Last Sunday I flew to New Delhi, where we landed on time. I was one of the first to get to the testing booth to get a rapid PCR test done. After swabbing my nose, I received a form with a barcode and was expected to wait for the result. However, the free internet on the airport didn’t work and after trying for about half an hour I went to see someone from the testing outfit to ask for help. “Oh, you need a coupon for the internet” the lady in the kiosk said, and handed me a coupon… The internet then worked, but I still couldn’t access my data… So, I went back to the lady at the kiosk after about another half hour. “Your results must be there already”, she said: “should I print a copy for you ?”
With this copy, I proceeded to the baggage/exit side of the airport, and was stopped 4 times on the way there to show my certificate, my boarding pass etc. Finally, after immigration, where they copied my e-visa in my passport, I got a taxi that took met to the hotel were I arrived around 2:30 h.
I stayed there for two days and the staff was extremely nice but kept a very close watch on me. At breakfast, I was almost the only guest and they put me in the middle of the restaurant with 8 guys watching me closely whether I would need something. As soon as I had finsihed my coffee there would appear a new cup etc.
I was called the next day by the Ministry of Health whether I was OK and kept my quarantine… I strolled a bit around the hotel though and luckily the gym was open. Bharath came back from Kathmandu and would stay with me on the 11th, so we could travel together to Leh the next morning. He finally arrived around 21 h and we had dinner in the restaurant. We got tiramisu on the house as desert and a picture with the guys who had been looking after me during the past days.
Bharath and I got up at 3:15 h the next morning, got a taxi to the airport and had a seemless flight to Leh, where we landed at 6:50.
At the arrivals, I immediately lost Bharath in the crowd. I got all our luggage, and in the meantime, was constantly harrassed by officials (since I was obviously the only non-Indian on the flight) to fill out forms. I have filled out various forms with almost identical information, most of which was probably not extremely helpful in evaluating my health status (e.g. I had to provide my father’s given names…). Anyway, Bharath showed up with tickets for the testing. He had sprinted from the plane to avoid the line to get one. In the mean time Satya showed up (who was on the same flight and is joining Bharath and me on Kangchenjunga in April). We got tested and could leave the airport. Outside Rigzin was waiting for us and we were in the Padma Ladakh hotel in 15 minutes.
The hotel is good, Bharath and I share a room and slowly Indian from all over the country flock in. They will climb Kangri with Bharath while I will climb Kang Yatse 1 with Rigzin.
Bharath gets a call in the evening of the 12th that my test was negative. It’s not official, but Rigzin knows someone who knows the chief medical officier in the hospital and apparently I have been tested with priority. They are definitely after me since two officials from the ministry invade the hotel looking for me and officially quarantine me for 7 days.
The next day, we hang around in the hotel since we cannot go without the official certificates that we have been tested negative. Luckily there is internet and we can still go outside on the balcony where one of the girls made a snowman that, as she told me, represents a stupa. The view is magnificent…