2006 #7: Mouses and Mountain Buses

Well, we got our tickets for the train, after much tsk tsking from the guy at the station that tells you the train numbers (you know, that performance of fill in a form, go to a desk, get a number, go to a desk, wait, etc). We wanted the train that went to Pathankot, with upper berths and it was leaving in four hours! He was quite a humorous guy and we enjoyed our chat with him, which is why we don’t do all this stuff online. You don’t get to laugh so much with a computer, and we do want to keep these people employed.

We thought we’d have a good lunch before going, as you can spend hours on trains and buses going without food – that is if you’re paranoid like me and imagine hopping off to get a stack then turning around to find your ride has left without you. A regular nightmare of mine.

So we popped into what we though was a tidy – even posh looking – cafe and sat down at a table making comments about how flash it looked. Then a little mouse ran along the floor. Of course there was an ensuing discussion with a guy across the way about how they would taste as pakora, what they would charge us for this and how it probably wasn’t worth it as there was such little meat on them. As it turned out, looks are deceiving. The food we did receive was luke warm, looked totally unlike what it was supposed to look like and tasted indifferent. Perhaps they should go into the Mouse Pakora business instead…

I dropped in to say goodbye to Mr Om and he gave me a couple of gifts and some emotional hugs and kisses on the cheek goodbye. Gosh, this was most unexpected. Bless him.

Our train was leaving from the Old Delhi railway station, so we did a Metro hop. So much easier than battling traffic in an auto rickshaw at this time of the night. Then into the railway station. Ah yes, familiar mayhem. Paul lined up at the office window to find out what platform we were supposed to be on and the window slammed shut just as he got there. Of course. What did we expect, a straight forward situation? Let us not be silly here. Surprisingly, however, we only went to two wrong platforms this time. I think that’s beating all records so far. We met up with an Austrian woman working over here and she gave us a lesson on how to eat a mango. Well, more to the point, how to eat a mango without getting it all over your body. All rather clever actually. Although I have to try this out for myself yet, to ensure the genuineness of her claim.

We actually got onto the train in record time and got a window seat! Cool stuff. Then a family of eight came along and we played squish. There is only sleeping for six in this type of carriage, so the logistics of sleeping 10 people in such a space is quite fascinating.

They were a very nice family. Three of them had been living in America, including a young boy who was very shy and a younger girl who wasn’t. She gave me the lowdown on Cinderella and what happened to her, with big intense eyes and great seriousness. We both decided that we were glad there was a happy ending to this otherwise very serious tale. Another young lady sat beside me for a while, aged about ten I think. She was very sweet and spoke beautiful English in a lovely gentle voice. She asked me why I had golden hair and she had black hair. We had a bit of a discussion about environmental factors, etc, and I was just delighted that there was still such lovely innocence left in the world.

We got to sleep about midnight sometime, having been informed by the T.C. that we would arrive at Pathankot at approximately 3am. So I set my alarm for this, woke up at the appropriate hour and it turned out that we didn’t arrive until 6.45am! I could’ve wrung the guy’s neck! That’s 3 hours and 45 minutes of waking up every time we stopped somewhere. Grrrrrr.

At Pathankot it turned out that the monsoon had arrived. I guess I should’ve bought that umbrella in Delhi after all. Oh well. Then a guy on a cycle rickshaw won the price war for taking us to the train station, so we jumped on there as it had safely stopped raining. So Paul said. Well, none of us is right all the time and subsequently we got soaking wet, or at least I did on my right hand side, as the law of umbrella’s says it will only protect 1.5 persons at any one time. The rickshaw driver then stops in town, nowhere near the bus station and wants his money now. Ensuing lively discussion between him and Paul about the fact that saying he will take us to the bus station means he will take us to the bus station, and the driver protests that it is 21 km’s further. ‘Well, let’s get going then’ says Paul. One very slow trip with one very disgruntled rickshaw driver later…..

The bus station was largely submerged in water, or a ‘disgusting quagmire’ as Paul put it. But we did have some nice food and chai before getting on with playing “How Many People Can We Squeeze Into a Vehicle”. I thought our seat was quite comfortable until Paul pointed out that it was in fact a three person seat, not a two person one. I am guessing that the designers of these seats used very small persons to take their measurements from.

We stopped and started, stopped and started, people squeezed in and out and it was generally hot, sweaty and squashed all the way up the mountains – ten hours worth! Paul pointed out later that it wasn’t really that squashed, in fact it was quite reasonable compared to normal, and I couldn’t help reflecting that he neglects to fill me in on such little details on rather a regular basis. Is it that he is just used to all this stuff after so much travelling here and no longer sees it, or is it that he doesn’t want to scare me off and thus we never indeed go on any trips anywhere? It’s just a bit peculiar that he tosses off these facts in such a casual manner in hindsight. Or am I merely being overly suspicious? Hmmmm…Oh well, at least it took my mind off the enormous drops down into huge gorges that we saw out the windows most the time.

More on that later. Have to go and find out timings for tonight’s train. Yep – off to Madya Pradesh this time. We just got into Delhi this morning after travelling back from Bharmour. Approximately a 22 hour journey in 24 hours. Whew! We are obviously stark raving bonkers!

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