Last night was THE night we had been looking forward to. Our first train ride in India and we were getting out of Delhi (bonus!), we had even splurged and purchased 1st class sleeper train and we were looking forward to this adventure. Unfortunately Kevin wasn’t feeling well and we had to check out of our hotel by 5pm so we decided to head over to the station early (at 6pm) to people watch and wait for our train to depart at 8:20pm. So we take an auto rickshaw over to the station (which really is an adventure all on its own).
Once there, we began to look over the departure board to see where we need to be and noticed that our train number is on the board showing a 17:50 departure – ok, I say, that’s weird – maybe that is when the train arrived at the station? So we head over to platform 13 and start looking for our train car. Now in India, there are many different classes of train cars – from first class A/C sleeper (where you need a reservation) down to the ‘open’ classes where everyone just kind of piles in. As we were heading down the platform we noticed thicker and thicker throngs of people so I assumed we were headed in the wrong direction unless everyone was in first class which seemed highly unlikely.
When we turned around to head back up the train an official guy asked to help us (not a scammer this time I swear!) he looked at our ticket and sternly said ‘no this is for tomorrow’ – what I say? This ticket is for today, confused we double check the date and it is in fact November 20th so unless we are crazy and India has some unusual system this must be our train. So being the know-it-alls that we are we continue on to find our car at the front of the train and just as we arrive, the train suddenly starts to pull out of the station. At this point Kevin and I just stare at each other and then at the train – thinking ‘what the f**k should we do now?’ Suddenly the train lurches to a stop again and we run and jump on the train and decide to go for it – we are on! Albeit the train is 1.5 hours early but hey it’s our train, maybe things run early in India (yeah right) … We scramble around looking for our seats with the locals are all looking at us like we are crazy people – granted we probably did look quite frazzled.
Once in our bunks and settled, we great the guy across the way – a nice Indian man named Manish – and he says this is the train from the 19th that is 19 hours late due to the train derailment and is just leaving now. Oh Oh! Now it is all starting to make sense – that’s why the train official said our train was not due until tomorrow, this isn’t our train … We are now quite nervous – is the conductor going to kick us off the train or will he be cool due to the unusual circumstances. We try and remain hopeful. What do you think happened? Yeah, exactly – he was furious with us. He said that we were not allowed to stay on the train and had to get off. Ok, a little scary – we are going to get off in an hour or so (at the first stop of a 12+ hour journey) with no idea where we were. I think our bunkmate saw our look of panic because once the conductor left he told us if we would pay for 2 more tickets the conductor would let us stay. Yes you say – they got screwed again on day 3 in India… but hold on now! Fortunately, I had bought my other tickets on – line so was able to cancel them to a full refund so complete disaster was (barely) averted.
Our bunk mate was really nice and let me log into his wi-fi to cancel our other tickets and let our hotel know we were still coming. We relaxing in for the long night and even had veg dinner and chai in our cabin. Now I know you are probably imagining this amazing first class cabin with feather duvets and crystal and china for the dinner service – well no, it’s not like that – you have to make your own bed and the dinner is served on paper plates. It is by no means American first class but hey, it was private.
Through-out the long night I got to thinking if we were on yesterday’s train and today’s train would depart tomorrow – how were they ever going to get back on schedule? I asked Manish and he told me it would probably take weeks until they got the trains back on schedule. Wow! How crazy is that? How were they ever going to get back on schedule? I really don’t know…. I don’t even want to think about our train reservation to get back out of Varanasi.
We made it into Varanasi and I am thoroughly enjoying it – it is so completely insane that you just can’t imagine how it all works but it does. I will leave that story for another day though. For now, we are signing out – grateful to have survived another day in India and are ready to take on this holiest of cities on the Ganges.