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Inspecting the Pantry Car on the Way to Kolkata

We are feeling refreshed after our relaxing few days, but all too soon it’s time for the next train. No cows in evidence as we check the information board at Gaya station, but two travellers have given up on the long delay and bedded down. Our train is late once more, this time by 6 hours.

We decide to use some time up by going to find breakfast. Outside the station is the usual chaos, even at 6.30am.

Fuelled up we return to the station, and it turns out to be a very long wait this time. This is bad news, not because we are worried about being late, but because we’re bored and we just switch off, not doing our usual research about which way the train will pull in and so forth. It’s important to know roughly where each carriage is going to pull up, because the train will have about 24 of them, and it takes about 5 minutes to walk briskly from one end to the other: but this is only a two-minute stop! As the train pulls in, we realise we don’t spot our carriage going past. Rats. We walk all the way to the front, but it’s not there: it must be at the other end. Now we’re in trouble, as the train is due to leave in another minute, and we realise we’re in danger of missing the chuffing train we’ve been waiting for for six hours. OK, so our backpacks only weighs about 12kg, but trying to run is no fun. We leg it for the other end of the train, and before we get there, the train starts to pull out, picking up speed quickly. Diane tries to jump on and luckily Paul’s there to give a shove from behind, throwing in his bag and jumping on himself. All good, but it’s not our carriage – it is in fact the Pantry Car with several men staring at us whilst stirring, cooking and packing meals into foil containers. We squeeze past uttering ‘Namaste’ and finally reach our car and collapse on our bunks a couple of miles from the station – phewey! Luckily for us our destination is the end of the line, so we can put our brains back into neutral again.

Our hotel in Kolkata is in a touristy but seedy area, and is an old heritage property run by a British woman with hundreds of articles and photographs of famous people who have stayed here. Somehow they accepted us and after many ‘dry’ evenings we’re happy there is a bar. They also include a full English breakfast in the price of the room. Unfortunately for us the bacon and sausage is apparently sub-standard at the moment so we get a few mushrooms instead, alongside real baked beans (although cold, what’s that about?). Here’s a photo of the fabulously quirky hotel hallway.

We decline offers of transport from the hand-pulled rickshaw men and take a taxi to the number one tourist attraction, the Victoria Memorial, billed as a cross between the US Capitol and the Taj Mahal. It was built to commemorate the old Queen, surrounded by gardens and ponds, but not that exciting. Nearby was St Paul’s Cathedral, but nothing like it. Here’s the Victoria Memorial from the front, reminding us of the environmental problems this country faces.

Another view.

We were lucky enough to have been given some tips earlier in our travels on some places to eat in the city and take full advantage. Here’s Paul enjoying a local speciality, Chello Kebabs, which were exceedingly spicey and topped with a fried egg!

So, next is the longest train journey of our trip: 25 hours overnight from Kolkata to Jalgaon. We decided to stop there and visit the Ajanta caves rather than go the whole way to Mumbai, a 33 hour trip!

1 comment to Inspecting the Pantry Car on the Way to Kolkata

  • Marie-Helene

    Hi Diane and Paul.

    Have just caught up with your blog, since just a bit before Christmas, so a belated Happy New Year to both of you. Have followed your great adventure with a lot of interest, as we were in India exactly 40 years ago. We were in Dehli for Xmas 1973 and and from there travelled around India for 4 months. We did go to many of the places you have been to, and it is lovely to be reminded about them, not much seems to have changed! . We did go to the Ajanta and Ellora caves; that was one of the highlights of the trip, so I hope you enjoy them also, though it might be a bit more commercial than it was then.
    Have a good continuation of your trip. I am looking forward to reading more….

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