The booking and berth reservations are going in now as we are inside the 90 day window for our opening trains, and the great news is that not only do we now have 17 paid-up indrailers, but we also have two Indians who are coming the whole way round. They are both in the revered sage category, so along with Mick we are now back up to a quorum of 3 wise men. We also have cameo appearances joining us in Mumbai for a few days, and Delhi for a few days more as we do Assam, and then again on the east coast. So there should be at least 20 of us at any time. The Indian guys booking this one train at a time have just come unstuck on the train out of Delhi as it’s currently showing “Reservations Suspended” , but we’re hoping that’s a temporary thing due to timetable adjustments (note that no one had the stomach to go for a circular journey ticket with the daily visits to the station to make sure you’ve bagged the required berths) .
John and I went for our visas today. It’s not half as much fun as visiting India House at the Aldwych. They’ve outsourced it all to a place in Victoria. Expect the same queues but not half as many authentic rubber stamping Indians.
Here are a few things to think about during the next few weeks
If you are in the UK you can start the process now, on-line, by going here http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/news.html . Kiwis, Singaporees and a few other nationalities can get one on the door these days. But Brits and most other folks have to get one in advance and stump up about £39 plus postage costs if needed. If you aren’t in the UK and don’t know what to do, talk to me, or someone, but get on with it.
One look at the Google earth pic of the Dibrugarh region
and the phrase “mosquito infested swamp lands” might spring to mind. Look at this map
and you’ll see we are traveling straight through the dark red blob on the right. Including visiting a coal mine (we think), hanging about at an eco lodge for the afternoon, spending the night in Dibrugarh which is virtually in the river, then getting a ferry across that river, driving through areas flooded for half the year, then getting an SL only train (i.e not in the slightest bit mosquito proof) right through what appears on another map in here http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jan102006/32.pdf as having 7 cases of malaria per thousand population per annum.
I still dont know if I’m going to take them, but we are in a chloroquine resistant area to boot, so you’ll need the expensive stuff anyway. The cheap stuff, which is barely better than poison in my opinion, wont do anything against the local variety of the little bastards. Travel Doctor has a good page on this http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/malaria.htm . The Doc says you need Doxycycline OR Mefloquine OR Malarone.
The latest news report I could find is this
which has probably swung me into getting down to my clinic and getting some defence worked out.
Well it should be AirTel actually. I’m not having much success in working out how I can get a post paid contract at no notice, but we should be able to use our roaming cards for those sensitive areas, i.e Jammu and Assam, where the authorities think that they are going to make a scrap of difference to people intent on death and destruction if they don’t allow them to use pre-paid mobile phones. Pre-paid are easy peasy to get, and we should try and equip ourselves with one of Airtel, Vodafone and possibly BSNL.
I’ll start a reading list here, and amend this post as I get stuff in. I’ll spam the facebook group and if there’s a book you are bringing I’ll add it to the list so we dont end up with 10 copies of Shantaram.