Getting stuck. Getting unstuck. And not going crazy in between

We knew it wasn’t all going to be smooth sailing. I expected that. And nor should it be. But here is the story of our first storm…

It is in a pretty blissed out state of mind that we left Rishikesh, charged up with yoga and good intentions. Our plan was to stay Thursday night in Haridwar, ready to get the 5:22am Friday train back to Delhi, arriving mid-morning, then spend the day at our friends house in Hauz Kahs before getting a sleeper train to Varanasi. We’d spend a day and a night in Varanasi and then get another sleeper train, arriving in Kolkata at 9:30 Monday morning. Simple enough, right?

Life Rule #4: Life has a way of laughing at your plans. And then throwing them out of the window. 

Haridwar is not nice. We are probably not seeing the best of it, to be fair, as we get dropped off by the station and find a flop house across the road… £4 for the night, and you get what you pay for. I’m not a squeamish person by nature, but there was no way any part of my skin was touching that bed linen. It’s amazing that it’s only 45 minutes downriver from Rishikesh, yet that can make such a difference to the atmosphere of a place.

We catch our train and get into Delhi no problems.

Spend a nice day in Hauz Kahs, have a late lunch and head back to the station in plenty of time to get our 17:55 sleeper. Nope. Delhi is fogged/smogged in. Varanasi is fogged in with ice. The 17:55 train is not happening. But this is India… there is no cancelling, no!! First it’s delayed by 6 hours, then 18 hours, then 23 hours… but it’ll arrive eventually, we are assured.

Hour 2 – we find a nearby cafe to wait it out

Life Rule #3: Patience is not just a virtue. It is an essential survival tool. 

Hour 4 – we find a decent hotel with non-revolting bedding and a hot shower and check in for the night

Hour 15 – we hopefully check the train times… train is now expected to arrive at 5pm, 23 hours late, (the people at the station’s official international tourist office have dubious hopes of that actually happening) and we decide, reluctantly, that Varanasi isn’t going to work… we would just have to go from one train straight to the next. So we head back to the tourist office where we bought our tickets to cancel them and re-book directly to Kolkata.

Life Rule #12: There are some unmitigated bastards walking this earth. Identify as quickly as possible and avoid like the plague.

Of course they don’t want to refund our money. Even though they will get full refunds from the train companies. Of course they don’t. They insist the train left on time and that we were too stupid to catch it. Even when presented with the station’s website. They then claim that they can’t get refunds anyway but leave the tickets with them just in case. It’s at this point that I quickly and completely lose my temper.

Life Rule #10: Stand up screaming matches will rarely yield the desired result.

Eventually, after a lot of shouting, threatening police action, questioning of moral character etc we manage to claw back enough money to go back to the proper ticket office at the station and buy 2 sleeper train tickets to Kolkata. The train leaving today is full, but we get good 4-berth compartment tickets on the train leaving at 12noon the following day (Sunday). We check into our hotel for another night and decide that the only thing to do after a day like that is to go out and get hammered.

A note at this point: if you find yourself in Delhi and you dare take a train anywhere, you MUST MUST book your ticket at the official tourism office. It is on the first floor of New Delhi station. It is always open (touts outside will try to stop you, sometimes PHYSICALLY stop you, from entering the station by telling you the office is shut – It never is.) We were idiotic enough to believe a helpful man at the station when he put us in a rickshaw to Delhi Transport Development Company in Gole Market – if you ever find yourselves there, please promise me that you will turn and RUN as if the hounds of hell were after you (although if you want to yell something un-complimentary through the door on your way that’s fine by me)

Life Rule #5: Learn from your mistakes. You’ll make more, but let them be different ones.

Don’t get hammered in Delhi. We wake in a total mess and proceed to panic that we might have missed our train…

Life Rule #1: Don’t panic. Stop. Breathe. Think. 

Not to worry. The train is delayed until 18:55. We check out and drag our bags/hangovers back to our cafe to wait it out. Two of the sorriest rats in Delhi.

Life Rule #2: Disasters rarely happen. Nothing is as bad as it seems…

Delayed until 23:55

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Life Rule #2b: …or as good as it seems either.

We go to the station in the evening to wait on the platform. Platform gets changed. We go to the next platform. I no longer believe that trains actually exist anymore. They are just numbers on a board designed to torment me.

The train finally arrives (and proves me wrong) at 00:20 on Monday morning. We race to our carriage. We drop our bags. We settle into our bunks. We breathe easy. We write some hard learned Rules for Living On The Road.

The train pulls out of the station and we leave Delhi 54 hours, 25 minutes after we planned to.

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Life Rule #4: Life has a way of laughing at your plans. And then throwing them out of the window.

We sleep. (Sort of… I hate dealing with other people snoring!!!). We are on the train for 22 hours, arriving cramped and filthy and deliriously ecstatic in Kolkata at 21:15 on Monday night.

Kolkata Backpackers could have had beds of nails and I would gratefully have collapsed on them. They didn’t… We have a quiet room and thick blankets.

Let’s chalk that one up to experience and move on. The end.

 

 

The Rest of the Rules (so far)…

Life Rule #6: Go with the flow…

Life Rule #7: …but listen to your instincts.

Life Rule #8: When it comes to spending: if you’re a miser you’ll feel guilty, if you’re a fool you’ll feel cheated. So be very very careful how you use your money. 

Life Rule #9: Every corner of the world is someone’s corner of the world.

Life Rule #11: Don’t just pass through… try to leave things better.

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