A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back to Delhi

On the last leg of what they call the Golden Triangle (traveling from Delhi-Jaipur-Agra back to Delhi), the train ride was a total fiasco. We had a hard time reading the ticket and asked for help determining the track number. A nice fellow with heavily accented English and a leathery face, told us the train would be leaving in 15 minutes on track 4. Moments later, we arrived at the track and saw a train for New Delhi about to depart. Asking a boy in uniform if this was indeed our train and car, which said HL1 instead of H1. He directed us inside and to a compartment that, again, didn’t quite match up to our ticket. The train took off and I thought the worse thing that could happen was we would have to move to our correct car. Instead, we were on the wrong train altogether!

The conductor was very unhappy with us. Basically saying we had to get off the next stop or pay a fortune to cover a penalty charge and then buy a new ticket for this train. But it’s the same class car going to the same destination, surely we shouldn’t have to buy a new ticket?! The next “stop”, if you can even call it that seeing as it didn’t have a platform or corresponding town built up around it, came and went. The conductor came back and lectured us about an additional fine now because we couldn‘t follow instructions. I felt about 8 years old. How were we to know that our express train would even stop at that stop, it looked like a ghost town. Finally, he begrudgingly relented into letting us stay until Mathura (birthplace of Lord Krishna), a large train hub.

We were booted off the train to wait for our train that was supposedly 20 minutes behind us. I watched the shoddy electronic overhead board, it’s lite n brite bulbs flickering on and off, struggling to illuminate the train schedule, and was informed it would be late by 45 minutes. An hour and half later, I went back and our train no longer was displayed on the board! What happened?! The train apparently came and went and we didn’t get on it. We watched the incoming trains like a hawk, and even had two extra pairs of eyes as two British girls also mistakenly boarded the wrong train (see, we’re not the only losers!). We may have been a little distracted by the sheer madness of the crowds boarding the 3rd class cars. How enteriaining it was to see if someone else could, in fact, muscle their way onto vastly overcrowded cars.

We went from office to office in the train station trying to plead our case and explain our predicament. Some told us to go buy a new ticket. Others just stared mouth slightly agape with no reply at all (my favorite). We found one kind soul that explained the train probably came on the track behind us. Apparently track 2 means track 2 or track 3. A hard lesson learned in the nuances of the Indian train system. After some serious wheeling and dealing with the many official looking officials, he helped us get the all-important stamp on our ticket that allowed us to board any train heading to Delhi. So in the end, we just needed a stupid stamp.

We boarded the next train and shared a car with a nice older couple originally from India not living in the UK, that were quite the pair. We munched on samosas, sipped chai tea, and watched their well rehearsed joint story-telling in awe, as they finished each others sentences and snorted in playful contempt at each others idiosyncrasies that they must have been enduring for half a century. The train was running late (of course) and kept getting further and further behind. Another 9 hour train ride that should have been only 5. I’m beginning to realize that doubling our expected travel time is the rule, and arriving on time is the rare (and unexperienced) exception. The black swan of extended world travel.

Finally to Delhi, we holed up at Welcome Palace Hotel where we rented a shabby but wonderful suite with wireless internet connection and separate living room decorated in garish gold and aqua polyester fabric. We ordered room service, worked on the blog, and uploaded photos for two days. Trying desperately to get (and feel) a little organized before heading off to Nepal.

The hotel was in the Karol Bagh area of Delhi which is much easier to handle than the main bazaar. Although, we ventured out once to find the McDonalds (yes, I know, its cheating) and promptly got lost and turned around. We must have had the map upside down because when we finally asked for directions we were so far away we caved in and took a rickshaw. Through the soot and chaos, I saw the welcoming beacon of the golden arches, like a giant neon yellow dove in flight, heralding good chow ahead. Being in a Hindu nation, they didn’t serve any beef or pork products. That is no Big Macs or McRibs or slightly unHappy Meals.

I have to say that fries without the secret ingredient of beef extract was not as satisfying alongside my McChicken. I really think it adds to the intoxicating smell and ensuing full-body craving for a supersize portion. Like the “natural flavoring” is really a little bit of Detroit crack. It was good nonetheless, especially to have something different. We always thought we would never get tired of Indian food because we love it so much, but 3 meals a day for 3 weeks and I could eat a bucket full of chicken nuggets, no problem. Pass the honey mustard, please. I’ll make a bib from my napkin.

Me and my "other" Ron....shhhhhhhhhhhh.


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