Normally the setting of an alarm to anything before 6 am would fill me with dread in anticipation for the tired and grumpiness that was sure to follow the next day. However, the night before we were due to leave India, I punched those 5.45 am buttons on the alarm with glee. The early morning start meant we were finally on our way out of this hot and dirty place. I had been counting down this very day for three weeks, it had been a long 21 days but the time to leave was almost here.
We had booked a ten hour train trip from Goa to Mumbai in order to experience an Indian train before we left, because apparently, this was a ‘must do.’ I wasn’t so sure… I mean the plane trip took an hour and 20 minutes and was the same price as the train. But Ricky was insistent again and I knew I’d need a bit of leverage from him when it came to Europe. Of course, had we snapped up tickets the minute they were released 90 days previously the train trip would have been significantly cheaper, however if you have ever tried to book a train ride or anything really in India then you will understand why this isn’t so easy. The system is a nightmare. You need a local number to be able to book the ticket. Which means you need to be in the country well before you need the train or you need to know someone living in India to book the train for you. Unfortunately for us neither of these options applied. This, as well as identity verification, was all too difficult to navigate for ourselves and so we enlisted the help of an agent who found us some tickets that only required minimal changes to our already booked plans.
As much as I insist that the train ride was all at Rickys instigation, I will admit to being a little bit excited for the journey. Having just watched the first few Harry Potter movies in order to get Ricky pumped about visiting the Warner Brothers Harry Potters Studios in London we all had romantic notions of what we expected the train trip to be such as carriages to ourselves, comfy seats, snacks and treats on board and glorious scenery to view out the windows. I kept trying but failing to lower expectations. Not one of us had any idea how else to envision a train ride having never really been on a long distance one before.
It was a struggle to find our train on the board at the train station, it was then an even bigger struggle to decipher which cabin was actually our correct one on the train, which meant a walk down the entire length of the inside of the train with our enormous packs hitting everything in sight and had us constantly saying ‘sorry’ on the way past. But, once we got to the front end of the train and were shown to our very own personal ‘Harry Potter’ style cabin we were thrilled and all of our struggles were forgotten with our romantic envisioning being verified as correct.
The cabin was all ours, with a sliding door, curtain, lights, temperature control and everything. We even had our own bed, pillows and blankets should we choose to have a rest on the long ride. I had been nervous about the length of our train ride due to horribly long and uncomfortable bus rides in Thailand but I needn’t have worried. We all kept looking at the clock realising that a significant amount of time had passed and wishing that we had longer still on the train. We were fed like Kings, there were spiced potatoes with tomato sauce and toast and jam for breakfast, snacks of chips and tomato soup for morning tea, curry, naans and rice for lunch and ice cream for dessert. Honestly I had to stop eating what was offered even though my backpacker mindset had me feeling guilty for turning down free food. Never before had we had this kind of service. To us it was pure indulgence. We were being waited on in a comfortable cabin whilst travelling to our destination. We could pretend we were Harry, Ron and Hermione fending off dementors and ordering everything off of the trolley cart with our knuts and sickles. We may have even, in true nerd-style waved our pretend wands and cast some spells, but maybe forget I said that!
It is hard for me to say this, but… I guess Ricky was right. This was a ‘must-do’ experience and I am so pleased that I had the insight to allow it to happen. Its really down to me then that we did this, isn’t it? Seriously though, it was the highlight of my trip to India. The people and the food were A+ but if anyone asks me about India I will avoid the negatives and wax lyrical about a first class train ride; craziness, temple sights and beaches will not even get a mention, in my review of India.
xx Travelling Fresh