Stranded

Post for help
So, I’m stuck in India. It’s 5am and I’ve been awake on and off for hours. This time it’s not due to monkeys on the roof or the punishing heat (although that’s probably not helping); it’s because I can’t get home and it’s making me rabid.

My hotel in Cochin has air con and WiFi and we’re striking distance from the beach. How bad could it be? In any other situation I’d be relishing the excuse to set up exotic home but my other half has been looking after our 3-year-old daughter for the last 10 days. Let’s just say she hasn’t made that task very easy. And to add insult to injury, other half celebrates a very significant birthday, tomorrow (not allowed to mention incriminating numbers). Meanwhile, our daughter, having had just about enough of this single parent effort, has taken to walking around the house hugging a photo of me, crying and saying “I want my real mummy.”

Feeling good, then, over here. No heart-rending homesickness or creeping guilt whatsoever. Been attached to the computer for the last 48 hours refusing to believe I couldn’t get home but as of this morning, my scheduled flight time has officially passed and there’s nothing but “cancelled” stamped all over the airline’s webpage. Getting any information over the phone has proved harder than fending off the army of mosquitoes who seem to know you’re vulnerable once you’ve got a pen in one hand and a sweaty phone in the other. Our hotel is doing a roaring trade in plying overheated Europeans with cold beer.

This feeling of impotence is further compounded by stories of derring-do gracing the BBC website and such, from Brits who have buckled up and knuckled down and managed to get home by hire car, bike and container ship. Friends are being helpful, suggesting I hitch or find sea passage. Not sure if they realise that I’m in India rather than Italy. So anyway, I’ve looked into it and it goes something like this…

By rail: It’s once again possible, in theory, to travel between India and London by rail. In theory. Now that Bam, in southern Iran, has recovered from its own natural disaster that tore apart the city and its transport network (the enormous earthquake in 2003), this missing link in rail line traversing India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey into Europe has been reinstated. Or at least I thought it was. Then a local agent here in Cochin tells me that, perhaps not surprisingly, the rail line crossing the India Pakistan border has been closed. Even if it was possible, with a bit of border hopping on foot/by bus, the journey would take around three weeks. Time spent trying to secure visas however, would be an entirely different story.

By ship: Plenty of ships leaving Mumbai. Not entirely sure installing a small blond girl on a container ship out of India’s most frenetic port would be entirely hassle free but hey, I’m game (not something I’ll be saying out loud once on board). Again, it would take an arduous two to three weeks but the route sounds pretty enticing: bye bye to Bombay, hello Arabian sea, then into the Red Sea, along the Suez Canal onto Egypt, then Malta, mainland Europe and… well, I guess I could walk from there. My insurance company has gone rather quiet on covering this commute.

By air: I can get as far as Athens with my airline. Then the Magic Bus?

Whatever happens I’m not going to make it home in time to celebrate my husband’s Big Significant Birthday with him. And that, to use volcanic parlance, blows.

Read my editor’s take on ash cloud travel, here: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/kate-simon-ash-clouds-silver-lining-is-that-it-may-just-rekindle-our-spirit-of-adventure-1953402.html

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