Published: February 3rd 2011February 3rd 2011
I am a young Australian girl from Perth in Western Australia. These are entries from journal as I travelled through India in January and February 2009 with my best friend Orlando. Enjoy!
1st entry- Border crossing from Nepal to India and our first Indian train ride
SOMETIME IN JANUARY 2009
We decided to head to India from Nepal early and given we couldn't move our flight forward we thought we would do a border crossing. Now we are sitting in a dim and dirty Indian train, hoping we are heading to Agra but who really knows. It all started a couple of days ago. From touristy Thamel in Kathmandu we hired a taxi driver to take us to and from the bus station. It was a battle of ego's between Orlando and the taxi driver when fixing a price. I prefer a more jovial form of bartering, a friendlier exchange is far more agreeable. Purchasing a bus ticket to Sunali was an experience, there were a group of stately looking, though slightly disheveled looking men loitering around the ticket window. Who knows what they were doing there but they were involved in the whole exchange. From choosing the time of departure, seats, price etc. They even ensured we comprehended to be at the bus station 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. Well the following morning we could have arrived an hour after the departure time and it wouldn't have made the slightest difference. The brightly painted minibus, crept through Kathmandu for 2 hours with the owner screaming and bartering with potential passengers heading in the direction of Sunali. Only once the bus was full to the brim did the driver put his foot down and did the speedo rise above 40 kmh. At first the Valium we had purchased from a drug stand in Kathmandu proved useless and I suspected them of being sugar pills. Orlando who was on sentry watch and thus not taking any, warned me against having a second. Nevertheless after my second innocent looking Valium I felt unsteady on my feet at a toilet stop and lost my battle against the squat toilet, urinating on my feet. From what I remember of the ride, it was rather hair raising. We drove through the hills on narrow roads bordered by steep ravines. Our fellow passengers were all Nepalese and Indian, with exception to the two Afghan boys who were on a spiritual journey. There were old women dripping in gold and dressed in beautiful sair's, they also had beanies adorning there heads. ( Quite and amusing sight). There were a few green faces, motion sickness I presume. Thankfully for Valium, for the first time ever I have been able to sleep in a chair and for four whole hours. What a triumph.
The following morning after a bout of diarohea and a quick emptying of my stomach contents we checked out of our hotel in Sunali. Sunali is described as a dusty hell hole in 'lonely planet' and I couldn't agree more. It would be possible to stroll across the border without any documentation being checked. Even the fact we were the only foreigners in sight, didn't arouse enough curiosity for the lethargic militia, who stood slumped with AK47's limply draped over a shoulder, to move from their posts. We decided to stop in at the Indian and Nepalese immigration offices regardless.
Once across the border we payed 100 rupees for a jeep ride to Gorahkpur where we planned to board a train to Agra. We were jammed into the back of a jeep as passengers 10 and 11. On the way we picked up passengers 12 and 13. The back of the jeep was bench seating. Orlando and I found ourselves between two men, and opposite sat another four men, our knees and feet forming a collective group. The men chewed betel nut, creating a pungent sweet smelling, red, liquid gumption which is spat out with a great deal of panache. I suffered several blows to the head as my head made contact with the roof. We swerved and bounced down the road, avoiding pedestrians, trucks, cyclist, cows and not avoiding the potholes. The woman in the front seat vomited at regular intervals. I was too frightened to feel the effects of motion sickness, although the man sitting next to me with a hand on my thing and the other on his groin did make my stomach turn.
Arriving in Gorakhpur we needed to buy a train ticket to Agra. The easiest way to describe an Indian train station is to compare it to some type of gladiatorial championship made up of several events , requiring brute strength, endurance, extreme co-ordination, speed and absolute determination to not die. Purchasing a ticket being one of the most challenging events. The ticket windows were barely attended and it was a real scrum. Old women are veterans at this event. Leaving their husbands, children and grandchildren huddled amongst the luggage as they elbow, kick and push their way to front of the que and throw copious amounts of paper bills and the attendant. Surprisingly loud instructions are bellowed from their tiny frames.
Orlando and I did want to pay for better seats but before I knew it Orlando was proudly and valiantly standing before me with two tickets in his sweaty palm. We both basked in the glory not realizing we had, to speak metaphorically, kicked the ball into the wrong goal. So here we are sitting in general seating, squashed amongst many reading over my shoulder.
The station was a shock to the senses. A pungent smell of fesis and urine stings the nostrils, beggar children hang off you and monks sit next to well dressed business types. The business men fawned indifference to us, the only westerners in sight, only to peer over their blackberries at us, I am supposing when they assumed we were not looking. Orlando and I passed the time by eating vegetable samosa's. I had my first cup of Chai in an earthenware cup.
Our general class seating adventure was frightening, eye opening and a stupid mistake on our part. However looking back it was the perfect introduction to India. After a short time the general class carriage was completely packed to the brim. There were men sitting on each others laps and on the luggage racks above, legs dangling. It was a merry atmosphere, popular songs were being sung and food and drinks hared. The man sitting opposite Orlando took off his shoes and put his smelly feet on Orlando's requested he do the same. He sadly shared that his arranged marriage was bad, his wife didn't love him. Although it was a generally friendly atmosphere I couldn't help noticing the sinister looks from every direction. The fact we were the only westerners and I the only woman was disconcerting. I got the feeling we were not entirely welcome and our phd friend confirmed this, explaining to us that when we could afford to be in the upper class carriages it was rude to be in general seating taking up valuable seating space. Also that I was in great danger when nightfall came and the carriage lights would be dimmed and that we shouldn't expect to find our valuables in the morning.
MORE INDIAN ADVENTURE POSTS TO COME IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS