Without a doubt, the best part of my trip to India was sharing the experience with my best friend Jaime. Jimmy (as most people call him) and I grew up playing tennis together. Regardless of how long it has been, we always pick things up as if time stood still. Jimmy is like a brother to me. He is the wittiest person I know. And no matter what situations we face together, he always finds a way to make my stomach hurt from laughter.
India will test your patience, your humanity, and your comfort zone. And when we were unable to find a first-class reservation for an overnight train from Udaipur to Jaipur, I couldn’t think of a better person than Jimmy to tackle the challenge with me. I am by no means a fancy traveler, but second and third class overnight train travel in India is quite the experience. And experience we would.
The person at the ticket counter made a mistake and booked our ticket for March 19 as opposed to January 19. Who knew that one simple 3 (for March) as opposed to a 1 (for January) would have such deep implications?
Five minutes before the train departed we realized the mistake as we were kicked out of our seats by a group of guys who said we were taking their place. They kindly pointed out that our tickets were for March 19th and said we would have to change it before the train departed, otherwise we’d have to pay a fine of 10 times the ticket.
I didn’t know if that statement was true, and I didn’t want to find out. We stepped off the train and purchased another ticket with literally minutes to spare.
I was given two general-class tickets with no seat assignment. The train departed from Udaipur at 10:20 and would arrive in Jaipur at six in the morning. Without assigned seats we kept bouncing from one place to another as more people boarded the train and kicked us out of our seats.
Okay, you might be thinking “big deal, doesn’t sound bad” but I forgot to mention the temperatures had dropped to below freezing. These trains had no heaters or any kind of insulation whatsoever. To make matters worse, all the broken windows allowed the Siberian like wind to zip through from every direction.
We had no sleeping bags, no blankets, no nothing. The best thing about the situation was that we couldn’t do anything about it. There was no body we could complain to, and no place we could stop. It was what it was, and that was that.
Jimmy and I pulled up our hoodies, tried in vain to use our bags as blankets, and just basically started at each other. Neither of us could sleep, and we didn’t have the energy to say much. We just looked at each other thinking “is this really happening?”
To make things even better, Jimmy and I were convinced that some of our fellow passengers were some sort of hybrid mammal. I don’t think a wild pig could have been louder than the guy to our left. And there was another passenger sleeping directly above us with some serious bowel movement issues. At one point I looked at Jimmy and said “this is eltren de la muerte (the death train)” I wasn’t exactly sure if our deaths would come from the chemical particles in the air, or if we were going to start losing our toes to frostbite and then gradually our limbs.
After eight hours of listening to Eye of the Tiger on repeat and some intense imagery of Bear Grylls yelling at us for being such a “pair of pansies”, we arrived in Jaipur.
I felt like we had arrived at Everest’s summit, the end of an Iron man marathon, the last stage of the Paris Dakar. Whatever lay ahead didn’t matter. We were in Jaipur and we were rewarded with the best coffee in the world. A 20-cent cup of “Indian railways” coffee! I tell you…. Best coffee in the world!
|First Class Accommodations. Life is good. Little did we know what lay ahead :-)|
|About to enter "the death train"|
|El Tren De La Muerte|
|Trying to keep our spirits high|
|We made it! V for Victory. V for my fingers are frozen and are permanently locked in this position|
|Never did a coffee tasted soooooo good!|