Time for train...May 6, 2019 in India ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C
I made a tough decision, hesitating until the last minute : I decided to embark my bicyle in the train. Objective : spare myself 500 km befor rtween Siliguri, West-Bengal, and Guwahati, Assam. This means cheating a bit, I know... But the memory of the 500 km on a boring, flat and boiling hot highway in Nepal is too fresh in my mind to start it all over again. And I will still have more than 550 km to ride in India before reaching Myanmar... So please, don't cast the first stone at me !
The preparation and departure for this trip were complicated... The train was supposed to leave at 8:30 am. Aritra's father, who happens to work for the Indian national railway company, told me we should leave at 7:30 am. He would come with me at the station to help me get tickets for me and for my bicycle. Well.. at 7:15 am, no one was awake... The appartement was totally quiet. I was starting feeling a bit stressed out, but did not dare waking anyone up. They finally showed up at 7:45. Aritra's father tells me that there is no need to rush: the train is supposed to leave at 8:30 but this never happens. Fine.
A few phone calls later, we now hear that the train will leave around 11 am. Allright.
At the station, we go through a long administrative process, signing up forms in several gloomy back-offices. Then Aritra's father leaves me, telling me that my train will leave soon, at noon, from platform 1. My train actually arrived another hour later, at another platform. Without any indications ! I had to ask around, while keeping an eye on my luggage and trying to spot where my bicycle was.
When finally embarking, I find out that I do not have a proper ticket. Just a coupon, that allows me to purchase a real ticket. What a mess.
But 7 hours after waking up, 4,5 hours later than expected, even without a ticket, I am in the right train, heading in the right direction... ! It feels like a miracle, after so many unexpected changes. Yes, I had forgotten how surprising India can be...
It was actually the most comfortable train trip I've ever ridden in India : in a AC sleeper class, on my own, in a 2 bed compartment. I had to share it with a few cockroaches of course, but they were neither too numerous nor too invasive. And it was sooo pleasant to see the landscapes and the kilometers swallowed up, without making any effort... Just having some free time for myself. Reading, writing, listening to music, sleeping, eating or just looking through the window. It felt like these 10 hours were going to be too short.
Well, in the end, they were long. I arrived at midnight. Now you have to imagine what an Indian station at night looks like. The closest image i can think of is an overcrowded Red Cross shelter after a natural disaster... Dozens of people sleeping directly on the platforms and onto the floor. Some have hanged their mosquitoe net on public benches or other objects they could move.
All loaded with my luggage, I make my way through this giant dormitory. I reach the last wagon of the train, where I imagine that my bicycle is. I realise that never seeing it again is an option. But I believe in my protective star or angel (my grandma told me so...) and remain confident. I see from the distance some parcels and even a motorbike being unloaded. I have to wait for some skinny and wearysome poor lads to unload all sorts of unindentified bags (cereals? rice?) before seing Hathi, in the back of the wagon..
But they seem to give priority to the cereals over my bike - which I struggle to understand : no one is waiting for the cereals wheareas I'm clearly waiting for the bicycle !- So I end up jumping over the bags and unloading the bicycle myself... Ouf !
For the rare Indians that still have an eye open in the station, I must look like a ghostly apparition... At least, at this hour, (most) people are too tired to start a conversation... But some insist for selfies...
I'm happy and relieved that im actually not alone in this station. Harshajit, my new couchsurfing host, is kindly waiting for me outside. It's late but the only thing that is left for me to do is to follow his scooter for a last ride, before we reach his house...Read more