Thursday 13th October 2016
According to Lonely Planet, the experience of travelling on India’s extensive rail network is an experience you cannot miss. Although I was slightly apprehensive about being alone it was something I was definitely looking forward to. Due to my last minute plans, with the help of my wonderful hotel manager Manjit, I booked onto the local sleeper class train heading from Jalandhar to Jaipur in Rajasthan. For a 671km, 12 hour long journey is cost as little as £5. What had I got myself into?
There are several different classes of sleeper trains, most with a/c and bedding provided but no I was booked onto the lowest class without either, but this was something I decided to keep to myself so I didn’t worry any of the wedding party. Sitting in the station waiting for my train, with not a single foreigner in sight, I kept my head down and covered as I wasadvised. “Don’t look anyone in the eye”, I was told. There are no live train updates, so it was a matter of guessing which train was mine, and once my train did arrive I clambered on to the carriage full of locals all staring at me. Luckily my train arrived at 10pm, so most people were asleep by then, drawing less attention to the fact I was joining them. I was located on a top bunk where I made my little safe haven for the night. You hear horror stories about the local trains, where foreigners are given food that is drugged and then wake up to all of their valuables gone.With all of this in mind, I covered up completely, padlocked my bag to a pole, wore a hidden money belt with my valuables in, and even went to the extent of wearing a ring on my wedding ring finger. Being someone who wants to
speak to the locals and engross myself in the culture, I unfortunately had to be rude this time, it wasn’t worth getting into any situations on my own. Although there was the occasional person tapping me in the middle of the night, I was generally left alone.
I have had some horrendous journeys across my travels, and to be honest this wasn’t one of them. The train itself is obviously very dirty and falling apart, but I did not experience any bugs, mice or dripping water like I have before. The only obvious downfall are the stench of the toilets, if you could call them that! Luckily I was located in the middle of the carriage away from the holes in the train floor. Having deliberately not drank too much water, I did try to avoid using them, but of course I needed to at some point. You hear about the locals jumping off the trains when they stop at stations to do worse things than just wee!
One benefit of the trains are the ‘chaiwala’s’ who walk up and down the carriages shouting “chai! chai!”. For as little at 10p you can drink a cup of hot masala chai (indian tea) which is the best you will find. Chai is so much better in this country, full of aromatic spices.
Having survived my first India rail journey, there is no doubt I would do it again! It was no-where near as bad as I thought it would be!