Saturday, 25 February 2012

Friday 24th - The Paschim Express

Early start today as we are catching the train back to Delhi. We discover why nobody in the restaurant will actually commit themselves to a time for breakfast. We get there at 7.00 a.m. to find several people already eating and the staff ambling around laying up tables. No steamed veg today - it's baked beans. The tureen marked boiled eggs contains some kind of deep fried batter balls tasting of over used cooking oil. So Paranthas, chicken sausages and banana it was. The Country Inn and Suites by Carlson loses a point off our Tripadvisor rating by charging us Rs 320/- for a trip of less than half a mile to the station but we are delivered to the front door. D shrugs off the porters with the line "I have a strong wife" Our driver thought that it was funny even if they didn't.

In the station the info board tells us that our train is on the near platform and the announcer tells us that it will be leaving on time. We don't have too long to wait before the coaches are delivered to the platform. Cabin C in coach H1 is forward facing - another of our preferences. D goes to check that the loco is correctly coupled up to the front of the train. For those of you who are interested it is a WAP-7 No 30246. The train starts gently moving out, more or less on time and there is a sudden stampede of people along the platform seeking to board the Unreserved coaches, marshalled just in front of us. Why do they leave it so late?

This train is the Paschim Express (Train 12926) headed for Mumbai via Delhi arriving in Mumbai at 15.15 tomorrow afternoon. We are due into Delhi at 16.25 today so we are using the cabin just as day seating but it gives us the option of a lie down if required. This is not one of the really smart trains but is a more typical IR long distance conveyance. The Shatabdi from Amritsar to New Delhi leaves at 5.00 a.m. and we are on holiday after all.

Catering on the Paschim is charged on an as you go basis rather than included in the fare but the prices are ludicrously cheap. This may be why the man from the Pantry Car has difficulty believing that we don't want a Rs 17/- breakfast but we do order a pot of tea without sugar for a whopping 5/-. R refuses to believe these prices until D shows her the relevant page of TAAG. (Trains At A Glance - keep up) Soon she is engrossed in this wonderful publication and asks whether it is available for her Kindle. The tea is pretty disgusting without sugar.

The train makes good progress with only the occasional unexplained halt. As it is an express it stops more often than the Shatabdi. At some of the bigger stations hawkers board the train. One is so persistent that we have to lock him out of the cabin. Our lunch order is taken and in due course we receive two foil containers of alleged Chicken Biryani. It tastes better than it looks - medium spicy but very salty.

We are still rolling over the endless flat North Indian plain with its zillions of acres of wheat growing in the fields and looking to be doing pretty well. There must be quite a lot of Indian people who have never seen a hill. On the trip from Kolkata D had noticed cow dung heaps fashioned into artistic forms but the train was travelling too fast to get a photo. A photo of a good one is quite high on today's list and eventually the opportunity arises, coupled to a spell of travelling while hanging out of the door for D. While this is the norm for unreserved class travel it is not considered fashionable in 1AC (First Air Conditioned) so there is no squabbling about whose turn it is.

We arrive on time in Delhi and this time there are no hiccups with the car pick up. It feels almost like getting when we get back to Lutyens Bungalow and we are soon enjoying afternoon tea while we watch the parakeets. Supper is a cosy affair with Evelyn and Belinda from Oz and an English couple who live in France and who fly home tonight.

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