Misc

Getting to Chennai

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Though Kanyakumari may in the grand scheme of things be a tiny little town at the tip of India it is from there that the longest train journey in India begins. A mammoth 70 hour journey begins at the tiny station only half a kilometre out of town. It heads to Northern India, JAMMU, there are bound to be some train buffs that would gush over that journey and do it for thrills. But not us, in fact as we pulled out of the station to head North back to Trivandrum I had a little moan to myself about the two and half hour journey.

It passed by quickly and once back in Trivandrum we walked to a hotel I knew and ditched the bags before heading straight to a local cinema to watch Final Destination 5. In India, like much of the world the board of movie certification places the responsibility of the suitability of movies in the hands of parents and so the film was a U/A which I am led to believe means that anyone under 13 needs a parent. It was a bad idea and after the first 15 minutes – Which happened to be some of the most intense scenes I have seen in a movie for a long time Charlie was asking if we could leave. Abi wanted to stay and so I told Charlie he could simply close his eyes. The only movies I wouldn’t let them watch are intense horror movies or those that contain sex. Final Destination 5 should really have been on the list of ‘not to see’s’ and soon afterwards I realised it was a bad idea going in the first place – I guess that just because I don’t find movies scary I underestimated completely the effect they can have on kids. Knowing my kids like I do I knew a perfect way to take their minds off it – Domino’s pizza. It worked.

Now, when I come on a trip there are people back home that help out in various ways.

For whatever reason the website I usually use to book trains (cleartrip.com) just will not work from India and so I asked Gemma (Jacks mum) if she would mind booking the train we needed, it was a simple task and I provided all the details. She would book it, pay for it, then I would do a quick money transfer into her bank and everyone is happy. The train we needed was the direct ‘Raptisagar Express’ from Trivandrum to Chennai on the East coast of India. It was to be our final train journey in India and indeed the last city of our trip on the Sub Continent.

The train was to leave Trivandrum at 5.30am and arrive into Chennai at a few minutes before midnight the same day. A mammoth eighteen and half hour journey at the worst possible time. By that I mean, if a train leaves at say 5.30pm and arrives at midday the following day it’s not so bad, you can easily sleep most of that journey. But through the day it’s difficult. We were in AC3 and so the middle beds during the day are put down and so anyone spammed with those seats has to gatecrash the lower bunks, best case scenario the person on the lower bunk will sit up and you will be sat up for the bulk of the journey in an uncomfortable position. Worst case scenario the passenger stays laid down and you become seatless. The best bunks to get for day trains is the two bottom ones and then a top bunk – Exactly what I asked Gemma to book.

An epic fail ensued and Gemma decided that actually she would book us BOTH middle bunks and one upper. Essentially she shafted us big time. Pissed off I had a moan and was assured that it wasn’t her that had failed but the website that had just ignored what she put and made its own decision, a kind of artificial intelligence to screw us over if you will…Yeah ok.

So, understandably as we left our hotel at 4.45am to walk to the station the kids and I were really not looking forward to the journey, less than we would have been anyway.

The train was already at the platform and we were in coach B2, I looked at the names list in coach B2 and it was full, coach B1 however was empty for at least the first half of the journey. A light bulb appeared out of nowhere above my head and the cogs started turning. Ok, not really, but I had an idea. I took the same seats in coach B1. When the conductor came round he told me that I was in the wrong carriage, I explained I had kids and couldn’t he move us, but within coach B1. He agreed and moved us down the coach a bit, but most importantly we got the two lower bunks and the one upper we had wanted. I had un-failed Gemma’s fail and had a huge cheesy grin on my face. Until what felt like 5 hours later we had only been on the train half an hour. Then I was reminded just how boring the train journey was going to be.

Boring is not really the word, in fact there isn’t a word for it. I watched four movies, read an entire book, Charlie read two books and Abi watched all eight movies on her IPod Touch. It was painfully boring and despite the fact I made a mate, an Indian Guy who works for Intel in the US who has invited us over to his home in Richmond, all three of us spent the journey bored. We renewed our love for samosas until I found a pube in mine. We ate curry for breakfast, dinner and tea and drank warm mountain dew, ate six different flavours of polo’s and pigged out on Tropical Cherry Tic Tac’s. I’d love to say it was a touching train journey across the Southern width of India, a journey in which we found a closeness. But we didn’t, it was a thousand kilometres of sheer boringness. That said I did watch some pretty good movies – Bad Teacher, Hall Pass, Super 8 and Adjustment Bureaux. Charlie is loving James Patterson and has a thing for Alex Cross, which is good, because he has about fifteen more books to get through.

The train pulled into Chennai at midnight and as we got off, though it was so late it was very warm and I just knew that our last couple of days in India were going to be chaotic and all overseen by the unforgiving heat of the sun.

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