I’ve been here before. I’ve done this exact same thing before. Travelling down from Bombay to Cochin on the train. Madness, I know. Do you know how many countries I have left and returned to in the course of this adventure? I added it up once and it came to over over 100. And we’re not just talking obvious places like Britain, France or Australia here, I’ve double-dipped into Mauritius, Tuvalu and Kiribati. Before this adventure is done, I’ll be able to add Mozambique and Uganda to that list. So much for a nice continuous sine wave across the planet!
I was up until 4am last night updating my blog, organising my Mozambique visa, replying to emails, thanking those who deserved thanks. I woke up at 7.23am, 7 minutes before my alarm was due to go off. This happens to me a lot and is nothing to be concerned about. Even though I made him a leeeetle late for work, Sandeep was good enough to drop me halfway to the train station from where I would be taking the 16345 Netrawati Express down to Cochin.
Sandeep had secured me the ticket online last night after we had got back from drinks with Manisha, the bubbly Indian girl who I had travelled around the Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka with a few months ago.
So then it was into one of the incredibly old black and yellow taxis that buzz around Mumbai and up through the heart of the city to the train station. Mumbai is a funny old place, originally a series of islands, it’s now the city with the most amount of reclaimed land in the world, all built upon concrete tetrapods. Kinda like Mega City One, if you think about it.
I was expecting a bit of a wait for the train to arrive, as I was a couple of hours early (I’m sure Sherlock would not approve, but I ain’t takin’ ANY chances!!). But low and behold the train was already there waiting. I found my carriage (and my name on the dot-matrix printed passenger list pasted next to the door – I love that), it was locked from the outside but the one next to it wasn’t, so I climbed aboard, found my bunk and got a little more shut-eye before we took off.
Indian trains are filthy, the toilets stink to high heaven and there’s cockroaches that you have to pick out of your hair in the night. But what do you expect when you’re travelling 1000km for less than a tenner? Plus THE CHAI IS TO DIE FOR, you can sit with your feet dangling out of the open door, you get your own bed and the food on board is excellent. Order a Biryani for £1 and it’s better than what you’d get on the Curry Mile. There’s chai wallahs, coffee wallahs, bread wallahs, samosa wallahs, fried banana wallahs, Rubik’s cube wallahs, all sorts… anything your heart desires (so long as you desire Indian cuisine and plastic trinkets). These guys wander up and down the carriage all day shouting out their wares in that peculiar Indian nasal drone that makes them sound like Welsh Daleks.
Once you’re out of the smelly old city, the Indian countryside is a real treat. As the monsoon season has just officially ended (any rain you may encounter from now on is a figment of your over-active imagination) everything is delightfully green. Sorry I was a bit mean to India yesterday, I do really love this place, not in an unbridled, passionate love-affair kinda way, mind you, more of a love that you have for your pet dog – no matter what they do (short of killing a toddler) you can never stay mad at them for long… just wook at whis wovely big eyes.
So we chug on into the night, heading down to Cochin, heading down to meet the Costa neoRomantica (NOT Necromantica! — although I reserve the right to use that word as a title for a love story involving zombies), heading down toward country number 199: The Maldives AND BEYOND…