Once the train arrived we had to run down the platform with our bags to try and identify our carriage. A hasty goodbye to Major, our hardworking driver of the last fortnight, and we were off. Then the challenge of trying to identify our places (all in different sections), when every section was curtained off and half the occupants were already sleeping (the train has been running for 2/3 days already, apparently).
Waiting, waiting and more waiting has been the theme for the last couple of days.
We finally left the resort for Amaria train station just before it got dark last night. I thought I was getting used to Indian traffic, but our first non-city ride at night proved otherwise. The cars and trucks don’t have rear lights, the cycles have no lights, so as we drove along the windy roads, cyclists kept looming out of the darkness at the last moment.
Once at the station we had a wait of over an hour. A little bit tedious, but I kept myself occupied counting the trucks on all the freight trains that went by (Dad has taught me well). End result – all coal, all 58/59 trucks. Arie also gave a group of young lads a tiger slideshow on his laptop. It was obviously well received, and when the boys moved off we kept catching the word ‘tiger’ in their fast Hindi conversation.
The train was not too uncomfortable, and the air-conditioning was very welcome after we’d done without for the past couple days. But the ride was long. Awake at 6am, there were still 8 hours to go until arrival.. in the end it was another 10 hours, as we made a couple unexplained long (1hr) stops along the way.
The original plan for the afternoon was a city tour of Delhi, followed by the transfer to the airport. However, as the agent meeting us straightaway confirmed that our flight was cancelled, we asked to find a hotel first and cancel the tour. A good plan, as it started raining on the drive. This time, not the budget hotel we started out at, but a flashier place with internet and a swimming pool.
In the room we promptly got the internet working and started scanning flight options to Madrid, Rome, Athens. Lisbon and anywhere else we could think of that wouldn’t be affected by volcano ash. The results weren’t promising. A couple cheap options flying with Uzbekistan Airlines through Tashkent which would have still left us stranded in Athens (no good train links there), or a couple exorbitantly priced options through Dubai and Jordan. Arie managed to get on the phone with KLM only to be told that they could fit us in on the 30th April.. a 10 day wait. That pretty much dampened our spirits, so we went for dinner in the hotel (expensive, but very good) and drowned our sorrows in a couple bottles of beer (Arie, Marcel) and a double gin and tonic (for me!) before going to bed.