CarolAnn Garratt, three-time around-the-world pilot, was partway around the world on her flight when she met me in Muscat on December 15th. I flew commercial from Jacksonville, Florida. We spent one day and one night enjoying the beauty of Oman before departing in her Mooney for Ahmedabada, India.
Two Days in the Life— Ahmedabad, India—December 17th
Once awake and rested, we scanned our hotel room. The room was clean. We slept on twin beds with thin foam mattresses. The shower was a nozzle with a drain in a cement hole. The toilet had the same configuration with a bucket and ladle for flushing.
After several cups of instant coffee, I was roaring to greet Ahmedabad!
India was surreal with drivers maneuvering through any open space with a total disregard for which side of the road they were driving on. It seemed every driver was honking. Cows were meandering in the road or basking in the sun on the sides of roads. Skinny dogs were everywhere digging or begging. Poverty seemed to be a way of life with beds on the sides of roads, bathroom needs wherever it was convenient.
CarolAnn chose to rest while my day was filled experiencing the open markets and people that were always friendly. The open markets were tempting with smells of fish and fresh vegetables. I refrained from experiencing the street foods and enjoyed the sights and smells so as to not suffer traveler’s diarrhea. Most of Ahmedabad living seemed to be in the open, although seeing occasional apartments. Unlike Muscat, I did not see any American fast foods but many 7-Elevens.
Toward the end of my walk, I paused in awe as I watched six workers that were briskly running up and down along white fibers that were stretched approximately fifty feet anchored on tall thick poles. The workers were happily chanting and chatting as they ran the square red blocks across the white fibers. It was then that I noted half of the white fibers red. The workers paused momentarily when I asked what they were making. They pointed up. I stared “up” but couldn’t envision what they were gesturing. What impressed me the most was the delight in which they worked and the camaraderie they seemed to have shared.
That evening we decided to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant. The restaurant was in the basement and not much more than a few tables. Recalling the Health Department expert’s advice that if the restaurant appears clean, the food is well cooked and steaming, it is probably safe. I looked at the cooking facilities, and it appeared very clean. We did a lot of pointing and nodding as we ordered. The chicken curry was incredible and the waiter very friendly. We slept well with full bellies!
Dancing the India Paper Shuffle— December 18th
Our morning began at 5:30 am with several cups of instant coffee and off to the Ahmedadbad Airport (VAAH). Our intended destination was Kolkata, India (VEEC) with six hours flight time.
We located the airport domestic manager’s office to begin the departure process. CarolAnn advised me that the process had varying degrees and began and ended in varying manners. The manager greeted us with a friendly smile from behind his desk that was covered with papers and manuals. He began shuffling through his piles searching for the needed information before he approved our departure.
At 6:30 am we were permitted to proceed to the air traffic control (ATC) facility, where flight plans are routinely filed. Ordering fuel is also usually done through ATC. CarolAnn asked me to stay with our bags and disappears into the belly of ATC flight planning room. This provided me the opportunity to visit with the controllers. They answered my questions as I took lots of notes for my article on international air traffic control systems for the future Think Global Flight Student Command Centers (www.thinkglobalflight.org).
CarolAnn returned after an hour with our flight plan filed and requested a call for fuel. ATC seemed unaware of fuel services available and the paper shuffle began. Eventually we were told the domestic airport manager might have information for ordering fuel.
We once again trudged the long distance to the airport manager’s office and watched the paper shuffle begin. The airport manager did his best to locate fuel service phone numbers. After an extended time, CarolAnn could take it no longer and stated we needed fuel with departure time quickly approaching. He looked at her and stated, “No AVGas available.”
CarolAnn looked at him and once again asked him