The train from Goa to Hampi
The train from Goa to Hospit was without down an experience in Indian rail travel. We are in a non air conditioned 3 tier sleeper carriage which means 8 bunks per compartment- three up each side and two at the end. Each carriage has 8 compartments so 64 people to a carriage and roughly 20 carriages to a train. During the day the top bunks are generally folded against the wall leaving the top bunks and bottom bunks for sitting or laying on and the middle ones as a backrest. When you get on the train everyone is bundling in with cases, impossibly large boxes, bags, children, food parcels etc. It is mayhem and the Indians do not queue so getting on, off or along the train is incredibly difficult. Doubly so, if you have a large rucksack to squeeze through the gaps. I have not had a ticket assigned and am on a waiting list so have to check on a printed sheet at the station before we get on to see if I have been allocated a ticket or not. If not then I will get on anyway and see what happens. Anyway it turns out that I have a seat that is 4 carriages up from Rachel. There is a german guy called Axel on the station. He is standing roughly where rachels carriage is so I ask if he is travelling alone and if he would swap seats with me from carriage 6 to 10 so I can be with Rachel on the 8 hour journey. He agrees to do so once he is on the train and has his seat (sensible not trusting me as my seat number is hand written and not printed). The train arrives and Rachel goes off to her carriage with Axel and I too mine. Except mine does not exist. I am walking up and down the platform trying to find it and people are pushing and shoving to get on and off. Eventually the train starts to move so I have to get on. I have to stand on the step of an open door as it is still chaos inside. After about 10 minutes I am able to get in the train and take my pack off and tie it to the door handle. Trusting an indian woman to watch it whilst I go off to find Rachel. It takes 10 minutes of pushing and shoving along 4 carriages of heaving humanity to get to her. Her carriage is the worst I actually have to climb up along the near the ceiling to get past some people and cases. I eventually find her and Axel, tell Axel I don’t think we will be changing and head back to my pack to collect it. People are still talking in the aisle, trying to put boxes on partially filled top bunks, get people who are sleeping on the bunks that are not theirs up and squeezing themselves into already overfilled spaces. People climb over one another, through one another and squeeze around one another. Here it is normal. No one is overly angry, upset or stressed. This is India and with 1.2 billion all struggling to survive it is the accepted way.
When I get back to the pack the woman is gone and the pack is leaning dangerously close to the open doorway. There is no way I can get it through the carriages for at least 30 minutes, when every one has settled into the new reality so I decide to wait. Luckilly the train pulls into a small station for a few moments so I disembark and make the much easier passage to Rachel outside of the train. Hoping on just as the train starts to move again. The journey is long, hot and crowded. Hawkers selling tea, mangos, biscuits, juice, cucumbers, biryani and curries, barjis and crisps constantly ply their trade calling out what they are selling as they go. We cannot chance the handled and cooked food so survive on water and packet of crisps and some biscuits. Time drags and temperatures rise, sweat sours, shit odour increases, our heads throb and noise. Axel turns out to have excellent English , is interesting, friendly and nice and both Rachel and I spend time chatting with him whilst the other perches with our bags up on the top bunk. Apprarently there was lovely scenery according to Rachel. Waterfalls, villages, hills etc. I don’t know why I missed it. Maybe I was crying. Rachel is much tougher than I. Pics on line for interest