To The Extreme - Report 2 - 29/3/2002
Well, what can I say! Yesterday must have been one of the most pivotal,
vital, and difficult days my life has ever had. To release the cargo
from customs in less than 15 days can never be achieved. We did it in
1! Because the cargo was delayed arriving from the UK in time for the
last weekend, it ended up sitting in the warehouse until the Tuesday
just gone because of holy festivals.
The clearance only started on Tuesday when we arrived, only to find
yesterday (Thursday Morning) that we had to start again with a different
process. To top it all, we learn only on yesterday morning that there
is a problem with customs on three counts. 1, we have food, which must
go by a different channel and takes fifteen days to clear. 2, we find
that out of what should be 23 items is in fact 24 because two items
became split, so we had to persuade them that the 24 were ours, and
to package them together again. 3, three items had all the labels, and
identification ripped off them, so we had to persuade yet again that
these items were ours.
|Hugh Banner, one of the expedition sponsors gets
to meet the boys at the recent OS Outdoors Show. HB Climbing have
been a great help in their support for the TTX team.
Apart from those, there was no problems with our cargo, but being concerned
that over £6000 of valued equipment, including all my mountain
and cold weather down clothing was in them meant the whole trip was
dependant on releasing them. I started with Mukul (who was amazing)
at the airport cargo terminal at 10 am, we released the cargo at 10pm,
and spent twelve hours in between in 31degrees c, with no food and only
one small drink in the entire day.
We visited somewhere in the region of 60 offices, with over 30 levels
of management being involved, each having to sign dozens of papers to
allow us to proceed to the next level. At points I could of really hurt
someone, at others I could of cried from the frustration, and at 9:00
pm, customs was officially shut, and we didnt have our cargo,
and faced the prospect of being delayed more than just the two nights,
but up to four, costing us 100s extra. Each time we were told
it was impossible, but with incredible effort on Mukuls part,
and his friends at the airport we did the impossible, and loaded the
coach at 10pm with half a tonne of climbing equipment and food. The
true bonus, and what made the delay, and the effort worthwhile, somehow
through a loophole I dont understand we didnt have to pay
$1200 duty on the food imported, I the end the whole process cost us
Rs 8000, which is about £130, some £70 cheaper then I expected.
Needless to say, Rs 500 went in persuasion money at different
levels, which is considered a good bonus by most here, and is about
£8 in our money.
So now we are delayed by two days in total. We fly to Leh early tomorrow
now, and stay there for just one night, making us just one day behind
the optimal schedule, with almost all the possible problems out of the
way. So long as the baggage on the next flight isnt a problem
the rest will be fine. Shikar travels have been utterly amazing in contrast
to 98% of the system here. Were staying B&B in a four star
hotel, which has the ultimate service and food, for £30 per room!
Two share a room, and Carol has her own, which makes for amazing value,
because the breakfast alone would cost £8-10 in the UK The extra
two nights has cost us £180 more here in Delhi, split between
five of us, but we only have one night in Leh, so its cost us
only an extra £90 to stay here. NB (it costs over £90 per
room per night normally).
In between the time Ive spent at the airport in the past two days
(20 hours in the customs building) Weve had a real mixture of
experiences. Ive learnt from Mukul in the times when we have been
waiting at offices that he is quite an accomplished mountaineer. Hes
climbed 10 peaks, three over 7000m, and Stok Kangri 5 times, he used
to be a guide, before office work took over, and combined with a nasty
fall from a broken rope from 20m onto ice smashing his face (which you
dont notice at all) Hes also climbed and worked with Roger
Payne, BMC president and his wife, and has organised over 50 expeditions.
Shikhar Travels has arranged expeditions for the likes of Sir Edmund
Hillary, Reinhold Messner, and other big names which I forget, and this
is a blatant plug for their company, I would recommend no other company
to handle your ground works then this one! We have already come to the
decision to tip Mukul £20 each at the end of the trip, which will
be £100 for his efforts, which is 2 weeks wages for him, and that
he and his wife both deserve. I suspect he has eaten only three times,
and slept for 6 hours since our arrival three days ago, and today he
is in the office working, when it is Holiday, the (not 100% sure on
this) the hindu new year. Everyone is on holiday today, apart from Mukul.
Last night at 11:00pm when he dropped us at the hotel from the coach,
he then went straight to a shop somewhere in Delhi that had specifically
opened for him to buy the only 13 ice screws that are safe in Delhi.
So that is the story so far. Were all set for the mountain. Mykl
has come down with a stomach bug, not too severe, but were both
resting in the room today. Im writing this, and hes sleeping
next to me. Weve received a weather report from the region, saying
there is approximately 5 metres of snow at base camp, and it is in very
good condition with no snowfall for 15 days. It is cold by night, -20
on average, and cold but very intense sun by day 0 15 degrees,
with the same intense sun that gives 35degerees in Delhi.
So, I write again as soon as I can.
This is a true trip of a lifetime, and thoroughly worthwhile.