Plus Central Asia Onward travel blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Since the narrow gauge train leaves at 8 we get going by 7 and even tho the guy at the desk at the Y had promised the nite before we could order brkfs early so as to be able to eat and leave by 7:15 (it's a 20-30 min walk down to the train), he failed and covered by saying he had not promised this, only that he would have our brkfst by 7:15! We left w/o, Mari lingered to try getting some $$ back to no avail. Since the train is supposed to take 4-5 hours to go 97 km to Kalka (end of the narrow gauge line) we will have 3+ hrs to spend there. Right at 8:05 we pull out...the ride is in individual cabin cars w/ seating for 10-12. The RR was completed in 1903, goes thru 102 tunnels, over 800 bridges, and around 900+ curves. Most of the distance is thru pine, deodar, oak, & treeform rhodys(see photos), plus thru/by lots of mtn villages & towns filled w/ tourist accomodations & Indian summer homes. The haze/smog is considerably less up here but as we travel down you can see the gradual thickening and visability diminishes quite a bit.

We are joined in our cabin by some Boy Scouts(actually, advanced Scouts what used to be called Explorers 17-18 yrs old) returning from an outing in Shimla. A very boistrous, jolly group which insists on yelling/whistling thru every tunnel - even throwing fireworks out the train at times. Eventually, we end up w/ 14-16 of them in our cabin all interested in talking English w/ us(well, me mainly...Bon put in her earplugs and Mari just tried to ignore them). Their leaders intro themselves and one (a teacher) invites us to his home for a stay. He is genuinely disappointed when I explain our need to get to Delhi by Friday.

When we reach tunnel #33 and Barok the train literally dies inside the tunnel - at 12:15 and still a ways to go! They have to bring another locamotive which arrives, hauls the dead one away, hitches up and at 1:45 we leave again. Meanwhile, the 10 am train from Shimla has passed us by - the one the ticket sales guy said we could not take to make the 4:40 connection! Hmmm. Now we are kind of concerned...meanwhile, the Scouts who say they are going on the same train we are seem quite unperturbed, only wishing to hear Mari count to ten in Hindi(which she did, 5-6 times for them thruout the trip) and also sing a Hindi song she knows which they rewarded w/ wild cheers & clapping and more urging to sing it again, which she did when one of the leaders appeared to hear as well!

Now the 5 hr trip is getting close to our 4:40 deadline! We finally pull into the station at 4:55, jump off the train, follow the running Scouts (much faster than us of course) and ... yes, we make it, our car being one of the furthest from disembarking but at 5:05 the train pulls away!!!! A bit worse for wear but nonetheless most happily in our reserved seats for 2 hours more train travel. Arriving in the dark(the electricity has gone off in Kurukshetra) we hire an autorickshaw which ends us up at Hotel Harsh - an LP recom one which turns out to reflect its name well, certainly not what we were expecting from the LP's description. Luckily, directly across the street is the Haryana Tourism office and their hotel...expensive (500 r. each!!) but clean and plenty of room for three to share w/ a mattress on the floor. Otherwise a single for Mari would have been 1100 r.!!! The place has a restaurant in house and after a good tali (our first & only meal of the day)I am feeling quite satisfied even w/ the extra expense...I HATE arriving in cities in the dark, especially when there is no electricity! Fortunately, this place has a generator which operates all their lights and TV!

11-20

I had told Mari I would investigate other accom in the town as well as transport(via train & bus to Delhi), but the info reveals that buses are our best option to get into town early enuf to meet up w/ Andrew & Tracy. The trains leave at 9:30 and 11 which would have gotten us in past noon. Since we have to get to Laxmi Optical to order glasses so as to not have to stay in Delhi longer than nec(we don't know how long it will take to do the glasses and they are closed on Mondays), the earlier we arrive the greater our chances of accomplishing this. We were supposed to chk out by noon and Mari had gone out to go to the museums etc. I realized I could not really in all honesty make a decision as to the kind of room Mari would approave of and certainly not determine how much she would be willing to spend. Also, I just was not in the mood to move other than head out today to Delhi! Push came to shove and Bon & I decided when noon ticked around to pay the $$ for another nite and stay...Mari walked in at 12:05. Well, we've faced these situations before and eventually the feathers were smoothed down and we went to the museums together.

Did not particularly find the Science Museum too impressive, but it was interesting, kind of like a small/tiny Chicago Science & Industry Museum. This city is renown for being the place where Hindus believe the universe began and the battle between good and evil was fought - good, of course, winning. Hmmm. I've never really understood the religions in this part of the world so I won't pretend to explain anything, only that this is a very visited spot by many Indians but not many Westerners(Mari being one of the exceptions of course).

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