Sunday, June 30, 2013

When I visited Leh twice in two days

When I visited Leh twice in two days
Sunrise over Delhi on 12th June, 2013
Every summer trip, I have had so far, has been associated with some sort of dramatic events.  Be it Kashmir in 2006, when the booking I had for the circuit house was cancelled at the last moment and I had to put up in the Hotel, which skewed my budget.  Next year i.e. 2007 saw me visiting the Chardham destinations, where the obstinate driver spoiled our visit by trying to impose his dictat.  During the visit to Sikkim in 2008, my visit to Darjeeling was not only derailed, but it had almost turned into a nightmare for me, to get out of Sikkim in time, to catch the train from New Jalpaiguri.  During my visit to the Arunachal Pradesh in 2009, I was saved by the my skin of teeth, almost being obliterated by a landslide & flooding, akin to Kedarnath this year, caused by the cyclonic storm ‘Aila’ that hit the eastern region of India.  Thereafter, during my visit to Kumaon region in 2010, my driver rammed the vehicle from behind into a stationer Jeep, causing more of mental agony to me rather than monetary.  Then during my visit to Kinnaur & Spiti in 2011, we had to endure a full day without food, as we had not anticipated that there would not be a single Tea stall on the way beyond Reckong Peo till Nako and further was struck by Altitude sickness at Kaza.  Finally last year while visiting Andamans, I was mislead by the local Auto wallah into traversing the forest road to Elephant Island, which was a nightmarish experience.
A sea of cloud over the Himalayas

The sea of clouds as far as the eyes could see
 This year too, I undertook my summer sojourn to Ladakh and accordingly was looking to book early, but due to certain family commitments, I was not able to book the tickets well in advance.  Finally, I did book the tickets about two months before the commencement of the journey, but the Air India flight was full for the entire month and I had no other option but to book in some private airlines.  As per the dates available, I got the ticket for the onward journey from ‘Jet Airlines’ and my return journey was by ‘GoAir’.  On the stipulated day, as the flight was scheduled for departure at 5.10 A.M in the morning, we had to reach airport by 3.30 A.M and thus, had to get up very early.  The day started with a dampener, as the private driver booked for dropping us at the Airport neither turned up nor took our calls.  Since we had got up well in time we booked the Cab through the ‘Meru’ operator and reached the Airport well in time.  The flight left on scheduled time on 12th June, 2013 and around 5.15 A.M and the sky was quite clear over Delhi, with a few scattered clouds here and there.  However, as we moved ahead the entire sky appeared to be a sea of cloud as far as the eye could see and after about an hour’s time, the descent to Leh was announced.  Suddenly, the aero plane instead of hitting ground, shot up above the clouds and it was announced that due to bad weather we could not land at Leh and were heading back for Delhi.  We reached Delhi airport by 7.20 A.M. and were informed that we should stay put in our seats, as a second attempt would be made by the Pilot to land at Leh in case the weather permitted.  We were optimistic and saw the plane being refueled and I shot the same from my window seat.  However, we were informed at around 8.20 A.M that we should de-board as the weather at Leh had not improved and that the ground staff would take care of us and let us know of the future schedule.
Cloud covered glimpse of Ladakh

Suddenly the plane shot above the thick clouds - heading back to Delhi
 Crestfallen, we de-boarded the plane only to face harassment at the hands of the staff of ‘Jet Airways’ ground staff.  The moment we collected out baggage we were asked to collect the refund and no arrangement for offering even a glass of water to the customers was made by them.  However, all the travelers were single minded in their resolve to visit Leh and stood their ground, refusing to accept any kind of refund and sought alternate arrangement.  Finally, the airlines had to relent and at 11.30 A.M. they informed that an additional flight had been arranged for the next day i.e. 13th June, 2013 at 9.30 A.M. There were many foreigners amongst us and they were seeking details of arrangements for overnight stay, but the airlines refused any assistance stating that being a natural calamity, they were not required to provide for the same.  However, some of the passengers, who were residents of Leh then informed the other passengers that the Air India flight and landed before the Jet Airways flight and another one i.e. GoAir had landed after the Jet Airways flight had returned back.  We came to know that this was a regular feature with Jet Airways, of delayed and cancelled flights and their staff was well trained to dish out this kind of inhumane treatment to passengers, who were made to stay at the Airport for three hours, without being offered even a glass of water by the Airlines, believe that they believe in the concept of ‘Cattle class’ traveling by Air.  I will mark a copy of this blog to DGCA, hope they do take some action on this.

Back to Delhi - aerial view

Refueling the aircraft at Delhi Airport

However, the next day the flight and landing at Leh was uneventful and I will be giving detailed account of my journey in ensuing blogs.
Weather is clearer - landing at Leh

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