The wonderfully popular mode of travel in India!!!
03/07/2010 - 03/19/2010 90 °F
As we continue to catch up on our stories here on the blog I wanted to talk about the trains. You have heard about the death defying car rides, the camel excursions, the Tuk Tuk zig zagging but what we have failed to mention is the all important very popular train system. I will start from the beginning--we had been in Delhi 2 days and the initial shock of India was still settling in when we had a 6am train out to Jaipur. Actually there was no traffic at 5:30 am in Delhi so it seemed almost mellow (I will mention that Yo had just spent the prior day dying from the Hong Kong hurl and Cooc woke up at midnight just in time to join in on the fun herself). Mellow that is until we got to the train station- even at such an early hour the traffic and melee around the station was what I now know as classic India. So we jump out of our cars groggy and sick, all bags and kids in tow. Finally making our way through the parking lot traffic to the station only to find people sleeping everywhere (sorry I don't have pictures to show, our photographers were in no condition and all hands were full, so you will have to just use your imagination). We hustle through hurrying after Loretta finally getting to our platform and train. It all seems like a blur now and come to think of it, it all felt like a blur then. Onto our AC Chair car we go-load all the luggage onto the racks above and take our seats (sort of like old worn out airplane seats). Yo and Cooc scoot to our 2 window seats and cover their heads in the throws of the sickness misery- and Arella begins to crack (the- it is early, it is dirty, I don't feel good and I am not having any fun tears start to flow). By the way breakfast was included on this journey, which there was no chance in hell any of us were going to eat due to our recent experiences with mass transportation food. A few hours later and its hustle time to get off--only a short stop in Jaipur(about 5-7 minutes). OK that was a weird experience.
Next train experience - Pushkar to Udaipur. This time we have a little more India under our belt and one prior train ride so we are ready for this one. We got to spend the morning in Pushkar so there was no rush for an early morning train-- much better. Death defying car ride to the station and we are ready to get to the platform. Now we purposely thought we were traveling light and even left 2 suitcases in Delhi, but I am still carrying my suitcase on my back and rolling 2 others behind me. This is fine until I have to go up and over to the next platform- the 100lb shrug with a 45lb weight on my back. When we get on the train we find a different seating configuration with half the car facing one way and the other half facing the other way, with a small table in between the 2 rows directly facing each other (great for looking at peoples faces). Yona and I have the seats with the table and my thought was "Thank god I am riding forward and not backwards." For some reason I always get a mild motion sickness on trains-not enough to boot but enough to feel nauseous the whole time-going backwards its worse. The train was supposed to be about 5 hours long. Lots of stops, actually some in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. When we come to the second to last stop the train sits, and sits, and sits for what seemed like forever. Then out of nowhere we start going backwards (towards the way we came). Are you kidding me--we're already salty from such a long ride with multiple delays and now we are going backwards--what is up???? Loretta informs me that this train actually goes past the place we are going and then goes back--guess what "We are in India man, nothing is impossible!!!!!!!" So the last hour and a half i double up on the nausea and there you go another train ride in India. When we get off Loretta finally asks, "Do you want to get porters( guys in red shirts at every station)" I say, "How much?" She says, "50 rupees each for 2 guys." I say, "Absolutely!" I think.... "Now you tell me it's a little over $1 each to get these guys to carry my bags, why wasn't I informed of this earlier?" One suitcase balanced on their head and one rolling behind, these guys are pros.
Next train ride is the always popular local train from Ranthambhore to Bharatpur. I believe Yona already spoke about the fecal condition on the tracks so I will spare the smelly details. This time there is no AC chair car. We are in the 'Slumdog Millionaire' train complete with bars on the windows and sections with births for seating( triple stacked bunks across from each other on one side, double stacked bunks along the other). Now I am on the outside dealing with the porters and apparently there was a group of Muslims hogging up our zone which Loretta promptly booted along with their luggage (pots, pans and all). We all packed into our zone and the fellows who were booted moved their luggage to their upper bunk across from us leaving them just enough space to sit on either side of said luggage. These same men then proceeded to stare at us the whole ride. This time there were guys going back and forth down the isle selling anything from cold drinks and candy to some kind of chip style munchy to trays of fresh fruit (none of which we would feel comfortable buying). On one side Yo and Po lay together on the lower bunk, Cooc and A on the middle and our luggage on the top bunk. Across from them we lowered the middle bunk and Rae, Loretta and I sat on the lower bunk/now bench. The windows were open, wind blowing through the car, earphones on meandering through whatever song comes through my head and I am having my favorite ride in India- real India!!!
Last but not least is the final train from Agra to Delhi. A night train leaving at 20:45 (that's 8:45pm for you US folk)- an AC chair car just like the beginning complete with dinner that none of us would eat. This ride and train was now run of the mill to us. The story was the station. We had read and been told about the high levels of crime and fraud in Agra- the number one tourist destination due to the Taj Mahal. As we got to our platform through the normal sleeping, begging and stench we noticed a large number of kids (very dirty and scruffy) milling around. Now at this point we are at our wits end with the general filth of India because we have all been sick and it seems everywhere you go all you see is germs (this is part of the emotional toll that these 2 weeks have brought to us). Loretta has warned us to keep a close eye on our stuff because lots of bags are stolen here and it is the young kids who do it. So as we stand there and wait for our (yes you guessed it) delayed train, it feels as if we are being cased by all these young boys, tweens and teenagers who apparently just live there at the station. Not only are we dealing with the harsh realities of these kids lives and there constant begging from us, but I am feeling completely nervous, tense and angry with the feeling of being circled by street urchins just looking for their chance to pounce. I have thought a lot about India and how I would write about it--what I decided is to be honest about how I felt and write the good with the bad. As I have said before the experience is hard to put into words or even imagine for myself. The good, bad and ugly- all of it. What I do know is that I do not regret coming here one bit and the experience is something I and I am sure my family will never forget--the stories will be told for many years and with many details all a part of my history and wisdom.
"And that's pretty much all I can say about that." ---Forrest Gump