Chuffa chuffa toot toot

Well, the train journey wasn’t bad at all. There are several classes over here, ranging from “first” (which you hardly ever see) through 2AC, 3AC, sleeper and downwards. Tonight’s train was a “SL” – sleeper class. This means no A/C, but overnight temperatures were fine.

The carriage was divided by walls to which were attached three tiers of three bunks, the middle of which is initially folded down so three people can sit opposite each other on the bottom one, like a bench. As luck would have it, the other passengers in our little enclave didn’t board for a couple of hours, so we had plenty of space pretty much up until we wanted to bed down.

One thing you’re not short of is food. There’s a near-constant stream of official railway salespeople barging up the carriages screaming “Chicken lollipop!” or “Soda! Lassi!” in a vocal style reminiscent of the old guy who stands outside Eldon Square grunting “Chronicle!”. At a guess, I’d say there were about a dozen different sellers, each with a different food or beverage. These included those mentioned as well as chai, coffee, fruit salad, sandwiches, roast peanuts and foil-wrapped dinners.

I opted for a chicken fried rice for 45Rp which was – frankly – really tasty. I’d have had a fruit salad as well, but the rice was such a generous portion I was full afterwards. Far, far better than the famed British Rail stale sandwiches of old.

For about an hour, I chatted to a middle-aged Indian man who was on his way to Mumbai for a conference. We mainly talked about the food in India, books and authors, and films. Nice guy, though he stopped me finishing my book!

The only real downside to the journey was the noise, as someone kept insisting on opening the door and the route had a lot of tunnels. Having said that, I was exhausted so slept pretty well regardless. This despite sharing my bunk with two rucksacks and a camera bag.

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