Two weeks, nine trains, an experience of a lifetime!
by Amarjit Sandhu
Dear IRFCA members:
It's been over 5 months since I wrote you of my upcoming trip to India. Well, the trip was completed successfully and I returned to Canada (with my 2 brothers) at the end of March. It is only now that I've turned my mind to writing a trip report so here it is. For those of you looking for technical info., you won't find much (any!). This is a travel experience kind of report.
To accompany this trip report, I've put some pictures up at:
They include select photos of anything train related, with a few scenic/personal photos thrown in. The photos are roughly in chronological order. With all the cameras in our party, we collectively took over 4000 photos. I took about 16 or so hours of high definition video. If anyone is interested to read an account of our entire trip (mostly non-train related/humorous content), they can send me an email off-list.
Now…… On to the trains!
First, here's a summary of the train trips we took:
March 3 - Delhi S. Rohilla (DEE) to Ramnagar (RMR) (Corbett Park) by Ranikhet Exp. 5013
March 7 - RMR to DEE by Corbett Park Link 5014A
March 9 - New Delhi (NDLS) to Jaipur (JP) by Ajmer Shatabdi 2015 - JP to Jaisalmer (JSM) by DLI JSM Exp. 4059
March 12 - JSM to Delhi (DLI) by JSM DLI Exp. 4060
March 14 - Short journey on Delhi Metro Rail
March 15 - Agra Cantt. (AGC) to NDLS by NDLS Shatabdi 2001
March 16 - NDLS to Chandigarh (CDG) by Kalka Shatabdi 2011
March 17 - Kalka (KLK) to Shimla (SML) by Shivalk Dlx. Exp. 241
I reserved all tickets for our travel on-line from Canada via IRCTC web-site, except for the NDLS Shatabdi which was handled (i.e., partially screwed-up) by our tour company. We simply boarded the trains, and I showed our e-tickets and my passport to the TTE. This system worked flawlessly! Kudos to IRCTC.
As part of the planning for this trip, several IRFCA members helped me out (thanks!). I made arrangements to try and meet up with Shanx but he gave me some rubbish about not being in Delhi at that time since his company was opening a new airport in Hyderabad. Really, of all the excuses I've ever heard of!! LOL. Seriously now, just to set the record straight, Shanx was away on obviously heavy-duty business and my time in Delhi was limited and both our schedules constrained. Our not getting together was one of the few disappointments of my trip.
We arrived at the station as a party of 5 - myself, my two brothers, my mother and my nephew who had come down from Ramnagar to fetch us from Delhi. With us, we had 4 suitcases, 5 hand baggages, and 4 bags with blankets. If that sounds like a lot, it could have been worse. Two of our suitcases did not make it from London to Delhi. (Virgin Atlantic delivered them the next day to our friends in Delhi). The blankets were my idea. I had read that the AC can get very cold at night, and the blankets that are provided on-board may not keep you warm… in the end, we used our plush blankets but the AC was quite comfortable.
A single koolie loaded all our baggage onto a long cart and we walked to the stairs of the footbridge. As we walked at around 9 pm at night, we chatted amicably with the koolie. I mention this as we really made an effort throughout our train trips to talk, in a mix of English/Hindi/Punjabi, with everyone we met, whether they be koolies, IR employees or fellow travellers and it was in all cases a very positive experience. At the footbridge, our party split into two groups as we accompanied (and assisted) the koolie on his two trips to get all our baggage to the platform.
Safely at the correct platform, we found our train was listed on the board as departing at 10:30 pm, about half an hour late. It was about 9:15 pm and we'd been in India for 10 hours and our first adventure was about to occur. My mother is nearing 80 years in age and despite having two knee replacements, she still is quite mobile, although she walks with a stick or a walker (which is a wheeled contraption, something like a miniature shopping cart). Coming to India with her three sons was a dream come true for her. Of course, mother did present some special issues. One was having access to western style, clean toilets, a bit of a challenge when travelling. Around 9:45 pm, mum said she needed to use the toilet. The ones at the station were too far away, and she would have to go up and downs stairs. I looked to the other side of the platform and saw a train had just arrived, with 2AC compartments. I had a great idea… Let mum use the toilet on that train. I know that is not really the right thing to do but desperate times call for desperate measures, and mum was desperate (plus, she only had to do the no. 1!!). It turns out the train was the Howhra Delhi Kalka Mail. As we helped my mother to the train/toilet, I somewhat jokingly said to my nephew, what if the train leaves? He said don't worry, trains rarely leave on time in India. Having said that, neither of us actually knew when the train was leaving!! As I walked back to my brothers on the other side of the platform, I enquired to a TTE as to when the train was leaving… 10 pm, I was told. Not knowing the correct time, I got to my brothers and asked what time it was….10 pm, I was told. At that moment, I looked back at the Kalka Mail and… you guessed it, the train was moving! So much for trains not leaving on time!! I ran across the platform to the door. Thank God, my nephew was there with my mum. But, the train started to move quicker and there's no way my mum can step out of a moving train because of her knees. My nephew jumped down to the platform and by now, we were both in a slow trot alongside the train. Another brother had arrived (they do have their uses!) and as we now ran alongside, the three of us lifted mum off the train, stopped our run, and brought mum onto the platform as softly as a feather. We all looked at each other and shook our heads at what a close call that had been. Mum was speechless. The implications if mum had fallen were horrendous, and only slightly less horrendous if she stayed on-board. However, by the time we got back to the other side of the platform, we were all laughing in shocked relief, and everyone around us was similarly relieved. My other brother simply stood there in disbelief, with his hand over his mouth.
Properly on board OUR train, we found our 2AC seats. We arranged our luggage all around us. After a few minutes of pulling and pushing, we figured out how to get the seats into sleeping position and climb up to the top berths, with no ladder in sight! Using our handbaggage as pillows provided an extra measure of security.
Our adventure on the platform still fresh in our mind, myself, my oldest brother and my nephew made our way to the end of the train car by the outer door, along with a bottle of Black Label to toast our arrival in India and our good fortune at the platform. It felt like we'd been awake for a week, having left Toronto some 50 hours earlier with a only a few short naps sprinkled here and there on planes or the homes of relatives/friends. Another brother was too sleepy to attend our little party. After several toasts, and trips back to our berth to check on mum, we struck up a conversation with a tourist from Australia who was on a multi-month trip of India along with his wife. In no time at all, he was with us at the end of the train car and we all had a great time having more drinks and making our Australian friend eat humble pie as a result of India's victory over Australia the day before. About an hour later, the bottle and all our energy consumed, we swayed back to our berths and fell fast asleep, only to be woken at around 5:30 am as we arrived at Ramnagar.
My comment about my first night time journey aboard 2AC: quite comfortable, and lots of nice storage for bits and pieces, but there's got to be a better way to get onto the upper berths. Electrical outlets seemed very finicky…seemed you had to position the switch just right to make the connection (this was a common occurrence on all our train trips).
My comment about the station and platform: it was a bit of a rush getting up and down the steps to the platform but only when trains were pulling in and out. However, this was at a less busy time at the station. The platform was busy but an able-bodied man vacated a bench so my Mum could sit once my nephew had a few words with him (not sure how strongly my nephew had to convince the man to move-off!!). We expected the litter, etc. What was unexpected was the screams from a bunch of school girls who were on a trip. The cause of the screams - rats! Big ones, surely a veritable feast for some folks in South-East Asian countries. The rat's home was a hole at a support post. The rats on the tracks were doing a wonderful service, cleaning up by consuming anything remotely edible.
In general, at all stations, announcements were barely audible, as if the speaker was speaking through a full-face helmet. Also, half of each announcement was taken-up with a long winded apology about various trains leaving or arriving late. After an hour or so at the platform, this repetition got to be torture since invariably, all trains were late. Sometimes we were annoyed when the chai wallah did not turn up on time to open his tea stall… fresh and hot Indian Chai at a train station is an absolute delicacy we would look forward to as well as all the other unhealthy but great tasting, deep-fried in 1 year old oil, cholesterol-building and artery-choking food! Of course, I think our copious consumption of alcohol killed any nasties in the food (also probably killing our livers at the same time).
The scenes outside the Delhi stations were ones of absolute chaos and bedlam, but it must be said, it was almost an organized chaos (like the traffic). We put our faith in having someone meet us at or take us to all stations, and striding confidently/aggressively through the crowds in arrow-shape 'attack' formation with baggage in tow. Worked quite well.
Corbett Park Link
After a great visit in Corbett Park where were fortunate enough to see a tiger, we were all a bit sad to leave our relatives. Our mum stayed behind in Ramnagar for an extra week or so while we were going to tour Rajasthan.
The notable event on the journey back to Delhi had to do with my mobile phone. While I lay on the upper berth, it fell out of my pocket to the floor. I spent a few minutes deciding if I wanted to look for it now or wait until the morning. Eventually, I clambered down in the dark. I almost hit the floor just like the phone after a bottle holder I was holding onto for support came off in my hands. Turning on my torch, I looked all over the floor but could not find the phone. And then I saw it in, of all places, the shoe of the person who was sleeping in the lower, opposite side berth (2AC). This struck me as very odd. I was sure I heard the phone hit the floor, and yet here it is in this guy's shoe. What was the chance of that happening? I suspect the other passenger is trying to steal the phone. But then another thought, maybe it's his phone, and he just keeps it in his shoe (don't ask me why)…….and now, as I pick up the phone to examine it, don't I look like the thief?! After checking dialled calls, I confirmed that it was indeed my phone. I muttered some obscenities in English and Punjabi to the apparently sleeping passenger but took it no further. In the morning, he was gone. The moral of the story is…. if you lose your phone on a train, look in the other passengers' shoes!!
My two brothers and I were now joined on the trip by a fourth member. Duncan is a non-Indian friend from Canada who joined us in Delhi and would be with us for the rest of the trip. It was very re-assuring to see our names printed on the computer print-outs pasted on the train car. We had seats in Exec. Chair Car and were very impressed by the comfort (width and legroom). We left NDLS shortly after 6 am and hence, the view outside the windows was scenic of a human anatomy kind!!
Soon, we were enjoying our breakfast of tea, cornflakes and omelette. We found the level of comfort and service to be excellent, although the train car seemed a bit dated with very rough and primitive type of fittings and panelling. As we took regular turns camped-out at the doors, we talked at length with the serving staff who were very smartly attired, and helpful to all the passengers. We met various tourists from the US, Europe and Canada, all of whom spoke highly of IR with the most common comment being what great value for money train travel is for foreign tourists. The scenery through Rajasthan was a little monotonous, but things livened up when we saw villagers. On passing through one station, I caught a glimpse of the Fairy Queen. At the first station we stopped at, my brother and I spent the time to clean the window glass. The locals on the platform seemed quite bemused by that. As we stopped at the various stations, we took photos, enjoyed piping hot tea and pakoras, and started our game of jumping on-board moving trains (this was to lead to a dramatic occurrence in a later journey). We spent considerable time foot-plating, and when it got too crowded at one door, we would take up positions at different doors.
For us, coming from a country where rules and the enforcement of rules is almost suffocating, it was a breath of fresh air (figuratively speaking) to come to a country where the rules are there, but enforcement is discretionary to non-existent. We found the attitude seemed to be if you want to possibly kill yourself by hanging outside a speeding train trusting the handle bars will hold, then just go ahead. Most refreshing! We did of course take some precautions like making sure the doors did not swing shut on us, and usually having more than one person at the door. Sometimes, that was not good, as for example if we went by a notable scene outside the train and an assortment of video and photo cameras lunged out the door to shoot it! (ever heard of death by camera?).
I will make just one comment on the subject of photography as it comes up so often on the forum. We had 4 photo cameras and one video camera amongst us. We had no permit from IR to take photos at stations. We took photos whenever and wherever we felt like it, even with police around. Not once we were questioned. Again, I think we all understand that tourists, especially foreign (be they 'white' or NRI), tend to be accorded a lot more flexibility on this matter. Now photography of the Delhi Metro was a different matter, which I will relate to you later.
DLI JSM Express
This was part two of our journey to Jaisalmer, part 1 being the Shatabdi trip to Jaipur. After a full day of sight-seeing, we arrived at Jaipur station only to find the 11:55 pm departure had been delayed. We were all extremely tired, and while one of us stayed awake, we all had some kind of a nap in the waiting room. Eventually, the train left at about 1 am. Boarding the train was a bit of an adventure as the car numbers were scribbled in chalk on the body of the car. Accordingly, one could only see the car number, barely, as it whizzed by as the train came onto the platform. Things were made even more difficult when a well-intending IR worker started washing the outside of the train with a water hose, thereby obliterating any remnants of chalk that remained on the car!
Our standard operating procedure on boarding was, in this order of priority: 1) try to board the correct train; 2) try to board the correct train at the correct car; and 3) if not sure it's the correct car, just board the bloody train at any car. An additional rule was not to go onto any other train for purposes of using the toilet! So tired were we once we got on the train, we didn't even have drinks that night.
In the morning, I awoke briefly with blurry eyes to examine my surroundings. The fellow passenger who boarded with us in Jaipur was up and walking around. I fell asleep again. When I awoke again, this time for good, I saw we now had a policeman (in uniform) sitting with us. As I lay on my berth, still a little bit groggy, to my absolute surprise, this policeman started handling the suitcase of the passenger. I thought, I know policemen in India think they can do anything, but this is ridiculous.. he was going through the other guy's stuff. It was then that I realized that the policeman and the 'other' passenger were one and the same. He had simply shaved, and changed into his uniform. With that established, we struck up a conversation and shared some snacks (namkeen). Turned out he was heading to court in Jaisalmer to give evidence in a prosecution.
Police were also involved about an hour before we got to Jaisalmer. A young man had gotten onto the train and was trying to convince us to stay at his hotel in Jaisalmer and he would take us on a tour and this and that. I had pre-arranged our stay/tour at a reputable place before we left for India, and we were all well aware of how dangerous these kinds of touts are. And apparently, the guy was also known to the police. As he continued to talk to us, two cops suddenly came up and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. The cops let forth at him with a volley of verbal abuse… I recognized only the obscenities. We actually thought for a minute they were going to throw this guy off the train. But they didn't. They did hit him over the head a few times, just to make sure they had his attention. The cops dragged him of the train at the next stop, to a fate unknown. It was obvious that security of tourists is high on the priority list.
While researching this trip, I found a good article on the Delhi-Jaisalmer 19 hour train trip by a reporter for a Seattle newspaper. It is at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/traveloutdoors/2003299844_webindiatrip 12.html for those who are interested.
JSM DLI Express
This was our return trip from Jaisalmer to Delhi, and is the 19 hour, $36 dollar odyssey described in the Seattle newspaper article. While planning the trip, I must admit I was more than a little bit daunted by the prospect of spending 19 hours in a metal tube through the desert state of Rajasthan, even if most of the travel was at night. We all prepared for this marathon journey by loading up on newspapers, magazines, books, and snacks. A glaring oversight by us was that we did not replenish our supply of spirits before boarding the train. However, I asked a TTE about where to get some booze and he suggested that Jaipur was the best place as the train would stop for a while. He did caution me that the train would arrive at one platform, but depart from another.
In the end, we did not read much at all. We still found ourselves drawn to the open doorways, standing, sitting and hanging out, chatting with one and all, taking photos, waving at the locals, smiling heartily when people waved back at us. It really is something to behold and my mind kept going back to Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi movie where the Mahatma found the only way to discover India was by train and as many have mentioned on this forum, it remains the only way to see India today, despite the facility of other travel options. All of us simply gorged ourselves on this experience, which perhaps can only come to NRI's who have not been back to India for 3 years in my case, and 20 years for my brothers.
In the evening, we made the day for some platform kids by giving them our un-eaten meal trays at Jaipur station. We were encouraged that for the most part, the kids weren't begging but they were doing some sort of service such as picking up rubbish. It was raining hard when we got to Jaipur and I didn't feel like running out to the beer and wine shop. I stood at the door as the train pulled out and then re-entered the station at a different platform, just as the TTE had said. My brother came running out of the passenger compartment thinking that I had gone to the wine shop and then gotten lost in the train shuffle. Any time spent at our seats not talking or sleeping was used to charge up batteries, and download photos and video files to the lap-top. We never left our equipment but in general, felt things were quite secure. We did not chain anything up but it was probably something we should have done.
Delhi Metro Rail
This was one of the excursions I was most looking forward to. Of course, I had heard and read so much about DMRC, all of it glowing; and, I could see so much of the construction of it on the roads of the capital. Our hotel on the inner circle of Connaught Place was precisely at one of the entry/exit points to Connaught Place (Rajiv Chowk) station. I was up early enough one morning to see the 'rush hour' crowd coming out of the station between 7:30 and 9 am. Everyone was dressed so smartly in business attire and carrying briefcases, chatting on mobile phones.. it could have been a scene from any major city in the world, but I noted that the crowds were somewhat less than I expected.
I knew the system shut-down at 11 pm. One night, around 10:15 pm, three of us headed down beneath the roads of Connaught Circle to catch a ride on the DMRC. I knew about the rules around photography. We had casually disregarded these rules at surface stations of IR but as I descended the escalator, video camera in hand, to a spiffingly clean access way, something told me DMRC was a different beast. And that something was in the form of a security officer. He shook his finger at me and said no photography was permitted. I asked even where we were, not anywhere near a train? He said yes. I became concerned that I would have to hand my camcorder over to him. My brother had a regular digital SLR. Fortunately, he said we could keep possession, just not take photos.
The increased and enforced security at DMRC was also evident when we walked through metal detectors that actually worked and were taken seriously by security staff. During our numerous IR trips, the so called 'security' measures (i.e. metal detectors) at the entrances to stations was a running joke amongst us. The detectors looked like something from a high school project. We walked through them (sometimes around them) and some never went-off when they should have, and others did go off but never were we stopped/searched etc. The cops were far too busy chatting or drinking tea or whatever. Frankly, despite the implications for security, we preferred rather not dealing with the cops… just an instinct I guess.
Back at the DMTC station, we had no idea about how the system worked but the ticket (token) booths were deserted and after the attendant was kind enough to get off the phone to his girlfriend, he explained the procedure and suggested we travel to Indraprastha and back in order not to miss the last train back to CP. I won't tell you what I did with my camcorder that night as we walked to the platform and waited for our train. Suffice to say the battery needed re-charging that night.
We were very impressed by the DMRC. Now granted, it was certainly not rush-hour, but even still, the stations, platforms and train cars were clean and seemed well-maintained. Signage and announcements were very good. The steel seats were not the most comfortable but I suppose they are practical, and they have the benefit of becoming smoother, the more people use them! Noise was quiet. Ride, starts and stops were smooth. All in all, at a par and even better than some metros I've travelled.
Due to a screw-up by our tour company, our trip to Agra from Delhi was by Tempo Traveller instead of train. Now, the Traveller was very luxurious, with plush seats for 8 passengers; but, it was no Bhopal Shatabdi which is what we were meant to have taken. Our return was by NDLS Shatabdi, Chair Car. The high speed of this train was clearly evident as we stood at the doorway. The utility poles alongside the track simply whizzed by, almost incessantly. We made it in 2 hours back to Delhi. There were several young children in the train. While seated, I was reviewing some of my video on the camcorder and I treated the kids to the movie of the tiger we saw at Corbett Park, and other scenes. They were all thrilled, and it gave the parents a bit of a break from tending their little ones. For us, being away from our children for over 2 weeks now, it was nice to be around kids again. We were happy to see that most folks were very warm and trusting of us.
Once again, our day was to start with an early morning rush to the train station. The facility of having breakfast on board the train was a god-send. It meant we were usually at NDLS within 45 minutes of waking up at our hotel in Connaught Place Inner Circle. Our trip on the Kalka Shatabdi was only to last up to Chandigarh, where we would stay with friends before driving to Kalka and catching the Shivalk Dlx. Express to Shimla.
The Kalka Shatabdi train journey was quite superb. Compared to the Ajmer Shatabdi, the train car appeared to be quite a bit newer, with modern fittings and panels, and well maintained. Windows were clean and big. Staff were excellent. The ride was very smooth, befitting the journey through the flat agricultural lands of Haryana. Again, much time was spent at the doorway. At the few stops we made, we gradually became more daring in playing our game of jumping on the moving train (more on that later). I know most of you as regular travellers would not think twice about this, but for us, it was an acquired skill.
As we would head to our family homes in Punjab after Shimla, we now travelled with all our luggage, comprising 7 suitcases, 5 hand baggages, 1 walker, etc. Needless to say, the koolies and the on-train staff positively glowed when they saw us. It was going to be a good day for them.
Shivalk Deluxe Express
So, as far as our train journeys went, we saved the best till last. As you will all know, this train took us from Kalka to Shimla on the NG rails of the Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR).
After a day spent touring Chandigarh, we spent the evening in a local bar where we emptied them of their stock of Guinness. When we got home and had dinner, it was about midnight. Then we were up again by 3:30 to get ready and take a taxi to Kalka. The train left at 5:30 am. This was to be a one-way trip only as we sent our taxi on to meet us in Shimla where we would tour around, stay overnight in Dharampur, and head back to Chandigarh for all our baggage. From there, we would continue on by road to the homeland, Punjab.
I really can't say in my words anything more than what has already been written about the KSR. You can easily find the statistics about how many tunnels, the grades, the elevations, etc. The thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact that as you sit by a window or, better still, stand at the doorway, you are right there. You can thrust you arm out the window and touch the inside of a tunnel. On more than one occasion, I had to warn my brothers to bring their cameras in otherwise a tunnel wall would have knocked them off! You can look down from the doorway and see hundreds if not thousands of feet of vertical drop. The roman style viaduct bridges are an absolute treasure, and, if you think you've missed a great photograph, be patient, and you will get your chance again as the train seems to wind itself up in knots, only to unravel itself at a farther point and start the cycle again. The scenery is beyond words. It is to be experienced and I'm so grateful that we toughed-out the early mornings and lack of sleep to take this journey. The station at Barog is so picture-perfect.
The arrangement of the seating in Chair Class is on one side, two people share a window, and on the other side, a window is shared by 4 people. With all of us eager to sightsee, it was crowded. I noticed a window by the attendant. I went there and tried to open the window but it would not budge. I asked the attendant to help…. well, forget the window, he flung open the whole door for me! As I stood at the doorway, I marvelled once again at the attitude (and the altitude!).. hanging out the window would have been considered dangerous enough on any Canadian train and would never be allowed, and here I am invited to stand at the open doorway! After standing for a while, the attendant motioned that I sit on his chair and he contentedly sat on the floor as he cleaned-up the breakfast trays.
My comments on the passenger compartment are that it was looking a bit worn down. Chairs and tables were showing their age. Also, the lack of any electrical outlets is a serious deficiency for camera toting tourists on a five hour journey through some of the most impressive scenery anywhere in the world.
Now, while mother nature and railway engineering provided the scenic highlights, we also managed to come up with one ourselves. As I've said before, during every train trip, we were all becoming more and more daring at playing the game of 'jump on the moving train', fuelled as we were by testosterone and usually under some influence of the previous night's drinks. On the KSR, at our last stop before Shimla, all four of us got off and wandered around the platform. Myself and one brother jumped up with the loco. pilot for some photos. Another train passed from the other direction and we all stood inbetween the two trains. Our train blew its whistle and it began to move off slowly. As the train started moving a little faster, one brother (Raj) positioned himself to step on board only to find himself being unceremoniously shoved to the side by our Canadian friend (Duncan). So now, Duncan is on board and Raj is stepping up and I am last in line because, of course, I am videoing the whole thing. As I go to board the moving train, my shoe slips off the shiny and well-worn metal of the footplate. What follows next is a mixture of hysteria, shouting, panic and laughter, all pretty-well caught on tape in a series of crazy camera angles. I prioritized saving the camera over life and limb (literally) and although I had a bloody shin, the camera emerged without a scratch. After I was hoisted aboard by Raj and Duncan, we were bent over with laughter (and relief) and everyone else in the car thought we were a bunch of raving lunatics…mad foreigners have been out in the sun too long and suffering from a lack of oxygen! The end to the caper is that there was one other person behind me at the station…. the poor train attendant realized there's no way he was going to get on board behind the pile-up at the doorway caused by our party, so, he wisely headed for the car behind. Once we were all on board, Duncan looked back and saw the guard. The guard asked if we were OK. Duncan exclaimed that if anyone wanted tea on the last part of the trip, they were going to be out of luck!! Mum scolded us all like we were 8 year olds, which is pretty-well the age we were behaving.
At our arrival in Shimla, we were met by our taxi driver and then began the day long tour of Shimla and surroundings. The Shivalik Dlx. Express marked our last train journey of the trip.
Well, that completes my report on our train trips. I've focussed totally on the experiences. I trust you have a sense of what we felt and thought. All in all, it was a very positive experience for us. Travelling at night made the best use of our time. I estimate we spent some 60 hours on trains. The train allowed us to interact with a wide variety of people, and yet we always felt secure, partly because we were a group of 4 men (one being a white guy!), but partly because we knew that our train, our home away from home, was only a few steps away.
This truly was an experience of a lifetime… Can't wait to do it again!!
Any feedback on this or the photos would be most appreciated.