Monday, January 21, 2013

The Indian Railway System

Part of traveling in a new country, especially a large and complicated one with its own way of organization like India, is learning a new transportation system.  Fortunately, the India railway system is pretty well organized, and you can register to buy tickets online.  However, I needed a copy of my passport to register, and my passport was at the embassy until the day before I left.  (Only afterwards did I find a copy in the bottom of my bag that I'd forgotten about)  So, I wasn't able to register until the day before my flight to India.  I bought my first train ticket immediately, from Mumbai to Udaipur--but I was number 73 on the waiting list.  Apparently, in India, since the train tickets are cheap and easily refunded, people just buy several tickets ahead of time, decide later which they actually wish to use, and then just cancel the rest at the last minute.  But still...70-something?  It seemed like a long shot I'd make that train. 

However, I checked the status online the morning after I arrived in Mumbai, and I was already to 34, which was better than I expected.  I went by the train station, though, to train to buy a tourist-quota ticket to be sure, but there weren't even any of those left.  The guy at the ticket window told me there was no way, with 34 people ahead, that I'd make the list for that train; my best shot was to come back first thing Monday morning and try to buy one of the higher-priced last minute tickets for that day's train.  

But, Sunday morning, with the original train supposed to leave that afternoon at 2:45, I checked again.  Number 12!  I decided that it was worth the bother to go to the train station (to add to it, not the one near the hostel, but one in a suburb) to just see what would happen.  The website said that the final update would be at noon, so I stayed at the cyber cafe until then, to see if the status had changed any...and lo and behold, I  had made the train!  There it was, my carriage and seat number.  Carriage 9, seat 71.  It was even a lower bunk!  

So, I headed to the train station in plenty of time, just to be sure.  I had nearly two hours to wait once I got there; I hung out with a couple from New Zealand while we waiting; they were somewhere on the same carriage, but several bunks down.  

My ticket was on a sleeper train, which is a much more basic carriage than the sleeper trains I'm used to in China or Europe.  In China, you have sheets, comforters, pillows, heat or AC, etc...Here there were open windows, and vinyl-covered pads on the bunks.  Fortunately, I always travel with my fleece blanket, and the warm air coming in the windows felt good.  At least until about eight o' clock.  Then it began to feel a bit cool...everyone shut the windows.   By ten it was downright cold air coming in around the leaky windows.  I got my fleece jackets out of my backpack.  Unfortunately, my bunk was closest to the end of the car, right next to the bathrooms.  The area between carriages had a large opening, and a strong blast of cold air was coming in.  By midnight, I got up and put on also a sweater, and a scarf, and still shivered and froze through the night.  The Indian people around me were cold, too.  It took me until about one in the afternoon the next day to thaw enough to take the fleece jacket off.  


Post a Comment