A Package to India

Day 216: 21/10/19
Location: New Delhi, India
Miles Driven: 0
It had been almost five weeks since the latest “worst day of the trip so far” had left us stuck in Delhi with a squashed back door that would not close and a car that was un-drive-able as a result. Probably down to an accumulation of the stress, pollution and lack of hygiene, for nearly a week after the crash both Chris and I were completely bed bound with colds/chest infections. We were so physically and mentally exhausted from the last few weeks that we didn’t have the energy to get up, eat, or do pretty much anything. Not eating left us with even less energy. It was a viscous cycle that we struggled to get out of for a couple of weeks.

Eventually we went outside to face Natalie, knowing that we had to remove the broken glass from the window, seal the door as best we could, and decide on what we would do about it. With the brilliant help of our family and friends in the UK, we sourced a second hand replacement door (which was even the correct colour), and ordered a new ladder and table. Concerned that the shipping process would likely result in the rear window getting smashed (and putting us back to square one), we decided to replace the window with a sheet of aluminium instead. Due to our rear set up, we cannot see out of the back window regardless, so glass versus aluminium made no difference for us. An exceptionally skilled friend of a friend replaced the window, and attached both the new ladder and table to the door. On the 20th October, exactly one month after that dreaded day, our new door was ready to be shipped to India.

We had been so wrapped up with the task of ensuring the door would be ready in time for our scheduled air freight from London to Delhi, we didn’t put too much thought into exactly how we would package it so that it arrived undamaged. After an attempt to wrap it in bits of cardboard and scrap wood, it became obvious that something a bit more structurally sound was needed. At 2pm, three and a half hours before the shipping depot closed, there was a mad rush to the builders merchants to make a speedy purchasing of some sterling board, timber and a load of protective foam. An hour later, our wonderful friends and family were manically creating a made to measure box for the rear door of a Land Rover Discovery II. It truly was a remarkable feat – everyone got to work, without any planning or questioning, and the box was soon complete. They made it to the depot with about half an hour to spare, and just like that, our new door was on its way.

With limited time before the depot closed, everyone go their heads down. Note the Land Rover in the background, the brand (and very car) that originally brought James and Chris together almost exactly 11 years ago. And now James, and his family, were taking a day off from their busy business to send a Land Rover door to a friend in need half way around the globe. The Toyota Land Cruiser in the background of the following photos should be ignored.
Amazingly with no planning and limited discussion the box quickly came together
An hour later, it was ready!

Day 220: 25/10/19
Location: New Delhi, India
Miles Driven: 0
It was finally time for us to collect the door from New Delhi Airport. During the few days previous, we had tried to organise a truck to transport us and the door back from the airport to our hostel. This was rather tricky, as we didn’t know exactly where we would need it to collect us from, and we had no idea what time we would be ready for collection. We received a couple of outrageous quotes, and one not quite so outrageous. We decided to keep that as a back up, and hoped that we could organise transport from the other end once we had the door in our possession.

Arriving at the cargo depot just after 11:30, we had no idea where we were going, and as we had found to be the norm in India, asking staff for directions just sent us around in circles. We were repeatedly directed to excess baggage, and when we asked where the Virgin Atlantic Cargo office was, it was met with completely blank faces, none of the shipping staff knew who/what/where the Virgin Atlantic office was. We were off to a great start.

Eventually we found somebody that directed us to the right place, and we found the office that we had been told via email that we needed to go to. Our first fee of the day was for 2300 Rupees (just under £26) for a piece of paper that had to be taken to the cargo section ran by Celebi (a different company). In a large room, full of people and desks, we randomly chose an empty counter (number 3) to enquire as to where we needed to go. The guy confidently directed us to window number 4 – where the stacks and stacks of boxes made it clear that this had not been used as a counter for a very long time. Back to window number 3, we were sent to window number 2, who sent us to the help desk. Surprisingly, the man at the help desk was actually helpful, and told us where we needed to go – the building next door.

There was another round of being sent from desk to desk, we completed some paperwork, paid another 100 Rupees (£1.13) “paperwork fee”, got sent back to window number 2, and were told to wait. Whilst waiting, we met Mal – originally from Delhi, Mal had just returned from living in the UK for several years whilst at the University of Leeds. She had shipped some of her belongings back and this was her second day of trying to get her boxes through customs and back into her possession. Unlike us, she had no language barriers between herself and the staff, and yet she seemed to have as much of an idea about where to go and what to do as we did. Over the next few hours our paths repeatedly crossed. It was very lucky for us that she hadn’t been able to pick up her stuff the previous day – as throughout the day she was an enormous help to us; translating, asking questions, giving advice. We were beyond grateful.

The man who had told us to wait, came back, now telling us that the Virgin Atlantic office hadn’t stamped our paperwork properly. 20 or so minutes later, we had gone back to the Virgin office, received the correct paperwork, and were once again waiting in the Celebi office. We were taken to see the Assistant Deputy Commissioner. It transpired that our package had been delivered to the cargo depot rather than excess baggage (where it apparently should have been). He moaned at us, as if it was our doing that had led to this mistake. We left with some more paperwork, and then had to wait for 40 minutes until lunch was over.

During the lunch break, Chris went on the hunt for transport to get us and the door back to the hostel. He found our second saviour of the day – Mr Jolly, who knew someone that could organise a truck for us, ready whenever we wanted it, for 2500 Rupees (£28). Our cheapest previous quote had been over 3000, so we happily accepted.

After lunch, our box was brought out, opened, and inspected. We were given yet another piece of paper and sent back to the Assistant Deputy Commissioner for it to be signed – only to find that he had now gone for lunch. On his return half an hour or so later, he told us he didn’t need to sign it, and sent us to two completely different people to sign it instead.

Next we were told to pay customs tax. Technically we didn’t need to pay this as we were only importing the door temporarily and had the paperwork to prove it. However, it was now 3pm. We knew that any questioning or non-conforming to the system would delay us, and we didn’t want to have to go through the whole process again tomorrow. For the sake of the £15 tax, it wasn’t worth challenging. After being given the wrong directions by three different people, we found the building – a 10 minute walk away from the cargo depot. The building closed at 4pm, giving us about 40 minutes to find the correct office and pay the tax.

I imagine by now you can guess what’s coming…. the man at reception directed us to the second floor – where nobody had ever heard of customs tax and had no clue where we were supposed to go. We went to the first floor and were quickly directed back to the ground floor, just to the other side of the reception desk. When we finally found the desk to pay customs tax, we were sent away to another room and another desk to collect the “T6 form” in quadruplicate. Back we went again to the customs tax desk. We filled out the T6 form, and again, and again, and again. We paid our fee at 3:55pm and then walked back to the Celebi office with our receipt.

Our receipt was processed, and we were taken back to the original set of offices, to a room a few doors down from the Virgin Atlantic office to pay another unknown but compulsory fee of 1475 Rupees (£16.64). This final office, desk and payment did the trick. We had spent around six hours walking back and forth to nearly 20 different desks across five different buildings, and we were now finally able to leave with our door.

Mr Jolly’s contact had been true to his word – our truck was waiting for us, and we loaded it up. We then discovered that this transport service did not include the transportation of us, and that the truck could not leave the vicinity until 11pm. It was slightly inconvenient, but as it was already organised and loaded into the van, we said goodbye to the door (hoping that it would actually arrive at our hostel) and started walking towards the Metro station. Just as we were walking away, the wonderful Mal shouted at us to come back. For no reason other than to selflessly help us, she had arranged for another truck that could take both us and our door back to the hostel right now for the same price as the original truck. Amazing.

Mal (middle) organising our transport home for us
The journey back was slightly uncomfortable for Chris – sat on a rucksack in between the two front seats with the gear stick between his legs.

At 6:30pm, eight and a half hours after leaving the hostel that morning, we unloaded the door onto the hostel driveway. It had been a long day, but we had done it. Despite all of the running back and forth, the wrong directions, and the unexpected fees, it had all gone significantly smoother than we had expected it to.

Day 221: 26/10/19
Location: New Delhi, India
Miles Driven: 0
The process of removing one door and attaching another is pretty straightforward. There aren’t many things you can do wrong, but of course, we managed to do them. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to us, we thought it best to create a step by step photo guide to help you from making the same mistake that we did!

Step 1. Choose the door you would like to replace
Step 2. Disconnect the electrical wires
Step 3. Remove old door
Step 4. Unpack new door
Step 5. Attach new door
Step 6. Close door before connecting central locking (optional. If you choose not to do this step, skip to step 9)
Step 7. Spend over 3 hours disassembling the majority of the car internals to reach rear door from the inside and connect central locking (obligatory if step 6 selected)
Step 8. Open door
Step 9. Connect central locking
Step 10. Fit rear wheel, number plate, country sticker, and marvel at your new door

Days 222-225: 27-31/10/19
Location: New Delhi, India
Miles Driven: 0
Over the next few days, we spent the majority of each day working on the car. There were a few jobs unrelated to the crash that needed doing – our horn needed replacing, as did the anti roll bars, and our battery monitor wasn’t working properly. We also attempted to fix the box on our roof – in the end resorting to strapping the lid down as the hinges and clasps were beyond repair. We filled the water tank, cleaned the windows, washed our clothes, and planned our route to Nepal. By mid morning on the 30th, we were ready to go, and had an afternoon of rest before leaving the following day. Nepal bound, we didn’t allow ourselves to get excited about the thought that we would finally be leaving India. We knew we needed to take it one step at a time, pacing ourselves, not driving too far every day, and trying as hard as we possibly could to leave the country without any further incidents.

2 thoughts on “A Package to India

Add yours

  1. I am super intrigued and aghast—oh my! What an unforgettable adventure. You and Chris have some serious memories. Thanks for taking the effort and time to catalog your journey. Greetings and love from Texas!

    Consistently my best (of course!) Tanya Sterling National Reporter, GlobeSt.com Feature Writer, Real Estate Forum magazine Published Freelance Writer 832-723-8771 (mobile/text)

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