Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Orient Express. NOT!

I have just woken up.

We have arrived in Jodhpur, for a half hour stop, well behind schedule and we still have half of the journey to go before we get to Jailsamier.

These sleeper trains have not been made for a 6' man, especially the side bunks. As you can see in the pic it was a really cramped sleep.

I gave Charles the larger one. At 6'6" it would have been like fitting Johny Wilkinson in a doll's house. Not pretty. And not fair.

The place is like a hen house. Thinking about it, the only thing we are missing is a load of animals running around. Though I think that's more on South American buses.

We are travelling Sleeper Second Class. 3rd Class must be a true Indian version of the Tube in a summer rush hour, conditions it would be illegal to transport cattle in.

The sun has risen, and it is a beautiful day. The blue skies contrasting with the red tones of the arid landscape. Sadly, as I am typing away admiring the view I am listening to bl**dy Christina Aguilera 'Beautiful', a dance mix by Wayne G. I really should be put down. I have no shame.

I am enjoying the train journey. You really get a sense of what true Indians are like. No touts. When they ask you "where are you from?" they mean it. Not "where are you from, buy this polyester saree that I wouldn't give my mother in law". Every family seems to be quite well glued together, mother hen sending them all to brush their teeth and both parents playing with their children.

I think yesterday I forgot to mention that I had the pleasure of visiting a GPO, General Post Office. There are the same attitudes and queues as in the UK. Actually that's not fair. The last time I was in my local PO in the UK they had 30 people queueing and only 3 serving clerks, the rest were at lunch. Public services tend to forget that they are just public, the clue is in the name. I have been a member of the Labour Party for years and don't believe in the privatasion of public services, so no one should be able to accuse me of being a closeted Tory, a Union basher. I can't wait till the end of the monopoly, and the day when the PO won't be able to expect us to spend our lunch hour queueing, cos we will go somewhere else.

So the Indian Post Office was the same, but with more queues, though shorter. One where you weigh your letter. One to get your stamp from. One to give your letter to after having it stamped. You have to glue both envelopes and stamps, so it was like a surreal primary school class with all of us sticking bits of papers together.

It is well past midday, actually almost one o'clock in the morning. We were meant to have arrived at our final destination by now. But we dont seem to be anywhere near. There is still around 100 km to go, so probably another 2 or 2.5 hours.

We have just stopped in Pokaran. Some of you may remember the name if you were paying close attention to the news in 1998. The Indian Army tested 5 nuclear bombs starting a dangerous arms race with Pakistan. Pakistan tested its own two weeks later. The sense of pride that the initial bomb had sparked in India was soon dampened by the the run on the Rupee that followed as the conflict escalated. Eventually the Rupee collapsed to its lowest level ever against the US Dollar. Oh, the futillity of war!!!

The landscape is now savannah-like. The closer we get to the border with Pakistan, the drier its gets. At some parts the vegetation is very scarce indeed. I am expecting giraffes, african elephants, but I'm only seeing goats and sheep. I am feeling more a part of Don Quixote than anything else.

In the distance, towering over the herds of goats and sheep, there is a large wind farm. Once again the dichotomy of modern and old India face each other, even here in the remote westernmost corner of Rajastan.

The explorer man from Gap with a strong smell of Own Label...and looking really tired after 16 hours on a train...

We have arrived now, and tired of roughing it we're sitting on the roof terrrace of our new hotel with a nice coffee, basking in the sun.

Actually we are staying in the sister hotel, only GBP4 instead of the GBP15 that this one costs, but it's still beautiful.

I think tonight I will have an early night on a proper bed and tomorrow we will finally head into the desert....


  1. Hi Roberto, I am enjoying the blog very much! Careful with the camel, mine went crazy and I had to be rescued by one hopeless villager. If you have time, do the three day to visit the villages around Jalsaimer, really nice, and sleeping on the dunes at night is magical.

  2. It has been so cold here, no one is doing them at the moment, it has even rained
    we did a full day, had dinner under the stars, it was amazing
    glad you are enjoying