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Customs Delay

First a couple of observations.

When I was trying to ascertain the contents of bags in the Big Bazaar -- not because the bags were written in Hindi script, they are all written in English, but because the fruits and nuts all came in the same identical bag with pro-forma text printed on them, the only differentiator was a small sticky label with the usual supermarket shorthand for the contents where the name of the contents doesn't always match the common English name and is now in shorthand (you might also wonder why I couldn't simply recognise the fruit and/or nut, I think that's the fault of being told the contents of packets in UK supermarkets you lose the ability to recognise the contents by sight -- if there wasn't a sticky label on a banana...) -- I watched a supermarket employee whose job it was to take the bags of dried beans, in this case, off the trolley from stores and prick each one twice with a toothpick before putting them on the shelf. So much for a protective atmosphere, goods unspoilt by ambient conditions and any respect for shelf life.

I was partly wondering at the contents as in my case the walnuts I picked up had been vacuum packed in a bag before being put in the standardised bag. Do you normally vacuum pack walnuts? Are they particularly susceptible to anything? I don't think anything else was vacuum packed. Also the raisins looked a little scrawny and dirty and I was suspicious of them.

While I was typing yesterday's message up there were several phone calls to/from reception involving the pickup of a customer from the airport. There were repeated requests for the customer to identify the terminal and gate he was stood at. He seemed incapable of this (as demonstrated by the repeated calls).

Eventually he turned up and started having a go at the reception staff, berating them for failing to find him on his first visit to Delhi. I can see he had a point that if (and I don't know how true this bit is) the hotel had his flight details them they could have worked out which gate he would be appearing at but on the other hand I don't recall a single flight schedule that didn't tell you which terminal you will be arriving at and how hard is it to look at the gate number as you walk out?


News from my man in China. I sent a slightly exasperated email to him noting that there were just three weeks before I'm due to arrive in China and I don't have the permits for the motorcycle. He sent a reply this morning saying that I shouldn't worry about the permits, I should just reach the border on time and his guide will meet me there.

I don't know it that inspires confidence in me or not but at least it isn't a "No, you cannot enter China with your motorbike." It isn't exactly a yes, either.

Not to worry, what could possibly go wrong?


I've read you can get a Nepalese visa on the border although what happens with vehicles is less clear -- there was talk by some of the customers at Kaulsons of getting Nepalese number plates etc.. What I do realise is that I have no guide book for Nepal and it may end up like my trip through Bangladesh in becoming a bit of a blind stumble about the place without much of a clue where I'm going.

Most of my trip may look very much that that to the untrained eye but I tell you that it is all planned to the finest detail (for some small number of rather coarse details).

It's looking like I don't have much time in Nepal anyway, just about enough time to reach Kathmandu, turn around and come back in all probability if I'm also to "do" Manali-Leh-Srinagar and attempt the Khardung La before charging through Pakistan and up the KKH.

It's such a rush, this trip!


I had wondered what time to turn up at the New Customs House (at the airport) and had dismissed 9am as being most likely a bad time (start of week meetings etc.) and that ten o'clock would be a good time as they'd have settled down, had a cup of coffee and be ready for the first visitors of the day. Having rolled around the airport trying to find New Customs House (I've now added a waypoint) I once again found myself approaching down the dirt track side which, in the pre-monsoon rains, is something more of a mud/water track, at just gone 10. I really must waypoint the proper access road.

It was all a bit premature anyway, as when I eventually found someone who wasn't a cleaner I was told that no-one turns up until 11. Luckily an early arrival took pity on me in the corridor and put me in a slowly-being-airconditioned office and brought me some tea.

Just before 11 I was sent over the corridor to the right office where the blokey who was typing a huge ledger into Excel promptly sent me back out again for five minutes. Fortunately, five minutes later the right man turned up and we could start.

I suggested that maybe we had spoken before but he gave no indication of recognising me (maybe he sees a lot of foreigners in motorcycle gear) and explained that I was looking for the six-month extension and that I'd written to them before and they hadn't replied. "Show me the letter." He studied it and then asked to see my passport.

Oh dear. This is where the plan falls entirely apart as the visa will clearly show that I have been out of India in the meanwhile and that is (supposedly) a no no. He looked at the visa and said "I can only authorize an extension until the end of your visa, not six months" (phew) "That's OK!"

He then sent me out with the poor sap typing in the ledger (who turns out to be the goafer/office junior) to get photocopies of the passport. I grabbed everything and we went all the way back over the corridor -- for some reason I was thinking we'd be on a mission to find a local photocopy agency but NCH has its own photocopiers. What it doesn't have a stacks of paper so people take a stack of their own and bring back what they haven't used.

We then went back to the man who pointed out that the carnet only runs until August 31st and said that he could only authorize until then. "That's fine." (Although now I worry about whether I'll need the carnet after August...) He then said that he would have to get the whole thing authorized by his boss and that that would take a day or two, I should come back the day after tomorrow. Grumble, grumble.

He then asked me to write on my letter and adjust the "To" section to include "To the Deputy Commissioner of Customs" above where I'd written "Chief Commissioner of Customs." I thought that was a bit odd as did anyone really care to whom the letter was addressed so long as it lands on the right desk and secondly why he had me write on the letter when he could just as easily have done so himself. He even gave me his pen to do it.

He then asked me if I would like a receipt which I didn't quite understand (as I wasn't expecting the question). I actually said no which I may regret later as the paperwork will likely lose itself but whilst the misunderstanding the question was going on another bloke came into the office (all the offices except the big bosses have about six disks crammed in them with all but two of the desks bare of equipment) and the man says "This man will do your work for you." I had the impression then that something was going to happen, anything from possibly getting a receipt to getting the extension today after all. So I sat there looking foreign and stupid whilst tea was served and the guys took a deal of interest in my trip in the usual way.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. After I suspect I had outstayed my welcome he reiterated his desire to have my extension for me the day after tomrorrow. An implied "Get out!"

Of course, I'm now back to worrying that his boss will pay attention to the details and note that my visa says I have been out of India in the meanwhile. Still, there's nothing I can do at this point but perhaps actually do some TLC on the bike. I have a bonus day and a half (at least) and no excuses. Although it's obvious the first thing I've done is muck about on the Internet typing this (not so short) note in.

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