The train to Jaisalmer
Trip Start Feb 16, 2007
15Trip End Mar 18, 2007
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My bags were in the office and I was all packed ready to go. My hotel provided a complementary taxi to the train station. Driving through downtown Gurgaon was a bit different to the area of town we were in. It was all a bit mental down there. I had an hour to wait. It didn't take long for some drunken guy to sit next to me and tell me he was going to take care of getting me on the correct carriage! I waited with him for a while but realized he had no clue and just wanted some company, so after 10 minutes I made an excuse and sneaked off. Next I asked a nice man with his family who it turned out was also going to Jaisalmer. It turns out he had not clue either and he ended up sending me to the wrong end of the train. This train was going to split in two later in the journey and the half I was sat in was going to go to a place called Barmer. The conductor let me sat with him and about an hour down the line got a young boy to take me to the correct carriage. The train was only stopping for 2 minutes and was very long train. My seat was at the very far end of the train and after a sprint down the platform knocking a few of the locals flying I just managed to jump onto my carriage as the train had started moving out of the station.
When we went for the meal in Rajasthan we heard 3 people, a waiter and 2 other diners close to us let out huge burps. I'd tried to join them a bit later, but hadn't been able to manage anything close to their efforts. On the train the conductor and people in my carriage didn't think twice before letting rip with a fart. Not too sure how well this sort of behaviour would have gone down on the Boston to NY Acela Express train!There is definately less respect for people around you in India than most western countries.
I did sleep remarkable well on the train apart from when one family switched on the lights and talked loudly as they were getting off at a stop halfway in between Jaipur and Jodhpur at 3am. When I did get to Jodhpur a noisy group of backpackers got on and sat pretty close to me. I was glad when the conductor told them they were in the wrong carriage and moved them.
Each long stop would bring on the chai sellers or a guy selling meals. The guy who came down from the top bunk pulled out some pots of food, some chapattis and some tangy lemon pickles and bananas that he offered to share with me and I grateful accepted. The chai was 4 rupees a cup (10c) it seems cheap, but I think last time I was here we wouldn't dream of paying over 2 rupees a cup!
My compartment buddy spent a bunch of time chewing tobacco. A lot of the guys here also chew betel nut, a mild narcotic, that makes their spit red.
The landscape started to look very dry and dusty after Jodhpur and there were plenty of bushes and succulent plants around. Not too sure why this is but it was the same last time I was in India. The areas around the train station particularly the tracks seem to be favourite places to balance for the Indian guys to take care of their morning business.
When we pulled into Osian station the place was filled with turban headed guys. The turbans can be anything from yellow, to red to green and signify cast. The bright pink ones are reserved for the highest cast, the Brahmins. Once passed this station we also saw a number of sand dunes and lots more scrub. I decided at this point that I wasn't going to do a 3 day camel trek in Jaisalmer. I remembered from my trip here last time that most of the terrain was like this and there wasn't that much of the sand dune type landscape that you usually associate with camels and desert.
Goat seemed to be the herded animal of choice in these part and I could see why goat is one of the worlds most eaten meats. We also saw a lot of these small nimble antelopes from the train. This place can get hot. Over 50C in the summer!
Two stops before Jaisalmer we stopped for 30 minutes in Pokaran. This was where India had detonated its 5 nuclear devices back in 1998. There were plenty of army personnel on the platforms.
For the last section of the trip there were touts on the train trying to persuade us backpackers to come to hotels where they would rake in the commission. Two of them ended up having a blazing row in my carriage, I wish I knew what they were saying, but one had probably invaded the other ones turf!
The trains are really comfortable and travel slowly, that makes it great for window gazing. We were just one hour late, but it had taken us 21 hours to do 500 miles - an average speed of about 25 miles an hour.
There was a guy waiting for me at the train station with my name, so there was no need for me to wade through the crowd of touts everyone else had to contend with.