Our alarms work us up about 4:30am on 3rd January 2016. Today would involve our first Indian train journey, something I’d been looking forward to as soon as we decided on coming to India. Thanks to my Dad, I’m a big fan of train journeys and I’m determined to take a train in every country I visit. Where possible of course… So far, I’m on track! So punny.
The friendly staff at the hotel arranged an Ola (Uber) car for us to get to the station. Being Bangalore and having already experienced the grinding traffic, we left the hotel about 5am and arrived at Bangalore City Railway station with plenty of time. Still early enough to see other waiting passengers sleeping on the floor outside the station. And yes of course, even before 6am the station was full of people.
We had plenty of time to work out the boards to find out which platform our train left from. We stood staring for quite a while before deciding it wasn’t appearing… joining a short queue with not too much pushing the friendly person on the information desk told us in English where to go.
The train was long but we knew our carriage number. We found our names printed on paper and stuck to the door. Or rather, Mischa’s name was there, but next to my seat number was the name ‘DAMAGED’. Oh dear. After checking the next carriage it seems I and several others had been moved. We’d originally booked a seated carriage but here instead was an open-plan dormitory carriage. Luckily, after a chat to the train guard and the gentleman who was in the bed above/below Mischa, he kindly swapped with me and the guard wrote this down on his clipboard. Our first Indian train journey began!
We left Bangalore at sunrise. It took a long time to leave the sprawling city, even at some speed. When we did leave the building blocks behind, a luscious green countryside appeared. We passed through villages, paddy fields of rice, large solar farms and many stations and simple platforms with their yellow signs.
It was a little chilly at first being so early and the air-con/giant fans were on. They worked really well though, as we knew how hot it probably was out there (30 degrees or so) but it never got too hot inside the carriage. I also noticed on my first toilet/hole in the train visit that the train doors were left wide open all the time. Maybe that helped with the air flow too… Considering all the goats and monkeys at some of the stations, I’m surprised I didn’t see any jumping on for a quick trip.
We had bought bananas and some medu vada (south indian fried breakfast food) for the journey, knowing we could get our lunch and more food on the train. I can’t remember how many cups of chai Mischa had. Small cups granted, and it only cost 7 rupees (~7p). Men would continually walk/stagger up and down the carriages shouting “chai chai!” and carrying an urn which they would hold between their legs to pour a cup. Much sweeter and milkier than we would usually have tea but delicious. Then came the almost undecipherable shouts of “egg biriyani chicken biriyani!” and other fried foods ranging from 50 – 100 rupees (~50p – £1). These were carried in bulk in baskets balanced on their heads. Later on our Indian friend would tell us it’s best not to eat the food as it might not be prepared in a clean place…
Arriving in Ernakulam 11 hours later was a hot and humid 35 degrees. Grateful to stretch our legs we jumped off the train and climbed the bridge over the tracks for the way out. I had to stop at the top and look down at the busy station. Such a wonderful view of people and trains going about their business.
Train: Bangalore – Ernakulam Junction