Exhilaration. Elation. Animation. Enthusiasm. Eagerness. Anticipation. Delirious. Emotional. Zeal. Zest. Pepped. Zinged. One thing common to all these words is the feeling of intense excitement and anticipation each the clock ticks away at the seconds. There are only three days to go before I embark on the greatest and grandest expedition of my life, paddling a slow boat around Sri Lanka. Three days before I take the flight to Colombo, a long flight I might add with a seven hour layover in Bangalore. It would have been great to have gone to Colombo without the layover, but that’s the way the ball bounced and I have no regrets. The only issue I need to work out is about my baggage and the Export Clearance Certificate.
I understand that my luggage will be booked in new Delhi and I can collect it in Colombo. Sounds good. However, since my luggage will also come back with me on an international flight, I will have to go through all the Customs formalities. With the kind of luggage I have, chances are that the Customs officials might well be within their right to charge me Customs Duty to bring in the stuff that is part of my luggage. The way to circumvent this eventuality is to get a Certificate from the Customs authorities certifying the equipment that I taking out of the country, which can then be furnished on my return.
Unfortunately the first leg of my journey is a domestic one, from Delhi to Bangalore, without me having to go through any Customs formalities. My immigration will happen at Bangalore Airport. This only means that I will have to check-out my luggage to enable the Customs there to take a look at it and then issue me the required Certificate. With seven hours to spare before I board the Bangalore-Colombo flight, that leaves me ample time to get the needful done. I only hope this does put some kind of spanner in the works as far as the airline is concerned. As far as they are concerned, my luggage is onboarded for the Delhi-Colombo sector, and here I am requesting it to be checked out at Bangalore, to be re-checked in again. I have tried talking to the airline Customer Care, but they did not seem to be able to either understand my unique predicament or offer me a solution.
Anyway, these are little niggles that I have to tide over. And this is miniscule compared to the sense of anticipation I am going through. And it is only going to increase over the next 72 hours.
I have a whole lot of luggage. Just my boat weighs upwards of 30 kg. My checked-in baggage allowance is 30 kg. So everything else I carry is excess baggage. I have already pre-booked 15 kg of excess baggage. I suspect that will not be enough and I would need to pay for a few kilos more. I have already been through several rounds of packing. I suspect I will have to go through unpacking and repacking a few more times over the next three days, primarily to reduce weight and discard some pieces of gear and equipment which fall in the “good to have” category instead of the “must have” category. There are things I can buy in Colombo instead of carrying from here. AA and AAA batteries for instance. My GPS unit eats up batteries like there is no tomorrow. I will run out of batteries, no matter how many I carry. So instead of carrying batteries (which put together weigh a fair bit) I will pick them up in Colombo. Maybe I will just carry some rechargeable batteries. I am seriously thinking of not carrying the stove or cook kit. Not that these weigh anything at all, but largely unnecessary since I am hoping we will find beachside shacks selling a whole lot of goodies. If there are sections which might be uninhabited, which we will get to know a day or so prior, we can always packs some non perishable items.
Timm is constantly sending me pictures of his time in Sri Lanka. He is on the water paddling and I am so jealous of him. He does say that it is windy from mid morning onwards making paddling difficult. The thermals blow in towards land as the day progresses. We will need to start each day’s paddle at around dawn and then use the winds to get propelled back towards shore by late afternoon. Or so goes the plan. What happens on each day is a different reality altogether. There are the winds to deal with, and the tides, and the currents, and the general sea and weather conditions. We are yet to decided whether to paddle clockwise or anticlockwise. I suspect the final decision will be taken a couple of days prior to launch.
Talking of launch, the proposed date is Mar 8. However, if all the logistic work gets completed sooner, we are thinking of launching Mar 5. Again, this decision will be taken once I am there.
As John Denver sang so emotionally and eloquently, my bags too are packed and I’m ready to go. I am almost at the door waiting to load my stuff in the vehicle. But I am stoked to be leaving on a jet plane to participate on an expedition which, once successful, will mean that I on a canoe and Timm of a stand-up paddleboard will be only the second people ever to circumnavigate the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Wish us Godspeed.