Listening to: Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne. Love me some Ozzy too!
A week after we came to Hyderabad, we decided to take a trip to Bangalore and see my sister in law and her family. My daughters had been missing their cousins a lot, so we decided to go. Of course, in true G family fashion, we decided this long after train tickets were not available any more. A few things about long distance travel in India. Planes are easiest, but you really pay for the convenience. Trains are cheap, mostly safe and comfortable, but take a long time and require some planning unless you’re very lucky – more on this in a minute. Unless you are butt monkey crazy, you just don’t drive a car long distances in India. If cities are the jungle to drive in, interstate roads are Mad Maxx apocalypse types. It just isn’t worth it.
Ahem, back to our trip to Bangalore. So after deciding to go, we needed tickets that were sold out weeks ago. Enter the Indian side door route. There are a certain small number of tickets set aside called Tatkal. They are set aside for people like us who need to travel last minute. As I mentioned, there are very few, and they are very hard to obtain. You have to physically go to the train station at 7 am and stand in line and hope you are close enough in the line to get the class of seats you want. It ranges from miserable (sitting on a bench in a non-air conditioned car with no personal space to speak of) to luxury (one coach with one bed with air conditioning). If you’re a man and really desperate, you can also fight your way into the unreserved last carriage and fight your way to a seat. Totally not worth it. Husband brought along Daddy G to the train station because he qualified for the senior citizen line (or que according to the natives). This got us the 2nd air conditioned class we wanted. This basically boils down to 4 fold down bunks for sleeping per coach. We managed to get three as our youngest doesn’t need one to herself, nor should she be by herself. Most trains involve some type of overnight adventure, so securing a bunk for yourself is totally worth it.
Our train left at 6 pm and arrived in Bangalore around 9 am (it was a bit late). If you are interested in staring out at the country side (which I am to a ridiculous degree) you should pick a train early enough to leave some time for that. One of the best things about the trains is the snack vendors who wander around. We got some samosas (pastry filled with spicy mashed potatoes and peas and deep fried), deep fried chilis, tea, mango juice, almond milk, and coffee. We decided to pass on the pani puri because we’re just not insane or have a death wish. Pani puri are very thin fried dough with a hole in the center. You pour in some totally questionable, hot, flavored water and pop the whole thing in your mouth. If you want the experience, you go to a decent restaurant, you never go to a street vendor or train vendor. That’s how people get typhoid son! You also should bring your own food and snacks and a huge bottle of water if at all possible. Sealed containers are best as I killed a few roaches trying to share with us. We ate our dinner from home and settled in to watch the scenery. The Indian country side is very, very nice, especially between Hyderabad and Bangalore. We saw various cows, goats, sheep, lots of hills, and small villages. One less positive thing is that the railroad tracks are a bathroom for most people. First thing in the morning, people will be lined up shamelessly on the tracks peeing and pooping wherever. These are mostly people who don’t have running water at home. After a while, we folded the bunks down. They are the perfect size for an average adult without having extra space or being too small. When I say bunk, it means a metal shelf with a plastic coated foam mattress.The train provides 1 pillow, 1 sheet for putting down on the bunk, 1 sheet for putting on yourself, and 1 heavier blanket. With the AC on, it does get quite cold. You may want to bring sweaters. From what I could see, the sheets and pillows are pre-washed and neatly packaged. The heavier blanket is a bit shadier, so be sure to use the top sheet.
The ticket collector will shamelessly flip on the light in the middle of the night and demand your ticket. Have it handy and just give it to him. He doesn’t want to be up in the middle of the night either, but that’s his job. He’ll flip back off the light and you’ll go back to sleep fine. Falling asleep on a rocking train is almost too easy. Another thing to be aware of: I’ve heard lots of stories about suitcases being stolen. There are spaces under the bunks for luggage. If you are bringing some, they should be as far away from the center isle as possible and turned so the handles don’t face out. Shoes also should be stowed securely, as my husband once had his stolen. Another word of caution: there are stories circulating about people offering others food laced with tranquilizers. Once the unsuspecting victims fall asleep, the “friends” help themselves to whatever they want from your luggage/person. It’s best not to take food from anyone other than an official vendor. Or better yet, bring it from home and just politely decline and say you just ate. I spent most of the night staring out into the Indian countryside not sleeping. Then I had more coffee after landing up. We’ll get to my Indian coffee fetish in another country.
I know you all like pictures, but I forgot the camera-computer cord and it got packed. Since we have 8 of them, my husband is refusing to buy another one. Hopefully I'll get my stuff soon so I can start posting pictures! More on shipping stuff later too.