Sadly it is time to move on
Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
89Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
At the moment the majority of India is on holiday and it has been a nightmare to book train tickets. Most people book a few months in advance so when you go on line to book you find that you are anything up to number 80 on the waiting list. You can book and arrive at the station and it is just luck whether you get on or not. If you don't, you have to start the process all over again and wait 25 days for a refund.
Some facts about India and its railways
First of all India is 3 million square Kilometers has 23 major languages with over 1000 dialects. The railways is the biggest employee in the world with about 1.6 million staff. It is the most dangerous network in the world with between 400 and 500 crashes per year. However this is much safer than the buses where about 85000 people die each year. Eighteen to twenty million travel by train every day linking through about 6900 stations. So you can understand the nightmare involved in booking tickets. Despite all of this, it generally runs fairly smoothly.
Anyway I have managed to book a ticket to New Delhi leaving on the 24th. After my last experience I have decided to pay extra and go up a class. Apparently I get a proper bed with sheets and blankets and all my meals and beverages. As the the trip to Delhi can take up to 27 hours and is almost 1500km I think it will be worth it.
The other day I was experiencing some tooth ache so went to the dentist. Everybody was very helpful and first I had to have an Xray. Very archaic and basic but cost SAR16.00. Then went back to the dentist who suggested root canal but she is going on leave for a week so will have to live with the pain. Incidentally I also picked up a cough and bought some natural remedy from the local chemist
Since being in Darjeeling I have walked a lot up and down the steep lanes and steps. I spent a pleasant day taking the cable car down the valley over the tea estates. I went to the local Tibetan school sports day and laughed as the kids of 4 or 5 years had a 20 meter race. Half way they had to stop and eat a banana and then carry on the finish. The race took about 10 minutes as the kids were chatting and casually munching their bananas without any urgency at all. Mean time all the spectators were cheering wildly.
There is a week long festival (Durga Puja) in Darjeeling at the moment with lots of traditional dance and music. People are dressed in incredible bright costumes and there are parades through the streets and drums and cymbals and even a full bagpipe band. People hand out little boxes of food filled with all sorts of really delicious sweet and savoury snacks.
Yesterday I took a walk to the Japanese Peace Pagoda which is one of 7 built in the world by the Japanese Government to promote world peace. As usual took the long (wrong) way there but eventually some locals pointed my to a short cut up through a very steep Pine forest
Now that I have my ticket it is time to mentally prepare myself for the trip and the chaos that is New Delhi.
More interesting facts:
I mentioned the slums of Mumbai in my previous entry. I read a local magazine that had an article about this phenonimon. Developers want to remove the slum dwellers and re house them in proper buildings. As you fly into Mumbai you see the vast area of slums. They are 550 acres and home to one million people. There is one toilet for every 15000 people. The surprising fact is that little businesses in the slums turn over a Billion US dollers a year. Mostly from recycling other peoples garbage. Anything from plastic, aluminum, metal and soap. Some of the slum dwellers earn more than the national average. Most residents have no desire to be moved. Here endith the lesson.