AROUND INDIA BY TRAIN IN 2012 travel blog

Let boys out on their own and this happens!!!!

Breakfast was a pleasant surprise as there was a good selection in the buffet including porridge, omelettes, fried bread etc. It was also included in the cost of our room.

After breakfast we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel & headed once more to the station to collect our tickets. We are both carrying a backpack(airline overhead locker size) plus a 'man bag' to hold our four weeks clothing & equipment supplies so we are not keen to keep humping them around too much. Today, as we are leaving from the Delhi Old Railway Station, we intend taking the bags there & leaving them at the Left Luggage room while we spend the day around the Red Fort area.

We got to Delhi Central station about 9am so we had an hour to kill before collecting our tickets and decided to have a shave from one of the roadside barbers at the station entrance who had his chair on the pavement & a mirror hanging of a nail on the boundary wall.

The whole station was alive with people & vehicles plus the inevitable beggars & animals all making their way to their various workplaces for the day. Somehow the shaves developed from just a facial shave to a full blown head scalping for the pair of us & the result resembled two boiled small on legs. We gathered a smal crowd of admiring locals & we had the chance to sit & watch as a whole myriad of life passed through the station entrance.

After the scalping we reported to the reservations office & much to my relief we collected our tickets from a sari clad lady who duly arrived at 10am. She consulted a rather battered book full of hand written pages, some of which were coming loose from their binding, & located two pages with all our journeys listed. She had to resort to a computer finally to sort out a query or two but after about half an hour we left the office with a handful of tickets and the assurance that we were all set for our trip & only had to hop on board & claim our reserved seats on each journey.

Clutching all our bags we returned to the streets again and selecting a likely looking rickshaw driver we embarked on another adventure through the nightmare inducing traffic of Delhi. Our driver or, rather, pedaller was all in by the time we got to the Delhi Old Station so we gave him soLuggagera rupees for his pains.

We located the Left Lugage office and deposited the two big carry-on bags but kept our 'man bags' with us as they hold our more valuable and important items. As the Red Fort is not far frChowkat station we strolled back through the Chandi Chouk market area to the ticket booth and bought our 'Foreigners' tickets. The locals pay 10 rupees but Foreigners have to cough up 250 rupees( about £3.50).

The Fort was a bit disappointing as once inside and passed the inevitable souvenir shops it all looked a bit dilapidated and run down. There were four different museums and we did go in all of them but in the main despite the magnificent walls we felt it didn't live up to our expectations. So we didn't spend as long there as we were intending to and went instead back to the Chandhi Chouk area where we had lunch at a McDonalds then once again wandered around the narrow streets ending up at the mosque.

Whilst wandering around the back alleys we sampled some chai from one of the little one man stalls that abound and watched an old guy ironing some laundry with an old coal fired iron. Roger got a photo but it cost us 20 rupees. We also purchased a small folding knife, a papaya, two limes, four oranges and four bananas for our breakfast on the train tomorrow.

Armed with our supplies we returned to the station, collected our big bags and made our way to the platform to board our train. We had to make our way passed the masses of people that seem to inhabit the station here. People everywhere standing or lying in groups or making their way to or from the platforms. We eventually located our train and located our names on a typewritten sheet tacked to the side of our carriage. We are on AC1 class on this leg and we had been allocated the two bottom bunks in a four bunk cabin. The AC1 cabins have proper doors and two bunks either side. AC2 class has double bunks facing each other with another pair of bunks at right angles across a corridor. These bunks are separated by curtains only, no doors. AC3 is similar to this but with 3 levels of bunks.

Fortunately we are in AC1 on this leg so only 4 people are allocated to a cabin. The beds are folded back during the day and then dropped down at night. We get a pillow plus sheets and a blanket. I popped off to get us a couple of bottles of water and Sprite each and while I was away Roger bought a couple of Thali meals from a guy on the train. There is not a restaurant car on this train but there are men coming round at frequent intervals selling meals or drinks.

The Thali meals were basically plastic trays divided into small sections holding a variety of Indian foods and a few chipatis. Without knowing what we were having we still managed to devour most of what was on the trays and that was before we even left the station at 5.30pm.

We thought we were going to have the carriage to ourselves as nobody else arrived before the train started to leave the station, however after the train had started and stopped several times without making much forward progress we were joined by a young Indian man who turned out to be an Army officer. He lives with his wife & two children in Jaisalmer and was returning from a conference in Chennai. We had an interesting chat with him about arranged marriages, which his had been, and also about the caste system as well as religions and family life etc. Fortunately he spoke very good English.

Night was beginning to fall as we left Delhi but we could see the amazing scenes of life alongside the tracks and even between them. People everywhere with shacks made out of all varieties of scrap materials. Children, hundreds of them, playing amongst the squalor. Indian people seem to discard their rubbish anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately the darkness of the night soon hid the sad sights from us.

About 10pm we made up our beds with the supplied sheets,blanket & pillow. We had taken over the two bottom bunks so our Indian friend took one of the upper bunks. There were two washrooms at the end of our carriage, one had a western toilet and the other a 'squat' toilet and both had wash basins and a flexible hand shower.

The lights were turned off, although we each had a reading light above our bunk, and we settled down to sleep for the night. Unfortunately sleep was a luxury I was denied. The bunk was hard as nails & I just couldn't nod off which was probably as well because at midnight we stopped at Jaipur and another young Indian guy came clonking into our cabin turning on the lights to make up his bedding and generally ensuring that all occupants of our cabin knew he was there.

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