BOOKING THE TICKET
Shiv, the tour leader connected me with a guy at the hotel to help me book a train ticket to Hadiwar and from there I’d get a taxi to Rishikesh. Generally you have to book them way in advance through an agent, it’s not as simple as an online booking system. I eventually got my ticket – 5.30am mail train (yikes) and packed my things. I felt a little nervous at the thought of catching a train because Delhi is known for scams and issues for foreigners. And I was alone and had three bags to carry myself. Two people I had met on the tour were had over BIG TIME! They got to the train station and some people came up to them and told them their train was cancelled and long story short the only way to Rishikesh was by cab, a very expensive cab. Scam.
OLD DELHI TRAIN STATION
Oh my, what a site. I got there at 4.30am and it was super busy, loads of locals sat on the floor outside, literally thick with people. The place was huge and I couldn’t believe how busy it was that early in the morning. I was told how to find the right platform but my train wasn’t listed so asked someone, they said 8. I went there, wrong platform. Argghhh! By this time I was dripping with sweat and beginning to worry as lots of time had passed. I asked a guy at the ticket office and he just said ‘next office’. So I went to that office and they shook their heads. My mind’s finger was hovering over the ‘panic button’!
I’M LOOKING FOR DEBORA BARNES
A porter eventually came over to me and told me he’d help for 300 rupees, 200 more than I should pay but with time running out I accepted. I still didn’t fully trust him but off we went. He took me platform 11 and we waited for the train. There were no screens and no way of me checking if this was right. I felt like I was being scammed. Like sometime would happen like this: ‘oops sorry mam, wrong platform after all, you’ll have to get a super expensive cab that’s been waiting all along’. I got up and started asking the guy how he knew this was the right platform when an official looking man said loudly,
‘Debora Barnes…I’m looking for Debora Barnes’.
That’s me I thought. I froze. He came up to me and said ‘Are you Debora Barnes?’ And pointed at my name that was on a piece of paper. I replied yes and he said ‘Good, I’m just checking that you found the right platform and you have’. He told me to wait and the train would be here soon.
WTF?!?!?! I was flabbergasted. What kind of place is this?! How on earth did that guy have my name and what kind of service is that?! Have you ever heard of a huge train station that checks up on passengers? What a legend. The only thing I could think was that the guy who I booked my ticket with asked the train guy to check up on me to make sure I was ok. If so that’s really cool and I’m so grateful he did that because it was pretty confronting being the only white person with everyone staring and no way of knowing what platform to stand on.
The Indian people are so closely connected and live with a phone glued to their ears. They know someone for anything you wish for and will have you connected in a flash. I think this was just another demonstration of that connected community thing they have going on. They made sure I was looked after – special huh?!
The train had a sleeper carriage and another thing the agent guy did was upgrade me for free. No idea why, only thing I could guess is that Shiv asked him to look after me. I text Shiv and asked him if he did but he just said I’m glad you were looked after, so I guess I’ll never know why I was taken care of so well. They had nothing to gain other than karma.
The train bed area came with fresh sheets, a pillow and a curtain for privacy. I slept for five hours – was lush. My bed was on the top bunk and I had to climb down to get off and at one journey down to the floor I put my hand on a worn pair of boxers that was on my ladders. GROSS! It was a like slow motion, I could see it happening but had no where to go. My hand landed on them and I ran to the bathroom pronto.
Sleeper train selfie
An India lady asked me where I was going and it turned out she was going to Rishikesh too so she asked if I wanted to share a cab with her and her family. When we arrived in Rishikesh they got out and the taxi driver wouldn’t take me to my destination. He said the only want to my ashram was via jeep. ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. He just didn’t want to take me. Regardless I had to get out and I stood with my three bags in some random place asking people for help.
SCOOTER, THREE BAGS AND A LOST GIRL
I was in the area where there were no cars or rickshaws allowed, it pedestrian and scooter only. One guy had a simple solution, walk for six kilometres. WALK SIX EFFING KILOMETRES?! DUDE – HAVE YOU SEEN MY BAGS?!?! I asked him for directions and he gave me about 100 things to remember. So my finger started hovering over that panic button again. Then suddenly he said ‘I’ll take you for 300 rupees’. I agreed.
OMG – what a ride!!! If only you could have seen me with my three bags on the back of a scooter hurtling around the walking area of Rishikesh. If anyone would suggest for me to do that type of thing in Australia I’d give them a piece of my mind for being so irresponsible but in India, nahhhhh, it’s fine. Sorry mum.
INSANE DRIVING SKILLS
The driving skills in India are insane, I swear their spacial awareness is on another level compared to the western world. It’s like the roads of full of professional stunt drivers, all with precise vehicle handling abilities. We twisted and weaved through the streets and then eventually made it to the bridge and we actually crossed the bridge with hundreds of people toe to toe. CRAZY!
Eventually we found the ashram and I checked in. What a weird but wonderful journey I’d had.
Time for a shower and yoga.