Several Christmas's ago, we visited Death Valley, the driest place in North America!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
In 2004 I went to India with FarRail of Berlin, Germany. The group was to meet in Calcutta, so I went a week early to have a look at the trams and the trains. I flew with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, not somewhere to doze off at the gate, as they don't make boarding announcements. From HK I flew to Delhi, arriving at something like 4 am. It was a bit of a shock to walk around the corner on the way to the domestic terminal and have a sub machine gun pointed at me and to be told "show ticket". It was a pitch black bus ride around the airport perimeter, and the domestic terminal didn't inspire confidence! I was met at Calcutta by a guide and driver and was taken to my hotel, then off we went to look at the trams. A very long day! To finish it, my guide took me to a local restaurant for dinner, then took me in a rickshaw back to the hotel. The major obstacle was a large rotary/roundabout, traffic in Calcutta is totally insane, demented busses, lunatic taxis, kids on motorbikes, goats, bicycles, pedestrians and us. Quite an experience, much emphasis is given to horns!
My ride to Hong Kong is pulled in to the gate at LAX.
The trams are quite elderly, as are the tracks, and upkeep seems to be hit or miss. And the traffic is lunatic.
My guide found me a good spot off the end of the platforms at Howrah station. India has had terrorism problems with Bangladesh and Pakistan, and there were armed guards everywhere. I would have been run off the station in short order, but here nobody bothered me, and after my guide had explained to the MOW workers that I wasn't a journalist, just a crazy foreigner, everybody was quite friendly. Calcutta was quite an experience, I was happy to move on!
The Darjeeling-Himalayan railway was just fantastic. Once out of Siliguri, another frenetic Indian city, things calmed down. FarRail had chartered a steam train, and we had some excellent days on the railway.
Our final location was the sugar mill at Riga, in Bihar Province. Bihar is the poorest province in India, and conditions for the locals were appalling. The meter gauge main line was being converted to standard gauge, and the mill railway had a very limited future.
My last night in India was in Delhi, and a taxi picked me up at 4am and took me out to the airport for the long, long ride home. I was more than pleased to get on the plane, and it was certainly an interesting experience, but I'm not sure I'd want to repeat it.