Mumbai arrival bonkers

You know I overplan things right? But on the plus side rarely does anything go wrong.

Well, buckle up.

Mumbai map

With no useful trains from Badami to Mumbai we got to Bagalkot but even then no trains went direct to Mumbai centre. Instead I’d planned to get off at Vasai Road, north of Mumbai. The train came in at 9:30am, after commuter rush hour, so we’d just catch a taxi, tuk-tuk or at worst a train, or so I thought.

I went off to find a taxi or tuk-tuk on the east side of the station, nothing. West side, nothing. No travel agents or places anywhere. We’re stuck, we’ll have to catch a train, but this place is so busy

Three tickets to Vile Parle station bought for less than £1 each and we head off to the train. It’s rammed. It feels like commuting from Waterloo’s Jubilee Line at rush hour, but without dignified queuing or any personal space.

Here’s a video someone else shot – this is normal Mumbai rush hour

We completely fail to get on two trains and some locals are getting annoyed with us because of our rucksacks taking up another person’s space each. One tells me to either go north and try and get on a train up there to return south, or wait here until it dies down a bit, he thinks around two hours should do it.

Stepping back we give up. I notice the ladies only carriage is relatively empty – by which I mean it might be possible to fit a single sardine in there, a small one maybe.

“Okay, Jane, here’s your tickets, here’s some money*, you need to get to Vile Parle or Andheri at worst, then get a tuk-tuk to Hotel International. Ladies Only carriage is there, meet you at the hotel.”. I help them onto the train which barely even stops, they only just fit in.

I’m unable to get on the next two trains so with sharpened elbows I make sure I get on the third and I’m pushed and squeezed more than ever before. A passenger helps me realise that the train is not going to Vile Parle but to Andheri, one station north, but to get off I’ve got to be on the other side of the train. How on earth!

Four stations from Andheri he instructs me to move towards the other side, I get at least a foot closer before the people piling in put me right back where I started. Three stations, two, one and I’m closer. I feel the stress levels rise as Andheri approaches. I’m out, it was easy, because I had dozens of people behind me wanting to get out too.

Outside the tuk-tuk tells me we won’t take me, then he will for Rs500, then he ups it. A police officer comes along and tells him to take me for Rs200 which I estimate distance-wise is three times too much. I would have done it for Rs600, or Rs1000, just to get to the hotel. Fifty minutes later I arrive, the traffic was mad and I feel guitly for thinking Rs200 was ripping me off, I tip him well.

The welcoming smile from the reception guy at Hotel International was so comforting, Jane and Amy had made it, but only recently.

*just in case you’re wondering, Jane prefers me to carry the cash, it’s not a chauvinism thing

Indian railway stations and a very long walk

Having just completed our penultimate overnight sleeper train – this one took 15 hours, from 4pm to 7am, to take us 733kms to Badami – I thought you might enjoy seeing a little bit of Madurai railway station, some trains and then laugh at our long walk.

To explain the long walk: when you book a train you know exactly which carriage and which seat is yours, it’s possible to view online stuff to see exactly where your carriage is likely to be, in this case we knew we would be carriage 4 of 23. So we positioned ourselves accordingly, using the signs on the station to get to where the fourth carriage should stop. BUT, our train was going in the opposite direction so we were positioned where carriage 19 of 23 would stop. Cue, a little stroll, carrying 18kgs, 500 metres up the platform.

Panic! Almost missing the train to Kochi, and sleeper class confusion

Panic at the station

We had all the time in the world, then in a flash we had none.
The little detour to look into the Pothy’s sari and salwar emporium, the walk back to the railway station and the retrieval of our luggage from the cloakroom all took far longer than we expected.
We had 20 minutes to catch the train.
We were located on platform one, the announcer told us we needed platform 4.
The crossing bridge was a hundred metres but felt somewhat more when you’re carrying between 13kg and 18kg on your back/front. But its weight quadrupled when we hit the stairs upwards.
On the bridge over all the platform we reached the stairs for platform 4, and saw the sign which told us our train – number 12624 was on platform 3, which was down a different staircase.
Down the stairs to platform 3 and I look on the numbers on the side of the train: it’s not ours!
The western traveller told me platfom 3’s train was definitely going to Chennai, as 12624 should be after Kochi. “But” she continuted “if the numbers on the train don’t match your numbers, it won’t be your train” confirming what I already knew.
I ran along the platform still carrying my gear, the numbers on the train didn’t change: this was not our train.
Running back, and up the stairs which felt like ten times higher than they actually were, we were back at the top of platform 4.
Down the stairs again and one carriage along I saw 12624 on the train.
Thank God.
A quick check of the watch and we’ve got 15 minutes, but we’ve got no water and we’ve got to get to our carriage, 18 carriages further on.
I try walking fast but the girls are getting left behind, I try stopping at the kiosk whilst I’m ahead to get water but I’m in a queue of 5 and I’ll never get served in time, stuff it, we’ll have to hope there’s a water seller on the train – there wasn’t.
Reaching our carriage with minutes to spare, we get to our seats and someone is already sitting in them; they move when we state which seats are ours.

And relax.

Sleeper Class capacity: is there one?

There’s meant to be 6 people on the two benches, we’ve got 7 on ours and two on the fixed beds above, someone’s not got a ticket. Looking across at the side berths and rather than two people, there’s three. Another one joins our seats, now’s there 13 occupying the space for 8.
It’s okay I thought, the rather officious Train Ticket Examiner won’t put up with this, he’ll chuck the rogues all out.
The TTE turned up and examined some of the tickets, didn’t bother with others. I counted 4 who had no tickets, he did nothing.
I showed him our tickets and passport, he looked glum, with an accusing look he asked me “which seat?” Looking behind at the number 12, I turned back to him, “12!” holding back the “der” which would have got me thrown off the train at the next station.
So the only ones who got any crap off the TTE were the people who booked their tickets the earliest, us.

Water, water, give me water

Two hours in the heat and we’re in need of some water.
The chai sellers on the train didn’t cut it for us, we needed a couple of bottles.
Jane hatched a plan: at the next station she’d get off, get some water and get back on. Simple.
With 100 rupees she got off.
The train was due to stop for two minutes.
Two minutes later the train pulled away, one further minute and there’s no sign of her and we’re starting to panic once more.
It occurs to me she’s got 100 rupees, we’re two hours from Kochi, she doesn’t know the address of the property, she has no identification. I could imagine the news report.
Then she appears.
Thank God.


And here’s a little video:

Photos: Sleeper class isn’t so bad

In all the train trips we’ve ever done, none have been in Sleeper Class, which is the first class down from carriages with air-con. Sleeper class is a slightly misleading term as it’s perfectly fine for using solely for day time travel which is what we did.

It wasn’t actually possible to book from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum as the distance is short at around 100km, so I had to book up to Kochi, which at 310km is three times the distance. Total cost for the trip up to Kochi was £9 for all three. NINE!

Let’s let the photos do the talking…

Obligatory selfie, each carrying 9-13 kilos on our backs and 3-5 on our fronts:
ready for our sleeper class experience

We were in carriage S10, i.e. the 10th Sleeper Class carriage, it was the 12th out of 23 carriages, so it was a long walk in the searing heat along the platform:
a long walk

There’s no air-con in Sleeper Class but the lack of windows means there is air con.
through the open window

enjoying the real air con via the open windows

As well as the open windows there’s lots of fans:
insider sleeper class

Amy and Kev doing the standard let’s-look-through-the-open-door-as-we’re-hurtling-along thing:
hanging on tight

Kev, going one stage further
hanging out in/of sleeper class

Fun photo of the day: I like this term
differently abled, I like that