planes, trains and automobiles the Indian version

8 Jul

We are going to the valley of the flowers, a valley 3600 meters in elevation. To get there, we have to get to Hardiwar (by train) then over to Rishikesh (cab or tuk tuk) from there to Govingghat (shared SUV or bus) then on to Gangria (hiking or horseback) and from Gangria we can hike to the valley of the flowers.  The only part that isn’t 8+hours is the taxi from Hardiwar to Rishikesh, that’s an hour.

So whatever you have heard about the Indian rail system is wrong.  I can say that with accuracy, because whatever you say the opposite is also true.  The cars can be perfectly clean and comfortable, but the lower class ones can smell like pee.  The trains run on time, unless they don’t.  The train tickets we booked online were great, awesome way to travel the country.  Booking train tickets in person at the station though can get a little hairy.  

First off don’t just show up and think you’ll get a ticket on the train for that day.   Secondly, for a country that has as many call centers as it does, and has most of it’s signs in English; the level of English is very low.   So, getting a ticket you might not know it’s a waitlist ticket until you show up to ride the train.  

We got from Ranthambore to Jaipur, saw all we wanted to of Jaipur and went to the station at 10 pm to catch our 11 pm train.  We try to find out what our seat will be, and we find out we are on the waitlist, no confirmed seat.  Well, we are told lots of conflicting information.  From cancel your ticket buy a ticket on the 6 am to Delhi and from Delhi go to our destination; to just wait and get on the train.  We try the first strategy, getting in wrong lines and waiting outside windows that no one is staffing.   The people in line tell us we can get on the train, so we go ask the station information booth again.  He says,  yes you can get on the train.  So now we have a plan, get on the train with no confirmed seat and ride the train for 12 hours hopefully being able to sit someplace and get our backpacks off our back.

The train pulls up and we make our way to the car where our waitlisted tickets are for, second class AC.  Finally we get to it, and the worker says we can get on the train but we have to get off the train and go to the sleeper car we can’t walk through the train.  The sleeper train smells like urine and BO. It’s going to be a rough 12 hours even if we find a seat and place for our bags.  But hey, we’ll get on the train and be where we want in the morning.  

So, as we are walking to the sleeper car, the train starts pulling away.  We make it to the car but the door is closed.  I tell Melinda to open it and get on, but it’s going too fast for her.  I get ahead and open the door and get on expecting her to be right behind.  But wearing flip flops, carrying her big backpack, and chasing a moving train was too much.  So, I’m on the train and have to turn around with my big backpack so I have to go deeper than the doorway to turn around.  When I see she isn’t going to make the next car either I have to jump out.   

So we go back to the info booth, where they finally explain how to reach the only ticket counter to return tickets at.  Then we cancel our tickets but can’t buy a ticket until tomorrow at  8 am.  The ticket booth the next morning was another hassle.  The short version, two hours and another set of canceled tickets to get where we wanted.  An extra day in Jaipur, and a stay in Delhi were needed.  But we have our train tickets with confirmed seats to Hardiwar.(I call it har de har har because it’s laughing at us.)  

Delhi is good, we finally get a SIM card so we can make calls.  that another story of bureaucracy and red tape.  The hotel is good, we get to see the Red Fort.  Even got to see places that are usually under lock and key.  

So we’re leaving Delhi, checking in for our confirmed seats on the train.  and the guy wants to see our ticket before we go through the metal detector, he says the train is canceled but we see the train number on the screen.  We chalk it up to another scam attempt and keep going, another guy assesses our tickets and says the train is canceled.  He takes us over to the tuk tuk, tells the tuk tuk driver where to go, negotiated a better fair for us.  So it’s obvious he’s not trying to scam us. He sends us to the India department of tourism, which he tells us is open 24 hours.  There at the tourist board they call and the train is canceled.  Instead of putting the passengers on to the next train they just cancel your ticket so we couldn’t go until Sunday.  They call and check about buses but all the buses are full, so they tell us.  They say the only way is a taxi will cost about $260.  We are super frustrated after the last shenanigans and the ticket buying shenanigans, and Melinda gives another worker her ticket to get it refunded while we discuss what we’re going to do.  

As the guy is on the phone trying to get the ticket refunded they un-cancel the train and it still leaving at the same departure time, which is in 10 minutes.   The tuk tuk that brought us here has already left, but we find a taxi and get back to the train station.  We get through the security and straight onto the train, just getting on the train and going through the cars till we find our car.  Not getting left again.  Before we even make it to our car, the train pulls away from the station.   We make it to the car, and become worried because an old man is sitting in our seats.  We find other open seats and sit down, figuring once the train has left the station if they want to make us get off they’ll have to stop the train.  Turns out we were in the right spot, no worries.  

I’ll fill you in on the rest of the journey in another installment.  

One Response to “planes, trains and automobiles the Indian version”

  1. Carolyn Mullina, July 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Iguess there is always adventures with in adventures. It is vood you are young and resilient . Keep us posted Your sim card didn’t work for Fort Wayne? Love you both.

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