Sunday 25 September 2016

Day 0 - Bangalore to Siliguri

Until the night before (i.e. 2nd Sep 2016), I hadn't received any updates on the delivery of my motorcycle (and luggage) to the New Jalpaiguri (NJP) branch, and the GATI KWE site wasn't showing any status either. Usually, I don't worry too much, so I could just get along with my packing, alarm, and last-minute checking of documents, keys, etc. Got up at 3am and got ready, checked my luggage and all electronics, as I was carrying them myself. Once all done, book an Uber which was at the door in 5 minutes.

So the ride to the airport was relaxing, as the driver seemed experienced and didn't really give me any reason to keep a watch on his driving. So I just caught a quick nap. Took roughly an hour to reach there. As there was no luggage to check in, I just zipped through to security, after printing the boarding pass myself at one of the 'self-check-in' kiosks. My favorite way to travel I would say, i.e. no check-in luggage and a self-check-in through the web or kiosk. The only queue I had to deal with is at the security and that's alright. Now the usual drill, of taking my camera gear out for a second round of scanning. This happens almost all the time. I was happy, that was all about it during this flight and in a short time I was on my way to the boarding gate.

Boarded the Indigo flight to Bagdogra (via Kolkata). Tried to sleep in every possible posture in that cramped space. Glad I didn't get any neck or back pain after all those yoga poses I was sleeping in. Damn! I was so tired, if you show me a picture of my co-passenger, I wouldn't remember. lol

Indigo 6E is what I prefer, most of the time, due to their punctuality (so far!)

Kolkata airport. Nice! :)

It was my first time at Kolkata airport, so it was fun to walk around and observe people. Noticed there were many people from the northeastern states waiting for their flights. I guess this being one of the main airports for the eastern region, most flights to any northeastern cities, must be either originating from or having a layover here. I had 2 hours to kill (bad choice of word!), which slipped by pretty quick, amid the second round of security check, my brunch, and goofing around the airport.

Arrival at the Bagdogra airport (Siliguri), was a precursor to the weather I was to expect during my ride

I had one and only one place to go upon arrival; GATI NJP depo. An assertive taxi guy showed (unignorable) interest in my visit and my destination and told me that he knows the place like the back of his hand. "Kitna?", I asked. "800 rupaye", he said. I was like, "I will be honest with you man. I am not a tourist, nor planning to spend that much for a taxi in this place". Moved on and stopped an auto and enquired about the same. He quoted 300 bucks and off we went. During the long auto ride, I got to know quite a bit about the place, road conditions, etc. Also realized that exclusive auto hires (i.e. non-sharing) are expensive and there is no fixed price as such. The final price is upon the agreement between the driver and the passenger. With that disclaimer, I was told the GATI outlet is not exactly in NJP, it's somewhere on the outskirts. So for 300 bucks, I can only be dropped in the town/city. To go till the depo, I may need to pay a little  (debatable!) more. What could I say, other than "theek hai, chalo!". The driver seemed to be a genuine person (and he was, as later I checked about the fare from the airport to that place, from GATI staff).

My first introduction to the kind of roads I will be riding on, most of my days in North-East

Anything that has wheels and a handlebar, gets my attention :D

So with the bumpy ride, I finally reached an industrial area near NJP, where all I could see around were trucks and waterlogged land and big godowns/warehouses. Cipla's godown was next to the GATI NJP depo. Once there, I requested to meet Mr. Bikash, with whom I had been following up regarding my bike, ever since my flight landed. I had to wait for some time and finally met him. He was a very calm person and speaks with assurance. And he gave me the following updates:
  • The truck carrying the motorcycle was held up in Kolkata due to a labor union strike, but now on its way
  • Sunday(tomorrow) and Monday(the day after) are sort of holidays for GATI, NJP (New Jalpaiguri), so usually, no delivery work takes place
  • The only possibility is to get the bike on Tuesday (6th September)

Came from the Airport straight to GATI NJP depo, just to receive some bad news.

I already had an aggressive itinerary with tight timelines, which was difficult to keep up, even with an efficient and fast-riding routine. Now this shocker of a delay of 3 F#cking days?!! I was thinking of slaying that moron from the Bangalore GATI office, who despite my suggestion, shipped the bike with just 5 days of transit time. However, being angry doesn't really help solve anything, so I was already working on a plan B. Mr. Bikash realized the gravity of the situation, so he took up the responsibility to track down the truck's location and keep me posted. Also in case the truck makes it to NJP early, he will ensure I get the motorcycle the very moment, irrespective of the fact that the coming two days are non-working for them. I couldn't have asked for more really. 

As I knew, there is no way, the bike is arriving today, or even tomorrow, I had to think of something. Renting a motorcycle was one of the options, but then the places I will be going, would take at least 2 days and I wasn't really interested to ride anything other than my own bike. So decided to start my journey with my motorcycle and no hiring, whatsoever.

With plan B in place, I needed a place to crash in Siliguri, so I booked a hotel near the main bus stop. I got a good chance to catch up on some rest and the day had started quite early for me.

Nice little hotel room, which gave me the necessary rest and a bit of tele to stop me from brooding over the shipping delay :)

The kind of vehicles that share the roads in Siliguri.

In absence of my luggage, had to do some shopping (if I may), to survive.

It was a good first day of travel journal keeping.

This was a crazy day with so much traveling (i.e. cab > flight > flight > auto > bus !!) that I don't remember when I fell asleep. I think the last thought I had before I dozed off, was, what if the truck just makes it to NJP by tomorrow?!! I am sure, despite the series of events of the day, I had some sweet dreams that night.

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