|Very cold again this morning, looking forward to getting back down to the plains again to warm up. Up at 6am so packed up my bags and then went out for a last look around and to suss out the easiest way down to the train station. Even at 7am the front door was still locked and I had to get one of the boys out of bed to let me out.
I was getting hungry walking around and decided to Go back to the little cafe where we had breakfast yesterday and have another of their omelettes. I was too early for them and they were still shut. Across the road was a couple of little stalls, one with a young woman selling plastic bags of milk that she filled from a tub.
The other was a food stall so I decided to try one of their egg rolls, thinking that I was going to get a bread roll with an egg in it. Wrong again, what I got was a work of art. My cook had a big black iron dish over a small gas burner onto which he threw a chipati or tortilla pancake, he then scrambled up an egg in a cup and spread it out all over the pancake, cooked it like that for a minute and then flipped it over to cook on the other side. After flipping it back he put what looked like some bean sprouts, sliced onion and some bits of other vegetables mixed in plus a good dollop of chilli sauce onto the top and then rolled it up neatly and wrapped a piece of paper around one end and handed it to me.
It was delicious along with a cup of hot, sweet coffee. I was joined at the stall by another guy who ordered an egg bun. The cook cut open what looked like a bread roll and laid it on the hot plate while he prepared the egg filling. I think the guy beside me changed his order to get an egg roll like the one I was eating. The cook said something to me and as usual I just nodded and smiled but it seems I agreed to have the egg bun as he finished preparing it and passed it to me. Not that I minded as it was as just as good as the egg roll although I had to have another coffee to wash it down.
Roger had breakfast at the little cafe across from our hotel and then we checked out and made our way down to the station where the 'toy train' was waiting. The first class coach was very posh with red flock wall coverings and fancy carved woodwork as well as individual aircraft type seats. The next challenge was fending off the ladies selling shawls and blankets who came into the carriage trying to make last minute sales to the departing visitors. I managed to avoid buying anything but they buttonholed Roger on his way back from inspecting the engine. One very nice lady was showing, what I believe she called Pashmina shawls to him and she was asking 1,250rps(about £16.50). I suggested he offer her 200rps each and he went back to do some haggling. He finally got her down to 800rps for two shawls so I thought I would have a go as she was still hanging around our carriage. I got two shawls for 600rps and then as the train was preparing to pull out Roger got another two shawls for 400rps. Finally as the train was pulling slowly out of the station we bought a lightweight blanket each for 100rps as the woman passed them through the carriage and we shoved money into their hands as they ran alongside the train.
A pleasant ride brought us down to Kurseong where we took a local taxi jeep down to New Jalpaguire for 50rps each. Another exciting drive back down the narrow mountain roads to the plains below. Many hairpin bends and some interesting moments overlooking some very steep drops as we edged passed vehicles coming up. Again we managed to find ourselves on the back seat with twelve or thirteen passengers squeezed in the other two rows. We paid an extra 50rps for the fourth seat on our row to give us a bit of space. Our cases were thrown up on the roof rack but, as we realised soon after we set off, they had not been tied on. They did survive the ride down without flying off, thank goodness.
We had a couple of hours or so to wait for our train so made our way to the First Class waiting room. I had the chance to call our hotel in Varanasi and confirm our arrival time and arrange to be picked up. I also managed to buy some eggs in batter and some fried vegetables also in batter for our meals on board the train.
The train was a little late but we left at 6.45pm just after dark. We were in AC2 but this is the worst carriage we have had so far. We were in the four berth section on our own but it was very scruffy. The western toilet was a disgrace, there was no way to flush it other than a bucket of water. The fixtures on the wall were all broken off and there was a three inch piece of nail sticking through the wall above the toilet bowl, possibly to hang a toilet roll on if there had been one