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haridwar, delhi, varanasi, jaipur

Tuesday 15 June 2010
haridwar, buses and ellifents

Our destination was a nature reserve with elephants, tigers, leopards, etc., about an hour by bus, to escape from the city heat of more than 40°C into the
shady woods.
After we first inquired in detail about where and when buses go, we noticed that there were two bus stations very close to each other. We decided to go to one
of the two, and after arriving, because of the total lack of signposts, asked all the bus drivers, vendors, passengers and pedestrians about the bus.
No one could give us the slightest bit of information, so we walked slowly and sweaty to the other bus station, where we again asked all the bus drivers,
vendors, passengers and pedestrians about the bus, who in turn referred us back to the first bus station. And so it went on for more than an hour, back
and forth, everybody sent us to either one bus station or back to the other, or explained there is no bus to Chilla, or simply pointed in a random
direction, since according to our guidebook it is considered rude in India to not give strangers information and directions.
But surprisingly, just before we wanted to give up and take a comparatively expensive taxi, a rickshaw driver called out to us that the bus to Chilla would
leave from over there at this very moment!
We ran and just managed jump on at the last moment. After we finally arrived in the cool nature, we were driven in jeeps through the landscape in the national
park and were shown „spotted deer“, birds and wild elephants („ellifents“) by a guide...

Sunday 20 June 2010
rien ne va plus ....

Now, after 1600 km of driving around we’re stuck in some small town in the foothills of the Himalayas and the public transport is on strike on the last 60 km,
and it‘s raining, thanks to the early monsoon.

Friday noon we set off from Haridwar, but first had to tediously learn how to travel by train. The plan was to go to Varanasi or Jaipur. Although we already
read about it before, we again found out that you have to book all trains. So we put ourselves into the long queue at the counter, which is a very brutal
affair. The people are not behind each other, not next to each other, but on each other, jostling in front of each other; in front of the minimalist
counter window at least five men are squeezed and clamor for something. Accordingly, booking usually takes a long time.
At the counter we were told that all trains were sold out for the next 15 days, so we took a train to Delhi, to maybe have better connections from there.
After an 8 hour drive, we arrived at Old Delhi train station at around 11:00pm.
We went to a counter, where we were told that a train would leave at 04:30am, and we should come back again at 02:30am, then we could book the ticket. Because
some hundred thousand people were already sleeping at the station - legless beggar next to suit man next to street dog next to mother with child,
Hindus next to Muslims - we joined the sleeping crowd and protected ourselves with a thick wool blanket against the unbearable heat that radiated from the
nighttime asphalt. Once per hour we were driven to a corner outside the station like a herd of cattle by several police officers with batons because it
was forbidden to sleep at the train station.
At 03:00am we again queued up at counter, where the friendly railway official told us that the train was completely sold out and packed full. For this reason,
we searched for a hotel in Delhi at 04:00am.
The next afternoon, we effortlessly made a reservation for the train to New Jalpaiguri, which is located 60km from our final destination of Darjeeling, and
immediately booked the return-ticket for 6 days later as well. In the evening, we boarded the train and traveled through India for more than 30 hours and
over 1,400 km. In other words: One night and one day and another night in a crowded train, in which people for example just took our shoes to run
around in them, go off the train at the stations, go to the bathroom, get water, etc...

Now that we‘re almost there, and we are only 60 km from Darjeeling, we’re told that buses, jeeps, all forms of transport would be on strike everywhere.

Saturday 26 June 2010
train ride to varanasi

We indulged in the great luxury of not traveling Sleeper Class (the 4th of 5 classes), but 3ac (the 3rd of 5 classes, including air conditioning and linen bed
sheets). In the Sleeper Class, a 12-hour trip costs about 3 € per person, in 3ac less than 17 € - which certainly is quite a sum.
But what food we got for it!
First, a hearty lunch,
then a yoghurt,
then an ice cream
then a sweet snack with tea and cakes and sandwiches,
then a salty snack,
then a sumptuous dinner,
then again a yoghurt
and then a sweet Indian dessert!

And all that from about 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., which means eating 8 times in 9 hours.
What must Indians think when come to Europe and take the train? Many times more expensive, only two classes and the food is not even included!