Before going into detail stories of the places that the cat and the bear visited, let me give you the heads-up on where they were traveling around in India (plus a few side stories :p). They only have limited time (2 weeks), so they could not explore the whole India ^^;. Starting from the center, Nagpur, they headed up north until Shimla, before going back to Delhi for the flight back.
Okay, from now on, this is cat speaking 🙂
As can be seen, India is big! So many states and we only visited 6 states among them: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi the Capital. Well, actually, to say that we visited those states is exaggerating, since we only went to one city in each state :p. Due to some unexpected circumstances, we had a chance to see the “cleanest” city in India, Chandigarh, which is the shared capital of two states: Punjab and Haryana.
So, the route went like this…
After arrived in New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, we immediately took a local flight to Nagpur. We spent one night in Nagpur for adaptation and acclimatization ^^, then the next evening took the train to Chandrapur, for 3 times safari (2 nights) in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Then, we went back to Nagpur, spent another 2 nights there, and took the night train to Bhopal. We spent the whole day in Bhopal, then took another night train to Jaipur (yeah, 2 nights without shower >.<). Next..
After spending one night in Jaipur, the plan was to take the train to Agra, but the booked train was in sleeper class (without AC), and we knew that riding sleeper class in the afternoon for 4 hours would be horrible. I repeat, HORRIBLE. We experienced that on the Chandrapur-Nagpur ride, and the cat (because she was suffering) insisted to get off in the middle of the way, then took a taxi (with AC) to Nagpur :D. So.. we took an AC bus instead, to Agra. However, the AC of the bus stopped working after 30 minutes ride, so the driver went back to the city, and we had to wait for another hour to get the replacement bus -_-. When we arrived in Agra it’s already too dark to catch the glimpse of Taj Mahal, but we had enough time anyway (2 nights).
From Agra, we had to take a taxi to Tundla, to get on the night train to Chandigarh. The train was late for 2 hours, and we ended up in Chandigarh with 3 hours delay, too late to catch the booked train to Kalka and also the booked toy train to Shimla :(. So we went to Shimla by bus instead. We spent one night in Shimla, then finally took the toy train from Shimla to Kalka :). The journey continued with the train from Kalka to Delhi, where we spent the last night in India before going back… to Europe.
Yeah, that’s the rough story 🙂
Regarding the train in India, the sleeper class was mentioned before, but there are several classes on Indian trains, and we ‘tasted’ most of them ;). The explanation about the classes could be read here, a website that is devoted as “the beginner’s guide to train travel in India”.
- Nagpur – Chandrapur (±2.5 hours): AC3 ★★★★
- Chandrapur – Nagpur (±3 hours): Sleeper ★ (it was in the afternoon, the heat was unbearable)
- Nagpur – Bhopal (±8 hours): Sleeper ★★★ (at night it was okay even without AC)
- Bhopal – Jaipur (±16.5 hours): AC2 ★★ (even though more comfortable, it was too long >.<)
- Tundla – Chandigarh (±10 hours): AC3 ★★★ (too sleepy already, waiting for the train until 2 in the morning)
- Shimla – Kalka (±5.5 hours): Toy train ★★★ (the view was awesome! but the seat.. not so comfortable)
- Kalka – Delhi (±6 hours): AC Chair ★★ (the seat was comfortable, but there were too many noisy children -_-)
Besides all the expected mentioned transportation, plus the autorickshaw (see above picture ^^) to get around in the cities, there are several ‘unexpected’ transportation:
- Elephant! They said before that it’s hard to have elephant safari in the monsoon season, but since there were no rain when we were there… we could ride the elephant! 🙂
- Truck. We hitchhiked a colorful sand truck in Bhopal, on the way from the Bhimbetka rock shelters to the city, since it’s too hot to wait longer for the bus. Proof? Here you go 🙂
- Gypsy jeep. Well, actually it is expected to ride the modified Gypsy jeep (back seats are higher, and top opened) for the safari. The unexpected thing is when they picked us up at the Chandrapur station with it, then we went through the city. Especially since the bear definitely looks like a foreigner, we felt like being in a parade (and started waving) :D. The funny thing is… suddenly there was someone on a bike did braver thing than just staring: “Mister, where are you from?” “Germany”, then he shouted enthusiastically, “I am Indian!”.
- Foot. Yes, on foot, because sometimes we wanted to keep our pride, not allowing ourselves to be cheated by rickshaw drivers, that usually see foreigners as a bundle of money. This is actually a trick in negotiation, pretending to walk away until they agree with our price, but when they insist on their price, we have no choice but to keep walking away, right? 😉
Uhmm, it seems that the theme of this post is the transportation in India ^^. There is another topic which is loosely related to that theme… the 3 scariest moments that happened and made my heart beat faster:
- Crazy turbulence. On the flight back, not long after the plane took off, there was this crazy turbulence, maybe because it went through a monsoon cloud. Then there was a short moment when the plane went down too fast, as if it was about to fall, for only a second. The bear beside me kept me a bit calmer, but the screaming of most passengers… made me feel like my life was going to end, right there ^^;
- Bus accident. Seeing how they drive in India, I won’t be surprised if there is at least an accident per day. Going by bus to Shimla was an unforgettable experience, since the bus driver was driving like crazy, in the mountain route! One time the bus was braking abruptly, but it was too late and hit the back of a car, its lamp was broken. Nothing special happened after that (the bus and the car kept going on), but my hands were shaking.
- Queuing for free food. Well, this situation might be similar with watching a concert, or Black Friday sales ^^. It happened in a Sikh temple in Delhi, which has a ‘common kitchen’ that offers FREE food for EVERYONE. Squeezed between sweating crowd waiting for the hall doors to be opened, I felt like I was flying when the door opened, and suddenly… I’m inside :).
Ugh, so many stories to tell, this (for sure) will be continued in the next blog post… Ciao!