Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fog, Travel, in India ... don't mix

Since the last time I wrote I have been on many adventures and wonderful journeys through the heart of India. My time in Delhi was great and I left with a better appreciation for the capital than the last time I left.

The stifling fog that wreaks havoc upon India in Winter does just that. The fog throughout my 4 nights there canceled as many as 100 flights and led to many train delays. I was taking a train at 10 pm at night in the sleeper class for 232 rupees. 1 Canadian dollar equals approximately 43 Rupees. Sleeper class is the 3rd class out of 4 on the railway system. Sleeper is very cheap and noisy but I love it all the same. The last class is general which I would not do. Its very crowded and very cold.

Foreigners are allotted 10 percent of all seats on the train. Therefore, its easy for us to make last second plans. My train to Lucknow which is the capital of the state of UP, was suppose to take 9 hours and i reiterate suppose to take. Lucknow is South West of Delhi and 4 hours West of Varanasi.

For the train it is very important to get snacks and lots of water because its not recommended that you leave your bags alone in Sleeper Class. I brought 2 servings of momo's, a Tibetan delicacy which is very good. It is basically a dumpling like noodle with anything you want inside accompanied by a delicious sweet or spicy sauce. I also brought 2 bottles of mineral water for the trip.

Once on the train I opened my momo's and ate silently on the top bunk. There are 3 bunks one on top of each other like a bunk bed. Its important to get the top bunk because the bottom and the middle bunk can be accessed by anyone. My first time around I never slept on the train, this was a new experience for me and one that I was looking forward to. I had spent way too much money on the hotels in Delhi and a free nights sleep made the trip that much better.

On the top bunk adjacent to me was another foreigner from Poland. She looked like she was in her mid 30's. I sparked up a conversation with her and she told me that she was a teacher in Poland at University. She taught students Indian Art History. I didn't realize at the time but she was basically a free encyclopedia on the many mosques archways and carvings that we visited in Lucknow.

As I mentioned earlier the Lucknow train was suppose to take 9 hours and we were suppose to arrive at approximately 7 in the morning which is not a very good time to arrive anywhere. I made a little fort on the top bunk with my three bags and I felt that the bags were safe. It was very hard to get comfortable and it was very cold that night. I quickly fell asleep in my silk sleeping bag with my head on the bags. I woke many times during the night and the train was usually stopped. The snoring around me was terrible. It was a symphony of agony to my ears. As well I would wake up and the side I had been sleeping on would be very sore and I would have to change positions often.

I woke up at dawn looking at my cell phone and it was 7 am. I was distraught and thought I missed my stop. I looked across to the polish women and she was still there as well as everyone on the bottom bunks that were heading to Lucknow. I got up and went to the bathroom. The bathrooms on the train are nice enough if you hold your nose. The hole which you use goes straight onto the track outside. It smells terrible if you are stopped. I looked outside the train and the visibility was 50 feet maximum due to the pea soup fog. I asked one of the guys on the tracks outside the train how much longer we had. I figured 1-2 hours max. He told me 5 more hours. I knew I was in for the long haul because when an Indian says 5 it usually means double that.

In the end a 600 km journey took 15 hours. I figured Lance Armstrong could have got to Lucknow faster. I arrived at 2 pm the 25Th and set off with the nice Polish women. She had visited Lucknow before because she has to do her situations for school. She visits a museum in the middle of the zoo.

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