From Varanasi to Jhansi, our sleeper train across India
Everyone should experience a sleeper train across India, or so they say. Why? I’m not entirely sure… Although not on our list of things to do, the Northern India tour we embarked upon incorporated a 12-hour 2nd class air-conditioned hard sleeper train from Varanasi to Jhansi. The group, on the whole, were looking forward to the adventure, curious to see if the media portrayal of Indian sleeper trains was accurate. I, having visited India 20 years previously, knew what to expect…
Kerry was dreading the journey, a light sleeper at the best of times and fearful of the dreaded toilet situation. Fortunately, we had bunks together, as the group was dispersed across the carriage.
There were 4 people in each berth. Each one came equipped with a fan, light, table, plug, mirror and privacy curtain. The corridor ran parallel, with additional bunks situated horizontally, opposite the 4’s and didn’t have any of those useful amenities… But each individual bunk donned a crimson privacy curtain, complete with a dramatic “swoosh” as its occupant was revealed or hidden. We had the side bunks and sat perched with our feet up as people hurried up and down. These were designed for those weighing in under 8 stone… so not us.
Having inspected the “facilities” it was clear early usage was recommended as was limiting our fluids!
The first couple of hours of our journey passed quite quickly. We ate our meal and chatted with the group, whilst being observed by our fellow Indian travellers. For the locals, following a delicious home cooked dinner, it was lights out, curtains drawn and sleep! At 9 pm our carriage was plunged into darkness! Hurriedly, I arranged our sleeping bag liners, thanking heaven for small mercies having taken our allocated bedding from the brown paper wrapping. I suspected that the sheets may have been washed in the Ganges, having witnessed it the day before. I felt guilty knowing what a struggle life is for many Indian families. But I was glad of the clean, comfortable liner.
Kerry, being a connoisseur of all things crime-related was extremely concerned about our rucksack. Clearly, she wouldn’t rest whilst it hung merrily on the convenient hook at the end of my bunk, so it ended up joining me, in the liner – then back on the hook… luckily we had extra wide bags so I didn’t have to sleep with my legs in the air…
As I dosed in and out of sleep, I was vaguely aware of chatting and laughing, lights, food aromas and station announcements. I recall bobbing my head down and peeping in on my wife, who appeared to spend the whole night, sat upright, kindle in hand like a ship lookout. Why Kerry had failed to get even an hour of shut-eye, only became apparent at 6 am, when we arose, eager to disembark.
Where’s the light?
Despite being the middle of the night, there had been a continuous flow of passengers, using the lights and eating! Well, I suppose we were on a sleeper train and people were entitled to get on and off! But that wasn’t the problem. She had had to contend with arms, shooting in and out of her curtain, fumbling around to locate the light switch, inconveniently placed in her bunk. She said the first time it happened she froze in fear, I personally would have whacked it with the Kindle!
Throughout the night her space was invaded, arms in and out, some performing a grand unveil… Apparently, I meanwhile, was oblivious, snoring on, despite an extremely hard and narrow bed, partying Indians playing disco with the lights and my poor Kez being subjected to copious hairy arms, seeking the elusive light switch.
I need coffee…
At 11.30am, off we got. Yes, you do recall correctly, we were up at 6 am. Unfortunately, cows on the line disrupted service so we were somewhat delayed. This gave everyone plenty of time to share their experiences of the nighttime antics, which of course, was all news to me but highly entertaining. Taking a sleeper train across India is certainly a memorable form of travel, would we do it again? The jury is still out!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our sleeper train across India experience. India is an amazing country and one we will not forget. To see more images from our India trip please take a look at our Captured India post.
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