a country and people that have taught me so much more than I expected in my time here.
Thinking about all the precautions i’m trying to implement at the moment such as hand washing and not touching the face which isn’t easy, I had a thought about how I haven’t seen anything recently about the doomsday prepers who I would of thought would be using this opportunity to be saying ” I told you so ! ” as they head down into their bunker with 3 years supply of food, water, toilet rolls, and filtered air but I suspect that may come yet.
It feels a bit now like this Coronavirus has taken over a bit and this is supposed to be mainly a travel blog but the virus has and will affect travel near and far for the foreseeable future by the looks of it. I kept seeing new developments and advice online and Tv all afternoon as I waited to come to the airport and found some of the new information about how it spreads increasing worrying. I keep monitoring myself for symptoms but seem ok so far but thoughts around minimal contact with people in the UK are there as wouldn’t like to run the risk of getting it and passing it on to someone more vulnerable.
I’ve made it to the airport and currently waiting to check in, I did check in online but there is no bag drop organized so will have to wait for a check in desk to open in a couple of hours ( another reason to travel lighter with just carry on in future ).
All went well in the end and I got checked in and though security without any problems. The flight from Mumbai to Heathrow was not quite full but not far off with just a few empty seats and I was lucky enough to have one next to me.
The flight was pretty good and there didn’t seem to be anyone obviously suffering affects of the virus which has taken over the news this week. I had been anxious about getting back when I was down in Goa thinking that I might of left it too late and flights would be cancelled so was a little surprised everything went without a hitch, even customs which normally has long queues was empty and I thought about the elephant I had been given at the start of my journey though India for luck. I’m not a superstitious person but maybe there is something in it and think I will carry it with me on future travels whenever they may be.
Arriving back in the UK my bag arrived at its final destination completing its circuit though India without going missing.
The driver met me for my trip back to Buckingham and the talk was all around the virus during the drive back, I immediately noticed how quiet the roads were, even the M25 which would normally be virtually stop and go at that time of the morning. It was nice to see that spring wasn’t far off and the grass was already green and trees starting to bud.
It was nice to arrive back but immediate thoughts were around making sure I was not carrying anything unwanted and bags were disinfected before going into the house ( reminding me of decontamination drills from my time in the forces, I wonder if I’ve still got any fullers earth ? Or where my NBC suits are now ! ). I washed any clothes and cleaned up after my flight.
It has become obvious to me that any travel plans I have made for this year are now subject to change and although the Pacific Crest Trail would of been nice to complete this year now it feels unlikely with even towns that would normally be used for resupply along the trail closing down to protect themselves along with current restrictions of flights to the US, but there are some nice and much shorter trails in the UK such as the West Highland Way and Hadrian’s Wall as well as plenty of places worth exploring here in the UK, so things change and we have to go with them sometimes.
Since getting back this morning I have seen and heard one thing after another being cancelled, weather it is organised runs, walks or gym classes everyone seems to be taking precautions to protect themselves and I have just heard of the first pubs announcing temporary closures in the town, only time will tell how far it will go but at the moment uncertainty is the predominant feeling.
As I couldn’t really sleep on the flight back and stayed awake during the day to try to adjust to the time difference, I just about managed to stay awake to watch a Joanna Lumley travel program on Cuba which I have been lucky enough to visit and would love to return to at some point. I must of got about 4 hours sleep before waking around 1 and thinking about how suddenly my and I imagine other people’s world has shrunk. From having all the world to explore there are currently numerous countries closing borders and airlines in uncertain times as well as insurance companies unable to provide cover.
During the day I messaged my kids ( Becca and Jake ) to let them know I had arrived back safely in the UK, they are both still working as normal and Jake attending the gym but obviously taking extra precautions, I arranged to meet up with Becca in the evening for a meal and to meet with Jake on Saturday, already everyone is limiting unnecessary contact with people. Going into town to run a few errands I met with a friend for a coffee and avoiding unnecessary contact preformed my very first elbow bump !, as expected the coffee shop was quiet but it was nice to catch up and arranged to meet for a run next week which may be one of the safest activities we can do as long as we keep our distance and avoid high fives which may become extinct now.
The trip into town was my first experience of empty shelves and it seems to get worse every day as people go out in search of things to stock up on, it seems surreal after returning from India where none of this was happening and you could have rice with every meal if you wanted, then to suddenly find it is one of the most valuable commodities along with toilet rolls and pasta and not available anywhere.
I picked up Becca in the evening for a meal and saw Jake and it felt strange to elbow bump instead of hug but these are the times we live in, it still felt great to see them both though and I was happy to see them both looking well. We exchanged gifts that I had bought from India and they presented me with some very thoughtful Christmas presents ( books are probably one the the most useful presents ever with self isolation looming, Thank you xx ).
We went to a local restaurant and shared a 22″!pizza and fries and very nearly finished it between us !, the restaurant showed signs of the times with minimal opportunity to transfer the virus such as no condiments on the table, no cash transactions and only contactless payment ( I wasn’t even able to leave a tip ), I do hope some of the restaurants and pubs can adapt to the changing landscape and survive this virus, there were around 10 people in whilst we were there though.
It was so nice to catch up with Becca and hear about her friends and how some of them have been affected by this, her work and learn that she has provisionally got an A for her Masters ( well done ! I’m so proud of you ), It was easy to see how times have changed with use of anti- bac wipes and hand sanitizer which are hard to come by during our meal, we spoke about different things and ways to meet up such as walks and dog walks in future providing the restrictions allow.
I meet a few people I know as I walked into Buckingham today that are in the running club here and were talking about how this virus is affecting things here. I feel fortunate that I have good friends here and somewhere to be while all this is happening, I just hope that we’re still friends in a few months time if we end up being confined to the house for any length of time!, it will be interesting to see if any of the skills I’ve learnt thoughout my life are transferable in this virus situation.
I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed writing this blog since I started it on this part of my journey back in October and a lot has certainly happened since then that I never would of foreseen to get to where I am now. But I feel I should start wrapping this up here although it feels it could continue as there seems to be so much going on but not in regards to travel. I may continue to put my thoughts down on the site though and maybe post it at some future date.
I’d like to finish again by saying thank you to the country and especially the people of India for an amazing experience and hope that you remain a heathy and safe place to be as at the moment anyway you seem less affected by the virus. I hope to return in the future and really do believe we will all get though this and back to some sort of normality at some point.
And again even with all that’s going on right now I do feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to have these experiences and look forward to being able to resume travel in the future.
Right now and since I’ve arrived back in the UK my thoughts have been with my friends and family in Canada and the United Kingdom, I would love to be around you all and still hope to make it to Canada at some point this year but will have to see how things develop at the moment.
My biggest hope is for you all is to stay safe and do whatever is needed to get though all this and hope that at some point in the future I will meet you and maybe even give you a hug !, ( maybe my next travel could be based around travel though Canada and the UK with the sole purpose of hugging all my friends and family ! , I’ll start planning now. )or just be able to go for a run with some of you and catch up over brunch!, we will see but that would be nice.
For now please take care and stay safe
Love you all xx