|It's hard to believe but one of the men in the next cabin has brought a large black Labrador type dog along with him on this 27 hour trip, only in India, surely? To our dismay the dog starts barking somewhere between four and five o'clock in the morning, then scrabbling and barking up and down the corridor for ten or fifteen minutes. The whole carriage was alive with people so any further sleep was out of the question. Still not sure if the dog used the western or the squat toilet or whether he was taken off at any of the stations we stopped at.
It was dawn by now as we are well over on the east coast of India so the sun rises a lot earlier here than it does on the west side in somewhere like Jaisalmer. Roger had the last of our picnic bread and eggs while I had a bread omelette off one of the early morning food and drink servers who regularly pass up and down the carriage. A lot of the time it seems that the food vendors hop on and off the trains, travelling back and forth between the stations although on this train I think we have a Pantry car which prepares the meals.
We arrived at Howrah station in Kolkata about noon and even before the train stopped the little porter guys were on board going through the carriages looking for likely customers. They soon give up on us though as we hump our backpacks on and sling our 'man bags' over our shoulders. Seems a bit mean really but we're not sure where we are going as yet and how we are going to get to the Baptist Missionary hostel where we are booked in for the night. We've heard stories about the horrendous traffic on the famous Howrah bridge which joins east and west Kolkata across the Hoogli river.
As it turned out today is the Hindu Holi day which is when they celebrate by throwing multi coloureds paint powders over each other. Fortunately for us we missed the paint throwing part of the day but we did come across scores of strangely coloured people roaming the streets. It must have been a general holiday as the streets were very quiet and lots of shops and stalls were closed. There was very little traffic compared to a normal Indian city day. Buses and taxis were plentiful but not many cars.we had been warned that the Howrah bridge might be jammed with traffic and could take a long time to cross. We strolled across carrying our backpack and bags. It certainly is an impressive structure, all steel girders and rivets. For some reason there is a sign forbidding the taking of photographs.
We are booked in at the Baptist Missionary Society guest house on the east side off Kolkata and near the Sealdah railway state where we will be leaving from tomorrow night to travel on to Darjeeling. After crossing the bridge we grabbed a tuktuk to take us to the station to check it out ready for tomorrow. It was very little different from any other main line station we have seen, crowded with people. It was painted with nice colours on the outside so it looked nice.
We walked from there to the BMS guest house and checked into our room had a shower and also had lunch. The walk there was interesting and very hot. We passed lots of beggars and families camped out along the roadside, it really is sad and a challenge as to what to do for the best. One particular poor old skinny lady was sitting on the pavement stripped to the waist, holding her hands out and looking so pathetic it was impossible to not give her something. We also passed Mother Theresa's House which is quite close to our guest house. It is closed on a Thursday so a visit would have to wait till tomorrow.
Joy of joy we had a wifi service at last and were able to catch up on emails and even make some Skype calls to home. In the evening we ventured out into the streets of Kolkata for a look around. I couldn't see in the guide books many places of real interest to us apart from Mother Theresa's house so we had nowhere particular that we were going to. As it turned out we came across an Apple iStore and a McDonalds on the same street and quite close together so we had a meal and an ice cream at McDs.
We did go passed the Victoria Monument which was all lit up but closed and we didn't want to go in there anyway. We ended up just wandering around and finally took the Metro just for the ride. We spent an hour or so wandering through the backstreets which were just so alive with people even late in the evening. So many people just trying to eke out a living, everywhere little shops and workshops supplying all manner of services and goods. Unless you see and experience it for yourself you will not be able to understand the life that these people have to go through just to survive.