Thursday, 24 January 2013

Wednesday 23rd The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted

We awoke to find that the train had stopped and that the countryside was shrouded in thick fog. Our bed tea call was booked for 7 a.m. but we had forgotten about Indian Time. It arrived at 7.45 and was very welcome. One of the stewards told us that we were just about to arrive in Allahabad which was not so welcome as it meant that the train was now running around 8 hours late and judging by the start stop progress likely to get later. At least breakfast was more or less on time - fish, chips and omelette.

Our mollusc-like progress through the fog continued until noon , two hours after we should have arrived in Kolkata. While we waited in Mughal Sarai station outside Varanasi the fog lifted and our train began to make real progress. D estimated that we were travelling at c. 125 kph for some stretches. Shame that there were still 660 km to travel. A phone call ahead to our hotel to make sure our room was held cost a mere £5 - thank you O2.  Tomorrow we get an Indian Sim card.  The catering team managed to produce an unscheduled lunch meal of rice, dal and cheese in gravy so we should not starve before we get to our destination.

The landscape now revealed is flat like much of North India but there are palm trees dotted about amongst the rice fields. The train's speed makes bird spotting a bit difficult be we do identify egrets, pond herons, a couple of kingfishers and a brilliant green bee-eater. The staff play another blinder as the sun starts to set and deliver tea, cake, nuts and biscuits - that's two bonus meals at no extra cost.  Every cloud has a silver lining although R says she would rather have arrived on time.

Eventually we roll into Howrah station, not quite as chaotic as we feared it might be. A polite young man asks if we want a taxi. one look at the official queue makes our minds up. He wants 250 rupees which is probably double the official rate but it was worth £3 to us to jump the queue. It was an official yellow Ambassador taxi and we did recognise the route, even if he did take a wrong turning 30 metres from our hotel.

The Fairlawn had saved us a huge ground floor room next to the dining room. We dumped our bags and went for a beer, ordering fish and chips on the way. It was good to be on dry land again.

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