Au revoir to Bangalore for now. Our flight is at 6:30 am, so being totally paranoid we asked the Google driver to show up at 3:30. He, being the conscientious sort, shows up early. Oh boy. We stuff all of our things into one bag each. If you are flying through London you are limited to one carry on bag, period. Any briefcase, purse, or any other small personal items must fit in that one bag. Next time I'm wearing a camera vest. We ask the driver to wait till we're ready, finish packing, and check out.
We're off to the airport in the cool dark quiet of the early morning. There's even less traffic than when we arrived, and we make good time to the airport. The airport seems small and somewhat run down from the outside. We hadn't had time really to get an impression when we arrived, but now with more than two hours before our flight we have more time to observe. Bangalore International Airport does not feel like any of the other airports we've gone through to get here. Bangalore is in the midst of constructing a new more modern airport that is scheduled to open in 2008, but for now it's a small, almost tiny place harboring antiquated equipment. The rooms are cavernous, floored with linoleum. The chairs seem sixties vintage stained upholstery under the glare of fluorescent lights. There are few amenities, one overtaxed coffee shop and a book and gift store not much larger than a cubbyhole. The room is filled with tired people waiting for their flights. I find two seats next to each other and we join them.
There is no electronic departure board, instead one of the three televisions periodically changes from sports or a soap opera to show a dozen lines of departure information in cryptic abbreviations. Our flight does not appear on this listing and I start to worry. The listings appear to be almost exclusively domestic Indian flights from what I can tell of the obscure destination codes. I wander back out to the security check where one of the inspectors assures me that this is the right gate. I believe him because as far as I can tell there are only two gates and the other one is closed. I'm not the only one who's nervous. As far as I can tell the waiting room consists of two groups, foreigners hoping to catch the British Airways flight to London, and Muslim pilgrims on their way to some destination that remains opaque to me.
Finally a BA person shows up and makes an announcement over the PA. The good news is that we are indeed in the right place. The bad news is that the flight is delayed for about an hour. We could have spent two more hours relaxing in our luxury hotel room paid for by Google, but instead we're trying to stay awake on uncomfortable seats in a careworn waiting room with no amenities and no internet access. I entertain myself by walking around, and buying overpriced souvenirs in the postage stamp sized gift shop.
Eventually the plane arrives, is unloaded, and we are clear to board. We file on, take our seats and take off. I look out the window at the city that will be our home for the next year. I see houses right up against the airport property, a baffling warren of small streets, and people everywhere. Still I'm looking forward to it.
Ten hours later we arrive in London late due to our late departure, and have less than one half hour to make our connection. We have to get from terminal four to terminal one, and we have to navigate Heathrow's internal security checks. We lose no time getting to the right shuttle to take us to our terminal, after asking we are granted the use of the expedited security line because of our close connection and finally make it to our gate in time to immediately board our next ten hour flight to San Francisco.
After watching four movies that were not on my list of movies I wanted to see, watching the sun set and rise again because of how far north we flew, watching ice floes and snow drifts in the rising sun, noticing Mount Shasta passing by, we eventually arrived back at San Francisco Airport. We quickly and efficiently dealt with all the customs and immigration formalities and boarded BART. We were home - what would be home for just a few more weeks.