Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
153Trip End Jul 15, 2012
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On arriving in Ahmedabad the week before, we had tried to buy advance tickets to Goa, but had only managed to get onto a reserve list due to the time of year - wedding season! Despite this, we had been given assurances that there would be no problem and that tickets would become available by the time we wanted to leave. No such luck. Tickets remained completely sold out and on arrival it was clear that the train to Goa was completely and utterly full - packed to bursting point. In a last ditch attempt to try and force ourselves onto the train 'Indian style', we ran, hobbled and dragged ourselves and our daft number of bags along the platform to the great amusement of everyone watching, but soon realised that we would struggle to get in the door, let alone find space to stand, sit or sleep on the long journey to the South West coast. So, exhausted and defeated, we slumped into a big heap of bags and bodies in the middle of the platform and regrouped, licking our wounds.
After a major re-pack in a vain attempt to reduce the 'LOOK AT US AND OUR VOLUMINOUS LUGGAGE' effect, we took a deep breath and made the long walk of shame - under the watchful and highly amused eyes of the dozens of Indian who had sat back and put their feet up to enjoy the latest installment of 'funny foreigner' - back down the platform, up and over the bridge, through the main building and into the relative safety and security of Reika Patel's tourist information office, which was barely big enough to swing a caterpillar, let alone a bag convention.
Then while the others guarded the bags, re-re-packed or chatted to Reika, Abi and I returned to the ticket office in kickass mode. After several weeks of enjoying and at times enduring a more relaxed and fluid style of travelling than the less Piscean amongst us might usually entertain, the time had come to move up a gear. We were soon sitting in the Chief Superintendent Sergeant Major of ticketing's office (or some such nonsense) forcefully but politely explaining the situation - with only a little embellishment and twisting of the 'god's honest' here and there. To our dismay, he informed us that had we come to see him in the first place, he would have been able to arrange everything, employing one of the many 'extra', 'special', 'VIP' quotas at his disposal. Of course he could, how daft of us and how ironic that in our efforts to avoid playing the 'now listen here, we're British' card, we had in fact played the equally British 'let's not cause a fuss' card instead. Note to self - when in India, play all cards, especially aces up sleeve, particularly when dealing with anyone in a uniform.
Anyway, after a total of four hours of filling in forms, checking schedules, speaking to various clerks, debating the pros and cons of the various options available to us - none of which were 'a train to Goa' as we would have liked - and crossing town to speak to the grand master lieuftenant of all trains everywhere, we eventually managed to secure ourselves overnight tickets to Mumbai, where we would spend the day before catching another overnight train to Goa. Far from easy or straight forward, but done.
The first train ride was pretty grim. We had only managed to secure four bunks for the five of us and seeing that Bob (my sister) was feeling particularly ropey, Anna and I agreed to share a bunk. In hindsight this was a mistake. Actually even without hindsight it was a mistake, I don't know what we were thinking. I barely fit on the bunks on my own, often having to insist on swapping with whoever is on the top bunk so as to avoid having my feet protrude off the end causing potentially serious injury to anyone walking through the carriage at night, not to mention the impact having my legs continually rammed into the steps has on my sleep. Add to that the fact that we are both blessed with an economy 7 style internal body thermostat and you end up with a hot, uncomfortable, smelly (we slept top to toe) and sleepless night.
Our time in Bombay/Mumbai was spent largely wandering around the street markets, buying Christmas presents for each other, eating cake and drinking beer in Leopolds, a popular tourist hangout that had been targeted by the recent terrorist attack. Our waiter described how gunmen had come through the door and started shooting indescriminately, killing four tourists and six indians, including two members of staff. He showed us a number of bullet holes that had since been covered with pictures. It made me wonder what I would have done had I been there and the only conclusion I could come to was that I would probably duck my head under the table and close my eyes. Not wholly imaginative and probably not that effective, but I feel I understand ostriches a little better.