Around India In 18 Trains


If you are contemplating writing a travelblog, here’s a few donts

  1. DONT Start writing a blog, it’s a futile exercise in self indulgence
  2. DONT Slag off  someone else with a patronizing, sarcastic and ultimately mean spirited attack
  3. DONT then make a miserable attempt to wangle out of it

Actually you can stop at 2.  Things just went from bad to apocalyptic after that.  So apart from curdling at least 2 peoples  lassi quite seriously, I’ve simultaneously shami-kebabed the best promotion opportunity we were likely to get.  I have never the less acquired a catchy new moniker which  I am genuinely considering re-branding the blog to.

Through absolutely no perceivable fault of my own other than publishing this twaddle in the first place, we’ve been relieved from any duty to have to perform this in a less than savoury fashion as a result of our test pilot’s endeavours during the monsoon on his chapatti powered adventure.

Furthermore, as was indeed foretold,  90% of the locals vanished from the attending list once we moved into the pre-tournament rituals of explaining to me how they were going to do this without an IndRail pass. While the group doing the northern part and the 3 road sections is now a manageable size, I had hoped to con’ a production company into joining us, on the grounds that it was going to be a multi-everybody squad.  It’s still an eclectic group, even if the locals are outnumbered heavily, and we do have a professional photographer in the gang for the entire run.

What difference this makes to my chances of getting you to justify this holiday as an enterprise you can use to sponge some dosh off your mates for the good of worthy causes for India and/or children is probably neither here nor there anyway. The killer app’  for that, and arguably any excursion of this nature, is whether you might feel the need to make a donation to the right place to absolve you of at least some of the responsibility you may feel  for the poverty you will inevitably confront. Railway Children are perhaps an ideal way of helping you handle the injustice. At least 6 of  you run your own blogs, and the plan was always always to make this a copious multi-blog account. As long as you give some airtime for the kids then we’re going to satisfy my bottom line target.

Indeed, I am in serious danger of getting you right round, including the ticket, for £200 bar the flash stop in Darjeeling. If we did that, and in the kind of dignity I’m now demanding, you’d have to question the entire ethos of going SL anyway, as that’s what it costs apparently. Repackaging the task as  who can look as near as good as, if not better than, they did when they climbed on-board may make the whole thing a damn site more enjoyable, but isnt going to do much for the charity sponging.

We’re probably not going to have anyone actually book themselves into 1st class AC, but you are actively encouraged to baksheesh your way in there should the opportunity present itself. There will still be a thousand kilometers or so in  SL, and  a stint in 3AC, these are unavoidable anyway. And we will annihilate any previous mark for the event, and do a whole pack of stuff that you cant do if you don’t take decent trains and spend 18 months putting it together. (going on 5 years actually  http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/irfca/message/140141)

Planning Update

So at long long last we now know who’s coming and who just likes floating about travel forums. The number is 16 certain, and 1 more genuine likely case.  S0 may be 17. There are another half a dozen who still cant bear to say no, but if you’re not tugging at this stage I’ve lost interest. My Kolkata connection went and got himself booked into a wedding the very week we’ll be arriving. His own no less!. The lengths some people will go to get out of doing this trip never ceases to amaze me. One of our 3rd dan Indian rail fans in Harsh should be meeting up with us as we get off the Darjeeling Mail upon it’s early morning arrival in Kolkata, and is 100% for the Coromandel Express down to Chennai at least. We also now have three guys involved in this that are  certain to join us in Chennai for the southern loop.

I now have a stack of quotes for travel from Dwarka.  The winner is one for Rs 2,100 per qualis, including petrol, driver and any toll charges, from Dev International. We’ll take 3, so it will be about Rs 450 (£6.50) each

I also have an improved quote from Jeet travels in Amritsar. We can have a 25 seater for Rs 6,000 to get us from Makhu to Amritsar , and then to Wagah and back. So that’s even cheaper than Dwarka-Jamnagar, and we all get to be in the same vehicle, and with bags of space. One angle to this is we can use the van to store all the stuff you cant take into the border ceremony, rather than using a bag drop room in Amritsar. It’s a choice you can make anyway.

My intermittent contact in Dibrugarh has not responded to my requests for a quote for just 1 day of cars and entry into the colliery. But the charge of Rs4,000 per 7 seater is actually quite high, so if the Tipong fixer fee is anything silly I’m going to reverse engineer this one again. Ultimately we just need 2 or 3 Toyota Qualises sorted out for a day, and I know that it should be coming in at no more than Rs 500 a head.

Tiffins

My mate Ryan has done a sterling job with this.

Number 3 is £7, though number 4 might be a more practical size. You can get a similar one in UK for about £20.   But then it’s not a travel memento, is it ?. And if you get someone to make a nice quilted carry bag for you , you’ll have something that retails for 50 USD. http://www.happytiffin.com/insulated-tiffin-bags.html?shop/insulated-tiffin-bags.html . An extra 50p gets you an engraved one, but you’ll have to order in advance. You dont have to make any down-payment if you are happy to just stick part of your airline luggage tag on yours to identify it. You could just try and hawk one yourself from a place called Kalbadevi in Bombay, which is sort of on the way between where we will most likely spend Thursday night before departure, and the station on Friday evening. But I think you’ll have trouble getting a nice one for under 500 ruupes. If you get into Bombay early and have an afternoon free you could do Kalbadevi as a practical exercise in bazaar culture.

I’m going to have to make deposits on each of these road sections. But as we’ve got both the the price and the group size down, if I get the people here in the UK to stump up their full fares in advance to me, I’m only going to be fronting an extra £50 or so, if that. As it stands, your “hidden extras” add up to  about £6.50 each for Dwarka, and the same at Amritsar, and probably double that for whatever I can work out at  Tipong. So about 25 quid each. Which I think is bloody good, as long as they  turn up!. Add £5 a day on wash and eat, and you’re well under £250 all in even including some Darjeeling heritage treatment.

I’ll leave the Darjeeling strategy for a few weeks, but we should discuss how posh each of us wants to do this. I know quite a few of you, like probably more than half at least, are quite happy to go silly for a night. I still think the Windamere at £100 a head is just a bit too silly, you’ll set me off on a rant about the Deccan Odyssey. But there are some that aren’t quite so stupid whilst still presumably being pretty damn comfy at £20 or £30, i.e £60 quid a room.

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