Jaisalmer to Delhi. An 18 hour train journey. How bad could it be?!
I lay in my bunk, sleeping-bag less, in the dirt. Shockingly the fan above me didn’t work. Not even a well-placed broom handle could sort it out, leaving me a sticky, sweaty mess with the faint stench of camel still lingering on my dirt-covered skin. Trying to wipe the sweat from my arm was no use. I just ended up spreading the dirt out so now it looked as though I was covered in a layer of oil. Perfect. I fished out Shantaram from my backpack (the same book I’m pretty sure every traveller of India ends up reading at some point along their journey) in the hope of distracting myself from the heat. Clicking on the light above my bunk however was a HUUGE mistake. A plague of flies, cockroaches and fleas swarmed towards the light and hovered there inches above my face. There were hundreds of the bloody things! If I ignore them, they will leave me alone. They are more scared of you than you are of them. It simply wasn’t true as the buggers began to dive bomb me!
I escaped the flea infested sweatbox of a bunk, squishing up against Don at the perfect moment as a sandstorm swept through the train. A mad rush of people raced to pull down the shutters. If I ever found myself in a prison, I’d imagine it to feel like this.
Sand now covered the bunks. The train was slowing down. I dared lifting one of the shutters and was greeted with a rather frightening sight. We were pulling into a station where around 1000 passengers eagerly awaited, ready to pounce. Surely they were not all waiting for this train? Was there another straight behind? The train ground to a stop. Passengers piled through the windows. Boldly, men women and children pulled up the shutters from outside the train and literally rolled themselves onto already full bunks. Others squeezed themselves through the now overflowing doors. People shoved each other aside in the mad scramble of ‘beat you to the bed’, yet nobody seemed to mind the brutality of it. Did seat numbers mean nothing? Had nobody else booked online?!
I launched myself back up onto my sweaty insect bunk. Yes it wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the word. But it was MY insect bed. If I had 18 hours of this shit I wanted to be able to lie flat for some of it! After all, I had paid a whole £2.50 for the privilege! I stretched myself out with my bag as a pillow and hoped that I was a little too strange-looking for people to feel comfortable sharing my little space with. I obviously was as the sandy, sweatbox insect bunk stayed all mine! Yey for me!
After the chaos came the calm. Competitors for beds were now firm friends, chatting away as if they’d known each other for years. And what bound them together most of all? Their shared love of…food! The inmates of this moving prison seemed to love sharing food. Don narrowly avoided having to sample a giant greasy dumpling of a thing by pointing a finger at me and yelling ‘She’ll eat it’. Just perfect. As I chewed the strange dough-like substance, whilst head bobbing in gratitude at a strange man on his bed, I wondered whether we would reach our destination before Delhi belly kicked in. I chuckled to myself as I heard a faint rustling noise below me. No doubt that was Don attempting to open a packet of crisps as secretly as possible, obviously worried he would be expected to share them with the now full carriage. Little did he realise I was munching away at our stash of biscuits in stealth mode.