So, time for an update on where we are. The score currently stands at 23 “more than 90% certain”, most of who are 100% baring last minute issues, including 3 facebookophobes. So that leaves 15 in the “sure” camp who are clearly not so sure, and 25 in the not sure camp of who I reckon at least 23 or 24 haven’t a prayer. But 30 still looks a real possibility.
The issues I am concerned about on the trip are now all about what happens when we aren’t on the train. After monitoring the behaviour of the train services we will use, for 8 months, I am quite happy that the timings are fine. We also have options for what happens if any of the trains are seriously late due to very freak weather. We are going at the best time of year to avoid rain and flooding, and also miss holiday overcrowding. Less freaky, but never the less relatively rare, are mechanical or “security” related issues.
Once you all get off the train all hell will break loose with 30 of us. As you will have noticed, I’m keen to pigeon hole all of you into manageable groups who can share a room for that essential wash. But also turning up at almost any eatery worth dining in and saying “table for 30 please” is going to be problematic. I’ve sorted this out at Udhampur and Ledo. The options in both of these, Ledo especially, are so limited that I need to work ahead. Almost everywhere else it’s going to be every mouth for itself on the eating front.
Dwarka – Porbander
Photo by our own Kothandar
In theory we’ve 5 1/2 hours to get from Dwarka to Porbander. The train is very rarely (once in the last 8 months) more than 1/2 hour late. But ideally we need to wash. eat, and visit one of the most important temples in all India. I have always been fascinated by the legends of the city out to sea, and the fact that 8,000 years ago the land went out 10-20km from where the coast now is. We then have about 2 hours in a vehicle, and we need to be dead sure, as if we miss the Saurashtra Express back it will be game over after one train. So we probably have to leave Dwarka 3 hours before the 8:25 Porbander departure, so 5:30 obviously. So we’ve probably 2 hours to do the above. I would therefor like to have worked out some kind of contacts there with the 4 or so 4x4s that we’ll need to do this. Getting a bus, with a fragile drive shaft, to do the job is asking for disaster.
I have a few irons in the fire. If it were just two of us then we’d just work it out on impact. But there isn’t.
The only thing we have to do here is wash and eat. There’s a a nice cheappie Brahmin hotel across the road I am told. If you are in the tiffin club you’ll need to stuff your metal picnic box with as much goodness as you can. One of us actually lives in Ahmedabad and lives next door to a nice eating place called Ashray’s. It’s a Sunday anyway (big family eating out day of course) so we might be able to get them to perform the tiffin filling. One of us gets in a cab the mile or so to Ashray’s, fills them up and comes back ready for the 11:10 departure. They arent normally open till noon but if we plan ahead we should be able to get them to do this at 10 am for us and so be back for 10:30.
I think I have this in the bag. It’s about £8 a head for the hire of 4x4s to pick us up from Makhu, drop us at the station area at Amritsar, then take us to Wagah and back. The idea is we free play for a few hours washing and eating in the bus station area off the back of the railway station till about 3pm I think (may be a bit earlier). We’ll need to find somewhere safe to dump the bags, as they are very security conscious at the border ceremony as you can imagine, and you cant turn up with a a rucksack for sure. We then get the same taxi’s to wagah, watch the border close, then back to town and essentially temple free play and reconvene on the platform at 21:00 for the 21:25 departure.
Sorted. We do Hotel Samrat. If anyone has any better ideas, or just wants to work it out on the spot rater than be duped by the only web site anyone up there has, speak now.
Enjoy, just get back to the station for 2pm. I think everyone is going to go to Connaught anyway, but there’s likely to be a split between those who want to sit in a proper room with a view and all the mod cons for a few hours and bugger the cost, and those who are happy to hit the cheapest room with running water they can get their hands on, then work it out from there. There should also be at least a couple of locals turning up who can act as chaperons to anyone who has never been to Delhi.
So this just dawned on me last night. It wont even be dawn when we get thrown off this one at 3:35 AM. You then have to sit about for 5 hours waiting for the train to do the last leg at 08:30, on the branch line up to Ledo. I knew this, but the truth of the insane schedule has only just sunk in. So, I have a cunning plan. We will need a bus to take us back from Ledo anyway, but also transport on the day of arrival to get us to Tipong, and then to wherever we sleep, which I am planning on being this Singpho place. I do not want to be waiting about for the bus in the morning, I’d like it right outside where we slept, extra especially if we are at Singpho which is off the main road. So, we get the bus to turn up at New Tinsukia Junction for about 04:00. Anyone who at this stage really doesnt care two hoots of a railway engine if they actually go the whole way to the end on two rails can just jump in the bus and go straight to a pre-arranged hotel or at least somewhere where they can have a wash and lie down (probably fall into a coma you’ll be that knackered), till 11:00 when the trainspotters turn up at Ledo station. We then hopefully get to see the steam trains running at the colliery, before going for the bamboo treament at Singpho “eco resort”.
There is a hotel near tinsukia station where those of us going “all the way” can get some kind of respite while waiting for the train, and also a newly opened railway museum, though we’ll need to get them to open it especially early for us. It’s a wierd place to stick a railway museum, so I think we can get them to do this.
I think this is sorted. As long we have the transport waiting for us at Singpho in the morning, we’ll be at Bogibeel in no time. I have people on the far side too. Here’s a picture of the ferry. That’s you in there somewhere, perched on the side of the boat clinging to your rucksack.
Its quite possible that the group got split up at Rangiya earlier in the day, The only part of the trip where the trains have been regularly naughty is on the services back from Rangiya, where we meet up again with the mainline after our adventure on the Arunchal Express, As such we might be squeezing in to trains with a “see you in Darjeeling” instruction. Getting a ride up the hill is not a problem.
Free play. Work this one out yourself please. There are plenty of places with a Darjeeling feel that cost less than the Elgin or Windamere. but if you want to splash the cash for the night then it’s probably better to book. I’m told there will be several dozen people arriving the same night doing some stupid train trip and some of them are going to book up the best rooms. The steam train to Ghum leaves early. You get off at Ghum and wait for the diesel to take you all the way back down. The food plaza at New Jalpaiguri station looks a good place to fill the tiffins.
Tram ride on impact at 06:00. Probably 2 trams, may be more if you are up for it, then probably hit Sudder street area for washing and eating. Then taxi to the river, and ferry over to Howrah with spectacular views of India’s most famous bridge. The food plaza at Howrah station has been recommended to me a dozen times for the purposes of filling the tiffins.
Walk from Central to Egmore. We hope to have a caterer in place for the tiffin club, but there will be plenty of options otherwise.
The Hotel Tamil Nadu will probably be base camp for the day. The temple here has great geological symmetry with Dwarka. The string of islets across to Sri Lanka marking Ramas bridge we now know mark a causeway that was several kilometers wide 8,000 years ago.
I’ve probably fallen out with everyone by now anyway. Getting a cheap wash could prove problematic in tout rich Kaniyakumari, you might choose to just stink it out all the way back from here.
We had originally planned to have a coffee at the Trivandrum Coffee house. But seating 30 could be tricky. Trivandrum is great place though. You have 6 1/2 hours to kill. It will be cheaper washing here than at the Cape.
There a plans for a debriefing party. More, much more, much later.