Travel during the pandemic

Ever since the pandemic hit the Indian shores in March, 2019, travel has become a taboo word. For compulsive travellers like me (and my family), it was a departure from the normal like so many others. The travel bug, however, did not or could not stay away for long and after 6 short months, we were back at it. Starting September, we have traveled to another city, the glorious Malnad region in Karnataka, been to the highest (or 2nd, or 3rd?) peak in South India, to the beachside and ultimately, up north, to the river Ganges.

We reached the Sharavathi river as the sun was setting, in heavily overcast conditions. We stopped at the bridge, just before reaching the Jog Falls, to capture the beauty of the spot. I love the greenery there. I can almost see the clouds and the mist moving over the landscape.

How has travel changed between the pre-pandemic times and during the pandemic? Road travel has become the preferred mode of transport. As the media reported a continued increase in the number of cases of people infected by the virus, we have ensured a few basic rules were followed:

  • Always wear masks in public places
  • Sanitise the hands frequently
  • Wash hands, whenever possible
  • Avoid crowded tourist spots (especially in the first few trips)

A view of the hills from the place we were staying at, a cousin’s “cottages in the woods”. The second day at the hills was cloudy and windy and the hill tops were obscured from view. Luckily, the weather did not last and the next couple of days were bright and perfect for viewing and trekking.

This is a (claimed) 400 year old sampige tree (or Champak in English). I loved the way the lens captured the rainbow colours which were not as prominently visible to the naked eye. The sun peeking through the tree tops made for a great shot.

We found that for most people in the villages and towns that we visited, the Coronavirus, while definitely impacting the livelihood, was a thing of the past. Much like people everywhere, they were ready to move on and put this mask-wearing, virus-fearing phase behind them. By the end of 2020, we could see the highways busy with traffic and the roadside restaurants busy servicing customers. Sanitisers are everywhere and the waiters servicing the tables wear masks and sometimes, gloves and a cap for the head. Where restaurants would sometimes be lax about the availability of soap and general cleanliness, things had improved. How long will this attitude towards cleanliness last is anyone’s guess.

My daughter was insistent on playing at the beach one last time before our departure from this resort. I had promised her to that we could stay until it got dark and that lead to this spectacular view of the moon rise. It looks so much like a sunrise, doesn’t it? It happened to be a full moon day to boot, so we were lucky to catch the scene.

A view of the moon and the beach as I was returning to the resort. I thought the coconut trees, the moon and the beach bathed in a floodlight looked splendid. I tried my best to get the couple out of the frame, but unfortunately, I failed in my attempt.

After a sufficient number of trial runs with the road travels, we finally took the aerial route. The airport experience has changed for the better as well. Gone are the check-in counters, with web check-in being mandatory now. Even the luggage drop-off was expedited. The boarding pass, luggage tag generation, are all off-loaded to a contact-less method. All of these changes mean that the only Identity check carried out now, is at the entrance to the terminal by the CISF personnel. Thankfully, the utterly meaningless multiple layers of identity proof verifications, the extra checks on the boarding pass at the time of boarding the aircraft have been reduced. Temperature checks at the entrance to the airport were done and there were sanitising machines at multiple places around the terminal. The airlines handed out protective equipment kits to all boarding the aircraft and while they did not insist on the gowns for the middle seat passengers, it was recommended. Inside the aircraft, the air stewardess did her job in insisting that all passengers wear the face mask properly and also wear a visor to cover the entire face. Of course, during meal times, all of these protections come off. I suppose that is an acceptable degree or risk that is taken during air travel, if one choses to satisfy the hunger pangs. I thought the entire travel process was fairly smooth, considering all the encumbrances that the pandemic has placed on the system. Of course, there is risk of contracting the disease prevalent no matter what one choses to do outside of their residence.

A view of the river Ganges. A dip in the river is said to cleanse one of all of their sins. Humankind would need a dip in the river every day to make the earth a better place.

Train journeys are a different beast though. For those used to travelling in air-conditioned coaches in Indian trains, there are no bed linen provided any more in measures to counter the spread of the pandemic. Gone also, are the curtains that adorn the cubicles and the windows. All of this makes the travel slightly uncomfortable because of the light from outside streaming in at every stop that the train makes through the journey.

I have had the good fortune of being able to make reasonably short trips during these unprecedented times. I definitely look forward to many more such experiences, whilst we wait for our turn at the vaccine and for the pandemic to run its course. Have you traveled within the country or outside in the past year or so? If yes, what has your experience been like? Do share!

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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