Long story, long road... Just long. Blah, blah...
Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
9Trip End Jan 19, 2010
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Where I stayed
Our Pukka Place
Leaving Patnem was rough.. Always.. But it was really nice getting a ride from Munna to the bus station in Chaudi, and then a bus was almost immediately available (they run every half hour or so- the state run buses) to Margoa. I hopped the bus- Saving money where I can!- Love the state buses, they are so cheap, like.. fifty cents to get to Margoa... And felt pretty sorry for myself for about the first half hour upon leaving, saying goodbye, all of that. Then started to get excited about having left the beach- I could have easily spent the rest of my time here on the beach, and would have been really pissed at myself if I had!- and started getting ramped up for the long haul ahead
Once the bus stopped in Margao, I had intentions of finding a rickshaw to take me to the train station, but I happened across a guy on a motorcycle that said he'd give me a lift for 10rps. I don't know if he was officially working or not, and it crossed my mind that it might not be a good idea, but he didn't seem evil and my instincts paid off- cheap & easy ride to the train station. He said that rickshaws typically only picked up groups, and from what I saw on the way there that seemed to be the case. Anyway. No problem, as they say here, probably thousands of times a day, no problem.
I checked my pack in storage at the train station and then wandered around there, taking photos, found some mango juice, watched people, got stared at, tried taking photos of the armed guards (they carry huge guns, fully armored- they look like they're ready to step in to battle, which I guess is justified, but still kind of fascinating to me. I don't think you're supposed to photograph them and so my photos are all shitty) then ended up sitting by a German couple and practiced my very, very rusty and limited German, and then kind of sat around... Then realized with horror as the train was pulling in that it was on the other track... Grabbed my pack out of hock and ran across the overpass thingie to the other track and made it to my berth with two minutes to spare! Good lord, Andrea. Get off the beach, already.
The train from Margoa to Mumbai was REALLY nice. I was in 2AC (second class air conditioned; also means there are two bunks on the wall per berth instead of 3); I typically ride 3AC, cuz I'm cheap, and it can be sort of more fun..) but I decided to go for it for this ride, also since it's such a busy time of year, train tickets have to be booked WELL in advance, and I wasn't sure exactly when I was going to leave Patnem, so I got a Taktal ticket- word to travelers- if you can't get a train ticket somewhere, ask for a TAKTAL ticket- they are "emergency" tickets and won't be offered- you have to ASK- they release a certain number of tickets two days prior to departure (available at 9:30 AM two days prior to departure, regardless of time of departure. For example, if you're gunng for an 8:30 AM train from X to Y on the 15th, then the ticket will be released at 9:30 AM on the 13th. And you'd better be there in line or have a trusted travel agent call on your behalf, because there aren't many and they go FAST.) Anyway. Got lucky with that one, and got lucky in the same manner with the ticket from Mumbai to Ajmer in the same manner.
My traveling compartment companions for both of the rides were really pleasant, actually. On the fancy-dancy train (it really did feel sort of pretty... I could have taken photos but it probably wouldn't have looked nice the way it felt. I've ridden 2AC on other trains before, maybe last year? ..and they weren't nearly as nice.) I was seated with two men and one woman. All were Indian, one man apparently now from England, adamant about weaving that hugely important distinction in to conversation every so often, and extremely chatty, which was fine (uh.. until 3:30-4am when I woke up and started arranging my crap to get off the train, and not feeling like talking about anything, much less.. God, what was it.. It was so irritating. I forget what he was trying to talk to me about but I remember thinking, are you serious? NOW? ..At 4am? ..Shut it! Must have been politics or his business or my business or something that I just really didn't want to get in to.. at 4am). The woman was Goan, traveling to Delhi where she now lives; she'd been on holiday with family in Goa. She was a youngish grandmother's age, and must have been of Japanese descent, somewhere back there, I think. She was absolutely beautiful. She was also classy, you could tell she was well educated, polite- very Indian upper class, I guess - not that I'm trying to say that other folks aren't classy- you could just tell that she'd been groomed, schooled; maybe a 'finishing school' or something. She had this magnificent sense of grace. ..Her posture, her conversation, her smile, her dress, her modesty. She was very pleasant and approachable, even though I felt like a dirty, sloppy little kid in her presence. That was ALL me, though, she didn't give off any judgmental vibe or whatever, at all, she was all class, like I said. Funny.
So.. Off in Mumbai well before sunrise. My original plan was to check my bag somewhere (train station, I thought, either VT where I was dropped- and familiar with the neighborhood- or at the other station I had to get to, where I didn't know the area, at all..) but since there were a good four hours til anything opened at all where one could sit, beyond copping a squat on the curb..) I decided to walk up to the Hotel City Palace where I stayed last time to see if I could get a room just for the day, to shower, whatever, and then taxi to the other train station that evening. Rules are rules. Check-in wasn't til 9am (leaving me with the same nowhere to sit problem) and check OUT was at noon, and there are no bending rules.. ("Hey, I'm not even spending the night here.. I just need a room for six or so hours before my evening train.. Can't we just call it part of a night's stay? You can rent the room out AGAIN today...") Nope. I was tired, and gave up, and so paid two nights' stay for like eight hours of room. Boo. The bellman took my pack off my back- I even said, no, I know where the room is, I can get there, I don't need... uh - too late - and then was pissed when I didn't tip. The last time I was there I tipped and the bellman said it wasn't enough, and having paid for two nights for not even one, I said, hey buddy, I didn't ask you to take my damn bag down here. Well not quite, but whatever. I fell asleep after about an hour and found my motivation to get out there was at about nil, and since I hadn't been able to get online pretty much the entire time I was in Goa/Karnataka, I just decided to hang out in the room and use up my two days' worth of room as much as I could.
Time came round, packed back up, got a taxi and spent a good hour and a half winding through rush hour traffic to the other train station. REALLY glad I got a taxi vs. taking a bus, because it was quite a ways and our path wove directly through slums (again- intriguing, and a bit scary, and sad, and desperate, AND not somewhere I'd like to find myself alone and vulnerable.) Anna told me a really freaky story about getting suckered in to coming in the middle of one of these neighborhoods and catching a glimpse of this kid grabbing an axe and hiding it behind the people (and others that gathered, forming a circle around them, it sounded) that had taken her and her companion there.. They were interested in separating these tourists from their belongings, at the very least. They got away, obviously, and luckily... Anyway. Got to the train station, that one obviously sees much less tourist activity than the big station at the other end of town. I hightailed it in to the station- I was getting accosted even as I was preparing to get out of the taxi, grabbed, etc.. No likey. It was fine once I got in there, though.
The train left at 9:00, and I got there right at about 8:45, so it was an easy hop on. This time I sat with all men, and it was 3AC so there were three bunks to a wall- pretty cozy. I sat for a while on the bottom before I went up to the top bunk (my favorite- less people can see you there, and stare at the foreigner, while you're attempting sleep) and got in to conversation with a guy who is a nuclear engineer- I believe he mostly does consultations with that education? ..Networks?- he works in Australia and was home visiting family. His wife and kids are in Australia, and he's on his way back there, then is going to start his own business soon in India so he can be closer to extended family. Really nice guy, easy to talk to, spoke great English, and he even bought my dinner when I was trying to figure out how much it was (behind my back, basically). What a gentleman. I got his card and I'll email when I get home to say hi. We had some things in common in the work world (mostly the networking, consulting part- not so much the, ah, nuclear science part) so it was kind of fun to compare situations and tell some stories. Finally crawled up to the top bunk and fell asleep. The two other guys that were on board when the train started (people came and left as it went) were loud and smelly, I hafta say. In all the burpy, farty, lip-smackingly chewing loudly kinds of ways, but otherwise quite pleasant- no attitudes, like I've run across in the past. All good.
The train didn't arrive in Ajmer until around 4:30 pm the next day- so, I guess, there went 48 hours, all basically on the move. Kunal had arranged for a taxi driver to pick me up from the train station- it would have been pretty easy to get a rickshaw to a bus from there, but I was definitely grateful to not have to deal with it at that point, having just finished two days' travel by car, bus, motorcycle, train, walk, taxi, train.. A guy with my name on a sign waited for me, and we were off to Kunal's place in Pushkar.
Long, boring timeline to Pushkar, isn't it? That whole bit was pretty selfish.. Sorry. I like to remember the little parts and even if boring, they help me to remember and feel my journey when I need to come back and look it up every so often. So.. If you're reading this... Hey, it's your choice. It'll get more interesting- it has to!