Nepal: Airport Adventures
Two long lines of passengers snake into the Kathmandu terminal. Eleven flights leave this small airport within hours of one another. Creating chaos.
I am squeezed amid a group of trekkers with enormous packs. My bag passes the first security screening and is strapped with a yellow band - Security checked - Tribhuvan International Airport - Kathmandu, Nepal.
I go to the ticket counter. They send me to pay the airport exit tax first. Another line of bedlam. The man in back of me presses into me. I think it's an accident. It happens again. I'm thinking what the... The third time, I turn around. It's crowded, but not that crowded. "Give me space!" I say, while my luggage cart nips the heels of the guy in front of me. The guy behind says lamely that people behind him were pushing. There's an Australian woman behind him. I don't think so...
Back to the ticket counter. I have a boarding pass. My bag is checked in. I foolishly believe the rest will be a piece of cake. Next step - immigration.
I've got my paperwork and get into one of half a dozen lines. There's hardly room to queue, as the lines already go the length of the room. Mine. Is not moving. A shy Nepali woman ahead of me says she's headed to Boston on her first trip to the U.S. A Brit behind me eats a sandwich with the filling plop plopping on the floor. He sings pop tunes. We wait. We take baby steps toward the counter. In a little an over an hour, just as I'm ready to go seriously nuts, I get through immigration.
Then to carry-on security. My bag is open and they dig through it. Go through the metal detector marked "Ladies."
On to the gate. All the flights leave from two gates. The plastic chairs are filled. All of them. I lean against a wall and read. I'm near the men's room and whenever someone walks through the open doorway, a bad smell wafts through the room. A man and his wife leave and offer me a chair. The flights are announced only with a little shout.
My Indian Air flight to Calcutta is about an hour late. We get on a bus to go to the flight. We're kept on the bus, because they aren't really ready for us to board the plane. We burst from the doors to some contraptions set up at the base of the stairs to the plane. Another security check. I'm brusquely told to go to Ladies. Ladies what? I have no idea. A woman nearly empties my backpack onto a table and waves me on. She's irritated. I'm not moving fast enough. People are trying to push past to board. I'm trying to cram my things back into my pack.
Things will be easier when I arrive in Calcutta. Immigration is faster. I know the driver who has picked me up frequently. He'll be waiting with a smile and a 4x4. He looks like an younger Indian version of the actor Matt Dillon. We exchange the half dozen words we have in common, and I let my mind drift on the ride through nighttime Calcutta.