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Night Train to Kolkata

8 October 2010

and here’s the first post on our new Verre (w)oorden / Distant words from Deccan days travel blog, bookmark us y’all!

I’ll be doing posts in English and Ness will write hers mostly in Dutch (just google translate if you like). This time I won’t do as many or long posts as I did on the Ek-Do-Tin-Accha project blog in 2007-2008, but will focus more on shorter bites and images. The last 25 days we have traveled through Nepal & Varanasi with our friends/family Janpieter, Griet and Frank so we felt no need to be online much but rather enjoy each others company until our roads would separate east and westwards at Varanasi Junction train station. Both Nepal & Varanasi were an enjoyable repeat for me and I won’t write back on it, so it’s best to let Ness’ photo stream on flickr speak for itself (or see the India & Nepal tabs).

I’ll be just starting from the moment of our night train out of Varanasi a few days ago, up to Kolkata through the state of Bihar. I just love taking trains in India, the best way to relax and meet traveling Indian folks at the same time as a real Indian experience. From a 20 year old polyglot young man to a spiritually gifted IBM ICP consultant to some older men, we sure had a good amount of different talks. Talks that tire you, but so does traveling anyway and never without a tale to tell. During the night I got up to go to the nicely dirty toilet when some Bihar state police had entered our wagon and started flashing their torches in everyone’s faces. Also in mine and they promptly asked for my passport, which I could not find in the dark somewhere hidden in my bag. ‘200 rupees please’, one of them said. “Kyo?’ (why?) I asked, but the same was repeated. This was a typical case of Indian ‘protection’ baksheesh (small time extortion fee) that police can ask for to hassle rich gora’s (tourists). A first time I ever experienced this, as during my previous 6 month trip in 2007 I never encountered this kinda corruption. But we were in Bihar state territory, a place that is known for its corruption and thieves. Ness got woken up as I only had big 500 rps bills (which they ofcourse would take without any change back) and I gave in, stupidly enough as no one else was awake to help (or pretending to sleep).  Next morning some of the co-passengers knew what had happened during the night and talked vividly about it, asking me why I paid and not taken his badge number and name. As if one would easily stand up against 3 policemen while being drowsy from sleep and give them a firm no, but apparently that is what you have to do.  Now we know.  These 200 rps might not mean much to us (3,5 euro) but in Indian value it’s worth 8x more. At least we didn’t got any money stolen, like the Indian woman in the next cabin who lost 4000 rps (70 euro) to a thief, which was the reason why police came aboard. Perhaps the thief slept beneath us, as at some point a younger man took the bunk under us and Ness saw him feeling around under his bunk for my backpacker bag (which was only full of clothes, mostly dirty) . We arrived into a rainy Kolkata with a 5 hour delay from long standstills during the night.  Some train sphere photo’s; (more in Ness’ Flickr stream)

Kolkata, home of India’s only communist city government while exuberant consumerism also persists at street hawking level, as well as serious traffic congestion (like any major Indian city). At least the human traffic is less daunting than in Varanasi where at times  it became too much because of  some holy Ganga festival (name escapes me right now). The monsoon is still clouding the city and just like in Nepal we can’t seem to shake the monsoon off our backs fully yet. The holy fever has also spread to here as well, as Kolkata is right in the middle of the locally famous Durga Puja festival and building up to the final nights after the 10th where all kinda celebrations will be held. Some Kolkata impressions for now;

Tomorrow morning we’ll escape the city for 2 days and be off to the nature reserve of the Sundarbans, which lies south of Kolkata in the Ganges Delta that streams right into the Bay of Bengal and bordering Bangladesh. Its special water mangroves are blooming with 300 tigers and the tigers like a piece of human meat now and then, as local villagers have experienced for generations and still do. It’s a well known fact that the tigers even attack fishermen at night by swimming to their open rowing boats as a nasty surprise. We’ll be safely sleeping below deck on a steamer boat with an armed guard, so our tour package says. More soon when we’re back from the waterlands of tigers.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 October 2010 16:25

    Hey Seb and Vanessa you be having beautiful journey and this blog is very well written. Infact I am amazed how beautifully you penned your visit to Barrackpore. Great job and have a great trip.

    Good luck.

  2. 14 October 2010 16:26

    Hey Seb and Vanessa you seem to be having a beautiful journey and this blog is very well written. Infact I am amazed how beautifully you penned your visit to Barrackpore. Great job and have a great trip.

    Good luck.

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